Sermon August 29, 2010: Phillip - a bridge builder for the Kingdom of God

Posted in Sermons
[Bob Baker]
  • Presenter: Bob Baker
  • Date: August 29, 2010
  • Location: Congregación León de Judá Boston, MA

Bob and Susy Baker have been pastors for many years and are no strangers to the Latino community, actually because they met many years ago in Chicago, in the ministry of…. Who’s very well known at the Latino community named Many Ortiz and they pastured the South Chattam community church in the Cape for many years as well. And the Lord has them in a time of transition and seeking the next stage of their ministry in life. And the Lord has brought them here with us at Lion of Judah congregation to kind of relive some of those years with the Latinos back in Chicago and we’re delighted to have them. And I asked Bob, given the fact that we have this joint service today, to bring us the word of the Lord.

So, Bob, welcome, come forward, and Susy thank you so much for being a part of our family as well. These are people of character, they exemplify sweetness and integrity and just a humble strength that is an inspiration to me. So, we really felt that both Greg and I that we wanted Bob to share with us this morning, so, welcome, my brother, great to have you.

It’s an honor, this microphone is still hot. The first song I learned in Chicago was Fuego, Fuego, la iglesia quiere fuego. And we sang that song about 50 times. And this little white boy from Massachusetts came out of that church, singing Fuego, Fuego.

Pastor Roberto has been preaching a series of sermons on the early church in Acts, and my wife Susy and I sensed this kind of early church excitement and joy from the moment we came through the front door of congregation Lion of Judah, and I remember the warm welcome by pastor Roberto. But I also remember the warm and firmly welcome by usher names Ascany .

Now, we attended the second service which is all in Spanish, and Ascany made sure that we had translation sets. We will never forget that first service, it was Mother’s Day and pastor Roberto’s wife, Mercedes, delivered a powerful message. She began with slides from a children’s book that captured everyone’s attention. And then she captured the essence of what it meant to be a Christian parent.

I strongly believe that the Holy Spirit led us to this church and that is why we came. But we stayed because we felt so welcome and loved by you. we stayed because there’s a passion among so many of you to follow Jesus. Now obviously there are cultural and language differences between us, but there’s a spirit driven intentionality on the part of pastor Roberto and upon you and you and you and you to build bridges of communication across that cultural divide.

This morning we’re going to look at a man in the Bible named Phillip who was a bridge builder for the Kingdom of God. Not everyone can be a great theologian like the Apostle Paul. Not every one can be a great charismatic leader like the Apostle Peter. But all of us can be bridge builders for the Kingdom of God like Phillip.

We’re going to look at three aspects this morning of Phillip’s life. Phillip, the peace maker, Phillip, the servant leader, Phillip, the evangelist. We first meet Phillip in the Book of Acts, chapter 6. The church was growing by leaps and bounds. Now you might think that’s the kind of problem that every church would want to have, and you’re right.

But some people get nervous when too many people show up, especially if they look a little bit different or act a little bit strange, or think a little bit differently than we do. That was the problem with the Jerusalem church. Act, chapter 6 in verse 1:

“… In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food…”

And to put this into a historical context. What was happening was that the Jewish people throughout their history had been scattered by persecution. There were Jewish communities all around the world and there are still today. Maybe you remember the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Daniel was one of the thousands of Jews taken away from his homeland. There’s a term for this called the Diaspora, and many of the Jews of the Diaspora longed to return to their homeland, especially they wanted to come back to their homeland in their old so they could be buried in the holy city of Jerusalem.

And these Jews of the Diaspora they spoke Greek, but the native Jerusalem Jews spoke Aramaic called Hebrew. In human nature what it is we like to hang out with people that think like us, and who talk like us. And these people were no different than we are. The Greek speakers hung out with other Greek speakers. And the Hebrew speakers hung out the hometown crowd of Jerusalem. And somehow commentators believed that this language barrier might have only been the tip of the iceberg. There might have been many other underline prejudices, intentions between these groups.

When we first look at the early church we might think, there’s a perfect church. Act chapter 4, verse 32 tells us:

“… all the believers were one heart and mind, they shared everything they had…”

That sounds like a perfect church. But only two chapters later this oneness of heart and mind was being threatened. One translation of the Bible says there were rumblings of discontent. Right after we got married we had a clothes dryer that began to rumble and soon it did broke completely and so we had to go to the laundry man.

