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Julia Palmer

As a Christian, is there anything more complicated than church? I’ve been a Christ follower for almost 21 years and I’ve attended church my whole life (except for a few stints of playing hooky here and there). I’ve loved attending church and exclaimed with the Psalmist “I rejoiced when they said let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1) But, I’ve also dreaded the whole idea of church and felt that it had no purpose in my life or in my walk with God.  I’ve been on staff at churches and I’ve been a nameless face in a lonely congregation.  I’ve been paid staff, volunteer staff, layperson, new believer, reluctant participant, wounded congregant, and thankful congregant (not in that order, by the way!). I’ve even despised the church and felt her unnecessary.  I’ve even, ashamedly, slandered the church (who is the bride of Christ).  I now defend her. I once thought that you didn’t need to go to church to be a Christian.  And pushing all semantics aside, I disagree with my former self.

You cannot be a follower of Christ by yourself.  We need the fellowship of other believers.  We need to participate in the church, which is the Body of Christ.  We believers make up the Body of Christ! Our body is not so healthy, though.  We are missing too many members.  We are blind in one eye, we don’t hear so well and we are going mute.  We limp when we walk and our hands don’t move as well as they could.

This past Sunday, Pastor Scott said, “The church doesn’t exist for us, we are the church.” If we don’t “like” church, then we don’t like ourselves. If we don’t like ourselves, we better change ourselves.  When I haven’t liked church is when I haven’t been participating in church.  Church was not ever meant to be a spectator sport or a show we attend on Sundays. I have only loved attending church when I have been serving in church: when I have been doing the things and participating in the roles that God has created me to participate in.  When I have been functioning in the role within the Body of Christ that I was created to function in.

The times when I sat back and simply just observed church, that is when I grew frustrated and despised church. When I have served and participated in church, that is when I saw the reason we have church. Jesus says, in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” When we gather together as believers, we are the church and we exist to proclaim the risen Savior.  When we gather together as a community of believers, we lift up Christ and He then draws people to Him.  If you find yourself questioning the need for church, maybe it’s time to look at your role within the church.  God created you unique and has given you specific talents and abilities.  How can you serve your church?  What part of the Body of Christ are you supposed to be?  We need each and every believer to participate.  Without each other, the church just doesn’t function the way God created it, no wonder so many people are leaving. If you need to, will you repent with me, return to loving the church, and call them back?

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 Pastor Scott’s sermon today, Palm Sunday, was about doing what Jesus says. He explained how a sole act of obedience ushered God into a city and how a sole act of obedience on our part could also usher God into our lives and neighborhoods and cities. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, Jesus wept when he saw the city- deep weeping like mourning. When we allow God to let us feel the way He does- we will weep, too.

When Pastor Scott was speaking my thoughts went to the Bible verse, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” (Psalm 126:5) If we ask God to give us His heart for people who do not yet know Him, He will give us His heart! We will see the world through His eyes. Like Jesus, we will weep for those who are lost. But we can have faith that our weeping is not for nothing. The Bible promises that we will see people come to faith in Jesus. We will return from telling others about Him shouting with joy! From personal experience, I can say that I haven’t always returned from telling others about Jesus with shouts of joy. Sometimes I have told people only to return home with more tears. I have obeyed what God asked me to do and not seen any results and have felt discouraged. When that has happened, I have to trust that just because I didn’t see the “results” I was looking for, God is still doing what He wants to do. I may never see the results of my obedience, but I can trust that He will accomplish what He wants to accomplish.

Pastor Scott also said that it might be that only you and God know what He is asking you to do- but if you obey God, obedience can change your life and the lives of those around you.

What if you don’t know what God wants you to do? If we don’t know what God wants from us, we can always assume that He wants us to share Him with the people we know who do not know Him. We will never go wrong with the two greatest commandments: He wants us to love him and love people- we can never go wrong with that!

Pastor Scott said, “When we come to Jesus, we realize we are far more broken then we ever realized.”  To come to Christ we must see our need of salvation.  We have to come to a place where we see our sin and repent.  We must see our need to be saved. Who is Christ, if not our Savior?  

