At the end of the book of Joshua, when he is about to die, Joshua calls all the elders of Israel together and basically gives them his last words. In doing so he recounts for them the great journey they have been on – actually generations long.
He goes all the way back to how God called Abraham out of his hometown and promised the land of Canaan to him and that his descendants would be numerous. About his son, Isaac, and then Jacob and how they ended up in Egypt for 400 years. And he talks about how God raised up Moses and delivered them from Egypt in a mighty show of power. And then how God brought them to Canaan and basically conquered most of the nations residing there for them, leaving them all with land to inhabit.
13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’
God had basically set them up for life, after generations of hardship.
And after reminding them of all of this, Joshua issues them a charge.
14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
In view of all that God has done for you, don’t go back to how you used to be. Serve the God who is so good to you.
Then he gives them a choice. A decision to make.
15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
He’s saying, choose whom you will serve from this point forward. God has delivered on his promises, so will you serve HIM or will you serve the gods you used to serve or will you adopt the ones the people we just conquered serve?
Joshua had his mind made up already.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
I wonder how many of us have that last bit on a wall in our home…
We at Reality have also been on a journey, though not nearly as long or dramatic as the Israelites.
But I believe that like Israel, our journey was designed by God and carried out by God and we too are left with a decision to make.
Although the journey I’m speaking of began much longer ago for each of us, it really began for Reality 2.0 back in March of this year when we made the announcements that Pastor Steve would be leaving the church he started 12 years ago in his living room and that I would be taking over as the new Lead Pastor.
Certainly a move that neither one of us expected all through the years we worked together. And honestly I am still in shock about it…
The journey we’ve been on since then was not created by me, but seemed to just happen over the last 8 months. I like to describe it like watching a puzzle being put together but not knowing what it’s going to look like. As the pieces fall in place, however, you start to see part of the picture.
Looking back now I can see that we have been on a specific journey for the past 8 months that has led to this point. A decision point.
Allow me, like Joshua, to remind you where we’ve been…
In April, right after Easter we went through the series “Church: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly”. In this three week series we learned what church is supposed to be and also what has gone wrong through the years.
The good church was the early church of Acts 2. The early church where they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. Where they loved each other and they loved their community and the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved. It was then that I started hinting that this was the kind of church God was calling us to be.
After that we said goodbye to Pastor Steve, celebrated Mother’s Day, and then I shared with you over five weeks this dream that we call Reality 2.0.
I told you how we will be a church that is dedicated to seeing lives changed by the transforming, restoring power of Jesus Christ – because that is what He does. He changes lives. He makes the blind see and the deaf hear, and the dead live. He gives hope to the hopeless. Peace to the restless. Love to the loveless. He picks us up in our brokenness and fashions us into new and better creations. He changes lives!! And I am living proof of that as are many of you!
And I told you how that will happen: Through Authentic Community (doing life together) and Community Involvement (loving others together). Just like the early church!
And about our core values: Add Some Awesome, Keep It Real, and People Matter More.
And I said throughout that series that if this doesn’t sound like the kind of church you want to be a part of then perhaps you should find another church. And some did, but most of you did not and you are still here.
Then we had some fun at the KOA for a couple weeks and at the beginning of July we moved into our awesome new facilities here at Green Run.
We were a church with a new pastor, a new vision, and a new location so we did a new thing. We completely revamped our membership model and we learned what it means to be WE: as in WE are a church that such and such… And to date 79 of you have decided to officially be a part of this WE and you became members in this experiment called Reality 2.0. And some of you are starting our new membership course today after church. If you want to do it and haven’t signed up, it’s not too late.
Then we changed gears a bit and I took you through a foundational biblical worldview series about where we come from. We went all the way back to the beginning – of the book and of time – to learn that you can indeed trust your bible – all of it – and that means that you and I are not here on accident. We have a creator God who created each and every one of us on purpose and for a purpose.
And then we just spent the last two months, 40 days, discovering what those purposes are: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, & Evangelism. And that this life is preparation for eternity, so the purposes are not just interesting head knowledge but that BECAUSE WE ARE CREATED FOR A PURPOSE – WE MUST BE WHAT WE ARE MADE TO BE – WE MUST DO WHAT WE ARE MADE TO DO. OTHERWISE WE ARE WASTING THE PRECIOUS LIFE THAT GOD GAVE US.
THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED OVER THE PAST 8 MONTHS…
And in that time we started doing what we set out to do…
We started doing life together in authentic community. There’s a Life Group every day of the week, We have church potlucks every month, and the Men and Women had a blast at their retreats. We had our Chili Cook Off last week, which was a blast! Some Reality Eats last night! There’s almost always some way to spend time with your Reality Family.
