My Vision for Berean Baptist Church

In the month of March 2009 I articulated by vision for BBC in writing. Here it is:

Having been the senior pastor of Berean Baptist Church for nearly three years, I have been asked on more than one occasion about my vision for the church. It seems, most especially in Baptist churches, that many people who attend want to know what the pastor’s vision for the church is. This seems a bit dictatorial in one sense, but in another sense absolutely necessary and reasonable. While the pastor is the leader of the congregation, he is not the leader like a leader or owner of a business. Instead, a Baptist pastor operates within the guidance and parameters established by the Bible and his congregation. So while he operates within Biblical parameters and other limitations, he still is responsible for leading the congregation in accomplishing its God-ordained function on this earth. Before someone can understand or appreciate a pastor’s vision for the church, they will need to know that the pastor understands what the mission (or purpose) of the church truly is. Hopefully, this will be fully synchronized with the vision.

For two and a half years, I have been telling the church in every possible way that our mission is to “Proclaim Christ in the 21st Century”—this is essentially our abbreviated mission statement. The complete mission statement is: “Berean Baptist Church exists to: Proclaim Christ in the 21st Century in Fayetteville, on Fort Bragg, in North Carolina and around the world; to make fully-functioning followers of Jesus Christ to the Glory of God the Father.” The t-shirt version of this mission statement is “pC21.” Berean Baptist Church exists in the 21st century; it is impossible to go back in time, and God has preserved this church to impact a generation that has grown up with the Internet, IPODs, laptops, You-Tube, blackberries, and many other cultural differences from the twentieth century.

The vision of Berean Baptist Church begins with a commitment to reach the children of this generation without compromising on the faith once delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles. This means, in a world of “no absolute truths”, BBC is committed to absolute truths which must be taught, believed, and incorporated into the worldview of its members of all ages. My goal is that when people think of BBC, they think of two significant elements. First, we teach and preach the Bible, and the Bible alone, in our church. Second, my goal is that people talk about the way Christ is exalted in our church. Paul told us that God the Father is glorified when Jesus is exalted (Philippians 2:9-11). There isn’t a program, song, form of entertainment, or personal soul-winner that can take the place of the Holy Spirit’s role in drawing lost people to the Son of God. Also, the Spirit uses the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

The only Jesus that can save men from their sins is the Christ of the Bible. Therefore, every counselor, deacon, teacher, and pastor of BBC must be committed to the sole authority of the Bible and the absolute necessity to keep one’s self grounded in the Word. The vision for BBC is that our transient community of members gains a true appreciation for the depth of the Word of God and its application for their lives prior to departure to their next Army assignment. The vision of BBC is to be a teaching ministry which begins in the pulpit on Sunday morning and extends to every other man or woman who teaches the Word of God. We are using our website to extend the video and audio ministry of the Word of God to another world where people will fire up their computer as opposed to turning on a television. The global outreach of the Internet makes this a far superior venue in the twenty-first century. Through our website, we are able to disciple members deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world. The vision is to recognize that we are a church in a predominately military city with challenges unique to our members and to adjust accordingly.

In so much as BBC was started to combat the liberalism that had infiltrated the Southern Baptist Convention forty years ago, the vision of the church is to remain committed to the historic fundamentals of the faith that separated orthodox Christianity from liberalism at the turn of the twentieth century. This is the faith once delivered (Jude 3). There is still a need for churches, regardless of whether they describe themselves with that brand, that remain fundamental in doctrine, especially in the authority of the Bible and the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

The vision of BBC is to be a church that Fayetteville and Fort Bragg would immediately miss if it didn’t exist. At an evangelism conference the speaker asked, “Would anyone outside your church miss the ministry of your church if it ceased to exist?” The vision of BBC is to be a church that reaches out in numerous ways to different groups on a consistent basis in order to provide for the needs that other churches may not be able to meet. One example of this is BBC’s provision of a church a place for racially integrated families to worship - where multiple races are welcomed and accepted in Christ during all services. Another example is when BBC provides food, finances and other resources to people in need without regard to their association with the church. The community benefits from our presence and from the generosity of God’s people. A third example is how BBC provides an alternative to the city sports leagues with the “UPWARD” program. The final example would be BBC’s Christian academy which provides a quality education to hundreds of children not involved in the church. The vision is to remain a fundamental church that shows the love of Jesus to people of different cultures, past experiences, stages of their walk with Christ, and financial needs.

