Laity Sunday Message
Today God Is First!



Rich and I want to thank everyone who participated today. Some of them are new to the church, some of them have never been up in front of the churchfamily before. Some from our Latino ministry. We thank them for their bravery!!! And some are familiar faces serving in other ways. Thank you, Chuck, for jumping in to help at the last minute. May God richly bless you all.

In preparing for this message, I went back and forth between titles — You are a Child of God OR Being Used as the Vessel God Created — and then in a study group, Donna McCarrell mentioned TGIF, and asked us what it meant to us. Of course, we promptly said Thank God, It's Friday.

WRONG!!! It means — Today, God Is First. We have made these crosses for you to take home and to remind you of that every day.

2 Kings 4:1-7 – The Widow's Oil – The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves." Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"

"Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little olive oil."

Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."

She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.

She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left."

Now you may wonder what the scripture about a widow and jars or vessels of oil have to do with TGIF and us. This scripture kept coming back to me before I ever chose it. And for me it has to do with collecting the jars/vessels; and then having faith that they will all be filled. We are like those jars, we are vessels for God. We need to be open to God at all times and let him bless us and fill us as vessels to share His message anywhere and everywhere.

We ARE children of God as this morning's Worship in Motion so aptly suggested. We ARE vessels created for God's use, and we are a precious brother or sister of our Lord, Jesus Christ. But sometimes we don't feel like that. We may be sad, or hurt by someone's word to us. We may feel broken into a million pieces, and it's hard to feel like a special child of God.

We may hurt with pain of swollen joints or aching muscles and it's hard to do God's work when we don't feel well.

Within a month after my Mom died almost four years ago, I found out I had uterine cancer and had the necessary surgery. I should have been well, but I experienced almost a year of devastating depression. I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything, just stay in my house with the lights off and just watch TV, crying for no reason. I barely saw my family. I didn't even go to church~and that just wasn't me. I didn't even know how to pray to get out of that emotional roller coaster.

One Sunday afternoon, when I was watching TV, I flipped by a televangelist program, and here was the pastor in a deep and cavernous pit with no way out. He was quoting scripture about those feelings and it spoke to me — that televangelist was Joel Osteen. I had never heard of him before, nor have I watched him since. God used him to speak to me; and I was finally open to hear God's words to me. To say that I was still His Child and He needed me to get well. I praise God for that message, the darkness passed and the constant uncontrollable crying stopped. God wanted me to be a vessel that He could use for His glory.

I found a great devotional book, and also enrolled in the first Alpha Class as many of us did. I began to reclaim my life and sanity.

One day a particular devotion was about being God's mind. And by the time I was done, I believe the Holy Spirit was telling me that — My Brain is God's Brain; My heart is God's Heart; My Hands are God's Hands; My Feet are God's Feet. By that I mean — He created Us; He created Us in His Image; He wants Our brains to think like Him; He wants Our hearts to Love Him; He wants Our hands to work for Him; He wants Our feet to go where He cannot go; He wants Our mouths to speak good things to others, to share His Word with others, to share His Love with others — not what We want to do, not how we want to say it sometimes, but to always be living with a Mind Like God, with a Mind Like Jesus.

No matter your circumstances — betrayal, suffering, self-loathing, sadness, depression, ill health, or just mundane living. God doesn't expect us to clean up our lives by ourselves. He doesn't expect us to pick up the broken pieces all alone. Well, the truth is, God doesn't want us to do that all by ourselves. Most of the time He doesn't say OK I'll just wait until you are ready to serve Me and praise Me. He wants to make us what He wants us to be, the reason for which He created us. We are not in charge!! God is in charge!!

God wants so much more of us and for us. He wants to Bless US abundantly everyday. But, sometimes Me wants to do what Me wants to do. And we do make God wait with our stubbornness and our wanton pride — With our determination that we know better. If we don't take care of our health, if we don't take care of our finances, if we don't take care of our homes and possessions. If we don't let ourselves be open to share God's Good News with others. We forget why God created this vessel. And God cries!!

Dr. Chauncey Crandall, author of Raising the Dead, states, "It's important to honor the body as God's temple. Otherwise we give Satan an easy opportunity to shorten our service to God." So today, may we adopt this T G I F — Today God Is First.

How do we let a relationship with God happen? How do we offer ourselves to God and let Him work through us and in us.

First of all, know how special each one of you is. Take that into your heart and your soul. You belong to God, and He gave a precious gift in His son, Jesus Christ for your salvation. You are His children also. You are forgiven and you are HIS no matter where you are or what you are doing.

So for that relationship, we have been learning from Pastor Tom for the last several months just how to do that. I won't go over all his sermons — you have heard them along with me.

First, we Pray in our own quiet space and praise God for all the blessings that He has given us.

Then we Confess our sins. Say them out loud — it's such a powerful experience, gets them out of our inner being, and cleanses our vessels.