We also started loving others together in community involvement. We’re doing Operation Christmas Child. We did our PIN breakfast a few weeks ago and just last week each Life Group prepared about 60 bag lunches for the homeless being housed at St. John’s Baptist Church. And two weeks ago I and a few others attended the CPC banquet and committed Reality to helping them open a new clinic in Chesapeake and this Thursday many of us are going to their volunteer training to help in that way too.
We’ve been spending time together and we’ve been helping others together. And we’ve been adding some awesome! Many of you have been stepping up and adding awesome in different ways. And I can tell by what I’m seeing and hearing that you really are getting it that people matter more.
Words cannot express how thrilled I am at what is going on here at Reality!
The energy is high. We have momentum. The sense of Family is greater than it’s ever been. From what I hear, everyone is loving what God is doing in our midst, and I am loving it too!
Yes you are allowed to get excited about this…
I like to imagine this is probably what the Israelites felt like as Joshua said those words to them. They had just completed the conquest of the promised land after 40 years in the wilderness and 400 years in slavery. Spirits must have been sky high. And it was there that Joshua knew they were at a decision point.
And I believe we find ourselves in a similar situation.
As you just heard we’ve been on quite a spiritual journey.
- We now know what a church is supposed to be.
- We now know the vision of what WE are going to be and what it even means to be WE.
- You now know that you are not an accident
- and you even know your purposes in this temporary life.
And so the question that we must answer at this point, this decision point, is:
“What are we going to do with all of that momentum and knowledge?”
An interesting thing that occurred to me as this date approached was that this date. November 8th sounded familiar to me. As if it was the same date as something else in my past. And as I looked through my journals I discovered that it was.
November 8th, 2010 was a significant day for me…
Five years ago, I was still in the Navy. I knew I was getting out the same time the following year. But up until this point, I didn’t know what I would be doing. I figured I was going to go into computer programming. But, God had been working in my life in tremendous ways. Many of you were there and have known me since before then.
I had grown up in church but ran away from it after high school, though I never stopped believing. But I didn’t go back to church until I met my wife, Nicole, several years later, who was active in her church. I started going mainly to be around her…you know how it goes. But it got me interested again. Then when the Navy brought us here and put me on the Submarine USS Norfolk, a series of events and specific people placed in my path led me both to Reality Church and to my knees in the engine room of that submarine surrendering my life to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In that moment I felt like He literally flooded me with His Spirit and I’ve never turned back. That was almost 9 years ago now. Over the next couple years I got more and more involved in the church, always seeming to rise to leadership positions until I found myself effectively on staff helping the Pastor with administrative things. I never went into that thinking I would become a pastor or go into full time ministry. Honestly, that was the last thing I wanted to do. But then one thing led to another and it became obvious to me that Ministry was exactly what GOD wanted me to do, though I didn’t know in what capacity.
And that’s where I found myself on November 8th, 2010. Five years ago. A decision point.
I recorded it in earlier journals how I was struggling with this decision. I knew that if I was going to do it that I had to do it all the way. That I had to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. With my whole entire life. Every aspect.
AND I was concerned about how I was going to make ends meet. I had seen what the church could pay me and it was less than half what I was getting in the Navy.
But the call was pressing and would not relent.
And so, five years ago, I made a decision that completely changed my life.
Today I have decided to accept the call. I have been wrestling with it for awhile now and today I am getting out of the boat. Jesus, I am looking at you, not the water. I trust you and submit my will to yours. Whatever you want me to do, I will do. Right now I feel that your will is for me to go to seminary school when I get out of the navy next fall. I don’t know how we will survive financially but I am leaving that in your hands. I know you will take care of me. Thank you Lord.
I was a little off about when I would start school, but I did come on as the Administrative Pastor the following year immediately on my exit from the Navy. Even then, I had no idea that I would be standing here today as your lead pastor. But I am so thankful that I made that decision.
The last five years have been nothing short of a miracle for me and my family!
And my friends, I tell you this story because I want to see the same kind of miracle for this church and for each one of you!
So, here we are at Reality 2.0 – November 8th, 2015.
At a decision point.
And the decision is not like two roads diverging. The choice we have is not between two equally viable options. Our choice is like that of Joshua and the Israelites. Our choice is like what I had five years ago.
Instead of a journey along a path, what we have really been doing is rock climbing. We’ve been climbing up a mountain. But not on our own strength. Our belayer is God. (that’s the guy holding the rope)
If you’ve ever done a rock wall, then you might know what I’m talking about. I’m a total NEWB at this, so, the one or two times I did it, the belayer gave me a lot of help. That basically means that instead of me pulling my own weight up with my week arms that the belayer pulled on the rope to help me out. If you’re a pro, they are just there as a safety catch in case you fall.
