Hymn: Sunshine in My Soul

Sunshine In My Soul

I thought I’d open today with some mildly entertaining stuff...I first read these a couple years ago. These are actual misprints of announcements found in church newsletters and bulletins collected from churches around the country. I’ll just read a couple of them for you

Next Sunday, a special collection will be taken to defray the cost of the new carpet. All those wishing to do something on the new carpet will come forward and get a piece of paper.

Don't let worry kill you - let the church help.

A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.

The pastor will light his candle from the altar candles. The ushers will light their candle from the pastor's candle. The ushers will turn and light each worshipper in the first pew.

For the word of God is quick and powerful, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soup and spirit.

Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 PM. Please use the back door.

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.

Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

This afternoon there will be a meeting in the south and north ends of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends.

Today's sermon: HOW MUCH CAN A MAN DRINK? with hymns from a full choir.

Today’s sermon is about what a lot of you did just now.

You laughed.

Your ears heard something, and something in your soul welled up to the point where it had to escape out of your mouth in the form of giggles, chortles, and some of you even laughed.

We opened this week’s morning service, as we do every week, with a hymn and a prayer.

In fact the hymn was “There is Sunshine in my Soul”.

But ask yourself honestly…as you were singing the hymn, what were you feeling emotionally?

When you sang the word Glorious…did you feel the glory of God?
When you sang the word Peace…did the peace of God fill you?
When you sang the word Smiling….did you smile?
Are there songs in you that you cannot sing…songs that are so wonderful that no music in the world can express them?

As you heard the song, did something inside your soul well up so that it had to escape out of your mouth in the form of singing?

Is there sunshine in your soul this morning?

I think for a few of you, the answer is yes,

But for most of us, our souls are overcast. We don’t feel especially despondent, but then again, we don’t feel especially joyful. It’s okay to be here at church, but then again, you can take it or leave it.

“I’ve sang this hymn a hundred times
It’s the Same old same old
Something to get through, and then I can sit down.”

It’s ironic, because I think most of us are singing the words, but our hearts are a million miles away from the truth in the words.

We fall into the same trap sometimes when we read scripture. Let’s try reading Psalm 100.

PS 100:1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

PS 100:2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

PS 100:3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

PS 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

PS 100:5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Now, when we read it, we could read
it in one of two ways…

The first way…

(william f. buckley voice)

If you notice what the Psalmist does here…The second main division of this psalm parallels the structure of the first, namely, a call to praise followed by a declaration of why the Lord is worthy of praise--the corresponding elements of the two divisions are complementary.

And that’s fine…sometimes a little analysis is good to understand the deeper meanings of scripture.

But on the other hand, I think the better way to read it is like this:

SHOUT FOR JOY to the LORD, all the earth!

Worship the LORD with gladness!
come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

his faithfulness continues through all generations!

I think when the author wrote it, it was meant not to be read, but to be shouted. It wasn’t written because the author felt an urge to present a theological treatise. It was written because the author was so filled with the joy of worshipping God that he couldn’t contain it, that he had to get it down on paper…to tell the world…to proclaim it

Sometimes when we worship God, or especially when we do church work, smiling is the last thing on our minds. Serving God becomes a burden…an assignment to fulfil. Our hearts are anything but joyful.

So How is the worship of God supposed to be done? Especially on the Sabbath day?

The Bible tells us very clearly in that passage we read

That’s what worship is supposed to be like

Especially today.

Now that we are in the New Testament era, Our worship is in no longer in in the style of Mount Sinai, it’s in the style of Mount Zion.

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:18-24)

Before Jesus was crucified, it was a no-win situation for mankind. There was the law, which told people what they couldn’t do. And because man had a sinful nature, there was no way that he could fulfil the law. All man could do was realize that he was a sinner, and be terrified at God’s wrath. The blood of Abel was the blood of defeat. It cried out from the ground for justice and retribution and wrath.