The vision for BBC is to create a city within the city—a covenant community of believers whose scattered presence throughout the city (and Fort Bragg) would positively reflect the testimony of Christ and promote His church. The vision is to promote Biblical separation and holiness (without legalistic, self-righteousness which is often perceived as hypocritical) because of a loving, personal relationship with Christ the Sovereign King of the Universe. The vision is to have church members whose first priority of outreach and evangelism is to the people that they work with and live with everyday. Berean’s extensive membership class is setting the conditions for a church that is united in their faith and likeminded in their understanding of the gospel, essential doctrines, and acceptable methods of accomplishing the mission. People who become members of the church understand the covenant and our doctrine and are excited about being in a church where Christ is proclaimed and where the Word of God is the sole authority. A congregation like this will impact its city for the glory of God.

The vision of BBC is to glorify God through excellence in everything that the church does. This begins with the campus of the church, but isn’t limited to the campus. The buildings and grounds of the church must silently communicate that these people are serious about their God. The appearance must give evidence that the church realizes the year is 2009. There must be evidence of technology that is used to enhance the worship and teaching ministry of the church. The decorum cannot say “we are stuck” in a particular period of time. The facilities must be remarkably clean. The bookstore and cafĂ© must have a similar appearance to Starbucks with a Godly alternative environment. The activities, Biblical studies, and services that the church executes cannot be sub-standard in a community where soldiers learn to do things right.

The entire staff must be committed to doing something right or not doing it at all. Systematically, every room and building needs to be continually inspected for its appearance. Presently, the youth building is the building that needs the most attention. The ceiling, walls, and floor must be redone, and the present media package needs to be removed and a more robust package must be installed to communicate the church’s commitment to the next generation. Additional recreation equipment needs to be purchased including a video gaming center. The oldest generation must communicate its commitment to the youngest generation in a very tangible way. If the nicest place on campus is a parlor room, the young people visually see that this church isn’t about young people.

The vision is to have more adult worshippers than adult members present on Sundays. This mark on the wall will be a high point in achieving a core group of members who are truly committed to Christ. Our members will be ministers to the many attenders who may not even be saved, but these same attenders will need close friends who will be Jesus to them. These members will be ready to accept the significant responsibility of congregation polity (church government) and will understand the need for spiritual oversight in the life of the church. They will unite around their common bond as Christians and Baptists while allowing pastors to be pastors. Their growing relationship with Christ will give them a passion to reach the lost.

Finally, both regional and global short-term mission trips will enhance their appreciation for their salvation, their church, and their appetite for missions. They will be repulsed at any apathy in their own lives and seek to know God with a depth that comes only from true conversion. This apathy will not be an option in their lives since they will recognize that God the Father is not glorified through Christ Jesus in anything spiritually lukewarm.

The vision of Berean Baptist Church is to glorify God through the proclamation of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. This proclamation can occur in so many different ways, as previously highlighted, that a vision paper which describes how this will be done could go on and on. As Fort Bragg continues to grow in population over the next several years, the potential for growth in achieving this vision through the execution of the “pC21” mission in Fayetteville is tremendous. In spite of the fact that this Bible belt city has hundreds of churches, there is still a clear need for a Christ-exalting, Bible-believing church that is committed to impacting people with the Gospel. The reality is that the majority of churches in Fayetteville do not have a clear mission statement with a vision toward executing the mission. Therefore, a church with a Gospel-centered vision will be remarkably different in so many ways that it will attract fully-devoted followers of Christ and be about the business of making disciples. We know that the Father is most glorified when men, women, boys, and girls fully acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives. We, therefore, recognize that this vision for Berean is most glorifying to God the Father. So then we can earnestly pray that God would give us His blessing and grace so that the vision can become a reality, as it is clearly His will to make Jesus known in Fayetteville, in the beginning of a new century.