I grew up in the church and knew a lot about the Bible.  I went through Confirmation.  I took communion.  I knew the right things to say.  But I didn’t understand, on a personal level, my need for a Savior.  Even though I knew that I was a sinner, I didn’t know that Jesus could forgive me and HEAL my brokenness. I didn’t know that if I gave Jesus my brokenness, He could heal me and make me whole. I felt stuck in a loop of sinning and having the pastor announce my forgiveness. The forgiveness announcement, whether it came after communion or to the whole congregation at the end of the service, did not mean anything short of “fire insurance” to my young mind.  A friend invited me to his Foursquare youth group and to make a long story incredibly short, after hearing the message of salvation presented to me in a new way, one night in my room I wrote down all the sins I could think of, placed that piece of paper in a metal trash can and lit it on fire.  I asked Jesus to take away my brokenness and forgive me and heal me.  From that point on, Jesus changed my life.  And if I had thought that I was a sinner before then, I KNEW I was a sinner after that. I saw the holiness of God and knew that I in no way could ever measure up. I saw that in spite of my sin, Jesus loved me and accepted me and offered me forgiveness and a new life. From that night forward, the Holy Spirit continued to show me my sin and brokenness.  Things inside of me that I hadn’t thought were wrong, He convicted me of them and showed me how to change.  Even thoughts that I held about other people or myself, He showed me my brokenness and slowly started changing me.  And now, 20 years later, the Holy Spirit shows me my brokenness on a daily basis.  I still receive His healing and His righting of my thoughts and actions each day.  I KNOW that I am a sinner, but I know that Jesus offers wholeness and healing and purity and peace and hope and joy and acceptance and righteousness because I am covered by the blood of Jesus who died for me.  He promises that His mercies are new every morning!

The Bible says that God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him (JESUS) we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21NIV

Because Jesus, who is sinless, took upon our sinfulness and brokenness, we can have new life in Christ! No matter what, Christ can forgive us and heal us. Like Pastor Scott said, we just need to realize our brokenness and let Jesus change us

Pastor Scott asked an important question about life today in this sermon.  He asked us, “What do you want your legacy to be?”  Just like the Israelites, we can forget what God has done for us.  We need to be intentional, like Joshua, and not forget the goodness of the Lord in our lives.  If we have children, we of course want to pass on our faith to them.  We want them to follow God their whole lives and never forget or walk away from their faith in Jesus.

One thing that Pastor Scott said that really stuck out to me was when he said,  “If I’m not aiming at something in my future, then there is nothing guiding my present reality toward change.”  After he said that, the Bible verse that came to my mind was Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish. What is God’s vision for your life and future?  What would God have you “aim” at?  The Bible says that before the world was created, God knew you and had a plan for your life!  The Bible also says that Jesus died on the cross so that we may have life and life abundantly!  His plan for our lives is better than we can imagine it!

I think we need the vision Jesus has for our lives.

No matter the legacy we inherited, it’s our choice if we continue that legacy, or start a new one.  Whether our parents were Christians and we continue from what they tried to instill in us, or if our family was like Pastor Scott’s and we are starting a new family branch in the family of God…we have to decide what we want to be, and what we want to leave as our legacy.  Will we follow Christ? Or will we forget?

The good news is, if we are saved, we are a new creation in Christ! The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Whatever our past, we can start new because of Jesus! If we were born into a family that we do not want to replicate, we can start new because of Christ! We don’t have to repeat the same mistakes and pass on the sin that may be in our families.  We can start new!  And if you find yourself thinking, “Well, I’ve already passed on those traits and my kids are screwed up because of me”, you can go to them and ask their forgiveness and start new today.  Jesus also says that His mercies are new every morning.  We can ask Jesus for forgiveness each day and ask for His help to not repeat the same patterns of failure.  We can ask Him to change us and to make us more like Him. We can ask our Heavenly Father to pass on His character traits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and faithfulness- the Fruit of the Spirit! Through the grace of Christ, we can pass on a legacy modeled after Christ.

Julia Palmer

Joshua- Leaving a legacy  3/3/13