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Psalm 146:5-10 Praise the Lord!

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; 7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 10 The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!  [NRSA]

  1. At the core of celebrating Christmas is the telling God’s story
  2. It is not a New Story
  3. It is a Story of Good News for a Broken World
  4. It is Your Story to Live

It may be somewhat strange to turn to the Psalms to hear the Good News of Christmas. Be reminded that God who has been calling all people to trust him, has the same heart of love shown in creation, revealed through out shared history, made plane in the manger in Bethlehem, is the same love and message of hope for the world.

Question 1: Do you know God’s Good News in your life?

The Good News that Jesus makes plain is fortold in the worship songs, the Psalms. Here in Psalm 146 the song retells that our HAPPINESS comes from God and not our things, not our money, not our success, not our accomplishment, RATHER – Our Joy and Hope come from God..

If you and I are looking for Joy and Hope in others things and other relationships they will all disappoint us if God is not in them.

Look around, in the world, in our community, in our church, in our homes, in our own hearts: We do not always place God first in our hearts, minds and soul.

Question 2: Are you persuaded and guided by God’s Hope? 

If you believe God is at work in the world today and in your life, you have the very message that God has been trying to share with the world. It only takes a moment to see the brokenness and fear that leads people’s hearts, minds and spirits to know — Faith, Hope and Love are precious gifts that need to be shared and unwrapped.

I have to believe that most everyone of us would want to answer, “YES!” I am persuaded! I believe God loves the world and God desires the world around me to see, hear and experience God’s love through my life. (your life). But in how many short minutes or seconds before our pride, our greed, our selfishness, our demons, our dependancies, our fears tempt, test and tear us away?

Question 3. Do you remember that it is God’s Story in us and not the reverse.

Psalm 146 calls the people of God, while in worship, to remember the eternal power God has for us, who believe and serve. The words are comfort to those held captive, those blind, and those oppressed. The Lord lifts up the stranger, the orphan and the widow. The Good News to which Jesus preaches in his first home-town sermon. 

The part of the sermon that gets him run out of town is that God is not saving the lost and empowering the powerless to do their own thing, God is blessing us to be God’s servants, witnesses and messengers.

The Psalm is clear that God is not about supporting wickedness, pride, greed, fear, brokenness and sin. God has come to free us from these things, but not to return to them as our master. 

The 4 Question is this: Who is entrusted to tell and live the story? 

Is it those who test the Lord loving-kindness or those who follow God’s ways?  The Psalms sings: Praise the Lord! (Not look what I want, what You want, what I need, what you need… The seperation we experience and witness in the world is that we turn our hearts away from our hope and salvation. 

As a culture-of-church we have become more of an institution, an organization and a entity of operations. We talk about OUR ministry, OUR building, OUR mission, and OUR church. We hear the Psalmist remind us, that we about God’s ministry, God’s heart, God’s temple, God’s work and God’s witness. 

As a culture-of-church we have grown to expect someone else to do the work and us to receive the ‘Cliff-notes’ gift-pack that makes it easy to receive. When we expect to be served, we are not serving. When we anticipate the transaction of getting because we have given. Whew think of ourselves as entitled to the benefits of membership, we need to revisit the words of the Psalms: Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. 

In our journey toward Christmas and rekindling the presence of Christ in ourlives, know this:

  • God is calling us to worship him
  • God is calling us to repent of our sins, fears and selfishness
  • God is calling us to trust him 
  • God is calling me (state your name) to be the witness to the world
  • IF THIS IS OUR TO DO LIST: We need Christ to be our
    • Our Strength
    • Our Good News
    • Our Word
    • and OUR HOPE

Prayer: Lord make us yours, be our strength, draw us to your word and call, and open the hearts and minds of everyone we meet to receive you through our words and witness of your power, love and grace. Amen.

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Isaiah 2:1-5 Walking in Light

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! [NRSA]

Walking in the Light

Just last night I stubbed my little toe for the third time this week. OOOh. OWwww. UMph! I was not looking where I was stepping. I was thinking of my destination and didn’t pay attention to the path. I suppose I am as stubborn and my toe pays the price.

This first Sunday of Advent is a call to walk the path of light.  We will see the path in the words of prophets from long ago, in the brilliance of angel songs, in the order of distant stars and throughout the witness of God’s word for us and for the world.