Read Psalm 81

Ps 81 was the Psalm to read today for my daily Bible reading plan:

To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of Asaph.

1 Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.
2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.
3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

4 For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.
5 This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.
6 I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.
7 Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.

8 Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;
9 There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.
10 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.
12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.
13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.
15 The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.
16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.

Notice the worship. God is commanding them to shout unto him. He tells them to blow the trumpet unto the Lord. They are to sing unto the Lord. When was the last time God heard you shout unto him?

When was the last time you cut loose and worshipped God?

God has delivered me from the bondage of a will that was intent on doing wrong every single waking moment of my life.

I too have been delivered from the bondage of Egypt. I too was a slave to sin with no hope outside of the almighty hand of God. I too was in need of a Savior who would deliver me from the oppression of the Evil one.

And my God my Lord and Savior has done just that. Praise the Lord.

Notice verse 8 God is admonishing them. God is the one who has rescued Israel and yet they are worshipping other gods.

May I be every so careful that I have no idols before God. None!

Verse 12 is scary. God forbid that I ever get to a point where God is giving me over to my stubborn heart. I don’t want the Sovereign God of the Universe to hand me over to my own counsel.

I don’t want the Creator God of the Universe expressing a desire that I follow him because I am consumed in idolatry after He rescued me from Egypt.

At the judgment Seat of Christ, I know I am going to be shocked at all that God intended to do for me but I would not. The finest wheat, the best honey, a mouth open wide are all ways of describing how God desires to bless fully devoted followers of Christ.

I don’t want to hear that God intended on protecting me from my enemies, that He had blessings that I forfeited because I would not serve Him with my whole heart.

May I head the admonishment of Psalm 81 today and every day.

Amazing Grace

Romans 11:5 contains a bold reminder that there wasn’t anything in me or anything I did that makes me worthy of salvation. I was saved by grace. It was the grace of God that saved my soul. Grace describes God’s mercy, God’s compassion, and God’s love. Grace is getting just the opposite of what I deserve.

The KJV says: “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5).

Paul tells his readers that at the present time of writing to the church at Rome, there was a group of Christians that were Christians because of “the election of grace.”

Strong’s Concordance defines election as the act of picking out, choosing. 1a of the act of God’s free will by which before the foundation of the world he decreed his blessings to certain persons.

Paul then alerts the reader to the fact that this act of choosing is according to grace—unmerited favor. Unmerited is the opposite of merited. Strong’s defines grace as:

Merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Merit is spiritual credit held to be earned by performance of righteous acts and to ensure future benefits (Webster), but grace is just the opposite of merited.

My election by God for salvation was not based on any righteous act I performed. It was just the opposite—in spite of the fact that I was and am a sinner, that left to my own devices would have been a rebel all my life, the grace of God appeared unto me in a most personal way and awoke me out of my state of separation from God and saved my soul.

I don’t want to have to think about being responsible for turning my own soul to Christ—I don’t want to be responsible for keeping my soul straight and strengthened. I have a hard enough time keeping my body in subjection—I praise God that His grace is sufficient to save my soul and keep it straight. This is precisely what BBC Article of Faith #12 makes specific reference to when it states the “preservation of the believer rests upon the finished work of God, the promises of God, the gracious election and the sovereign predestination of God” (BBC Constitution, p. 5).

