This time we’re telling the truth: You will not be able to park here this Sunday.
One last thing about this invalid at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5. I want us to notice today that the ultimate Healer always takes the first step in our salvation. And he always does whatever it takes to save you.
Jesus is heading into Jerusalem for a religious feast, but he takes a detour along the way. He decides to first visit the city’s most sick and disabled. He singles out the most destitute among them, a man who is sick on the inside and the outside. And Jesus heals him. He calls the man to immediate action and heals him! He changed him.
And Jesus initiated the whole thing.
This guy had no faith. There’s no confession. No cry for help. A couple of verses later we learn this guy had no idea who Jesus even was! But Jesus was looking for him. Jesus loved him and healed him. He changed him, made him whole. And then he followed up later with him in the temple to encourage him.
What a beautiful picture of the amazing love and grace and mercy of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus goes against the grain, he moves heaven and earth, he breaks the rules, to reach out to you and heal you.
And he’s the one who takes the initiative. Always. He’ll stop at nothing to save you. That’s his nature. That’s who he is and what he does.
Do you want to get well?
What’s wrong with us and this world is sin. We know that Jesus is the answer to the problem. But do we really want to be healed? Whether you’re experiencing the physical brokenness of this pool guy or his complacency that Jesus challenges with a call to action or the warped attitude of the religious leaders who valued their rules and restrictions over the healing of others, Jesus’ question is the same. So is his will and power to save.
The construction around our church building at Central is progressing up and out. There’s a lot of scaffolding in play here.
The three arches of our new main entrance have all been encased in brick and the walls and beams of our new ground-level ministry space are almost complete. The chapel steps and wall that went down and then out to the sides have been torn out to reveal the original 1930 steps that went straight down to the street. And pretty soon the beautiful cast stone will be installed on this west side front.
If you run into them, be extra kind to Mark and Kevin and Mary and Vickie. They’re losing their office windows in this deal and it’s just now starting to sink in. As the walls go up, there’s less sunshine coming in. Vickie’s is just that little “Laverne and Shirley” window, but she’s still going to feel it. Mark and Mary are going to have to be shown where their light switches are. And Kevin might actually go stark-raving-mad.
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews gives us the biblical definition of faith: bold action in response to the promise of God regarding an unseen future. Any casual stroll through the Faith Ring of Honor in this chapter confirms what a life of faith looks like, precisely the kind of life that pleases God.
By faith, Noah built. That’s action. He built. Noah built when he was warned about things not yet seen. Noah had no physical, tangible evidence that building an ark was a good use of his time and resources. He’d never seen a flood. Most scholars believe he’d never even seen rain. For Noah to build an ark made no sense. But Noah builds. He acts boldly, motivated by what the Word of God told him was going to happen even though nobody had ever seen anything like it before.
By faith, Abraham went. Abraham acted on God’s promise even though he didn’t know where he was going. God had told Abraham he’d be given land in the future and that his descendants would be too many to count. And there was no physical evidence to suggest it might come true. He’s 100 years old! His wife’s 90 and barren! But by faith, Abraham went — bold action. He left the certainties of what he knew to take his family into the unknown, relying only on the Word of God. This is the very essence of faith. This is what faith is: a bold action in response to the promise of god regarding an unseen future.
By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith, Joseph spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. They acted on things that were going to happen in the future. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. The Word of God, the promise, was going to be fulfilled after each of them died. But they each acted by faith anyway.
By faith, Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God. Why? Because he was looking ahead to his reward. It made no sense for God’s people to put blood all over their doors. But they did it because they had faith that God was going to keep his promise. Walking down into the middle of the Red Sea, are you kidding me? But had promised to deliver them, so in they went. Same thing with marching around the walls of Jericho. Their only motivation for doing this thing that made no sense was that God told them to. God was doing something. Otherwise, it’s pointless.
In Mark 2, four men dig a hole through a roof and lower their paralyzed friend on a mat down to Jesus. And the Gospel says Jesus saw their faith. He saw their faith! Faith is not believing that Jesus can heal; faith is digging through the roof! Faith is not believing God can save; faith is walking into the Red Sea, faith is marching around Jericho, faith is getting up and going where God calls you to go and doing what God is calling you to do! Faith is in the verbs: bold action in response to the promise of God regarding an unseen future.
We received more than six inches of snow overnight here at Stanglin Manor, more snow in the past 12 hours than we’ve received total the past two winters combined! It never gets old; I still get excited about the snow up here.
The construction on the west side of our church building at Central is finally going up instead of down. Over the weekend, they framed out the arches for the new main entrance. It’s really starting to take shape. The new ground level ministry space is so much bigger than I could realistically imagine. The new welcome center is going to make a big difference. And the main entrance to our building will be obvious for the first time since the mid ’80s!
Tomorrow is the day Amarillo baseball fans have been anticipating / dreading for several months. The San Diego Padres AA affiliate, scheduled to begin play in April 2019 at our brand new downtown Amarillo baseball stadium, is announcing the name of the local team. The press conference is at 1pm. Please don’t be Sodpoodles! I’d rather it not be Long Haulers, Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, or Jerky, either. But please don’t let it be Sodpoodles!