If the world is to be transformed by the AWESOME work and news we find at Christmas it will not be through packages, decorations and jolly traditions of giving. We find Christ when we follow the path Christ’s light leads us, and then, only then, other traditions may follow.

The Advent Tradition Reveals our Journey

We will light candles of Hope Peace Joy and Love

These are our milestone markers along the way

Week One

Start Walking – Walking in the Light

Start disciplines of singing, reading, preparing for Christ.

The Characters

With Luke’s Gospel, start reading and studying the core story in Chapter 1 and the start of 2. You will surely know the stories but read them with an intention to retell them, teach them, and find your presence in the stories. 

  • Are you the parent? 
  • A child?
  • a messenger? 
  • an unbeliever? 
  • a doubter? 
  • a late-night employee? 
  • The aunt or uncle? 
  • a bystander? 
  • one blessed ready to serve? 
  • one who was scared? 

We can find ourselves in many if not most of these throughout our lives.. These are the perspectives 

The prophet Amos had a son, Isaiah, one of the most prolific prophets of God’s people, has a word for all of God’s people, those of the North and the South; those of the Left and the Right; a word for those Then and for us Now!

Listen Up!

 Advent is our Journey toward Christmas

  • It is an upward climb up the highest mountain, with a the greatest view
  • The path is a process with purpose and faithfulness.
  • Instructions are for the world and not the reverse
  • The Word of the Lord is from Jerusalem for the world to hear, see, believe and trust
  • We have a judge among the nations
  • The judgment will be working toward peace and not war
  • The work will be transformational
  • Everyone in the house, listen up and be ready for the journey
  • It is time to walk in the light.

I have enjoyed many hikes in my life. The memorable ones were not easily accomplished. The same will be true for our spiritual journey this month. We are tempted to take the ride up to the top or look at someone else’s photos taken at the summit but we are cheating ourselves from the hike.

Isaiah’s call is to follow the path.

There are times that the adventure is off the beaten path, but the spiritual path toward finding Christ born afresh and anew in outlives is found following God’s path.

God’s path follows

  • the wisdom of prophets
  • the messages of angels
  • the call of faithfulness, and 
  • the steadiness of trusting God to be revealed in the process.

There is not a shortcut in spiritual growth.

Our Task is to make Peace

We know Jesus is the Prince of Peace and if we are following Christ’s path, it will be a journey of peacemaking.

It is worth great note that Isaiah is addressing a divided kingdom.

The answer is not for the northern or southern kingdom to yield to one or the other, RATHER

BOTH are to yield toward God’s heart

     The witness of doing God’s Work revealed in Christ is to TRANSFORM the elements of the

     battle into implements of building, feeding, clothing and healing the nations.

We have witnessed a great day of rivalries in the college football world this weekend.

  • It is easy to take sides
  • maintain traditions
  • cheer for our team
  • and boo the enemies
  • It’s a fun legacy of honoring alma mater and celebrating traditions

But it is just the opposite of the work we have ahead of us as those looking for Christ.

We begin in the HOPE of peace.

Before HOPE is fulfilled for us in CHRIST, begin our work of TRANSFORMING the things that divide us so that we are less apt to resume a battle if we are not preparing for battle.

We have friends whose child just got accepted to UT, the mother is an alumnus of Vanderbilt, she was lamenting the wearing of Orange. We reminded her that she could wear White and Smokey Grey and still show her support as a loving mother.

In the weightier matters of our lives, we see the division of politics and the best place to transform the weapons might be social media. Avoid the public responses that brand and shame, and find ways to communicate one-to-one in ways bridge rather than promote the fight.

There are times that we are scared, threatened, challenged, inconvenienced, tested and even attacked and out self-preservation is to return the attack or withdraw. Nations become divided when people stop treating one another with respect and trust. Instead of working toward the same goal, selfishness wins.

The church is divided over selfishness in the name of God. That is actually blasphemy

The nation is divided over power in the name of Good. That is delusion

When families or friends are divided over agendas. That is polarization

Blasphemy – Delusions – Polarizations have NOTHING to do with the path of God’s Kingdom.

The Road to Christ

is shedding the tools of fear and brokenness 

Transforming these talents for those that build 

Trust in God, A quest for God’s Heart and the unity that ONLY God can provide.

We celebrate these being made clearest and nearest through Jesus Christ.

What’s Next

First, Start climbing, spend the time, words, relationships, and tools we have on God’s path and not our own.