Paul is saying here that if it were not for the grace of God, there would not be a single soul saved. Adam would not have been saved. Adam knew nothing of grace when his eyes were opened to good and evil. God did not foresee something that Adam did and subordinate His will to Adam’s decisions. God appeared to Adam and asked Him where he was and what he was doing on that fateful day. Adam attempted to cover his own sin (or nakedness), but it was God who shed the blood of innocent animals to provide a covering for Adam. God was the initiator in Adam’s salvation; and God is still the initiator in every man, woman, and child’s salvation even to this day, because salvation is of the Lord.

Therefore, be quick to praise God for His mercy and election of grace if you are a child of God. Be quick to praise God that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2:11-12).

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

God's Universal Truth on Giving

God’s Universal Truth on Giving, January 25, 2009, Pastor Sean Harris

Luke 6:37-38
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Luke 6:37–38 reminds us that we reap what we sow and in the amount that we sow. If we judge others, we ourselves will be judged. If we forgive, we shall be forgiven, but if we condemn, we shall be condemned. He was not talking about eternal judgment but the way we are treated in this life. If we live to give, God will see to it that we receive; but if we live only to get, God will see to it that we lose (Warren Wiersbe).

Look at verse 38 in your Bibles. Jesus does not fill in the blank; He leaves it open. “Give_____ and it shall be given unto you…” And He gives us the ability to fill in the blank. We can put in there any word that we want. If we give love, then it will be given unto us. If we give kindness, then it will be given unto us. If we give a good hard days’ work, our employer will remember that. If we give forgiveness in our marriage, then our spouse will remember that. If we give, then it will be given unto us.

The Biblical fact is Jesus taught His followers how they can determine the size of measuring cup God uses to reward them. So every single person gets to decide whether God uses this 1/3 cup measuring cup or this 8 cup Pyrex bowl when He takes care of them. This 8 cup bowl, now that’s a cup right there. You could put some brownies and ice cream in that thing. Listen, I am not interested in eating brownies and ice cream out of this 1/3 cup. This is not the cup that I want for that kind of stuff. And the Bible is going to show us how you can use this 1/3 cup or this 8 cup. Even as I preach this message, I will tell you that I do not want to sound like a prosperity gospel preacher because there are so many out there today. There are so many of them, that when you preach something like this, you get lumped into that category. I am going to show you the difference between the Word of God and how the prosperity gospel preachers use it to manipulate you into taking care of their ministry and padding their pockets. But sometimes I have been guilty in the last 2 and a half years of not fully teaching because I have been so guarded and tried to make sure I didn’t sound like the prosperity gospel preachers. Because they take a little bit of truth, and they twist it any way they want. Let me show you what I mean.

Pencils. What’s the illustration, Pastor? You let a boy or a girl in a classroom always be the one who is willing to share. Someone forgets their pencil and he says, “Here. Use mine.” You let a boy or a girl forget their notebook paper, and he or she quickly hands over a sheet. You know what I’m talking about. Some kids are very generous in the classroom. Teachers, you know what I mean. Any time someone forgets something, that student always says “you can use mine.” Now, let that child forget something, and see how many kids won’t take care of them because they have been taken care of. But now in that same classroom, let a kid be stingy. You know, “I only have 2 pencils. I can’t give you one because I need a back up.” You know how we can justify our selfishness in our own mind. And then see what happens when that child needs to borrow something. Who is going to be there?

Let me give you another example. How about this one? Let your day be characterized by you driving on the streets of Fayetteville and never letting someone in. You know what I’m talking about. I am guilty of this all the time. I want to get in the right lane so that I can make the proper turn, so I am often times counting on someone to be gracious and let me in. You know what I’m talking about. Well, listen, you go through your whole day never being gracious on the highway, and then see what happens when you need someone to be gracious to you. I am telling you that there is a mind boggling universal truth in this Scripture.