But Jesus came to the earth and bore our sins on the cross. And everything changed. Jesus’ blood was the blood of victory. The blood of Jesus proclaims forgiveness and reconciliation.

We are in the church of the firstborn. We have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.

I recently had an opportunity to visit our churches in South Korea with some of the IA members, and it’s funny, but I got a taste of what thousands of angels in joyful assembly might sound like.

It is an experience that I’ll remember for a lifetime. We visited several churches, and everywhere we went, the brothers and sisters met us. They greeted us with joy and even though no one could really
speak Chinese or English, they smiled and shouted “hallelujah”. They completely went out of their way to show their love.

And the hymn singing was amazing. Just an ordinary service, the whole congregation would burst out. To be honest, their ordinary congregation sounded better than our best choirs. And not because their voices are nicer or because they sang in harmony or even in tune…it’s because you could tell from the way they were singing that they could feel every word they were singing.

And their choir was even more incredible.

There was one presentation by their national choir where they went through a repertoire of beautiful hymns and songs.

I was sitting with the IA members listening to them.

There was one piece in particular, they sang Sunshine in my Soul…in Korean. I knew it wasn’t going to be the same when the pianist started by playing a jazzy rift. Then they choir broke out into an incredible, energetic rendition of Shunshine in my Soul…clapping and shouting out in perfect harmony. I’d heard that this choir was nationally known, and I believe it. the whole congregation started to clap along in joy. Even a few of the IA members got into it.

As they got to the end, I didn’t want it to end. It just felt so incredible sitting there, not because I’d heard a great performance, but because I felt the joy in the Holy Spirit. At the end of the presentation, the congregation burst into applause. Before they finished their last note, I just couldn’t help myself. I clapped as loud as I could, and I shouted out “Woooo!”

At that point, one of the IA members sitting in front of me smiled at me, and sort of gave me a little smack on the hand. We had gotten to know each other, so I know he meant it in fun, but on the other hand, I think a few of the people I was sitting with was hoping that I could act a little more dignified.

But I didn’t feel like being dignified. And neither did that congregation. They were whooping and hollering and clapping. And the first thing that came to my mind at that point was the passage in luke

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:37)

Now there are different cultures, and some cultures are more effusive or expressive than others, so I don’t really fault people from the more closed cultures that are more reserved.

But one thing I’m thankful for is that we live in a society where it’s okay to be emotional. To be expressive. Because I thnk this is the way we were built.

When a parent holds his or her newborn in her arms for the first time, it’s a very emotional experience. When a young man graduates from college, it’s a joyous celebration for the son and the parents. When a man and a women get married, it’s a celebration of joy.

God created us as emotional creatures. There’s hardly a decision we make, an event we experience in life where emotions are not involved.

And so, when we see miracles, and experience the glory of God, why shouldn’t we shout out and clap our hands?

So If the spirit fills you and you are so inclined, I think it’s okay to smile.
And to laugh
And to clap your hands
And to shout.

Now I’m not saying that we become one of those churches that’s filled with ecstatic, uncontrolled exuberance, where people are out of control, almost in a drunken state. In some, not all, but some of those cases, maybe it’s not the holy spirit, but human beings hard to make up for something missing.

And in particular, when you talk about applause in the chapel, I think that if your applause is for people, or because of people, and not for God, and because of the Spirit, don’t applaud.

But this church is filled with Holy Spirit. That spirit should be filling us all 24 hours a day, not just for a few minutes when we pray. so if you’re so filled with the joy of the Spirit , you feel like laughing, or shouting, I’d say do it.

And a performance fills you with the joy of God…if you’re so filled with joy to see a friend or visitor in the pews for the first time, I think it’s okay to clap your hands. In fact, I
think it’s a mistake if you try to stifle it, or worse, if you try to stop someone else from expressing themselves.

What I am saying is, as a church, it’s okay to just enjoy being in the presence of God.

Let’s look at an example in the Bible..