         Confess our sins, fear, brokenness, selfishness, shame, and journey together

May the first week of December/ Advent be transforming ourselves to become God’s implements, God’s people

  • God’s prophets, 
  • healers, 
  • teachers, 
  • builders, and 
  • all those who know to stay on God’s path of Light.

This is our HOPE to start the climb.

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Colossians 1:11-20 “Joyfully Giving Thanks”

from Charlie Browns Christmas Movie

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. [NRSA]

We are thankful for many things. Our litany of appreciations includes the usual, family, health, home and nation and for those who helped us preserve our great opportunities. But one thing is missing from this list that differs between Thanksgiving and Paul’s words to the church at Colosse: Giving God Thanks, Joyfully. 

Paul reminds us of why we encourage one another to not only be thankful but to GIVE thanks. Because of God’s work and love of us through CHRIST.

And we say to ourselves,

  • that’s semantics,
  • Just say what you were going to say and remember to give God some ‘love’n’
  • Give God some credit
  • make sure you name God and Jesus in your lists of thanksgiving appreciations.
  • Check that off the list and get to the turkey and fixing, ball games and naps.

Paul’s words to the Church have little to do with our tradition of natives and settlers sharing a meal of fellowship.

Paul is reminding us to order life in God’s Purpose.

(he is reminding us that the Home Run life is living in the fruit of God’s grace and purpose:

Say to your neighbor: I am Thankful God. I am thankful for God.

  • It is because of God, that we HAVE a share in Christ’s inheritance.
  • It is because Christ has rescued us from sin and death,
  • It is through Christ that we are children of light and 
  • It is through Christ that we are co-heirs of God’s kingdom.
  • It is Jesus that we give thanks.

Remind Your Neighbor of Paul’s words to the church: I am thankful for Jesus

  • Jesus who makes God visible and approachable to God,
  • It is because of God’s Power who has 
  • authority and power above all other things.
  • It is because God has created all things for God’s purpose,
  • The cause to give thanks is that even though God who is the author of all things, has created us for God’s purposes, for God’s order. God’s order is through the church. 

Tell another neighbor: I am thankful God purpose include us in the church

  • God is the head of the body
  • God is the beginning of the purpose
  • God is the author of life.
  • God who is all this, places God’s own self into Jesus who then sacrifices himself for us.

As Christians, we are to take every day to GIVE GOD THANKS, but on this holiday of THANKSGIVING, we witness to the world about what God has done and is doing in the world.

Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang recall our national heritage of breaking bread and giving thanks because of the fruitful work of cooperation and teamwork. And we can “KEEP” the tradition going for another generation and NEVER mention the PRIMARY reasons we have to be THANKFUL AND GIVE THANKS.

Tell your neighbor there is a difference between BEING Thankful and GIVING Thanks.

“There is a difference between BEING Thankful and GIVING Thanks.

When acknowledging all the things, people and opportunities we have we are tempted to highlight only what we have done or to

highlight what others have done, but 

BUT, as PEOPLE of JESUS CHRIST

Paul is reminding us to ALWAY be GIVING Thanks to God.

What does that mean in every day life and 

how Does this make our Holiday different from a national tradition.

IT IS A THIRD BASES activity. To use our Home Run Life model.

We are taking the context of a National Holiday and to REMIND one another and to 

WITNESS to the WORLD, that God is the FIRST recipient of our THANKS and PRAISE

  • GIVE our Praise to God
  • GIVE credit to God
  • GIVE Christ the appreciation

Actively connect the skills, relationships, opportunities we have as gifts from GOD.

  • And then has God is at work in the others in our lives

And then as God is work in our blessings and labors

Therefore for us, as the church and the people of Jesus Christ

May we use this occasion to teach the nation, the world and one another

  • that would not be the people we are without God
  • we would not have to peace and love without Christ
  • we would not have purpose, power, and plan without God’s Holy Spirit.

This is the difference in REMEMBERING history, tradition, and values, and LIVING, modeling and thriving in the authority of God, the love of Christ and power of the Spirit.

Tonight we gather to give thanks as a church family

This week we gather with others to give thanks

my invitation to you, through Paul’s words,

  • it to make it about all about God, make all about Jesus, make it all about the church
  • and we will not only show our love and praise to God
  • We will teach the world the Good News and WHY we are Thankful.

