Although still new at this blogging venture, I try and steer clear of simply stating that any sermon is particularly great. I mean, they can all qualify for such praise, but its too easy to simply leave it as a self-evident truth without substantiating the reason for such praise. But that's pretty much the sentiment I left with after Paul Osteen's Wednesday sermon. In part, that's a function of the message's relevance to me personally. But it's also a function of Paul's attempts to incorporate more visual aspects into his messages.
The message (PDF notes) is one about developing a "lifestyle of giving" and I have to admit a bit of confusion over how Paul would connect the story of Exodus to this message. In particular, Paul uses a small fragment of Exodus 4. After God had called upon Moses to deliver the Israelites, chapter 4 opens with God sending Moses forth. In doing so, God asks Moses "What's in your hand?" - the title of Paul's sermon. Of course, Moses was holding a simple shepherd's rod. Nothing spectacular ... just a big stick of wood. God instructed Moses to throw down the rod, turning it into a snake. When God instructs Moses to take the snake in his hand, only to see it return to the form of that simple rod, this was primarily a means for God to give testimony to Moses for him to carry forth. But that simple rod was the instrument of Moses' leadership under God.
Paul takes this in an interesting direction - one that challenges us to give what we ourselves have in our hands to bless and encourage others around us. He uses a variety of stories to demonstrate this: a rancher in West Texas who bakes several thousands of loaves of bread that he donates to those in his community; Paul's sisters offering a simple Christmas gift of candy during a lonely holiday; the man who offered a simple minimum wage job to Paul's wife as she grew up in a dysfunctional home. These are all very simple acts, of course. And that's where we often tend to think "Well, big deal." There's no way those little, simple acts can alleviate the entirety of the problems confronted by those around them. But if we allow the overwhelming problems to eliminate our minor acts of grace, we do ourselves an injustice. Paul offers these truths to rest on:
- Every person has something to give.
- Often little things we give can make a big difference!
- Often what we give looks so small compared to the great need.
- Often we are asked to give when itís not convenient!
- Often we are asked to give the very thing we need.
Much of that message parallels to sowing a seed in times of need, but also connects well with Joel's sermon from the weekend on building up others, and even Lisa's sermon from a few weeks prior on using the tools we have to serve the body of Christ. It's that type of resonance, consistency, and also the relevance that the message ought to take hold in our own lives.
In starting up this little blog, in fact, I can relate to some minor degree what Moses might have felt when God asked a good deal more out of him. What can this accomplish? I'm not entirely sure. How can one little bitty website have an impact on whatever greater need rests out there in the world? Again, I'm not entirely sure. But it's one of the gifts I have in my own hands that I'm making available.