In chapter 4 there was the sharing with everyone with a need, but then in chapter 6 there were many needy widows going without food. You may have thought congregation Lion of Judah was a perfect church when you first came here. I can only tell you from my personal experience that it may well have been perfect before I came. But the moment that I came through the door it wasn’t perfect any more.

I read about a woman who once prayed, dear Lord, so far it’s been a good day, I don’t think I’ve sinned seen yet, I haven’t yelled at the kids, my mind hasn’t been flooded with caresome worries, I haven’t even been upset with my husband, but not Lord I’m about to get out of bed and I’m going to need your help. How many of you can relate to that?

Perfection only happens in heaven. In the meantime we are like the new sanctuary building being constructed next door. Bulldozers are digging up junk from years ago, all that debris must be removed before the beautiful temple can arise. We are Christians under construction. That old junk in our life, those sins, those resentments, the wounds are so deep down inside of us but it must be removed so that the Holy Spirit can build a beautiful new temple within us. And this construction process is called sanctification and it’s a lifetime process.

Every once in a while my unsanctified self slips through, and if this happens on the way to church, if someone cuts me off on the highway, then I show up here with my unsanctified self. Praise God he’s not finished with me yet.

And this construction process of sanctification was taking place in the early church. The question was how would they respond to the needs and the complaints of the Greek widows? Will they come together in the name of Jesus? Or would the situation explode in their face and divide the church?

The 12 Apostles did not try to brush the concerns of these Greek speakers under the rug. They presented the situation to the congregation, they told the congregation to choose 7 men to run the food program. 7 men who were full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit.

We need men and women full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to use their God given abilities in the church to serve the Kingdom of God. We don’t need people who are only full of worldly wisdom. The collapse of our great financial institutions on Wall Street was due largely in part to people who were worldly wise but had no spiritual guidance in them.

And Phillip was one of the men chosen. Phillip was used to bring about peace in a potentially explosive situation. Because the leaders handle the situation in a Godly manner the church continued to grow by leaps and bounds.

And I think people outside the church were watching this whole thing happen. They must have thought, guau, there’s something special going on in that church. All these people from different cultures, who normally don’t even talk to one another are coming together and worshiping God. Maybe they have something that I need in my life.

When we come together in Jesus name, when we break down between us in Jesus name, when we forgive and love one another in Jesus name we are giving the outside world a glimpse of heaven.

Revelations describes a scene from heaven where great a crowd from every nation and language is spinning before the throne of God. They are wearing white robes and waving palm branches, and they are shouting out their praises, salvation belongs to our God who sits on a throne and to the lamb. If you are Spanish speaking this morning I want you to say that in Spanish, at the same time as you English speakers say that in English. I’ll repeat it one more time “salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb”. Let’s say it together.

Praise God. Praise God. You see, praising God in both English and Spanish is preparing us for heaven.

Phillip was a peacemaker. We become peacemakers when we build bridge with those who have a different language, with people who come from a different cultural background. There are other ways to build peace in the church. We build peace when we refuse to listen to gossip. That’s not a problem in the church but anywhere. Thank you for letting us know. We bring peace when we speak the truth and love. We bring peace when are quick to forgive and slow to anger.

The Bible says, make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. Phillip was a peacemaker. Phillip was also a servant leader. He was one of the first deacons of the church. Chapter 6 and verse 2:

“… So the 12 gathered all the disciples together and said: it would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables...”

The word for deacon in Greek literally means one who waits on tables. Raise your hand if you ever had a job as a waiter in a restaurant. I worked my way through seminary in a restaurant as a waiter. I wore a black vest and a cute little red bow tie. What a great training ground to become a servant leader in the church.

Jesus taught us about serving when he washed the feet of his disciples. Now, today marks the fifth year in anniversary of hurricane Katrina and I heard some volunteers were called as servant leaders to Biloxi, Mississippi right after the hurricane. I have never seen such destruction in all my life. Some of the houses completely disappeared into the Gulf of Mexico and others were reduced to piles of rubble. But one church in the center Biloxi remained intact, it was a Baptist church. We have special privileges there. It was … the Baptist church and we slept on mats in those sunny …… and that church became one of the major food distribution points in Biloxi following hurricane Katrina. But the pastor told me that on the day after the hurricane hit the only food they had in large quantity was rice and beans, so they made a up a huge batch of rice and beans and served it to the hungry people right on the road.