In our case, God is our belayer and He does ALL the heavy lifting. Each time we reach up and take another grip, He is right there to give full assist as we pretend to pull ourselves up. He did it for the Israelites and He does it for us as a church and for you as an individual.
Another point to understand is that while doing the rock wall, if you decide to stop actively climbing you can lie back in this sitting type position to rest. It’s nice and kind of fun, but this is not a permanent position. From this position you either need to keep climbing up or actively climb down or your belayer will start just lowering you back down when it’s clear to them that you are wasting their time. You can’t just hang out there forever…it’s either up or down.
I’m sure by now you are getting the picture of what our decision point is all about. We, as a church. You as individuals have been on a climbing journey over the past 8 months and longer. It’s been fun. It’s been exciting. God has been pulling hard on those ropes and we’ve been reaching up and up.
And now that I’ve laid it out for you, it’s probably easy to see just how far we’ve come, and it’s exciting. Many of you have been with us the whole time. Some are just joining us. But for all of us, we now have a decision to make.
If you remember what I said last week… because we now know, because we now know
- what a church is supposed to be,
- what WE are supposed to be,
- what we as individuals are supposed to be and do in this short training assignment called life…
because we now know, we are now responsible to live what we’ve learned.
So, the question is, will we?
Will we keep climbing up or will we start sliding down?
Will we continue to do life together? Or will we take a break and return to isolation?
- Or will we push to do it more?
- Seek out accountability partners, mentors, etc?
- Make your church family the people you spend most of your time with?
- If you are not in a group – now that you know how important fellowship is – will you now join one? You still can!
Will we continue to love others in our community? Will we volunteer at the CPC to help save the lives of the unborn children in our area? They are having training this Thursday. I will be there. Will you?
You may or may not know this, but we are also committed to 6 breakfast/dinners at PIN next year – that’s every other month. We are also committed to 3 JCOC dinners that will require ALL of us to participate to feed hundreds of homeless.
But is that enough?
Just 9 days out of the 366 we have available to us next year (it’s a leap year, we get one extra day to do good!) What will we do with the other 357 days that God is giving us? Or if you think of it in weeks, that’s 9 weeks out of the 52 that we get. What will we do with the other 43 weeks? Who else will we reach? Who else can we love on in our local community?
Or even our global community?
Do you see what I’m saying? Do you see that just because we’ve come this far and done a few life groups and a few community service projects doesn’t mean that we can stop? There is so much further to go! Did not Jesus command us to be his witnesses here, there, and everywhere to the ends of the earth?
If you remember, when I shared the vision of Reality 2.0 months ago that the dual mission of doing life together and loving others together included the goal of some day having something every single week that you can do with your Reality family both for fellowship and for outreach. Because when you love your family the way that Jesus commands us to love each other, how could we ever get tired of being together? Growing together? Serving together?
My friends, now is a decision point.
Will we keep climbing?
Or will we just try to coast on our momentum?
My friends it’s either up or down. There is no coast. There is no plateau. We are either actively climbing up or we are sliding down, and we must decide which one we will be.
And the best time to decide is WHEN YOU HAVE MOMENTUM!! That’s why Joshua did it that way. We all know how hard it is to get the stationary ball rolling. It’s HARD to start climbing again after sliding down for awhile.
Let us decide right now that while we have this upward trajectory that WE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO CAMP OUT, WE ARE AIMING FOR THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN AND WE WILL NOT STOP UNTIL WE GET THERE!!
My friends, I believe God has great plans for us. I believe God is going to use this church in mighty ways. And right now we are only scratching the surface. We’ve only just begun.
There is a whole lot more mountain to climb for us.
You’ve seen how far we’ve climbed so far. And I hope that it inspires you as it does me.
But maybe you’re asking the question – what does the climb ahead look like?
Well, let me show you…
And to do that, I want to call to the stage our very own Pastor Sandy Martin to tell you an amazing story about what can happen when the church is committed to climbing instead of coasting.
Millions of lives changed…
Why? Was it because of more preaching? Was it because of better sound and lights? Was it because of more events or programs, or more comfortable seats? Or better coffee and donuts?
Those things are nice and I’m not saying we go without them, but LIVES ARE CHANGED and the TRUE CHURCH GROWS when Jesus is preached not only with our voice, but with our hands and our feet and our funds as we, the whole church, SHOW JESUS to the people who need Him most! When we meet their needs. When we love them like Jesus loves them.
