“The Ripple Effect”
“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you”. - Hafiz of Persia
“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?” - Albert Einstein
“Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.” - Leo Tolstoy
Now there are all kinds of research on the subject of happiness. All kinds of lists and opinions and talk Gender has no impact on happiness. Climate and weather have no impact on happiness. There are happy people in Antartica. They're not really bright people, but they're happy. Beautiful people are not happier than what society judges to be ugly. Younger people are actually a little bit less happy than older people. It turns out that joy is tied to things that surprised researchers… Things like volunteering, donating, giving blood, serving others, being generous with your finances, And people with a vital faith in God tend to be more happy than those without faith. Illus Dr. Stephen Post heads an institute that actually funds high-level research on human compassion.
They've done studies at over 44 major universities. "The remarkable bottom-line of the science of love is that giving protects overall healthy twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease."
Post says, "The benefits of compassion to your physical health alone are so strong that if compassion was not free, pharmaceutical companies would herald the discovery of a stupendous new drug called give-back instead of Prozac, and they would run TV ads about the power of compassion to enhance your life."
Over the next few weeks I want to talk about The Ripple Effect. You throw a rock in a pond, and the ripples spread out. But here is the main deal we look at today. The impact does not begin with us. It begins with God. The rock isn't you and me; it's God. It begins with how does God impact…how do His ripples spread in us? Not about projects or programs or partnerships. We're going to talk about the character of our God And how His character impacts our character And how that THEN becomes a ripple effect in the world in which we live We learn from scripture that God is a certain kind of being A being with a certain kind of character, And our main calling as a church, followers of Jesus, is to come to know God and love God Then to trust that same God and abide with God through Jesus. Now that will have consequences. ….a ripple effect So I want to invite you to rate God on a ten-point scale.
First quality is this…How compassionate is our God? Where would you rate God on a compassion scale one to ten? Bible says we don't have to guess about God's character. The psalmist writes, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him for He knows how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust." Compassion is central to God's character. You see this all over the place in the Bible. I love this little commandment from Exodus. God says, "If you take your neighbors cloak as a pledge…" The idea is you have a neighbor who is poor. "Return it to him by sundown because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. Whatelse will he sleep in? When he cries out to Me," God says, "I will hear for I am compassionate." God is concerned about the coldness of somebody who is poor and has no covering. He wants the earth to be a place characterized by His compassion. Jesus sees crowds of people who are spiritually confused that other religious leaders would pass judgment on, but Jesus had compassion on them He saw that they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus is so noted for His compassion that crowds would bring suffering family members, friends, and relatives to Him Jesus had compassion on them and healed their sick.
In the next chapter in Matthew, Jesus is healing and teaching crowds for three days, and then He says to His disciples, "I have compassion for these people. They have been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way." These are poor people. They're hungry. So Jesus says to His disciples, "You bring me what you can, and then I'll multiply what you bring, and together we'll feed them." I want to feed people's bodies. I want to feed people's souls. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha at the tomb of their brother. He wept over Jerusalem on His way to be executed in Jerusalem. When Jesus is trying to describe the character of His Father, He told about a prodigal son who comes home out of desperation, Son works up a little speech to see if his father would let him stay on as a hired servant. Jesus says, "But while he wasstill a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son,threw his arms around him and kissed him." So on a scale of one to ten, where does God grade out on compassion? How does compassion fit into the character of our God? Second quality…How committed is God to justice? Where does justice fit in God's character? How just is God? Now this is kind of interesting how we respond to injustice in our world I'm usually MOST concerned about injustice when I feel like I'm the victim of it.
So If I'm speeding, I don't want to see any flashing lights in MY rear-view mirror, But if someone else speeds faster and swerves in front of me, I wonder, Why aren't the police around when they're really needed? This story has been around a long time. A little old lady pulling into a parking space at a crowded mall When a young driver, driving a sports car comes out of nowhere and goes screaming into this space first, gets out of the car, and taunts her, "You have to be young and fast." She sweetly smiles, backs up, puts her car in drive and rams into the side of her car, crumpling the entire passenger side, says to him as she drives away, "You have to be old and rich." But one of the most important things Israel taught about God is God is passionately committed to justice. "The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed," the psalmist says. Sometimes they would express this in very concrete ways. "Honest scales and balances are from the Lord. All theweights in the bag are of His making." God hates scams and rip offs and dishonesty. God gets angry when systems are rigged, When people use power to exploit other people. God is so committed to justice He sent a group of people called prophets who were an unprecedented, moral and spiritual force in the ancient world. A prophet named Amos started talking about the judgment of God on Israel's neighbors. "For three sins of Damascus, even for four, God says, 'I will not turn back My wrath.'" Now Amos' audience loves this because he's talking about justice coming to their enemies. He goes on like this for 2 wholechapters. Judgment coming on the Moabites and the Edomites and the Ammonites and the Cellulites…coming on them all. Then there comes a talk in Amos' talk, It's going to take a little courage to say these next words. Amos is talking to a group of people in Israel. They've been cheering on justice from God is coming the way of all their enemies. Then Amos, says these words, "For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed." Israel had to understand God is committed to justice. Theygave Amos an unforgettable picture. Amos has a vision of God standing next to a building holding an object. "And the Lord asked me, 'What do you see, Amos?' 'A plumb line,' I replied. Then the Lord said, 'Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.'"