I’ll give you another example. You are the type of person that never visits anyone in the hospital. Do not be surprised when you get in the hospital, and no one visits you. That sounds harsh, Pastor. I am not being harsh. I am telling you the universal truth. You are the type of person that will take time out of your busy schedule to go visit any time someone is in the hospital. If you are characterized by that, that’s who you are. Any time someone is in the hospital, you’ll figure out a way of weaving that into your schedule. See how many visitors you get when you are in the hospital. They will be weaving out the door and down the hallway. Do you know why? They remember when they were in the hospital and you visited them. Do you see that we reap what we sow? It is a universal truth. Give generously and it will be given to you. Give stingily and it will be given to you. Where is your giving? Is this 1/3 cup a measure of your giving? Or is this 8 cup the measure of your giving? You know your finances. I don’t. I am not checking on your finances; I am teaching you what Jesus taught. And Jesus taught that when those that use this 8 cup bowl to measure their giving, God also uses the same cup. And the Bible says that when people use this 1/3 cup, God uses the same cup.

Galatians 6:7
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Now this is what I believe the Word of God is teaching, and you can come to your own conclusion on this. But I believe that the Word of God is teaching that God is so Sovereign, so capable, so awesome, so powerful that He is able to take care of His people through others. That is what I believe. I believe that God is so awesome, so incredible, so everything that when you and I are sowing, He makes sure we reap. God is not mocked. Don’t be deceived. God is keeping track. God knows you, and He knows me. God knows whether we are characterized by this 1/3 cup type of giving or this 8 cup type of giving. And if we are characterized by this 8 cup type of giving, then God uses this same cup to give back to me. I’ll show you what I mean because you are thinking, Pastor, you are sounding an awful lot like a prosperity gospel preacher. Let me give you an illustration. Paper wasn’t the major currency in Bible days. It was what you lived by. So they would understand something like oats, barley and wheat. And God says pick your measuring instrument, whatever you want. This is an 8 cup Pyrex measuring bowl, and this is what God does. You give and level it out, and God takes whatever you give and packs it down and presses it down for “good measure”. He gets all the air out of there. Then God says, I’m not done, and He adds some more and mashes it down some more. God does it like this, folks, “running over”.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure…

Do you understand the analogy? And then the bosom part is that they would wear a cloak in those days. They would wear some type of a long cloak, and they would wrap that around so that when it was running over, they could catch it in their cloak. You don’t want to lose this, this is useful stuff. You eat off of this stuff. You don’t go to a Wal*Mart and get it in a plastic container. You go to a vendor in the local market area, and they would use a cup like this. God says the normal guy would scrape it off and give you just what you asked for. But God says that is not how I am. When you choose to give, I use the same measure only I, the Sovereign God of the Universe, will take it, and I will pack it in there. I will mash it in there until it’s running over. So when you get something like this, you would take your coat and hold it all because you didn’t want to lose any of that grain. The issue is that we really don’t believe that God is capable of doing that. That is the truth. We really do not believe that He is that capable. We don’t believe that a Sovereign God in the 21st century is still able to mash down, press down and pour over. We don’t think that God is able to do that with our own finances in the 21st century. We will understand this analogy back in the day, but we really don’t live by faith when you bring it to the 21st century. Now here is the question that you and I need to ask.

Will any giving do? Does who I give to matter?

Is giving to the Democratic or Republican party acceptable? Is giving to the United Way just as good? Is giving to the Salvation Army or any of your other favorite organizations just as good? Is giving to your favorite local radio station just as good? I am going to tell you that the answer is no. New Testament giving always relates to these two ideas.

New Testament Giving:
#1 To promote the gospel—the proclamation of the Gospel. The last time I checked the Republicans or the Democrats were not proclaiming the Gospel. What if I give to a state university and they build a library in my name. Is that the same thing? No. The last time I checked no state university was proclaiming the Gospel. You know, the Gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The Gospel is the Truth that Jesus left the glories of Heaven, came on this earth, was born of a Virgin, lived a sinless life, and died on a bloody cross so that my sins and your sins could be forgiven. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no man can come unto the Father, but by me. And we come to Him through faith and repentance in God. That is the Gospel. The Gospel isn’t that you give, and then the next day in your mailbox is a check for whatever you gave. I am here to tell you that that is not the way God often does it. Does He some times? Yes. And that is always a blessing when He does, but He doesn’t always do it that way.

