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the big if
January 14, 2018
About ten years ago, in 2007 actually, a woman named Jennie Allen sensed a call from God to help disciple a generation of women. It seemed like an impossible task for a wife and mother of four living in Austin, Texas. And right from the start she knew that if this was really a “God thing” he’d have to pull it off.
So, for years she waited and prayed, listened and took baby steps to see what God would do to open doors and lead the way. The vision was to gather, equip, and unleash women to live out God’s calling in their lives. So, Jennie, and a team of friends established what came to be called the IF:Gathering. And in their wildest dreams they could never have imagined what would happen next.
Six years later, in the fall of 2013, a group of Christian women from diverse backgrounds and cultures were invited by Jennie to Austin to hear and speak into this vision that was taking shape. During that weekend, God tore down walls of division and mistrust and with the rubble built bridges that unified women across denominational and racial lines.
And in February 2014, the first IF:Gathering for women was publicly launched. Registration opened and within 47 minutes the event was completely sold out! God was doing something BIG. And since then over a million women in 50 countries worldwide have been reached through IF.
We’ve offered IF here at Valley View over the last few years and we’ll be streaming the next one live on February 9-10. There’s no ticket price for IF. It’s completely free of charge and operates solely on donations. It really is amazing!
The name “IF” comes from the simple idea that “If God is real, if Jesus exists, then what?” What difference does it make in my life? It’s that simple. If our faith is true, how do we live it out day to day? IF is passionate about building safe spaces where women can be authentic and wrestle with the essential “if” questions of their faith.
IF. Jesus used the word “if” a lot in his own teaching. Jesus loved kids and on this day of family dedication it’s important to remember that Jesus said in Matthew 10:42, IF anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these littles ones, that person will certainly not lose their reward.
Jesus used “if” to stress the importance of faith when he said in Matthew 17:20, IF you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move.
Jesus used “if” to flip upside down what it means to be great when he said in Mark 9:35, IF anyone wants to be first, that person must be the very last, and the servant of all.
If. If. If. Jesus made a lot of if statements. But this morning I want to take a few minutes to look at what I call “The BIG IF” because it has everything to do with our mission as a church. And today, at the outset of this new year, we want to revisit Valley View’s mission and next week we’ll take a look at our vision.
If you have a Bible in your lap or on your device turn to John 14 (p. 752). John 14 is part of a five-chapter section of John’s gospel called the Upper Room Discourse. This the teaching Jesus gave his disciples in an upper room in downtown Jerusalem the night before he was crucified. These are the urgent things Jesus wanted his disciples to remember long after he was gone.
And the Big IF he gave them that night is found in seven simple words in John 14:15, IF you love me, keep my commands.
It’s easy to say we love Jesus. I’m sure most of us would say we love Jesus. After all, we’re sitting in church! But the acid test of our love for Jesus, according to Jesus, is not what we say, it’s what we do, keeping his commands, obeying his words, following his teaching, doing what he says. That’s how we express our love for Jesus. If you love me, keep my commands.
Our mission here at Valley View is very simple. Valley View is all about JESUS. Our mission is Jesus, to know Jesus and to make Jesus known. We love to introduce people to Jesus and help people grow in their relationship with Jesus. He’s the one we worship. He’s the one we serve. He’s the one we love. He’s the one we live for.
But what is Jesus all about? What gets Jesus excited? What matters most to Jesus? What’s Jesus’ greatest priority and central command?
Well Jesus gave us a lot of commands and all of them are important. But earlier in the conversation that night Jesus elevated one of his commands above all the others. “If you remember nothing else, remember this.”
A new command I give you, he says in John 13:34-35, Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
“If you love me,” Jesus says, “love others.” That’s the central command of Jesus. That trumps everything else. “That’s how I want my followers to be identified in the world,” he says. “I want you to be the best lovers on earth.”
Love Jesus. Love others. The rest of life is details. Jesus said the same thing in a conversation with an attorney who asked him, “What’s the greatest commandment?” Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength ... and love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Love God and love others. Valley View is all about JESUS and JESUS is all about loving others. That’s our mission as a church. And it gets expressed in all kinds of ways around here, both individually and together.
This week, love for Jesus took a bunch of us down to Washington DC for the day to worship and pray at a place called David’s Tent. David’s Tent is set up in the middle of the Mall between the Washington Monument and the Capitol.
Kurt organized a team to lead worship and pray for our country right in the heart of our nation’s capital. It was a thrilling experience! We had nothing else on our agenda, but to worship and to pray.
The idea for David’s Tent comes from King David of Jerusalem who hired over 4,000 musicians and singers to worship God around the clock in a tent behind his palace for the 33 years he reigned in that city. David made worship a priority for his nation and it brought God’s blessing. That’s the spirit of David’s Tent where worship has been happening continually, 24/7 since September 11, 2015.
The David’s Tent website says, “David’s Tent DC is a national confession that Jesus is Lord of America. The heart behind David’s Tent is that from the place of highest honor and governmental prominence in our land, we publicly declare Jesus’ worth in every moment. Our dream is that this love song to Jesus would never end, but simply be a pre-chorus for the great eternal song of praise!”
What started out as a 40-day event over two years ago has morphed into the longest running outdoor worship event in U.S. history. And in 2018 the goal is for each of the 50 states to take one week of praise and worship. This past week belonged to the state of Pennsylvania which is why we were there. If you get to Washington DC this year be sure to stop by David’s Tent to worship and pray for our country.
Valley View is all about JESUS and JESUS is all about loving others. And sometimes that looks like worship and praying for our nation.
This week a bunch of us will serve dinner to the Forteniter’s Club. John Tall arranges this event. The Forteniters are a group of mentally disabled men and women who meet weekly for friendship and mutual support. They gather over dinner to create a safe place to enjoy each other’s company. And we go there to take the love of Jesus into that place.
Life is hard and love for Jesus drives us to wade into each other’s lives and help one another wherever and however we can, with a listening ear, with a passionate prayer, with a text, email, card of encouragement, visit, meal. All kinds of ways because life is full of pain and was never meant to be lived alone.
Around here we call that community. It’s our middle name. Valley View Community Church. That’s why we stress Life Groups so much because we believe that life really is better together.
Love for Jesus motivates us to do hard things like forgive those who hurt us or offend us, or humble ourselves to ask forgiveness when we realize we’ve hurt someone else. Or to speak the truth in love because we want the best for a friend and are willing to take a risk to see that happen.
If you love me, keep my commands. Valley View is all about Jesus and Jesus is all about loving others. Is it difficult to live this way? Absolutely. Some say impossible. It’s not natural. It’s supernatural which is why we all need God’s help. We can’t do it on our own.
And Jesus knows that. So right after he says, If you love me, keep my commands, he says in the very next sentence in John 14:16-17, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
To help us keep his commands, Jesus gives us another “advocate.” He gives us a helper. The Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit of God who is with us and lives in us! We are not alone.
Church we need the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission God has given us. We can’t live like Jesus in our own power and strength. We need God’s power and he’s provided that power through his Spirit who is with us and lives in us when we put our faith in Jesus.
So as we launch out into a new year let’s be clear on the mission of Valley View Community Church. Valley View is all about JESUS and JESUS is all about loving others.
If you love me, keep my commands. Let’s stand for closing prayer.