This is what the mountain looks like. It’s love in action. Will we continue to be a church that is obsessed with LOVE IN ACTION – both for each other and for others that we mean to reach?
Will we continue to climb, to see lives changed?
Will we keep pursuing authentic community?
When it comes to authentic community the goal is QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. – in climbing the mountain of doing life together, it’s not about making more and more friends, though there is nothing wrong with everyone in the church being friends. It’s more about growing those deep friendships. It’s being intentional in your pursuit of close relationships that are based on your mutual pursuit of becoming like Christ.
Will we keep pursuing community involvement?
In authentic community, there are natural limiters to the quantity of people we can do life with,
But in community involvement – loving others together – there really is no limit to the number of people we can reach as a church. As I mentioned, we are committed to 9 different outreach events next year. These events will serve a maximum of 1,000 people in our local community. And probably less, as many of the people that are served are repeats. So, just in our local community there is more that we could do. More people that we could reach with the good news about Jesus Christ by SHOWING THEM THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
But we can’t stop there.
Jesus told his followers in Acts 1:8 that we are to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Which means in your hometown, and the surrounding areas, and especially the people who are not like you, but don’t stop there, take it to the ends of the earth. And he’s telling us the same thing.
So when it comes to our second mission of loving others, we cannot stop at the city line, or the state line, or even the border of our country.
That is why, right now, there are plans forming, though just in the idea stages, that will have Reality Church reaching beyond these borders, both in and out of country, hopefully in the very near future.
And one example of what I’m talking about is what our very own Barb & Jesse Stachurski did on their own accord just a few weeks ago and I’m going to ask them to come to the stage to tell you all about it.
BARB & JESSE
My friends, I asked them and Sandy to share with you a glimpse of what our future holds if we decide today to keep climbing.
We will be a church that is obsessed with LOVE IN ACTION.
We will be a church that reaches beyond our walls into our city.
Beyond our city into our state.
Beyond our state into our nation, and
beyond our nation into our world –
Just as Jesus commanded.
Because I believe that God is calling us – Reality Church – to do just that. It’s a big mountain to climb for sure – but we have a powerful God pulling on the ropes.
So now you have the whole picture.
I’ve shown you how far we have come, and I’ve given you as best a glimpse as I can of the journey ahead and what it’s going to take.
Maybe you never realized that the past 8 months were not random.
Well guess what – the last X years of your life, fill in your age, were not random either.
Everything that has happened in your life and all the choices you have made have led you to being right here, right now, in this place, at this time. God has you right where He wants you, and He has something to say to you.
It’s time to decide. It’s time to choose.
It’s time to decide what you are going to do from this point forward. Maybe you’ve been climbing along with us. Maybe you are new and you’ve been climbing somewhere else. Or maybe you’ve been slipping. Either way, now is an opportunity to choose what tomorrow will hold.
Here at Reality, we’ve been on a specific journey these past 8 months. But the journey is not over. It has only just begun. God has mighty plans for us. I know it. You can feel it.
He is doing a mighty work IN US because He is going to do a mighty work THROUGH US to change many lives!
But He doesn’t change the world with people who just want to coast.With people who want to just hang out.
He changes the world with people who want to climb. With people who are sold out and willing to do whatever He asks. With people who choose to give their whole lives to Him, and trust Him with their whole hearts. With people who want to fulfill their purpose. With people who will go to the ends of the earth for Him.
And the question is…
Will we be that people?
That’s not a rhetorical question…I’M ASKING YOU
Are we going to be the TRUE CHURCH or are we going to just PLAY CHURCH?
Will we be that people?
My friends, I don’t say this to you because I think we are playing church. I believe we truly are becoming the Acts 2 church. I believe your hearts ARE on fire.
But I also believe that we must be careful. We must not rest on our laurels.
We must not expect the current momentum to simply carry us where we need to go.
We must decide to GIVE IT OUR ALL UNTIL WE HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO GIVE, AND THEN KEEP CLIMBING ANYWAY!
And when we do that, when we embrace our purpose, when we embrace our calling, when we decide with our whole hearts to live for GOD, there is absolutely no limit to what God will do IN US and THROUGH US!!
So, I ask again – Will we be that people?
Then STAND AS I CHARGE YOU, as Joshua did to the Israelites many years ago. The same challenge Joshua issued that day stands for all time as the challenge to all who claim Christ as their Lord.
My friends, in view of all that God HAS DONE and all that God WILL DO…
Fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness!
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose this day whom you will serve. Whether the gods of your past or the gods of the culture around you.
But my prayer for each of you is that you will stand and say with me, and mean it with all your heart!
As for me and my house.
As for me and my church.
WE will serve the Lord!