Summary: Is it only a dream? Is it just a vision? How real change and growth starts in the church.

“The Presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”

"Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:" Ezekiel 37:5 (KJV)

Intro: It was about an hour and a half before time for the church service to start.

As I left the parsonage I drove to McDonalds to grab a quick bite of something to eat.

As I sat there waiting at the drive thru on my order…,

It was like déjà vu.

I had been down this same road many times before.

It really started a couple of years earlier.

It was a little slow at first…, and we made a lot of mistakes.

We tried a lot of different things…, there were a lot of up’s and down’s.

But now I could hardly believe what was happening.

As I pulled into the church parking lot there were already several cars there.

I walked toward the back door to try and sneak in…,

but I was met by several laughing kids running outside to play.

Slow down…, walk…, no running inside the church.

Can you believe it?

It was nearly an hour before time for church to start and there were already families gathering at the church.

Just a few years ago…, the average person who attended the church was probably born before 1947. We would have been lucky to have had four or five young families with children in the church.

But something happened…, Something great happened…,

I saw a people who were tired and discouraged…, become full of life and enthusiasm.

A church that was once stale and boring was now full of praise and celebration.

A renewal broke out…, A real genuine revival...

New Sunday school classes...

New small groups were formed for fellowship and outreach ministry.

Lay people were organized to go out and visit the unchurched. Stale board meetings and committee meetings had become mission planning and challenging vision meetings.

The pews were quickly filling up.

In fact we would be setting out folding chairs for at least a couple more months,

Until the new addition on the church building would be completed and opened.

The most exciting thing about all the change was the changed lives.

The new professions of faith. The lost being saved. The Kingdom of God growing.

People being filled with hope, and love, broken people restored to health and wholeness.

Could it be?

I thought to myself…, was I dreaming?

How does all of this change and conversion and growth get started?

Well, there are three things that have to take place.

I. Tell people about your PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with Christ

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" Matthew 28:18-19 (KJV)

I have always felt like Jesus spoke these words directly to me.

I am sure that some of you could talk to me all day about hunting or fishing, or sewing or shopping, or about your work, or your grandchildren, or stories about some trip you have made.

Everybody has a story to tell. Everyone has some information to share.

And if we are sold on it,

When something is really good…, When we believe in it..., When we are excited about it,

We tell others about it!

Matthew 28 verses 18-19 are called the “Great Commission.”

The disciples are sent out with the authority of Christ to teach and preach and baptize,

in the name of the Father the Son, and Holy Spirit.

They were sent out with power and presence to tell people about their personal relationship with Christ. They were commissioned.

Let me shift thoughts just a little bit here.

We know that there are sins of commission.

There are sins of doing, and sins of actions. Sin that we know we should not be doing something, but we do it anyway. We commit an act of sin. That is called a sin of commission.

And then there are sins of omission.

Things that we know to do that are right, that we should obey God but we fail.

Sins where we know we should be doing something and actions that we know we should be taking but we don’t. We omit doing what is right. These are called sins of omission.

How many churches across America failed to record even one profession of faith last year?

I has read studies that say anywhere from 75% all the way up to 95% of all the Christians

never win a single soul to Christ in their entire life.

There are some things in life that realistically are probably beyond my reach.

I will never ride the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby.

I will never be asked to become the CEO of a fortune 500 company.

But there are a lot of things that we can do if we try.

God breathed life into you and you became a living soul.

You already have everything you need to be successful in life…

The creator of the universe breathed His spirit into you.

You have the beginnings of greatness on the inside.

You have been crowned with God’s favor.

God has equipped and empowered you with everything you need.

Learn this lesson: There has to be a going out…, before there is a bringing in.

It is a truism of life. A truism is a claim that is so obvious or self-evident as to be hardly worth mentioning, except as a reminder. An obvious truth. An undoubted or self-evident truth; a statement which is plainly true; a position that needs no other proof or argument;

Example: the Sun is going to rise tomorrow.

That goes without say…, (unless Jesus comes back and it is the end of the age.)

Regardless of the weather conditions…,

It doesn’t matter whether you get out of bed or not…

You can be bitter and angry or smiling and joyful..., You get to choose that…

But the sun is going to rise tomorrow…

Another self-evident fact is that you can have the biggest sale of the century...,

But if you don’t tell anyone…, If you don’t advertise…, If you don’t let people know…

If nobody knows what you have got…

They don’t know what they are missing…

I am convinced that there are a lot of people who don’t know what they are missing because they have never been told about the Good News of Christ and the great things that happen at this church.

There is a story about a church service where several people were baptized.

On the way home a young boy asked his father what all the excitement was about.

The father trying to explain the best way he could for a child to understand...,

Said…, it was about people telling other people that Jesus loved them.

The little boy paused for a moment and asked.

Daddy, next Sunday can I get ADVERTISED?

Tell people about your PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with Christ

II. The CHURCH needs to be a Community of Love.

"Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." 1 Corinthians 14:19 (KJV)

Love is the language of faith.

Healthy churches speak the language of love.

Worship is the love of Jesus Christ.

The church is NOT the dead and buried the church is the resurrected, the Holy Spirit lives in us.

Christ fills our hearts with love. God is love.

When a church is filled with laughter and fellowship and joy.