But then a miracle happened: bottles of water and food supplies were donated to the church and huge trucks brought supplies to the church from all over the country. Churches and Christian colleges sent hundreds of volunteers to help serve food and to clean up homes. One group came in and set up a large kitchen and people all over the gulf coast told me it wasn’t the government that helped us, it was the Christian churches, it was the Salvation Army, it was other Christian agencies like Samaritan …….

Two brothers came all the way from Florida, one of them was a real big guy, he looked like the movie actor they call the Rock, and the other guy looked like Don Johnson from Miami Vice. They came all the way from Florida pulling a large chicken smoker on the back of their pickup truck. So we just called them the chicken brothers, and I say that with a great deal of respect because the big guy that looked like the Rock could… his head. The chicken brothers would smoke 500 pieces of chicken at a time. Then they would put them on the back of their pickup truck and they would drive out into the neighborhoods and they would hand them out. But their goal was more than feeding people chicken. Their goal was to give people spiritual food, they prayed for people. I went with them one day and I thought I was in the middle of a revival meeting right there on the street. The spirit of God was so powerful. Miracles happen when we serve others in the name of Jesus.

If you serve as a deacon in this church I thank God for your service because as a pastor I know how hard you work behind the scenes, you set up communion, you visit the sick, you care for the poor. And others of you may not have the title of deacon but maybe you are serving food at this afternoon in the kitchen, maybe you’re a Sunday school teacher, maybe you serve like Andre says as an usher, maybe you do administrative work. You may serve on the worship team, you may be the one who picks up papers and straightens up the chairs after the service. Praise God for you. Thank God. Amen. Amen.

Be faithful in your service and the miracles will follow. Your smile usher will welcome the newcomer, that may be the first smile they’ve seen in quite a while. Your commitment, teacher, will be remembered by your students many years down the road. Your diligence administrating will keep the church running smoothly, your songs worship team will be on our lips throughout the week. Your thoughtfulness, cleaning crew, will be appreciated by God himself.

Jesus said, whenever we serve others we are really serving him. Phillip the peacemaker, Phillip, the servant leader and now Phillip the evangelist. Luis Palao and Billy Graham are famous evangelists, but anyone who shares the good news of Jesus is doing the work of the evangelist.

Now, Phillip was driven out of Jerusalem by the persecution that took place. He may have thought that his serving God time was over. But God can use times of upheaval in our lives to accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God, and that’s exactly what happens to Phillip. Chapter 8 and verse 5:

“… Phillip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed Christ there…”

Now, the Samaritans were considered the lost sheep of Israel. They were religious outsiders to mainstream Judaism because they inter married with foreigners. Some people considered them traitors and called them half-breeds. Some people would walk all the way around Samaria instead of going on the short cut through Samaria because they didn’t want to come in contact with one of those despicable people.

What about Jesus? Jesus walked straight into Samaria. Maybe you remember how he stopped by the well and asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. That conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman was longest recorded conversation Jesus had with anyone in the Bible. Now, here came Phillip.

Remember Phillip was an outsider too. So there was no better person in the world to tell the Samaritan people about Jesus than Phillip. Chapter 8, verse 5 and 6.

“… So Phillip went down to Samaria and he preached Jesus Christ and when the crowd heard Phillip and they saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said, with shrieks evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and people with disabilities were healed…”

So there was great joy in the city. Joy Jesus was alive. That was the message Phillip brought to the people in Samaria. Salvation has come to the world through Jesus, the one who was crucified on the cross and buried in the grave, has risen and gives life to them today. And all the prophesies about the Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus and now all the promises Jesus made about the Holy Spirit they were happening right now. The Holy Spirit came with power on that city. There were signs and wonders. Demons were cast out, the sick were healed, broken lives were made whole, joy was the reaction of that city. There was great joy in that city.

I think of Boston when I read about joy in the city. We get excited when the Red Socks win the world series. I think that’s going to happen this year as well. We bet excited over politics and elections, but the most exciting thing in the world in when someone gives their heart to Jesus Christ.

Jesus said that when one sinner repents heaven throws a party. The angels rejoice, there is singing and dancing in heaven over this one soul who was lost… one of my favorite Sundays was when pastor Roberto and others danced around the church. It’s a full taste of heaven.