#2 To provide for the needs of others

Mark 10:29-30
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

So what I get out of this is that “my sake” is that which glorifies God or helps spread the Gospel. Your giving should promote the presentation of the Gospel, the discipleship of new converts, and the growth, preaching and teaching of God’s Word. This includes bus ministries, AWANA, every Sunday school class, and solid teaching from the pulpit where you actually use the Bible and grow from it.

#3 Church planting
Both here and abroad. We do that here through local church planting in North Carolina, and we do it world wide through our partners, our missionaries. Mark 10: 30 gives us three points 30; this is where I am going to leave you on the prosperity gospel.

Three Points:
1. But he (the person who gives) shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands,
2. with persecutions;
3. and in the world to come eternal life.

Under point number one, let’s take for example a Muslim who abandons his faith and loses his mother. That will happen. Let a Muslim convert to Christianity, and he will lose his mother and father. They are done; they will alienate them. But let that Muslim man or woman come into this congregation and become a part of this body of Christ, and see if he or she won’t pick up three or four mothers. That is what the Word of God is teaching. You will move from having a biological mother that excommunicated you to a spiritual mother who is looking out for you, inviting you over for dinner, encouraging you, and introducing you to so and so. That will happen in the body of Christ. You will get brothers. You will get other men and women who you will say “that’s my brother in Christ. That is my sister in Christ.”

Then He says, “and lands” so God does promise to take care of us financially. But wait a minute, look what is inserted right in the middle. This is what the prosperity gospel is always skipping over: “persecution.” It’s going to come. You mean, Pastor Sean, that even if I get to the point in my giving that I use this measuring cup right here, that I am still going to be persecuted? Yes. You mean to say that this isn’t a big shield to prevent me from getting cancer or troubles? No. No. You can be the most faithful giver in the world and die of cancer. This is not the Traveler’s umbrella that goes everywhere you go protecting you. Is God Sovereign? Yes, He is. Does He use persecution in our lives for various reasons? Yes, He does. This is not a safety net or a get-out-of-jail-free card. This is being faithful.

And now look at number 3 “in the world to come.” Now think of this. This is 1/3 of a cup, and this massive thing has 8 cups in it. This is 24 times this. This is how we are often times. I use this 8 cup for my 401K plan, and I use this 1/3 cup for my eternal giving. Listen please. Don’t allow the evil one to rob you of this truth. This is my 401K plan right here. This is my retirement, and I have to live well when I retire. I have to live good here while I’m on this earth, and I am going to bank on the fact that God will be merciful and that He’ll ignore the fact that I have been stingy all my life. But the Bible makes it very clear that that is not what happens. Use this to take care of yourself on this earth, and use this to take of eternal things, and God says I’m going to use the same measure for you. Now listen, if you are scooping out Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, I want it scooped out with this 8 cup scoop right here, okay? Now that sounds a lot like prosperity gospel, and some people get scared about that. I am not telling you to sew a seed of faith and you get a check in the mail tomorrow. I am not telling you that. No one knows how God will take care of you. No one knows how God is watching over and caring for you. But what the Bible makes very clear is that any person can choose for themselves how God will take care of you. You get to pick the measuring cup, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t pick it for you. You pick it. You can use this 1/3 cup, or you can use this 8 cup. The choice is yours.

