Today is a very special day, it’s a combined service where both Heidlersburg and Dillsburg get to worship together.  This is something we always wanted as we plant churches, for all of us to have opportunities like this because we truly are one church in multiple locations.  We are also right in the middle of a really important conversation that centers around one very important and popular question.  That question is what is the point of church?  Quite frankly, there are a lot of people asking that question these days.  We have been learning some important truths so far in this series.  We have learned how we view the church and how God views the church.  We have looked at how the church began and how the power of the Holy Spirit launched it into existence.  We have seen both church in its purest form as it stays on its primary function of pursuing The Holy Spirit (God in Us) which fills us up empowering us to not only rally around Jesus, but to share Him with the World, but we have also looked at what happens as we people start to pull the church away from that primary function and onto to all the things we think matter, that could never lead us to all we truly want and desire in the real parts of who we are.  So, yeah, this has been a big conversation with a lot of really important points, leaving us to process, challenge, and really personalize the church, our Spiritual Family, God’s Body, and our important role and value as an individual to God’s plan to redeem the world.  As we walk through this series, I think it’s become tremendously clear to those who are listening.  You matter.  You are an essential part of something bigger, and that is an amazing thing!  Now today, we are really going to slow down, and talk about all we have been learning so far, with the goal that this particular Sunday allows you to really picture what stepping into your purpose or calling really can look like.  I am going to talk to you for a few minutes, and then we will see and hear from 3 different people who have made the choice to bring their skillsets, talents, and unique abilities to the church body in special ways, and then we will end with communion, a beautiful opportunity to reflect on how loved, valued, and important you are to your Heavenly Father.

So just to get us thinking this morning I want to ask you a couple of questions.  As you sit here week after week, really since before Christmas hearing about your purpose, and the concept of how much you matter to God and your Spiritual Family, which is God’s body…what choices are you making?  We spent the last three weeks really challenging you with personal, practical choices, haven’t we?  So, on a personal level are you choosing to spend time with God each day?  Are you starting to see your value and how important you are to God and The Church?  As this starts to happen, we start to feel something we may describe as “God’s calling on our lives.”  So if you are starting to see your value, and see some areas of God’s Body, or even this world that you could make a difference in, the question becomes are you making the choice to stand up and build into God’s Plan to redeem the world.  If you are making that choice, that is great.  If you would like to make that choice but aren’t sure how, please reach out to us at MRC and we will point you in the right direction.  But if you are not making the choice to engage God’s call on your life, I would like to ask a follow up question.  That question is what is stopping you?

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  NIV

I love this and want you to see this.  Jesus says that you are the light of the world, and that you need to let your light shine.  We don’t hide it, we share that light with the world.  In so many ways, as I picture all of the lights coming together here today, we the church should be that city on a hill, that just can not be hidden.  It’s such a powerful visual, let’s read it again in the Message version.

Matthew 5:14 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. 15 If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. 16 Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand — shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.  MSG

This imagery is unmistakable, we are to be light bringing out the God-colors of this world, we are not to keep God as a secret!  We are to let our light shine!  We don’t hide this amazing light for ourselves, no we share it with all those who desperately need it.  So let me ask you again, as a light-bearer, as the light of the world, are you stepping into the life God is calling you into?  If the answer is yes, we are so happy for you, but more often than not, the answer to this question is no.  It is rare for people to stand in their value, see that they matter greatly to something bigger, then step into their calling…so with the time we have left, I want to talk about different blockers that keep us from standing in our true calling with the hope that you could see or identify with what may discourage or stop you from realizing your fullest potential!  There are a lot of pitfalls along the way, but we will just look at some of the most popular ones in our time today.

People and their choices can discourage you from standing in your calling (letting your light shine!)  We looked at church in its purest form in this series, and then what happened as we people started to pick at it.  We have always been talking about the importance of our individual choices and how they affect us and those around us.  Well, in over twenty years of ministry here at MRC, I would say one of the largest discouragements we see that keeps people from standing in their call or staying with it has been people.  Paul really understood this, and asked an important question in Galatians…

Galatians 5:7 You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? 8 It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. NLT

Did you hear that?  Paul says you were doing so well, WHO has held you back from following The Truth…is certainly not God!  We have been amazed over the years at how one person, who we know is imperfect, who may make a decision to step away from God’s Body, can discourage others to do the same.  Or how an imperfect person could discourage us from standing in our calling by saying something judgmental, or hurtful, or resentful towards another human…but this is a very common thing around the church and our Faith.  We cannot let another imperfect person be the reason we do not stand in our true calling and let our light shine…people will say dumb and hurtful things and not all people will celebrate your health and success with you…stand tall, as a city on a hill and let your light shine and understand that each person has choices to make, and those decisions should not determine yours!

Adversity and challenges can discourage you from standing in your calling (letting your light shine!) This is another way we see so many discouraged from following God and standing in their true purpose.  Life is hard, and it’s like we decided this life in Christ and building God’s Kingdom here in a Godless world should be easy, with no challenges, and come together very quickly for us.  Which really is the opposite of what the Bible tells us.  In fact Peter tells us we shouldn’t be shocked or surprised when tough stuff hits…yet you would be surprised how many check out, get discouraged and quit when things don’t happen the way they want, or as easily or quickly as they want!

1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.  NLT

Your Enemy’s Lies can discourage you from standing in your calling (letting your light shine!)  An often-ignored reality is that your life is opposed.  We do have an enemy, who is a liar.  His goal is to keep you from ever becoming the person you were called to be, he is a thief coming to steal and kill and destroy.  Now the interesting thing is, because of Jesus, he can’t really do anything to you except lie, and try to get you to agree with his lies about you, so that you get discouraged, and quit on the whole concept of your value and true purpose and calling.  We need to grasp this, and not agree with his lies.

Ephesians 6:10 …God is strong, and he wants you strong. 11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. 12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. MSG

These are just a few of the ways that we can be blocked or discouraged from standing in our true calling, and finding our full potential and I wanted you to see them, as we start to walk through this service today.

I also want you to understand that in the end, because of Jesus nothing can truly stop you from standing in your true calling, accept you! 

Yes people can be hurtful and discouraging, people you care about may choose to walk away, but that is their choice, and God loves us enough to give us that choice.  And yes the way won’t always be easy and will take much longer than you realize, and yes we are opposed by the thief, who is a liar doing his best to discourage you.  But we stay focused on God, and the goals, we stay the course because we are up to something bigger than all the challenges, blockers, and fleshly discouragements.  Paul asks an important question to us all that I want in your heart and mind today.

Romans 8:31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. NLT

So, as we listen to these interviews and see real people making these real choices and take communion today, I want you to think this all through.  You matter.  You have a calling, and as you stand in that calling you realize your fullest potential and help the Spiritual Family reach its fullest potential.  In the end it’s your choice, and it affects your life, and everything and everyone around you.  So, keep reflecting on this, what keeps you from God’s call on your life?  What stops you from letting your light shine?