In the gospel of Mark, chapter 3, Jesus enters the local synagogue and in the midst of everyone, recognizes a problem. There among all the people was a man with a withered hand. Though the man was most likely self-conscious, Jesus said, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus gave a brief sermon guised in a question and punctuated his sermon with a miracle. “Which is lawful on the Sabbath,” Jesus asked those attending the service, “to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” As the man’s eyes became wide his crippled hand was healed. His gnarled, twisted fingers became straight and the joints of his fingers became whole. The pain and the shame of this crippled condition were instantly removed.
From that story, Jesus showed me that each finger represented a priority on our church and how His heart was to strengthen and heal each priority represents by a finger. He showed me that even though these five crucial aspects of being a devoted follower of Jesus might be somewhat withered, underdeveloped, stiff and in need of healing, He was working within the lives of His people to bring strength to these areas of our Christian lives.
Last week, I visited with you about the index or pointer finger. When that finger is held high, it proclaims, “Number one.” This finger represented the number one priority of our church, which is, Worship. There is nothing more important to us at the Heartland Vineyard Church than the worship of God.
This week, I want to visit briefly about the middle finger, the one between the index finger and the ring finger. You know the one. It’s the finger that when held up all alone, it sends the message of “Go to hell!” or some other vulgar adage. But notice, this finger is the longest finger on the hand. It stretches out further than any other finger. Jesus showed me that this finger represented compassion driven outreach.
It has always been the desire of our church since it’s inception to advance God’s Kingdom. We have purposed to have an ever-increasing focus on being missional, that is to say, oriented toward outreach. We have never quit believing that we have a mission and the primary location of that mission is in our back yard. The Cedar Valley is our primary mission field. Don’t get me wrong. Our church has been sending teams for the last 15 years into international mission fields. We have sent hundreds of thousands of dollars into national and international Christian missions groups for their support. But our primary mission is our city. And we are all Missionaries. I hope you hear that loud and clear. We are all missionaries. The “Great Commission” is for every follower of Jesus. “God into all the world and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus said, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to do all I have taught you to do.” This command is not for a few. It is a command to everyone who names Jesus as Lord and Savior.
It has been our heart to equip and train every member of the Heartland Vineyard Church to share his or her faith through proclamation. The message is good news. Jesus died not only to forgive us for our sin but also to free us from our sin in order that we could come to God our Father and commune with Him. Jesus set us free from our sin so that we could become the temple of the Holy Spirit and so be people of God’s presence; filled, directed by and motivated from the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
In reaching out with compassion to our city, we want to not only proclaim the good news but to demonstrate the works of the Kingdom of God, namely healing the sick, encouraging the broken of heart, casting out demons, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. We want to be active participants in advancing God’s rule on this earth rather than being just a passive group waiting for God to take us to heaven. We aren’t waiting for heaven as much as we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.” We want to be conduits that bring heaven and God’s will to earth.
At the Heartland Vineyard Church, we don’t want to entertain you on Sunday but mobilize and equip you to enter into the mission field during your workweek. We want to invade the school campuses, assault our neighborhoods, and march into businesses throughout our community armed with the love of God that the power of His Holy Spirit.
You may feel very insecure to share your faith with another person. It might even be a stretch when we hear of a need in a person’s life and then ask a powerful question, “May I pray for you now?”
This finger on the disciple’s hand may be withered but Jesus wants to say to you “Stretch forth your hand.” Learn to take risks. In your conversations, be willing to ask loving and compassionate questions. Questions like, “Where are you with God? Would you like to attend church with me? Do you know God loves you?”
Extending ourselves toward another person with a hope to help open their eyes to God’s love can be daunting for some. But once you step out, the exhilaration is amazing as you witness the Holy Spirit using your small effort to accomplish big results.
You don’t have to be a Bible scholar. You don’t have to be a person who has walked with the Lord for many years. You just need to embrace God’s heart that He wants to use you to love and bring freedom to another human being.