Jesus told the Apostles:
Mark 9:41
For whosoever shall give you [those who proclaim the gospel] a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

Listen to this incredible promise. This is a promise you do not want to miss. Those who proclaim the Gospel, missionaries, would fit this category every single time you as a Christian take care of a missionary, a preacher, a soul winner, someone who is proclaiming the Gospel, every time you give them a cup of water in Christ’s name, every time you meet their needs, God is keeping track of that. Can you imagine? God has a ledger in Heaven. And He says, I promise that if you take care of those who take care of the Gospel, and I will reward you in eternity. What a promise. What an incredible promise. Any time a cup water is given in my name. You know what a cup of water is like when you are hot and super thirsty and your mouth is dry. A cup of ice cold water is some of the most refreshing in our entire world. And He is using that as a way of taking care of missionaries. We have a mission’s conference that is coming up in just a week—February 8th, and we have provided you with a list of what our missionaries need. They are not wants, these are needs. Clothing: this is the name of the missionary, the child, the items and who is taking care of it, but there are still some blanks. Do you know what are these are? These are cups of water. Satan can rob you of a blessing. God desires to reward you. But wait a minute. That might take some sacrifice. You are right. It might take some sacrifice. You might have to skip going out to dinner this week, and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread and a glass of skim milk. That will actually do you well. And then take care of a missionary. Folks, we do not know what it is to need. We left need a long, long time ago in America. Do you know where we live? We live in a land of want. We left need way back. There are only a few in our congregation that live in the land of need. Most of us live in the land of want. So do you know what we do? We want a little less so that we can take care of a missionary. We want a little less so we can proclaim the gospel. Do you see the difference between me and that prosperity gospel preacher? Because this has no impact on my salary. I do not get the fourth offering or any nonsense like that. I am not going to have a helicopter because you give great to this ministry. I am not going to have 5,000 dollar suits. It is nothing like that. It is your opportunity to make sure the Gospel is being proclaimed through missionaries throughout the world. Look at this incredible promise from the Word of God.

Hebrews 6:10
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Do you understand what that Bible verse is saying to us? It is saying that God never forgets. God never forgets. God has the perfect recordkeeping system in Heaven. Any time a young person, a middle aged person, or an old person does something in His name, exalting Jesus Christ, or proclaiming the message of Truth, God remembers your labor of love. So again, I ask you when you stand before Jesus Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ, is this 1/3 cup the instrument He is going to use to measure? Or is this 8 cup the instrument He is going to use to measure? Young people, do you understand what your entire life could be like if you could get a hold of this at an early age? Serving. Right now. You say, Pastor, I only work a part time job. God knows that. I only occasionally mow grass. God knows that. I only babysit every now and then. God knows that. But if you start being a generous giver at an early age, it will set the conditions for how you will be as an adult. If you are a selfish, stingy teenager, you can be sure that you will be a selfish, stingy adult. It is the way we are, and only by the grace of God can we change.

God doesn’t measure from man’s perspective. Man would think that the person who gave the greatest amount of money would get the greatest reward, but this is NOT the case.

Mark 12:41-44
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing (a Jewish coin worth about a fraction of a day’s wage) And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

Let me paint the picture for you. Jesus is sitting right over here and the rich people are there with their 400 dollar suits and they are walking all sharp over to the offering box, and they are dropping their coins in to make sure that you know they are giving a lot. They couldn’t write a paper check in those days where you wouldn’t hear it; so it’s clink, clink, clink, clink, clink as they drop in their money. So that you really get the idea that they are really giving a lot. You know what I mean? They stand there and drop the coins in, and everyone watches this. And what are they looking for? They are looking to be recognized. They want someone to know they are a big giver. You see that in your Bible. And then what happens? A poor widow puts in just a little bit; it’s not going to make a big jingle. No one is going to notice or get excited about her giving. It won’t fund anything.

Don’t miss this truth. I am going to use my illustrations and wear them out. This is the rich man right here. And this is the poor widow right here. Where are you getting that from, Pastor? I am getting that from the Word of God.