Now King David was told, "The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God." So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. (2 Samuel 6:12-16)

During the reign of Saul, the ark of God, which was the earthly throne of God, was treated poorly. It was taken into battle, and captured by the Philistines. It was returned to the Israelites by the Philistines, and it languished in relative obscurity for many years.

Now that David was king, he made a decision to being the ark back to Jerusalem. He had made a commitment that God would be the ultimate ruler, and so the ark was brought back to Jerusalem.

Now david by this time is the King
He’s not a shepherd boy with a slingshot anymore…he’s getting on in years

And yet when the ark of the Lord comes back in to th city, what does David do?

He runs out wearing a linen ephod…not his royal robes..and evidently the linen ephods don’t leave much to the imagination.

And he starts leaping and dancing it says here with all his might

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"

David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel--I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor."

And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. (2 Samuel 6:20-23)

Now Michal thought she was doing the right thing
It was humiliating to see David acting this way
Leaping and dancing, and dressed the way he was.

But David replied…”I will celebrate before the Lord”.
I will become even more undignified than this

And the person who ended up being punished was not David for acting like a fool. It was Michal for despising him. And she had to endure the worst punishment

For a young woman, and particularly the wife of a king, to be deprived of having children was a catastrophic punishment.

All because she despised David when he celebrated in front of the Lord.
She didn’t get that more important than the pomp and the prestige of being royalty, the more important thing for David was that he was genuine and even childlike in his worship of God.

Whenever I was coordinator of an SSC, I always had a list of 9 harsh rules, don’t go to White Castle. Don’t listen to walkmans.

And then there was Rule #10. Rule #10, as I’m sure most of the youth here remember was “Smile!”

Because if you sit in the chapel listening to the word of God, memorize all the verse in the world, are able to recite and explain all the doctrines, but you don’t have joy…you’re missing the point of what it means to do all these things.

And worse, when you try to preach to other people, they will see it in you. They’ll say to themselves…why should I go to a church like that? Sure it follows the Bible 100%. But it has no joy. It has no life.

Some people say...a good Christian is one who’s reserved, who never shows emotions. That the Bible tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling…that The Bible tells us to "Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom."

Well, the Bible does say that. But everywhere the Bible says this, it refers to people who are
unfaithful…people who are spiritually lost…people who love the world and themselves more than they love God. They are to grieve because they have so far refused to truly follow Christ.

But once they accept Christ and live the way Christ wants them to live, once they have seen the sun of righteousness rise with healing in its wings…they will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

And once someone really accepts Christ and follows him from day to day, even when he encounters trouble, he will be filled with joy

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. [7] These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, [9] for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)

I want to talk about a very dear brother who understood this.

His name was brother Claude Watkins

When I lived down in Princeton Jct., I drove to church with Brother Watkins almost every week. We got to know each other really well. Every so often, we’d stop at the Dairy Queen (or as he called it, “the Dairy Cream”), and we’d have ice cream (or as he called it, “custard”) together. Every time, the conversation would go something like this:

“You know, the Dairy Cream is open”
“Hmmm…You feel like getting some ice cream?”
“Well…I didn’t say that…but…I wouldn’t object if you wanted to get some”
“Hmmm…I wouldn’t mind getting some, but do you want to get some?”
“Well, if you wanted to get some, I certainly wouldn’t stand in your way…”

I’d smile and then I’d drive past the place where I was supposed to turn to get to his house.

“Whoops! Well, I guess now that we’ve passed your place, we may as well go on and get some ice cream”.

I think what was so amazing about him was that he was so childlike. In exactly the way that Jesus instructed us to be. He’d tell stories every now and then, and when he’d tell a funny line, he’d giggle and repeat the line to you. Once he told a story about a cousin of his who was over 100 years old. Someone asked him what his secret was. He said his cousin said…I eat my wheaties. Then a few minutes later, he’d tell it again with a giggle…heee heeee…he said ‘I eat my wheaties’. I always like hearing his stories, but I liked even more hearing the way he told them.