All the add-ons and extras are being ripped down on the west side of our church building at Central, preparing for the construction of the new façade and entrance. The stairs and foyer and overhang in front of the offices are gone and the porch and foyer in front of the Gathering Place exist no more. It’s loud and there’s a lot of dirt. The whole building shakes with every blow of the heavy equipment against the concrete foundation. The daily changes are noticeable around here now — on the outside and the inside. Things are falling off the walls in Vickie’s and Gail’s offices.
“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.” ~Galatians 3:16
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” ~Genesis 12:2-3
This promise reveals and establishes God’s universal intent and plan for salvation: all peoples on earth will be blessed through Abraham. It’s universal. It’s for the whole world. God calls Abraham out of the blue and says, “I will bless you and you will be a blessing. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Paul says Abraham believed that promise and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham was saved by believing in God’s promise, by trusting in God’s Word. That’s how the covenant was established.
Abraham didn’t make a covenant with God; God made a covenant with Abraham. God did not lay down any conditions for Abraham to meet. In fact — you can look it up! — when God ratifies the covenant in Genesis 15, Abraham is sound asleep. It’s a covenant of pure grace.
God’s people are chosen by grace. God establishes the relationship by his own initiative apart from any law. They’re his people before there is such a thing as the law. The promise came first. The relationship came first. God’s people never obeyed the law in order to be saved. God had already saved them by his promise. There’s a big difference between “Do this and I’ll save you” and “I’ll save you so you can do this.”
Salvation is founded on God’s promise. And that promise is unchangeable.
What God promised Abraham is eternal. It’s irrevocable. God’s promise can’t be nullified, modified, or altered in any way — not by anybody’s personal preferences, not by any group’s cultural or national agendas, not even the Law of Moses can change God’s promise.
“The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.” ~Galatians 3:17-18
The law is really a latecomer to the salvation scene. The law doesn’t change the eternal arrangement God made with Abraham and his descendants. The promise is unchangeable. So the way we relate to God today is the same was it’s always been and always will be: through faith, not through works of the law. God saves people when they trust his Word, when they believe his promise, not when they keep all the details of the law.
The law is not God’s most important revelation. It’s the promise. God’s eternal promise and our faith in that promise to save is the basis of everything God has planned for us and his creation. Faith, not works, is the foundation of our righteous relationship with God and with each other.
In Romans 7, Paul says the law is holy, righteous, and good. But we are unholy, unrighteous, and not good. The law doesn’t make us sinners; it reveals to us that we are sinners. The law is a holy mirror that shows us we have dirty faces. But you don’t wash your face with a mirror. We are cleansed, we are made holy and righteous, and good, by the faith of Christ and our faith in Christ — the fulfillment of God’s great promise.
It rained an inch last night — praise God! — but that is not slowing down the construction crews at our Central church campus. Pioneer Construction is today using wet saws to cut through the brick on the west side of our building that will become part of the doorway to our new children’s play space. And huge trucks and graders are spreading a bunch of white stuff on the far west parking lot. It’s way too early to start asking, “When are they going to be finished?” Don’t even think about it. We’re just getting started.
Because of the Ignite Initiative and our church’s commitment to making a positive impact on our local community, we’ve just given another $25,000 to Martha’s Home. The money is being used to fund the salary of the new staff social worker, Catherine O’Day. This new position, initiated by last year’s Central donation, means more women and children are receiving more services more quickly — rehabilitation, counseling, education, and other resources. Women and kids coming out of homelessness, abuse, and addiction are being brought into Christian community and getting more of the help they so desperately need.
God bless Connie and Catherine and everybody who walks through the doors at Martha’s Home.
Construction has been scheduled to start today, June 18, on our building and grounds here at Central. But what’s happening can only be described as deconstruction!
The construction fences are up and the walking lane on 15th street has been marked off with barricades. But the rest of the work today is about tearing things down and ripping things out. The handicap parking signs and poles have been dug up out of the asphalt, the main church sign has been removed from its post, and the downspouts have been disconnected from the building. The equipment is being moved in and readied for all the demolition that should start in the morning.
And then the actual construction begins on our west parking lots, the new west entrance, the expanded welcoming center and ministry space, the indoor playscape, and the chapel steps. It’ll be a little messy and a little inconvenient and very exciting. Finally, an obvious main entrance! Finally, nice landscaped parking closer to the building! Finally, an indoor play space for our kids!
As construction begins this week, we’re asking three things of our Central church family:
Practice Patience – We need you to park in the designated areas and enter and exit through the clearly marked doors. You’re going to need to pay attention to the signs and the volunteers. Things will change every couple of months as we transition work areas — it may get stressful. We’re doing everything we can to communicate and to make this go as smoothly as possible. Keeping your eye on the goal of the finished product and encouraging others will help.
Say Your Prayers – Our campus gets used every day by those doing Gospel work in our city and by those who do not yet know Christ. Thank God for the facilities we have that serve as such an effective ministry outpost in Amarillo. Ask the Lord to bless us during this construction period, that those ministries can be expanded to his glory.
Finish Your Ignite Pledge – Your faithful giving truly reflects the nature of our Lord who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, so that we through his poverty might become rich. In the words of the apostle Paul, you are excelling not only in faith, speech, knowledge, and love — you are excelling in the grace of giving. Keep it up! We’re going to need every penny of what was pledged!
The Christians at Central are to be commended — no, praised! — for their extravagant generosity and for the faithful ways they embrace the ministry God is doing through Central in our neighborhood, throughout our city, and around the world.
May our eyes be open and our hearts in tune with what God has planned for us together the rest of this year and beyond.