Written Sermons & Bible Studies

What God Requires.


What God Requires.
As your pastor, Ispend a great deal of my mental energy focused on numbers. There are the financial numbers; will the church meet its budget, how can I raise more money, how much should I sell the land for, and can we lease our facility more often? Then there is the spending side; do we renovate or not, do we hire an associate pastor or intern or childcare person and so on. Then there are the Sunday morning numbers; how many people attend our service, are they satisfied with the worship, would they promote us to friends and family, will they return? Then there is programing; how many should we offer, what programs will be successful, does anyone come to church from our festivals, how many hear the gospel? Then there are the discipleship numbers that attempt to measure: “Are people growing in their faith?”
I am a numbers guy, and intuitively I know and track all the numbers in my head. But does God track the same numbers that I do? These past months, as I have led the church and evaluated my first two years here, to be frank, I am disappointed in the numbers. Here’s the important question, is God disappointed? The question that has plagued me for some time is, what does God measure?
If we can measure what God measures and make that our keystone measure, maybe all the other numbers will begin to improve.
What is a keystone measure? This is a term from the business world. A keystone measure is the one measure that the entire organization works to improve. It is 100% committed to improving that number. Years ago, Alcoa was on the brink of failure. Here is their experience with their Keystone measure.

In the 1980s, Alcoa faced challenges with efficiency and safety. The new CEO focused on safety as a keystone measure, believing it would drive overall improvement. He set a bold goal: zero injuries. This focus on safety empowered employees and improved morale. As safety improved, so did production. In response, Alcoa’s market value soared. It became one of the safest industrial companies in the world. Safety, as a keystone measure, transformed Alcoa. Focusing on one core value led to success.
For us, the key to finding our Keystone measure is to ask, “What does God measure?”
Let’s read Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Here we see a faithful follower of God seeking the numbers for his sacrifice that will be pleasing to God. He wants to know what he must deliver to show his depth of commitment. God responds with a different kind of measure. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly.

God requires of us justice, kindness, and humility. Whenever I require anything of anybody, I measure their compliance with my requirement. Therefore, I assume that God measures our justice, kindness, and humility. 

In all my study of Scripture, I find justice, kindness, and humility to be the measure of utmost importance to God. What do they have in common? They are the result of Mercy. The key measure of our walk with God is reflecting God’s heart. And God’s heart is merciful. When we have mercy, we act justly. When we have mercy, we are kind. When we have mercy, we glorify God.

Some translations of Micah 6:8 say, “love mercy” in the place of “love kindness.” Mercy means kindness here, but mercy is intertwined with justice, kindness and humility. Humility is translated by Delbert R. Hilbert as wisdom: “He told you, ‘O man what is Good; Yahweh wants nothing of you, except that you do justice, love kindness and walk wisely with your God.” The definition of Mercy is much more expansive when we consider the whole of Scripture. We seek to understand and embrace mercy because the Bible speaks of it being of utmost importance to God.

In our Micah passage, God doesn’t require our worship. God wants us to demonstrate our love for God not in sacrifices, offerings, festivals, songs and solemn gatherings. God wants us to demonstrate our love for God by loving our neighbor.

The Gospel writers link the love of God with love of neighbor—they are inseparable. Matthew, Mark and Luke all say: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
John’s Gospel says: “A new command I give you: 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.”

Early Christian writers also make this link. St. Augustine, the theological giant of Christianity, wrote his Confessions around 400 AD. For those who do not know of Augustine, much of our Christian beliefs and the teachings we have heard for years in our churches have their roots back in the teachings of Augustine over 1600 years ago. Next to the Scripture writers, Augustine could be considered the next most important Christian writer.
He said in his Confessions Book XIII Chapter 9: “What, therefore, is to be loved? Is it the loving one’s self? No, not merely this; nor is it the loving of one’s neighbor, except for the sake of God. Nor is it God, except if God should be loved in such a manner that love to Him and to one’s neighbor are inseparable.”
Augustine’s point here is, we cannot love God without loving our neighbor. How do we measure the love of our neighbor? We measure the mercy in our lives.

A few months ago, we went through a sermon series about the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan is a model for us of mercy. Thinking about the story this week, here’s how I imagine the Good Samaritan inspiring a new Christ follower.

Sam Inspired by the Good Samaritan

In a small town in the 21st century, a man named Sam lived by the teachings of God, particularly those of the prophet Micah, which called for justice, kindness, and humility. Sam measured his life by the mercy he extended. He was deeply inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan, a tale told by Jesus about a man who showed unparalleled kindness to a stranger in need. The Samaritans in Jesus’ day were looked down upon by others, especially the Jewish community. Yet the Samaritan showed mercy to a battered Jewish victim of a robbery.

Like the Samaritan, Sam often felt like an outsider. He was frequently maligned by his society due to his background and beliefs. This constant negative perception and lack of acceptance made it hard to embodying mercy and kindness. It made Sam want to retreat comfortably among those like him. He was tempted to become bitter. However, Sam’s faith in Jesus Christ motivated him to live live out Christ’s teachings in his daily life, especially the story of the Good Samaritan.