People don’t know that he had a beautiful singing voice. Now he was really shy, but every now and then I’d get him to sing when we were in the car. Now he wouldn’t always be on key, and sometimes he’d get the words wrong, but he sang with so much love for Christ that you couldn’t help but be affected just by hearing him. We went to a fellowship in Queens a few years ago, and the youth actually burst out into applause after he sang a few bars of Amazing Grace.

He was the kind of person that when you went to a restaurant, for some reason, people naturally wanted to talk with him. And kids loved him too. It was like he was everyone’s grandfather. When he worked as a nurse, the elderly patients would refuse to be helped by anyone but him…they’d close their eyes and yell and say “I want Claude”. He talked to me about this once and wondered why this was. I knew exactly why. It was because his life was filled with the joy of the SPirit and the fragrance of Christ. That’s what attracted so many to him.

Sis. Liang told me that the Friday night before he passed away, he came to the Princeton bible study. Even there, he was making jokes and making people laugh. She had prepared some cookies which were so hard that no one could bite into them. Br Watkins said…I know how to eat these…and he proceeded to try to smash the cookie on his forehead

He was all these things, but you couldn’t tell by his circumstances. He wasn’t a rich man. He barely survived from month to month on his pension and his social security.

He was never the same health-wise since his bypass surgery a few years ago.

He was never quite the same emotionally after sister Watkins, the love of his life, passed away 10 years ago.

His apartment wasn’t big.

He had all sorts of difficulties in his life.

Even at church, he was the only African American man amongst a congregation of Chinese people. There are times he’d sit by himself, with no one to talk to. He’d just read his Bible. Or there are times when the food was too strange for him to eat. He’s sit there and would never complain. And there were times that he felt very lonely. There are times I often thought to myself that if I were him, I would have left the church a long time ago.

Even so, or maybe because of this, he had the simplest faith of anyone I ever knew, and he faced life with a sense of peace and joy.

And he was always the first in the parking lot. he knew that this church had the truth. He was a deacon at his old church, and he was well respected there. several of the old churches he attended still asked him to go back from time to time to deliver sermons. But his church was always the True Jesus Church. He never once even looked back once he became baptized in the True Jesus Church.

Sometimes he told me about what worship was like in his old churches. The choirs would sing joyfully, the preacher would speak with feeling, the congregation would respond to the preaching, and aqfter the service, everyone would turn to their neighbor and shake his hand and say a hearty God bless you. When you go to a black church, he said, at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, you KNOW you’ve been to church!

I think in terms of this church, his own church…
I could tell that there were times that he wished there was more life in his own church.
maybe he was a little ahead of his time.

Br Watkins was one of those who understood exactly what Jesus meant when he said, those who worship God should worship in spirit and truth. he knew what it was about

And sometimes I think of what Br. Watkins is doing today

He’s not poor. He’s got his golden slippers.
He’s not dressed in old clothes. He’s got his long white robe.
He’s not sick. He’s got his new spiritual body

And he’s not sitting there quietly. No. He’s praising God…he’s shouting…and singing,
And at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, there’s no question to him of where he is

He is in the kingdom of God.

But you know what?

We are in the kingdom of God too, because his church is the kingdom of God.

And what does the kingdom of God consist of?

It says in Romans 14:17, For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and (what?) and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Let’s work to make this church one that is filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit


We had a vote last week.

Some say thank God, it was God’s will that the vote went the way it did…God wants us to buy the land in Hillsborough. Some say, oh no…man’s will superceded God’s will…God never wanted us to buy the land in Hillsborough.

But if you think about it…you’ll realize this:

God really doesn’t care about where we buy the land.

God doesn’t care if we buy land in Hillsborough, or Gladstone-Peapack, or Summit, or Hoboken, or Trenton, or Cape May, or Hopatcong, or Trenton, or Wildwood, or Matawan, or Newark, or Camden.

God doesn’t care if we build a huge cathedral, or worship in someone’s basement.

And if you don’t believe me, go here.