Give it all to God

Tell you neighbor :  “I am all in for God.”  I AM ALL IN, 

Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus; Thank you Jesus, my Savior, My God

You have Bought me, You have brought me, YOU have brought me a mighty long way 

and I Thank You…

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Getting Past 3rd Base

HOME RUN LIFE     Week 4

On the way, but not yet home…

Romans 12:1-2

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. [CEB]

Getting Past Third Base Pressures and Temptations

What’s On Third? 

1. Have you ever worried about money?

2. Have you ever struggled with people at work?

3. Have you had others measuring your performance/success?

Third is the place our Talents, Skills, and Opportunities 

Intersect with the Expectations of the World.

Life is more than 3rd Base

Q: Is my purpose in life to meet the world’s or God’s expectation?

  • My PURPOSE is in my CREATOR, 
  • not my CAREER, WEALTH, nor MY MIND
  • Therefore I live AND work for my CREATOR first!

A Home Run Life is actually putting God ahead of everything

What does that look like in our lives?

  1. God is my provider, I TRUST in God.   – Begin day focused in GOD
  2. God is provider, I WORK for God.   – Colossians 3:22-25
  3. God is my provider, I WAIT for God’s FAVOR.  – Joshua 23 (1:1000)

When we are living in God’s Character, building relationships with others in God, God will provide a way for us to be successful in God’s Work in our 3rd base opportunities and responsibilities.

Which of these gives me more trouble today?

Don’t WALK when we should be RUNNING  – a life of working for Jesus Christ, God doesn’t bless crap.

There is no way to be 100 in every area of our lives unless we follow God’s pattern. Giving our BEST

(Story of the House cleaner who got a second chance — a $1.61 — the only one who found all the gifts. 

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Second Base: Home Run Life Series

How do you get in scoring position?

Batten Joyner of Vets Pets stands on second base after hitting a stand-up double in a recent Wilson City Little League ages 7-8 Single-A League at Gillette Baseball Complex. WCLL

Any coach will tell you that when on Second, the next hit is a potential run.

Catch up / Review: To have a home run life there is a pattern God uses: Romans

  • Home —  Connecting with God
  • First —   Character – win within
  • Second — Community – Win with people
  • Third — Competence, Results
  • Begins and ends with God

THE ORDER MATTERS

  • The world runs backward
  • When we run for results first, we cheat ourselves, relationships and God.
  • We think we don’t have time for the long way
  • Running backward, we get thrown out

Second Base:  Scoring position, the relationship of Character and Community

PRINCIPLE: Figures out what counts on the last day, so that you know to count every day.

a. Your last day on earth is your first in heaven. What is going to matter in heaven. — live like you know you will be in heaven.

b. Learn from the places of perspective. Second base sits before the performance, it is a place of perspective. Is 6.49 40-     James 4:14

c. God is great I am not

d. Stuff is temporary, souls are eternal

e. Only two things that last forever:    God’s word and  People

f. We love people and use things, NOT use people and love things

             CHARLIE BROWN.. I love the world it’s the people

SECOND BASE SKILLS FOR OUR RELATIONSHIPS

follow God’s example, walk in the way of love — second base

just as Christ loved us, just as he gave himself for us…

SKILLS to love as God loves

  1. keep your word —- connect the character God makes in your relationships.
  2. Keep your calendar aligned with your relationships.  — make the time
  3. Keep Short Accounts  – learn to forgive
  • You forgive what you cannot fix and
  • let God do the rest
  • have to love as God loves
  • when you get a raw deal, deal with it right
  • Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

Before we turn the corner on third, take the standing double perspective to see through the relationships, as people of God’s Character, what matters are the people and God’s word, and when we love as God loves we are prepared to produce God’s fruit.

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Romans 12:1-2 From Home to First: Home Run Life Series

What is your on-base percentage?

1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [NRSA]

Recap of the Home Run Life

Connect, Character, Community, Competence

  • The pattern God uses to grow us.
  • Know you know what God is doing
  • The world starts backward

How do you get on base to get the Home Run life?

  • Get to God’s purpose with God’s power
  • First God wants to change you, Character, personal base, win within
  • Second base, Community, where you win with others
  • Third Base, competence, performance, results, success in life, true success

The pattern

Rom 12:1-2, offer yourself as living sacrifices, no longer conform to the pattern of this world

  • God’s pattern is clockwise, God wise
  • The World’s pattern is counter, backwards, 
  • We run toward performance

That is CHEATING

  • relationship
  • character
  • God
  • and self

YOU GET THROWN OUT before we get to first.