Sam’s commitment to mercy led him to gather a small group of believers and form a Christian community marked by a dedication to helping others. Despite their humble beginnings, Sam encouraged his brothers and sisters to care for the sick, feed the hungry, and support the poor. They served anyone, regardless of their place in society. They even served those who looked down on them.  Though marginalized themselves, this community thrived because they honored what mattered to God.

Sam learned what it was to walk humbly with God. He came to understand that true humility meant aligning his actions with divine wisdom. In his daily life, he cultivated a profound awareness of God’s will in every step he took. The Holy Spirit guided his community toward mercy.

Their greatest test came when a devastating tornado swept through the town, leaving many in desperate need of food and shelter. The calamity struck hard, and the entire community was in chaos. Many of the more privileged residents were too overwhelmed with their own losses to offer help, but Sam saw this as a moment to live out his faith.

Despite the whispers of distrust against them, Sam organized his community to gather what resources they could. They worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone, regardless of their status or prior treatment of Sam and his community, had enough to eat and a place to stay. Sam’s leadership and unwavering commitment to mercy saved lives and strengthened the bonds among his community members.

Under Sam’s guidance, the small Christian community not only survived but grew in faith and numbers. They held regular gatherings to pray, study the Scriptures, and share testimonies of how Christ had changed their lives.

Sam’s commitment to mercy transformed him from a maligned outsider to compassionate leader that broke down barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding. Sam’s story of mercy through his devotion to Jesus inspired others to live out their faith boldly. His actions fostered a culture of generosity and compassion that resonated throughout the town. The small Christian community became a place of hope and a beacon for justice, showing how a life centered on Jesus could transform not only individuals but the world around them.

Consider the Good Samaritan, a man who showed extraordinary mercy to a stranger. This is a core teaching of Christ, that our life be dedicated to the values of justice, kindness and humility. As the parable was for Sam in our story, it’s a blueprint for our own lives and community.

How do we extend extraordinary mercy in our ordinary everyday lives? First, recognize where mercy is needed. Opportunities abound for the ordinary, everyday acts of love and service. Don’t pass them by. The Good Samaritan noticed and stopped to help. Second, take time every day to act. There is beauty and power in living out our faith through simple, consistent actions. You will grow in mercy as you respond to others with God’s love. Third, go as far as the need requires. The Good Samaritan met the entirety of the victim’s needs. Prayer, financial support, attention to the wounds – do all that it takes. Fourth, bring people into our Christian community. Mercy requires following up and building relationships.
Simple acts of mercy have the power to ignite a transformation that echoes through lives and communities, aligning us with God’s heart and values. By making mercy our keystone measure, we don’t just follow God’s will—we unleash a ripple effect of love and compassion that can change the lives we touch and beyond.

Imagine a community where every act of kindness, no matter how small, sparks a chain reaction of love and grace.

In my life, I have spoken prayers for people, shared wisdom when asked, and I have tried to bring great service to others. Yet, in the end what people remember are the simple acts of mercy. Mostly, I took the time to be with them.

Here are ten extraordinary, ordinary acts of mercy that few people do, but people remember well:

  1. Be fully present to the people you encounter; it is an extraordinary ordinary act.
  2. Listen, truly listen to someone who needs to talk, give them you full attention and understanding.
  3. Cook a meal, go to lunch, or have a coffee with someone.
  4. Write a note or send a text of encouragement and support.
  5. Run errands for someone in need. Some people in our food pantry line pick up groceries for families.
  6. Help with chores around the house or for someone else.
  7. Provide a ride. We have people who pick up others to bring to church.
  8. Share financial and other resources you have to make a difference
  9. Visit the sick, people who are homebound, or those in prison.
  10. Pray for the needs of others and our community.

Church, we do mercy well. Let’s use it as our keystone measure. Can we do it better? Can we do it more?  Our community service, our fellowship, and our spirit of kindness are our strengths. They reflect God’s heart of mercy.
Next Sunday, we will talk about the state of our church. If you have comments, ideas, insights, share them with me by texting 480-489-9114.
Before we go to prayer, I want to share a little limerick about simplicity. At a church bake sale, Tom’s fancy cake caught all their eyes but tasted like mud, while a plate of cookies, simple and plain, won the day. The limerick goes:

In a world where perfection’s the game,
Tom’s fancy dessert brought him shame.
But plain cookies, so sweet,
Were the crowd’s favorite treat,
Proving simple acts bring more acclaim.

Prayer

Closing Prayer and Benediction

Heavenly Father, as we leave this place, we thank You for Your presence among us. Your love and grace sustain us each day. As we go out into the world, help us to live out Your teachings in every aspect of our lives. Through your Holy Spirit, help us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with You. Fill our hearts with compassion and kindness, that we may show Your love to everyone we meet. Guide our steps and our actions, making us instruments of Your peace.

Lord, remind us that even the smallest acts of kindness can have a profound impact. Help us to see and embrace the strengths You have given us. Let our actions and words reflect Your love and mercy.

As we leave, may Your grace and peace go with us. Bless our efforts to serve others and to spread Your mercy. May we bring glory to Your name.

In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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