Broken lives are mended, wounded hearts are healed, sadness is transformed into joy in the name of Jesus, there is power in the name of Jesus. But right in the middle of that great evangelistic campaign were people were being saved left and right, God called Phillip out of the city. He told him to start travelling down the desert road running from Jerusalem to Damascus. Why on earth would God do that?

Phillip could have argued with God. God, look at all the great work I’m doing for you here in Samaria, I can’t stop now. I’m on a row. But no, Phillip immediately obeyed God. He headed down the desert road.

You see, God had something bigger in mind that Phillip couldn’t even imagine. At the same time Phillip was walking down the road, God was bringing conviction upon a man from Ethiopia. This man from Ethiopia had come to Jerusalem to worship God and he wasn’t just an ordinary man, he was the treasurer of Ethiopia. Now he was on his way back to Ethiopia, and he has riding his chariot and he was reading the Bible. He was reading from the prophet Isaiah, he was reading prophesies about the Messiah and the Holy Spirit went over to Phillip and said: go over and talk to him.

And the Bible says Phillip ran over to the chariot, he hopped on that chariot and he began to tell that man about Jesus, because everything that the man was reading was about Jesus, and that man’s his heart was broken and he gave his life to Christ.

They found some water and they even had the baptism service right there. You may remember how Jesus gave the great commission to his disciples and he said, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses en Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

You see, Phillip was the great commission with skin and bones. He served the Lord in Jerusalem, he led the great crusades in Samaria and then he led the Ethiopian to Jesus. But it didn’t stop there.

The Bible says that the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing and God used that man to bring the Gospel to Ethiopia, which in ancient literature was known as the ends of the earth.

Phillip was the great commission with skin and bones. You are the great commission with skin and bones. Now, does the Holy Spirit still work like that today? Does the Holy Spirit still bring people together at the right place, at the right time to advance the Kingdom of God?

Let me close with a story from hurricane Katrina. This was told to me by my friend Garry Lane. Gary Lane was the pastor in charge of over 9000 volunteers who came through that Baptist church, and he taught the volunteers this: if there’s something that they needed, before you ask him ask God. Time after time again God provided exactly what was asked for precisely when it was needed.

Now, here’s one of those times. You know that chicken that the chicken brothers were passing out? All that chicken came from a big supplier in northern Mississippi. It arrived at the church in 53 foot freezer trailers. The driver would leave a trailer of frozen chicken at the church and then he would take the empty trailer back to northern Mississippi. So in the church parking lot there was always a frozen trailer powered by a big generator, and this process went on for weeks. But one day the driver said the church could have all the frozen the chicken but unfortunately he had to take both trailers back with him.

So, Pastor Gary had to decide right then and there whether he wanted to accept 21 pallets of frozen chicken, thousands and thousands of pieces of chicken. There was no place to put it except right there on the asphalt parking lot. Pastor Gary gathered several volunteers around him and prayed. And then he said, we’ll take it.

So the frozen chicken got unloaded in the parking lot and the hot Mississippi sun began to melt down on it. Gary covered it with a tarp, they all laid hands on it and then they went about doing their work. Less than two hours later another truck drove up to the church. The driver of that truck had come all the way from South Carolina. He felt the Holy Spirit telling him to fix up his trailer and bring it to help in the hurricane relief effort, but he didn’t know where to go. He’d started driving and when he came to the church he pulled in. he looked at Gary and said, can you use this? Gary said, we couldn’t believe it.

God had provided a 53 foot freezer trailer and the church could use it as they long as they wanted to. The volunteers loaded that chicken into the van praising God. The Holy Spirit still brings people together at the right place at the right time.

Not many of us will have the opportunity to lead great crusade like Billy Graham or Luis Palao, but God gives all of us these divine encounters every day as we walk down our desert road, and our job at our school, in the community, the Holy Spirit gives us opportunities to share with others the hope that we have in Jesus. He empowers us like Phillip to be bridge builders for the Kingdom of God. We can build bridge of love across cultural and social … just like Phillip God gives us the opportunity to serve one another in love.

And as the congregation Lion of Judah continues to live out its mission which is the great commission of Jesus, there will be joy in the city, there will be joy in Boston. Praise God. Do you want to pray with us?

Just receive that message and ask the Holy Spirit to seal it in your heart that we might truly be peace makers and servant leader and evangelists.

Thank you Lord Jesus for the opportunity to serve you, to love you.

Sermón de Baker grabado 29 de agosto 2010 en Congregación León de Judá Oir | Ver (100K) | Ver (400K)

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