“Too busy to be in bible, worship, sun, small group, prayer, etc..

Home plate to First base?

  • a third of batters Strikeout
  • The next third, get thrown out before getting first base
  • The Earlier we get this the better we are off in life.
  1. Things to know
    1. IN the Vine, is the power to win within, When I drift from the vine, I drift into vice.
    2. There is a flow of power, that moves from the main vine, which powers the branch for the fruit
      1. You have a power not available anywhere else
      2. If you live disconnected from God’s power your only power is vice.
      3. You can have to power to connect how you can nowhere else
      4. STAY connected
        1. When we get a spiritual high, we get comfortable, we begin to believe its OUR power
        2. We return to the old self, It was always God’s Power
        3. IF I DRIFT from the VINE I return to the old VICES.
    3. Lamp. I am the socket, you are the cord, and you will light the world through me.
    4. (NEED A LAMP AND POWER CORD)
  1. Things to do

Three major swings

  1. Live for the Truth
    1. IF someone says, there is no absolute truth, its all contextual. That statement is an absolute assumption and thus a contradiction
    2. Consequences of not seeking the Truth
    3. Father in heaven longs for us to know GOD’s Truth
    4. STORY: Father/Son   Home Run dad, finally lesson to learn about outs, rules, when the father reminds rules, warns and then tags out between 2 and 3rd, son keeps running home and slides… “home Run Dad. No, you’re out. No, it’s my ball, my bat, may bases, and I say it’s a homer.”  (not the truth)
    5. If we continue living by our rules and the world’s rules then were already out before we go to bat. 
  1. PLUG INTO THE VINE
    1. We can make things too complicated
    2. Agricultural example  We see grapes they are connected to a vine through the branch.
    3. Electrical Example. PLUG in, Light up,  you have light for your life
      1. if you disconnect you are in the dark.

1st Base is connecting to God through Character-building activities

  1. Worship,
  2. Study
  3. Prayer
  4. Fellowship
  5. Small-Group

<example of being stuck in the car shut down…  Drive-thru at McDonald’s, WHAT IF SOMETHING IS DISCONNECTED>

Look at all the places that frustrate and 

it couldn’t be as simple as being plugged into God or unplugged from God

CHAPTER 5 in the book, (if you don’t have it get it, if you have it read it and share it.)

What does it mean for you to be in GOD’s WORD

  • Work at it
  • and reset your expectation

How do you get into God’s word

  • Have a time in God’s work or in prayer
  • if you don’t break through you are not connected

SO GO get to work, wrestle it down

  • REMAIN IN the VINE
  • STAY CONNECTED

God wants to take us, that only God can take us.

We need to reconnect.

God wants to go to FIRST BASE CHARACTER

  1. DRAW THE LINK

When you are living for truth and stay connected to the vine

God will reveal where sin is.. God will draw a line, to free you up to get on base.

This is how much God loves you

Acknowledge the lines and trust God, stay connected, yield

Romans 6  WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US

6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For he who has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. [NRSA]

We are dead to sin and alive to Christ

Vs. 6  Old self is dead to sin, so we are no longer dead to sin, since Jesus has conquered to live in Christ Jesus

Do not let sin reign 

vs 14 sin will no longer be your sin

vs 17  Thanks be to God you used to be slaves you now have allegiance to God, slaves to righteousness

Easy sins may go quickly but there are likely one or two, in your neighbor.. .haha

confession time

FEAR – Fear of rejection, failure, disappointment, approval, financial fear

LUST – want for food, material things, physical desires, success wealth, 

WORRY –  what I have given up before even trying for the power of worry.

a longing to indulge without moderation

Romans 6 is true

\a consistent connection is essential to get to first base, to not be lost to sin, to be out, to be disconnected

GOD conquers sin, but we have to remain in the vine, connected.

None of us is perfect, RIGHT?

we can all be tempted

I can make errors

PRO’s still make errors, look at the bloopers TAPE

<Blooper videos>

Frustrating, WE DROP the ball spiritually

We don’t have to be owned by sin

FEAR, LUST, WORRY are mine,

What are you three?

What is the one that Keeps getting you thrown out?