Pray unceasingly! Talk to God like He is our best friend — because He is our best friend. Constant conversations. Then ask God to use Us as He chooses.

Now it is time to be still, and most important word — LISTEN and know that He is God and let Him fill us with all His Blessings and desires for us.

Psalm 139:14 – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

God knows our names, strengths, fears, and desires — and He passionately loves us and wants a relationship with us. Isn't it amazing that the God who created the stars and oceans and animals wants to be a part of our lives? We are wonderfully made by Him and He loves us! Wendy Lenaburg brings up frogs from time to time and has taught us that FROG means Fully Rely On God. Through prayer and being open to God's call in our lives, we can do this.

But WE must seek Him.

You are such awesome examples of God's vessels. You ooze talents and gifts. I watch you and I see things in you that you are unaware of. Many times, God has laid it on my heart to use you or make you aware of the gifts you possess.

When the time comes and the sign up sheet is being passed for new opportunities, try not to say, well I just count money and I keep doing that or I work Second Harvest and that's what I want to continue to do or I'll just continue to usher. That's awesome, but this time let's try to stretch ourselves into new possibilities. Let God guide us.

Perhaps, we might start by praying as we walk or drive through neighborhood each day — find a house or person on the street and pray specifically for them — you don't even have to get out of your car. We may find ourselves having new secret relationships there.

Pray for all the ministries on this campus. Share God's smile with those on the street. Just driving out this driveway and waving or smiling – or both — to someone walking by can change their day. There's a story that I heard about a year ago where someone was praying for someone that they may not have known. That person reached out for help, and possibly cemented their salvation. Many of us know the story of the prayer of the Mother of Saint Francis of Assisi. If you don't, please read it sometime.

Some of you could help start or join a group at our church that would visit homes in our neighborhood and ask if there is anything we could do for them today. OCCCO is ready to help us learn to do that when we are ready. The possibilities are endless. You could hold a study group in your home.

I know that in these economic times, it is hard to Pay It Forward. But one of my most favorite things to do was to pay for the meal of the person behind me in the drive through. It just delighted me!! (I don't do drive thru any more) but I can do the same thing given the opportunity in the line at the grocery store when the person in front of me doesn't have enough money to pay for their whole bill. I just tell them to share that gift with someone else at another time.

There are bigger projects on our horizon. We are going to grow our church. We have heard through the ABC Soup meetings that this is a priority, a concern, and a dream for our Churchfamily. Pastor Tom will be giving us ideas based on all the wonderful sharing at those meetings. I know we can do it.

When God calls us to act, how will we respond? Will we say, Yes, God please lead us and use us-show us Your way?

I challenged myself this year to CHANGE. For some reason, one day in February, I sat in my car reading the book of Daniel where it talks about Daniel's eating habits. Then in March I found myself questioning Rich about his Get Healthy, Stay Balanced program. It took me two months of reading the materials. I attended a class. It took me another month of praying about what God wanted from me and what I needed to. As I said before, I am no longer the Drive Through Queen. I had ease of movement now, new vitality, and I'm getting healthy. I want this vessel to be the best it can be to serve God. God is giving me the strength to accomplish that.

God created us as vessels to overflow into new things. I have opened myself in a who new way to be a healthy, energetic vessel for God. That's how we grow and learn. That's how we bless others, that's how we show God's love.

And I will repeat this again. God gave His most precious gift in His Son, Christ Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins, and to give us salvation. Shouldn't we offer all our being to Him to be used for His Praise and Glory whenever He calls.

Let's Pray about that and perhaps we can dedicate ourselves at the end of the service to serve God in new and different ways than in the past. Share God's loving message of Jesus Christ and salvation in many ways to all we meet.

We are all God's Children — that bears tremendous responsibility! But I have faith that we can handle it and be living, overflowing vessels of God. I have seen our strength, dedication and love. I have seen our compassion and commitment at work. I see the sparkle in our eyes again. I see a renewed spark in our steps. Now God is asking us to step it up a notch or two.

Remember to Pray, to Listen, and be Open to be Blessed and Used; and the rewards will be abundant. Our hearts will be delighted and full, our smiles will be bigger, our presence will be glowing and our lives will have new meaning and be filled with joy.

And there will be blessings for all who come to share and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Have you seen how WE have already been blessed with new people coming to our church. Justice Osei from Ghana, Maureen and her husband from Nigeria, Janae from over on Magnolia and Valencia and our delightful Christian family formerly of India and Nebraska. And some of these new people have said yes to God to share themselves with you.

So let us be like the widow with only a small bottle of oil left. Let us Gather our jars (our gifts and talents),

Let us ask God to bless us and keep filling us as he did the jars of the widow and then, in turn, serve God with overflowing abundance.

I'm dedicating this next song to all of you,

You are Beautiful and You are Strong and You are His.

Sharyl Lewis
October 2011

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