October 30, 2005
24th Sunday after Pentecost
"In You and Through You"
(1 Thessalonians 2:9-13)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
In the book, How To Find Out Who You Are, Nelson Price reports that 15 prominent college professors took this challenge: "If all the books on the art of moving human beings into action were condensed into one brief statement, what would that statement be?" The result of their deliberations were four statements:
What the mind attends to, it considers;
What the mind does not attend it to, it dismisses.
What the mind attends to continually, it believes.
What the mind believes, it eventually does.
If you remember, Paul said something very similar in Philippians 4:8 "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Society puts it in even simpler terms through the acronym GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. It was originally a computer term that meant that if invalid data was entered into a system, the resulting output would also be invalid. That same argument holds true for all aspects of life from raising kids to dealing with worries to personal health.
But the inverse of that statement is true as well, as Paul stated, and we can still use the same acronym. All we have to do is replace the definition of the letter "G." It could stand for Grace or Goodness or God. Grace In, Grace Out. Goodness In, Goodness Out. God In, God Out. And I think, at least in part any way, that's what Paul meant when he wrote the passage for today.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (NRSV)
 You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
 You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers.
 As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children,
 urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God's word, which is also at work in you believers.
Paul talks about "God's word, which is also at work in you believers."
GIGO, God's Word In, God's Word Out. Or the title of the message God's Word, In You and Through You. And that's what Missions is all about. So, how do we do that? Well, first we've got to Get God In and then Let God Out.
The first part is really quite simple. It does take some personal daily and weekly discipline but it is quite simple. The daily discipline is study and prayer. Now I'm not talking about 6 hours in the class room. But, I am talking about more than just reading the Upper Room, as much as I love the Upper Room Daily Devotional. It takes the discipline of spending time in the Word, reading the Bible. It involves sitting quietly in prayer and quietly listening to God. And it takes the weekly discipline of corporate Worship, the fellowship and energy of worshiping with others.
Dr. Vaughn Baker, our Revival preacher told a story about a man who was headed out of church one day as he passed the preacher, the preacher said, "Glad you decided to come this morning." The man stopped and told the preacher, "I didn't decide to come this morning, I decided to come years ago."
Bible study, prayer and worship aren't something we decide to do on a spur of the moment. Or something we do when there is nothing else more exciting to do. Bible study, prayer and worship are the meat and potatoes of GETTING GOD IN.
They are the minimum daily requirements for a healthy relationship with God. Are you GETTING GOD IN?
A. And then there's LETTING GOD OUT. That's the Stewardship and Missions part. Letting God live In You and Through You.
I first became involved in Missions through Heifer Project when I was asked to help deliver hogs to Mississippi. I can't tell you the impact of sharing with those families who were recipients has had on my life.
And then in the first church we served there was a college aged girl, Anna Fletcher, who became a Missionary to Thailand.
We would get regular letters from her and the children in the Children's Home she was working and teaching. She was an absolute inspiration and put a face on the needs of the children and their families. She tended chickens and hogs, worked in the garden, helped plant rice, harvest all the other vegetables, plus she taught school and Sunday School and lead a women's Bible Study. She also shared the heartache of watching children die from simple illnesses because they didn't have medicine or money for medicine and immunizations.
It was at this church that I truly discovered the power of missions and how much one woman could do. Her name was Violet. She was five feet tall in high heels and four foot eight without. She had taught Kindergarten Sunday School for about a million years.
But her passion was Missions. Every year our Annual Conference had a Conference Wide Missions Drive. And Violet made it her responsibility to see that Midway Locust Grove UMC brought in the most health kits, bandages, school kits and blankets. This little church that averaged about 100 in worship brought over 2,400 health kits one year. More than all the others in our district combined.
Violet would watch the newspaper ads and would stand up and say, "This week is toothbrush week. Such and such a store has them on sale for three for a dollar. Go buy $5.00 worth." Or she would announce, Sears or Penney's is having a white sale, washcloths and towels are on sale go buy 5 or 6 of each." Every now and then she would host a health kit day where members would gather and in an assembly line format, begin putting them together. The Sunday after, Violet would report how many we had and how many more we needed or how many of the items we needed to complete.
Violet also had the church collecting for sewing kits, layette kits and school kits. The last year I was there we took 12 pick up truck loads of items to the Missions Event. Most of those trucks had stock racks on them. So they were full. the look on Violet's face was awesome as she sat as the passenger in my pickup and we pulled into the Building and reported that there were 11 pickup trucks, just like mine, filled to the brim all from one church.
B. That's what happens when we work together. That's what happens when you spend time every day GETTING GOD IN, you find some way of LETTING GOD OUT. God's Word works In You and Through You.
It's the same with our tithes and offerings. When you give they become God's Word working In You and Through You. When we give, God uses those gifts in remarkable ways. Oh sure, part of it is used to keep the lights on and building cool or warm, but if the lights were off or the building was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, who would we attract? But when we're comfortable we have a more inviting place where people can experience the love of God and witness God's Word working In You and Through You.
Stewardship is all about my response to the gift of God's Grace in my life. When I open my heart to God and GET GOD GRACE IN through Bible Study, Prayer and Worship, God is too big to keep in my heart and I have to LET GOD'S LOVE AND GRACE OUT in as many ways as possible.
My Stewardship of giving monetarily is just one of the ways I respond. But I know that my tithes and offerings make a difference. They help change lives and help strengthen lives that have been changed by the love of Jesus Christ. His love is something we can't keep to ourselves.
It has to live In Us and Through Us.
A man was driving to work when a truck drove through a stop sign, hit his car broadside, and knocked him out. Passersby pulled him out of the wreck and revived him. But he began a terrific struggle and had to be tranquilized by the medics.
Later, when he was finally calm, they asked him why he struggled so much. He said, "I remember the impact, then nothing. I woke up on a concrete slab in front of a huge, flashing SHELL sign. And somebody was standing in front of the S." (1)
There are a lot of people out there who can't see the "S." They have no idea that there is anything else. The Word of God is working In You and Through You. When you give, your tithes and offerings make a difference in the life of every member of this congregation. They make a difference in our district, in our Conference, in our Nation and in the world. All because you said "Yes!" to God and allowed the Word of God to work In You and Through You. GIGO. GOD IN, GOD OUT.
1. Homiletics, October 2005, p. 56.
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