A Sacred moment, 

surrender to break the cycle of sin in your life

Card: NO NAMES, No copying? No peeking? 

What is the thing that is costing you from getting close to God?

Give it as a sin offering

  • Temper
  • lust
  • worry
  • gossip
  • slander
  • criticalness
  • bitterness
  • grief
  • drunkenness
  • addictions
  • adultery
  • porn
  • Fear
  • Pray over, break the cycle of sin… 

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Home Run Life Week 1

12Stone Church Kevin Myers Series: Home Run Life
Home Run Life – Week 1 Genesis 37-50; Romans 12 Original Sermon link Edited to be used by Rock Spring UMC Study Series

A Sermon and Study Series for RSUMC, come join the game.

Welcome to Home Run Life Week 1. I am so excited to share in this series with you. Let’s just dive in. Let’s play ball.

On the back of your bulletin, you will find teaching notes and four questions that can transform your life. The first question is…

1. What makes for a home run life? In other words, everybody wants a home run life.

Everybody wants that kind of experience in the whole of their life. The question is what are the elements that make up for a great life? I’m glad you asked. Here’s what I think is the first one, obvious to all of us. I think the first element is a success. See, when we’re young and we dream about our lives, we dream about a job, financial, business, sports, career success. That’s why I love the Super Bowl XXXIII commercial by monster.com. It captures the essence of this. You’ll enjoy it. It’s one of my favorites. Check it out.

[Video]

  • Boy: When I grow up, I want to file all day.
  • Boy: I want to claw my way up to middle management.
  • Girl: …be replaced on a whim.
  • Boy: I want to be a yes-man.
  • Girl: …yes-woman.
  • Girl: “Yes, sir.” “Coming, sir.”
  • Boy: “Anything for a raise, sir.”
  • Girl: When I grow up…
  • Boy: When I grow up…
  • Boy: I want to be underappreciated.
  • Girl: …be paid less for doing the same job.
  • Boy: I want to be forced into early retirement. [End of video]

That’s just funny. That is backhanded sarcasm, isn’t it? I mean, nobody really aspires when they’re young, “Oh, I hope I grow up and accomplish small things. I hope I grow up and a strikeout.” No! No, when you imagine the life you long for, you imagine success. But hear me.

Success is too small to make up the whole of a life dream.

In fact, you may start with success, but that’s not the end. Whether you’ve ever thought about it or not, when you dreamed of the life you had longed for, you imagined it would have someone. You imagined it would have…what? Someone. It’s “someones.” Someone was involved in that dream, that hope for a dream life.

Whether it was coworkers or teammates, close friends… Maybe it was that soulmate. You longed someday to get married, hoped for kids, the beauty of family. See, there was always this someone because success without someone is hollow.

Let me illustrate with a golf joke. Are there any golfers here across the campuses? Are there any golfers? Let yourself be known. All right. Then you’ll appreciate this. There was this pastor who

loved to golf. It was driving him nuts because every Sunday was sunny and gorgeous and every day off was rainy. See, he had been brought up in that tradition where you can’t golf on Sunday. That would be wrong. That would be a sin. He could never golf on Sunday, and it was ticking him off. I mean, this was happening every week. Finally, he just said, “God, I can’t take it anymore! I want to do the wrong thing.” He made the phone call, and he said, “I’m not going to be in this weekend.” He told the assistant pastor to preach for him. He left on that Sunday morning and drove two or three counties away so nobody would know him. He got on the golf course. Just like every other Sunday, it was sunny. It was gorgeous. It was beautiful. He got on the first tee and said, “I know this is going to be miserable, God. I know you’re not going to help me, but I’m doing it anyway. I’m playing golf.” He hit the first drive: 275-300 yards (it blew his mind) down the center. I mean, he parred the first hole. He was out of his mind. He had the best game of his life. He got to the last hole. He hit the ball, and it was a hole-in-one…every golfer’s dream! He was out of his mind. He was dancing on the green. He was like, “God, I thought you would make this miserable for me.” God said, “I did!” “What do you mean?” “Who are you going to tell?”