Now a plumb line is an objective standard by which right judgments are made. Sin will create a 1000 ways to blind us to unfairness or injustice. But God is coming with a plumb line. The judge of all the earth will do what is right. That's the justice quality…scale of one to ten, what would you give God on the justice scale?
Then the next character quality is generosity… How generous is God? Anybody in this room ever act in ways that are selfish? Funny thing happened when I started working on my message. I was at a busy café typing and thinking when a woman sat down next to me. She was very elderly, and she was very agitated. Turns out she had missed her bus, and she didn't know about gettingNext one. She said to me, "What are you doing?" I said, "Well, I'm working on this message about what a generous and unselfish God we have, so please leave me alone." But because I was thinking about who God is, what else could you do? I told her I would help her on the bus ……it was such a tiny thing. The author of the book of James says, "Every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of all Lights." You have never received any good thing that did not come to you out of the generosity ofGod every bite of food you've ever eaten, the clothes youwear, your education, the people you know, that's a generous God who has given that all to us. God isalways trying to spark generosity in us. "Whoever gives to the poor lends to the Lord," the writer ofProverbs says. I love THAT God says to Israel, "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, don't leave it there. Be sure you help him with it."
God is saying even if there is somebody you don't like and something bad happens to their animal, they have bad fortune, Develop the kind of generosity of spirit that says, "I wantto help out. I want to give." And if I err, then I will err on the side of generosity!! How generous is God? The most famous verse in the Bible, "God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life." God loved. God gave His Son. Where would you rate God on the generosity scale? Next character quality…How concerned is God for children? The Bible has a lot to say about children. The end of the Old Testament tells us, "The day is coming when God will turn the hearts of the fathers toward their children." In Luke 18, people are bringing their little babies to Jesus to have Him touchthem. The disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
There is a fascinating book by a historian named Bakke. When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity.
This is kind of the book in a nutshell: In the ancient world,Greeks, Romans, and most other ancient societies, they viewed children from a very muchdifferent perspective than we do.
Infanticide, abortion, abandonment of infants was common and accepted. Violence against children was tolerated, especially for the vast numbers of slave children. Slave children were frequently abused sexually, as well. Many Romans with young slaves hired them out to brothels. That was the condition of children in the ancient world. Boys were kept work there until their beards sprouted and girls kept to work there until their looks faded. Then there emerged a new kind of community that believed that ALL people were made in the image of God. They ALL mattered to that God. This movement had a founder that said to live in His kingdom you actually had to become like a child. The people did not say that in the ancient world. This had an enormous impact on the way children were treated. Those old practices had to stop in this NEW community. Children were to be protected, nourished, honored, and loved. Eventually, that community changed the way the whole world dealt with children. But it's out of the character of God. Where do you rate God when it comes to concern for children? How about this one…How loving is God? You know one of the most remarkable statements in the Bible is just this simple. "God IS love." Here's the ultimate expression. "God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
If I were left to my own strength, my own spiritual capacity, it would destroy me. "The wages of sin is death." But Jesus said, "I will bear that pain. I will pay that price. I will experience that death so that you can experience My life." That's not just love; that is costly love. That is self-sacrificing love for somebody who didn't deserve it, didn't earn it, didn't merit it. How loving is God? Okay that is some aspects the character of our God. Here's the deal… As we live with God, as we abide with God, as we come to know Him and worship Him love Him and talk to Him, As we spend our lives with Him, His character begins to spill over into us. The love that we have received through Christ that we are receiving through Christ then becomes the love we give to other people, The compassion we give to other people, the justice we want to bring for other people. When you receive love from God, God will touch your heart. God will fire up your passions. God will activate your gifts. But then God will call you to demonstrate His character in some part of your world that desperately needs it
I love being a part of a church that does that…. This church has been rippling out for a long time. This is a rippling church. Offer love and then watch for God. The beginning of the book of Acts, this is what he writes. I had never noticed this until this week. "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven." In my former book, that is the gospel of Luke, I wrote about what Jesus beganto do. What did Jesus begin to do? What ripple did it create? Well He manifested the character of God, He preached the gospel, healedthe sick, fed the hungry, He taught the confused, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the leper, welcomed theoutcast, He forgave the sinner, spoke truth to power, gave righteousness to the scandalized, and scandalized the self-righteous, He gave power to the marginalized, and marginalized the power mongers, He gave hope to thehopeless, love to the loveless, peace to the peaceless, joy to the joyless, He lived, taught, died on the Cross, rose from the dead, ascended to His Father.
So Luke says, "That was all that Jesus began to do but now in the book of Acts, I'm going to write about what Jesus went on to do. How? Through the Church….US.YOU…ME…US
We will do what He did with His Spirit living in them. Now we get to create the ripple effect I our time….
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