The following are excerpts from Sam Leonor's sermon at the May 2005 GODencounters retreat in Florida. These do not appear in print in the Adventist Review.
It's All in the Name
Good morning. Let's enter into Joshua 1, verse 1. A very, very important transition is happening in the Hebrew Bible. By the way, we call it the Old Testament, but I don't think my Hebrew friends like it. So let's call it the Hebrew Bible from now on. No more "Old Testament."
At the beginning of this book of the Hebrew Bible there is a transition from the leadership of Moses to the leadership of Joshua. Joshua. Yashua. Ya . . . shua. God saves. We know his name in the Greek form. What is it? Jesus. So when you say the name of Jesus, you actually say "God Saves." Did you know this? Isn't that fantastic? Jesus. You know, I used to think that the people who say the name of Jesus a lot when they were praying were overstating something. Like Jesus would say, "I heard you, I heard you." But now I understand that we are saying, "God saves." Let's sing it. Jesus. God saves!
You know they teach us from the time we are really young that if there is anything oppressive, anything dark going on, just say the name of Jesus and everything will be okay. It's because we are saying "God saves" and when we remind ourselves of that something miraculous happens.
Jesus said to the disciples, who were confused about who He was, "But what about you? . . . Who do you say I am? (Matt. 16:15, NIV). Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (verse 16). Jesus then replied, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (verse 18). So, on Jesus' name, on this truth, His name and who He is, the church will be founded and now even the gates of hell will not prevail against it-because "God saves."
Worship as an Action Verb
You know why it's hard sometimes to really get into worship and Bible study? We don't really see ourselves as these people. [Here's an example.] We come and we sing, we enter into the song. It is worship as an action [verb.] That's why we participate. And some of you, when Elias said "Stand up, let's sing together," said, "That's right, let's stand up." Some of you, especially these guys right here, they are fired up. I can hear them saying, "Let's go! Let's worship today!"
Some of you are like, "Hmmm, humm, gotta do this crazy guitar thing in church, gotta stand up." You may not want to do it. That's OK; but you have to understand that the point of worship is not coming and just sitting and receiving. The point of worship is participating and so today we are entering into this text. If we entered into the stories of the Bible more often, if we saw their stories as our story, if we saw ourselves as standing on the banks of the Jordan, with Joshua and the people, then this would become meaningful.
This is what the Bible is for. So we can know what our history is. We were there. That is us. Does this make sense to you? We have emphasized biblical literacy for so long that we know it, we know the stories, we know what they are about. But are we really entering into them and thinking of ourselves there? Do we see ourselves with Paul, with Peter? Do we see ourselves following Jesus? Is this our story, or it is just some magnificent document which has been left behind for us to study and know?
In September 2004 I took a group to Tijuana, Mexico, and I met this remarkable couple. About 10-15 years ago this couple was successful in business. Making money. The western life of Ipod, "I life." They drove a group of kids from their church to Tijuana to help build some new wing on an orphanage. They fell in love with this orphanage so much so that they said, "We've got to come down more often." They started going about every other month, feeling called to do this. Eventually they wondered where the orphans were coming from. The orphans, they discovered, were coming from families who couldn't afford to take care of their kids, or they were coming from families who had no place to put their kids. The couple decided to stop building orphanages and start building houses for the families.
So they went back to their church and their friends and their families and they said, "We're moving to Tijuana. We are going to live there. The life that God wants for us, and we think the lives that God wants for you, is over there, across the border, serving the people who need homes for their kids." They began to raise money and everyone thought they were crazy. Why don't you stay here? I'm sure people wondered. It's comfy here.
Now 10-15 years later they are building more than 500 houses a year for people. You can look them up on the Web at www.comebuildhope.com and maybe your church can lead a trip there in the future.
Last year's trip was one of the most amazing experiences. Finishing this little house for this family. [As you build] the family works with you. They hammer and they do all the stuff with you for a week, or a week and a half, and when you are done you hand the key to the family.
It's better than an "Extreme Makeover." There's nothing compared to handing a family a house. You're helping a family with no future, saying, "Here you go, this is yours." And it is all because a couple of people said, "Alright, enough with the Lexus, the Mercedes, whatever. Enough with the comfort. Enough with the manna. Enough with the life that we know is safe and comfortable. We are going to cross over into what God wants us to be and that is this: building houses for poor people in Tijuana."