God’s Awesome Formula
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want [poverty] did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Mark 12:44)

Let’s make the Word of God very clear today. If a millionaire gives 1,000 dollars, is that a big deal? No. But if all you have to your name is 10,000 dollars, and the Holy Spirit says give 1,000 dollars to a missionary effort. Is that a big deal? Yes. You see, the millionaire that gave 1,000 dollars is using this 1/3 cup measuring instrument right here. It is not a big deal. If a millionaire gives 1,000 dollars, does he have to live by faith the next day? No. Not at all. But see, the widow had to live by faith. And that is the issue.

Let me show you God’s formula. I know that I am right on this, and you cannot prove me wrong

Gift ÷ Available Cash = % That determines what you give.

What is man’s perspective? Man’s perspective is that God takes care of those who give big gifts, and that is not the case at all. You mean to say, that if I am a poor person, and I have never ever been wealthy that I can still use the bigger cup? That is right. You mean every single person in this congregation can give from the bigger cup? That is right. Yes you can. But do you know what? You will have to live by faith if you do that. You will have to step out there. You say, “Pastor, I am not sure I understand, and I am not sure I really agree with you.”

You know we have had a tough time economically. We have been giving to 401K plans, and we thought our 401K plans looked like that. And then the news hit, and we found out that our 401K plan went to that just like that. Do you remember? Have you seen your statement with the bar graph in the mail? What does it look like? I have seen my statement. It is a straight arrow down isn’t it? You see, God is Sovereign. You think “I am all set. I have my big 401K plan covering me.” And God says I can move you from a big cup to a small cup instantaneously, and I can take your 401K that you were invested in and you thought you were good to go and God says I will show you how to live by faith. This goes to this and now what? Now live by faith. It is so easy for us to get dependent on the wrong things for our security. Here is the fact.

Giving that involves little or no sacrifice is NOT an act of faith or worship.

Proof Text: Hebrew 11.6
But without faith it is impossible to please him:

This is the typical Christian in the 21st century, maybe not in this church, but this is the typical Christian.
1. Paying Mortgage,
2. Buying Groceries,
3. Filling the car up with gas,
4. Writing the bills,
5. Setting aside for an emergency,
6. Going out to dinner and movies,
7. Giving the leftovers to God

Do you know what the leftovers work out to be? Let me show you. Pastor, are you going to get out that little, small cup again? Yes, there is your leftovers right there. That is not first fruits. That is not biblical giving.
Take care of myself
Take care of myself
Take care of myself
Take care of myself
Take care of myself
Take care of myself
And now God, there looks like there is 10 bucks left in the account. I am going to be generous and make it 15. What an insult to a Holy and Righteous God.

So here is my concluding text.
Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, [is He all powerful or is isn’t He?] and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Can He rebuke the devourer and provide blessing or not? You have no idea how God can rebuke the devourer. You have no idea how God can keep you healthy. You have no idea how God can keep your car running and your house working well and providing you with a good job. We are often forgetful of how He blesses us and gives us a good mind and a healthy body. We have no idea how He works and how often God takes care of us. He gives us things beyond our wild imagination. So if God is going to rebuke the devourer on my behalf, do I want him to rebuke him with this cup or this cup?
Joe, would you stand up for a moment? Joe, you and I are going to fight with cups. Let’s get ready. Joe doesn’t stand a chance, does he with that small cup. I have a big, heavy glass bowl. I’m going to crack his head with it. What are you going to do with this small cup, Joe? Listen. Do you want the Sovereign God of the Universe using this 1/3 cup to rebuke the devourer or this 8 cup? You are going to have to step out on faith. You say “I don’t know where it is going to come from.” Me neither. It is not my job to figure out where it is going to come from. I can only teach and preach from the Word of God, and then you have to take the step of faith and say “God you are either capable of providing, and I believe that you are a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, or I am not willing to live by faith, and I am going to keep letting You use this cup to take care of me.” You want God to give you an awesome job and have God take care of your family, then start using this cup right here.

God’s Promise
Luke 6:38
Give__________________________, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.