I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. [7] Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" '(2 Samuel 7:6,7)

If you read the next few passages you’ll see…God talks about himself establishing a house for David, it’s a house that will endure forever, and he isn’t talking about a physical temple.

Later on, when Solomon starts the work to build the temple, he Lord talks to him again.

The word of the LORD came to Solomon: "As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel." (1 Kings 6:11-13)

These are the words that God said to Solomon before he started the temple. Notice one thing. He didn’t say…”I don’t want you to build the temple…I want you to continue to stay in the tabernacle”. Nor did he say “I want you to build me a glorious temple on acres and acres of land”. The only instructions he gave regarding the buiding of the template were not related to the building of the temple at all. They were…follow my decrees…carry out my regulations and keep all my commends and obey them.

There was never a building project quite like the one Solomon did. Seven years, and the equivalent of perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars today. Interior Walls of the finest Pine. Wall-to-wall cedar from floor to ceiling. The inside of the inner sanctuary was of pure gold. Beautiful carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and flowers. Pine doors. Dressed stone.

And after 7 years, this is what God said to Solomon…

When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. The LORD said to him:

"I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

"As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, `You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.'

"But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. And though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, `Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?' People will answer, `Because they have forsaken the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them--that is why the LORD brought all this disaster on them.' " (1 Kings 9:1-9)

God didn’t say…
You did wrong…you wasted so much money and time…you should have used the gold to help the poor, and you should have continued to worship in my tabernacle.

God didn’t say…
I love it…the ornaments are so pretty…the gold is so shiny…

He said…
…follow my decrees…carry out my regulations and keep all my commends and obey them.

Solomon did a good job with the temple
It was one of the most ambitious building projects in history.
It yielded a wonderful building
It was a perfectly run project...On time, on budget, according to spec
But it was doomed

Because ultimately, he didn’t listen to God.
He built a nice building,

But he didn’t follow God’s decrees, and worse, he didn’t set a good example for his kids
he focused on the wrong things.
He built the temple, but he didn’t teach his child what was more important
Thinking of others as beter than himself.
And having love and joy

And it ended up in a chain reacftion that destroyed his whole nation…and yes, this beautiful temple too was razed to the ground.

Solomon’s son Rehoboam said…my little finger is bigger than my father’s waist. as powerful as Solomon was, I am more powerful.

If Solomon had spent just a little time to teach his son what it meant to be humble...To consider others, and others’ opinions as better than yourselves…especially for those in a psotion of authority
To work together with others in joy...

Israel may never have been divided.
That temple might still be standing today
You probably wouldn’t have Palestinians bombing Israelis
Or arabs killing Americans

I ask you, with this building project in Elizabeth?

What lesson are we going to leave our kids?

One of the things I thank God most for was that I grew up here in NJ, because I can’t think of a better place in the world to have grown up.

I remember worshipping in Elder Wu’s house
In children’s class, We sang childrens hymns out of a little paperback book that a sister compiled herself.
All we ate were hot dogs for lunch
But there was joy

I remember worshipping in the rental chapel.
There was a beautiful chapel next door, but we never got to go in there
We had to be consigned to the parish hall next door
But there was joy

I remember in 1976 or 77, we came here to visit The new land
I still remember running through the basement of the parish hall
The floors was the dank grey
And there were big cans filled with paper
But we ran around the basement in joy.
The whole parking lot outside was grass
There was a stage in the parish hall,
There were blackberry trees outside
It was a place filled with joy, and it was ours

And being 9 years old, I didn’t think too much
I didn’t think…they’re making a mistake
I didn’t think…Elizabeth is a low income zone… they’d be fools to buy that land. We can’t afford the land anyway…no one will ever drive to Elizabeth…there’s so much crime in Elizabeth…

And thank God, the people making the edecisions didn’t think too much either.
Like fools, like people who thought like 9 year old children, they went forward,
A few families buying church property that they couldn’t afford.
Throwing what little money they had into it, Plus Putting up their houses and lifesavings as collateral
Thank God for those fools
Because it gave God room to work.