Then we are talking the language of God.

We will never know…, how many people woke up this morning and said, “Lord help me get through this miserable day.” Some of these people might be here in this church right now…,

We are definitely going to meet them out on the street…, People who are sad…, lonely…, exhausted…, hurting…, tired…, and broken.

Life is so noisy. The world is full of talking and chaos…, and confusion and chatter…, ranting and raving…, and gossip and people who go on and on…

Studies show that the average male speaks = 6073 words per day

The average female speaks = 8805 words per day

It is no coincidence that the Apostle Paul talked about people speaking 10,000 words in an unknown language. And nobody seems to understand….

He says, I had rather speak five words that people could understand…,

Than 10,000 words that people that people don’t understand.

If you had only five words you could speak to someone and them understand

What 5 words would you speak?

I believe that one of them needs to be the word “Love.”

One of the reasons people come back to church is because they feel and hear and experience the word Love. I am thankful that we have a church that is filled with love.

What I have also learned is that a big part of LOVE is FORGIVENESS…

Because people are going to do things…, and people are going to say things that hurt.

"There are three things that will endure--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love."

"Let love be your highest goal…, 1 Corinthians 13:13-14 (NLT)

The most powerful phrases you will ever hear or speak are words of forgiveness and words of love.

A church needs to be a community… of love.

III. Let the Spirit of God Take Us in the DIRECTION God Has Planned.

"Go to the Temple and speak to the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah. Ask him about the words written in this scroll that has been found. The Lord’s anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing what this scroll says we must do." 2 Kings 22:13

Josiah was born during the last half of the seventh century b.c.

He was born during the reign of a wicked and corrupt king Manasseh.

It was probably one of the darkest and lowest times in the history of God’s people.

Manasseh built more temples to the idol gods than all the other kings before him.

(Manasseh was so terrible he even sacrificed his own son in an offering of fire.)

The leadership of Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob was past.

The people were lost..., The people were confused on moral issues…,

They had no clear direction on spiritual matters.

But then Josiah, became king at the age of 8 years old.

The bible says that this boy king…, “Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord…

He did not turn aside to the right.

He did not turn aside to the left.

He walked in the ways of his ancestor David,

And he began to seek the direction God had planned.” (2 Chronicles 34:2-3)

If you are going to live in victory you have to walk in the direction God has planned for your life.

I have often tried to make the excuse…,

“I don’t know where God is leading…” “I don’t know what God has planned…”

“I don’t know what God wants me to do…” Well, none of us can know the future…

But I have learned this lesson: God is not trying to hide from us.

And so when someone makes the apology…, I don’t know what God wants me to do…,

What he or she is really saying is…, I have let my relationship with God slip so far to the right that my life is off course…, I have let my relationship with God move so far to the left that I don’t know where the main road is…, I have let my relationship with God take so many turns and twist that the direction in life has become unclear where God is leading and what God is doing.

Let me clarify this: There will be temporary moments of fog, and stormy weather…

There will be detours and landsides, and things that block our travels…

But we should always have an aerial view of direction that God is leading us…

God wants us to rise above the circumstances of our life and follow him.

We can sit and rest from time to time…, but only for a moment.

We must never get too comfortable that we fail to move when God says move.

The Prophet Ezekiel was led by the Holy Spirit of God into a valley full of dry bones.

It seems this valley was once the valley of a great battlefield, where thousands and tens of thousands of people had lost their lives in an apocalyptic fight.

This battlefield served as a warning about the disastrous mistakes of the past, and as a warning about the terrible things that would happen again in the future unless something changed.

And the Presence of the Lord said to Ezekiel…,

Speak to these bones and say to them.

“Behold, God will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live:" Ezekiel 37:5 (KJV)

Ezekiel must have thought to himself, "is this a dream or am I having a vision? Did God just say to preach to these dry bones?"

The prophet was faced with a choice. Was he to walk by what he saw around him?

Or was he instead going to walk by the faith that he had always believed in?

In a moment of faithfulness to the exceeding greatness of the presence of God…

Ezekiel obeyed and followed the voice and direction that God had commanded.

“Thus saith the Lord God, Come from the four winds, O Spirit,

and breathe upon these dead that they may live.” Ezekiel 3:9

And God began to breathe new life into those bones again.

The direction God wants us to go in life is first of all: (1. Not to make the same mistakes over and over again in the future that we have already made in the past. (2. That no matter how dry and dead and lost someone has become they are never to lost for God to bring life and joy back into them and save them. (3. Somebody has to talk to the dry bones… and tell them the Good News. There are a countless unchurched and lost people within a short distance of this church. (4. All of the preaching and teaching can not put life back into the dead…, the dry…, and the lost…, Unless it is thru the “Presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that can save.”

As I opened my eyes and my ears I heard a voice say…,

Hurry up…, You have overslept…,

It will be time for church soon.

Was it all just a dream?

Was it a vision of what God wants for us…

I guess it is up to each and every one of us here today to decide.

I know this to be true…

Closing: Real change and church growth begins when people tell others about their personal relationship with Christ. The church grows when it is a community of love. Real change happens when we let the Spirit of God take us in the direction God has planned. What attracts people to one church over another? What brings them back again? It is not the building. It is not even the people. It is the “Presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”