I Saw the Light

Pastor Terry Inman

2-12-12

 

A Vision for Harbor Light.  Acts 26

My very first memory as a toddler was running out on the deck of a small ship sailing into the San Francisco Bay and squealing that’s grandpa’s light. We were returning from our mission in Japan. Grandpa lived in Omaha but to a three year, “I saw the light”. Today I want to talk about a vision for Harbor Light.

We began the year with four messages on our mission: what we call our four purposes. I have a passion to intensify our efforts especially on our first one Rescue. We are here to guide our community to safety in Christ! I have a confession to make.

Even though I have articulated well our mission I have not clearly communicated our vision. Mission and Vision are two different things.  Our Mission or purpose is why we exist its why we do what we do.  

Vision is much different it is what we want to be. It is a snap shot of the future. It is what it would look like in the next three to five years if we were effectively accomplishing our purposes. Mission is the reason we do things vision is the results we anticipate.

If we are really rescuing people what percentage of our congregation should be seekers? How many people would we have in our spiritual birthing center? How many folks are there in the recovery room? How many lives, people, marriages, families are being rebuilt in the image of God to fulfill their purpose? What do our rebuilt people look and act like?

How many are released to use their gifts talents and abilities in ministry. How many ministries and outreaches are there? Which ones are local and which ones are global. What are all the released people actually doing?

One image that sticks in my mind when I think about rescue is this one that describes the ministry of the Messiah. “Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, Hugging them as he carries them, leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.” Is. 40.11NIV 

We were in Montana a few years ago helping some friends with lambing season. It is very critical that lambs be kept close to their mothers or they will not bond and will starve to death. Some of them have to be carried and connected with a nursing mother to survive. It has to be done very soon after birth or they become orphans. Birthing is not easy!  

Just to get our staff dialoging on vision I put down a very sketchy and simple attempt at a vision statement for the next three to five years.

In the three years I envision 1500 people of diverse ages in two weekend celebrations. People will be connected in at least 150 regular small group gatherings. A majority will be engaged in church and community service including 75 local outreaches. We will support and be involved over 75 global ministries.” I can see planting two churches!

Actually I am asking God for a 2020 vision for Harbor Light; one that is clear focused and guides us into 2020 and beyond. “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Prov. 29.18 (KJV) “Perish” means they are unrestrained or uncontrolled, they literally stumble or fall out of line.   

Vision gives people direction and discipline. I have a lot of vision but I have struggled communicating it clearly and holding people accountable.

God told the prophet Habakkuk to, “Write down the vision andmake it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.”  Hab. 2.2 (NIV)

Jer 23.29 says a word from God is “like fire and a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces.”  Vision fuels passion and helps us hammer out a plan that breaks obstacles into manageable pieces!

As I was thinking and praying about this I was reminded of Paul’s vision. Near the end of his life the Apostle was on trial in a large public arena. He was facing serious religious and political charges. After highlighting much of his life story he says, “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” Acts 26.19 (NIV)

Paul was on his way to Rome where he was being extradited to stand trial for treason before Caesar. On his way he had to answer similar charges in a lower court in the Roman seaside colony of Caesarea.  

Paul was innocent of these trumped up charges but because of local politics, the Roman governors Felix and Festus would not acquit him. Paul, a good lawyer himself petitioned the court to bump his case up to Caesar.

During his two-year stay in Caesarea, King Agrippa II and his sister Queen Bernice came to pay a visit to the new governor, Festus.  

The Governor consulted with King Agrippa II about Paul’s appeal for a hearing in Rome’s Supreme Court. King Agrippa demanded to hear Paul out for himself.

 Now Paul was clearly called to take the gospel of Jesus Christ first to the Jews then the Gentiles and their kings and suffer for the name of Christ.

So let me give you some excerpts from the record of this testimony. I think you will see why it got my attention about our vision.  

Acts 26.9 “I was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.  11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.  13 About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 

Did I say the title of my message today is “I saw the light”! This was blinding light and covered Paul and his company of fellow terrorists.

14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  (It’s and expression like going against the grain.)

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.  (God gives us vision!)

Now catch this…17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.   

Paul went on to describe where he had been what he had done and what it had accomplished.

Bye the way caring out a “vision from heaven” is not easy. Here’s an exciting journal entry from his mission travel.

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked,  I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

Who said a vision will be easy. We all want a vision. But we just want to hear the success stories of our lives. Mary told me the other day that Harbor Light and Fremont Christian School is like the series “Biggest Loser”. God is calling us to get lean and mean to accomplish his vision.

We can’t be spiritually fat and lazy we have got to do some heavy lifting if we are going to rescue our community.  God said to Paul I am “rescuing you and I am releasing you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.”

God is not asking us to do this in our own strength. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.”  Matt. 11.28 NIV  

I sat in the pew of the old Anglican Cathedral in London-Derry Ireland were John Newton the alcoholic captain of a slave ship “saw the light”. Following a shipwreck he cried out for God’s mercy.

On New Years Day 1779 he penned these words, Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound) That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

I’m beginning to see the light. God is telling me that he wants to intensify the beams of light coming from this Harbor. It’s getting darker out there. It must get lighter in here.

For God, who said, “Let lightshine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Cor. 4.6 (NIV)

The face of Christ is bright. People are attracted to light. Our attitudes our action our compassion puts a face on Jesus for people near us.

Paul said, “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life”  Phil 2. 15-16 (NIV)

Peter wrote, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Pet. 2.9

This building is not Harbor Light, is just our meeting place. We meet here to get oil in our lamps. The Fresnel lens in the old lighthouses was lit by a small oil fueled flame that was refracted by hundreds of carefully aligned crystal prisms that magnified the light into one intensified beam that penetrated the darkness. The beam could be seen for over 17 miles.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully ministering God’s grace in its various forms. 1Pet. 4.10

“Various Forms” is a word that also means “diverse facets” A facet is the face of a gem or a crystal that reflects the light. We don’t have any light. Jesus is the light that shines through our gifts our compassion our service.

Rescuing people from darkness to light is not easy it’s risky and messy. The story of the Good Samaritan is very messy. The religious leaders had to stay clean to perform the rituals in the temple. They couldn’t get dirty and bloody so they passed up the victim even though he was a fellow Jew. They had church work to do.

A Samaritan who didn’t have the right creed but cared did the heavy lifting. He shared the only light he had. He invested his time, his money, his own oil, and his own donkey. He rescued a banged up guy of different race and religion. In Jesus’ parable he was the one who really saw the light. He gave the “the mission”, to love your neighbor as yourself, a vision.