And God worked.

23 years later, we’ve split off into 2 churches
we’ve supported several churches in getting established spiritually and financially
We have several family service areas right here in NJ, each which could conceivably be its own church
I won’t mince words
If you look at each of these families that dedicated themselves, you see with your own eyes how God blessed them, in this world, and in the world to come.

So now, here we are.
How many 9 year olds do we have downstairs over there.
I look today at what our 9 year olds see and think and hear

We’re at a cross roads.
We can go forward with joy
and unity
and serve one another in love.
and love each other as ourselves.
or as Paul said to the Galatians, we can keep on biting and devouring each other, and destroy each other.

I want to talk about that word unity

People think that if a vote is 100%, it means there’s unity
Or that if you have a meeting and there are no disagreements, it means there’s unity.

That’s not true

Unity is not the absence of disagreement.
Unity is where people have disagreement, but people work together and respect each other and love each other, in the Name of Jesus Christ, to work it out.

You will NEVER have absence of disagreement in this world, even amongst brothers and sisters, or husbands and wives, much less amongst church congregations.

If we have a congregational or a board meeting, and there is no disagreement, it would actually be a bad sign. It would mean that either people don’t care enough, or people have given up trying to voice their opinion.

Disagreement is a healthy thing
It means people care.

And when you notice, when there is strong feeling about anything, usually it means there is a grain of truth on both sides, and each party would be very wise to learn what the grain of truth in the other side is.

Even Peter and Paul…both filled with the Holy Spirit, disagreed.
But they loved each other
They respected each other
When Paul opposed Peter to his face,, Peter had the authority to crush Paul. Call him ungrateful. Remove his apostleship. But he didn’t.
Just the opposite
By the end of his life Peter praised Paul . in his letter he wrote. He is a dear brother to whom God has given wisdom. He was probably one of the first to refer to paul’s letters not as mere letters, but as actual scripture.

Paul and Barnabas disagreed,
And you have to ask yourself…
Which one of them wasn’t filled with the Holy Spirit?
Which of them was the unfaithful one
The answer is of course they both were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were both faithful.
In their disagreement They split from each other,
But they still loved each other.
And they were filled with joy at the success of the others work.

There was disagreement in the apostolic church regarding the issue of circumsicion.
Some of the people said you should circumcise, some said you shouldn’t

But they didn’t try to crush one another. Instead, the churh leaders made a strong decision, with the Holy Spirit as their sole guidance

And when they came to their conclusion, they didn’t stop by just saying “circumcision is wrong”. End of story.

No, they addressed the concerns that the believers who felt circumcision was important had…some people were probably afraid that when people were not forced to be circumcised, they would feel at ease to revert to their gentile lives.

So the letter went...

You do not need to be circumcised
That doesn’t mean you’re free from all requirements
You are still expected to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality

It was a compromise.

It was agreed to by Paul and Barnabas, who spoke on behalf of the Gentile believers
It was agreed to by Judas and Silas, who represented the Jewish believers.
It was delivered to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

And it was received with joy by everyone.

We have a wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start.

And we have to ask ourselves…were there winners or losers last week?

If we go on with the building plan, and all opinions about the project are stifled and ignored, we will have only losers.

If we go on with the building plan, and people look for ways to ignore the project, or worse, to undermine it, we will have only losers.

However, if we can all have the hearts and minds of a 9 year old.
And accept the decision,
and truly work together, considering others as better than ourselves
and go forward in joy,

If we resolve to rely on the Holy Spirit to make any new and existing church in NJ, wherever it is, a place where God’s name is glorified, and joy reigns…

Then we had nothing but winners last week
Then…this will be a wonderful project, and something our kids will look back to and tell their kids about as a great example of what it means for brothers to live in unity, when it’s their turn for their building project.

The choice, is ours
Let’s make it wisely.
And go forth in joy




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