Success all alone is empty. Success without the “someones” is diminished joy. See, when you dreamed of your life, you not only imagined you would have success; you dreamed there would be the people you love and the people who love you. That’s not all you ever dreamed. If you’ve never thought about it, you also dreamed of self-respect. See, you imagined you would be able to look into the mirror and respect the person you see in the mirror without dropping your eyes in disgrace. You imagined a person who could rise up with self-leadership who would not be owned by pleasures and passions and addictions, a person with integrity. See, wherever you go, there you are. If you can’t respect the person you are, it’s a pretty miserable life. Maybe you never thought about it before, but you not only imagined life of success and someone and self-respect. It’s not over. You imagined significance. What did you imagine? You dreamed your life dream would lead to significance, that your life would make a difference.

You imagined it would count for what matters, not just that you would have empty success, not just to make a dollar but to make a difference. Now that’s a great life. That’s a great dream. That’s a success in someone, self-respect, and significance. That’s a home run life. Everybody longs for that. Those are the elements in it, but very few people actually get that life. In fact, most of us get one or two of those things and crash on the rest.

That was the experience for Luis Ramos who, over a decade ago, was sitting in a place just like you here and I was delivering the first kind of testing seasons of Home Run Life. Here’s a slice of his story. [Video]

Luis Ramos: My name is Luis Ramos, and I’m 44 years old. I’ve been married to my high-school sweetheart for almost 25 years. You know, I find myself in one place in business and family and relationships that, thank God, today is really great and very fulfilling. It wasn’t always that way, however.

I had made my life about having more, getting more, making more, and achieving more. Everything else was falling apart around me. My marriage was falling apart. I barely knew my children. I told myself it was for everybody else, so I said, “I’m doing this for my family. I’m going to make sure I set us up for a great life.” That’s nonsense. It’s not true. I really loved the feeling I got from success. It was addictive. I just needed a clean break and to start all over.

I told my wife I had made a mistake, and we were really not meant to be together. On a Sunday in early October, my wife was going to church with the kids. I decided to join them really to keep up appearances. It just so happened it was the first day of a multi-week series on the Home Run Life. I sat there, and I was intrigued by the production, but what really caught me was Kevin starting to tell the Home Run Life story, the parable. [End of video]

Like Luis, most of us get one or two elements in our life dream, and then we crash in the rest. Maybe that’s because nobody has ever taught us how God grows us up. In fact, that brings us to

the second question of four questions that can transform your life.

2. What can we learn from Joseph’s journey?

For our limited time, let me highlight from Genesis 37-50 in the Old Testament the story of Joseph. I’ll pick highlights. I’ll pick out kind of breakthrough moments in his life to put this together. Joseph was 17 years old when he had a dream. It was a dream about his future. It was literally a vision from God.

Now Joseph was the son of Jacob, the grandson of Isaac, the great-grandson of Abraham. He was in the line of God’s great promises. His father, Jacob, was highly influential, very affluent. Joseph was a favored son. He had many older brothers. In fact, by the end of the story, you discover his older brothers and he together made up eventually what’s called the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel. The name of his father Jacob was changed to Israel. That’s where Israel gets the name.

Back at this time, he is 17 years old. He is a favored son, and he has what Scripture calls a “coat of many colors,” which means he is important. Dad gave it to him. He is kind of bragging. See,

this is ticking his brothers off. They’re full of jealousy, and Joseph is walking around in his coat, strutting like he is somebody.

Then he not only acts like he is important to his earthly father, but also he is like, “I don’t know what to say, guys. I’m obviously important to Dad, and I’m obviously more important to God

because I had a vision. Did anybody get a vision? No? Nobody else? I had one. Guess what? In the vision, I’m standing, and you’re bowing. Isn’t that an awesome vision, guys?” Nobody was excited. By the way, nobody gets excited when your vision is you’re standing and they’re bowing. Joseph had every reason to believe this was going to come about, this would happen. Why? Because God was in it. In fact, we often quote promises of God. We’ll jump into the New Testament like John 10:10 where Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.”

Then we expect the very next thing when we come to a relationship with God through Jesus is life is now going to be easy and awesome. Joseph was probably expecting the next thing to be a success. The next thing was a pit. He got thrown into a pit. His brothers got tired of this, so they literally threw him down into a pit. They took his coat of many colors. They cut it up so it looked like an animal tore it up. They put ram’s blood on it, took it back to Dad, and said, “Dad, it looks like Joseph went bye-bye.”

Of course, those were pre-DNA days. You could figure that out today, but not back in the day. Now they take him from the pit, and they sell him into slavery. Off he goes to Egypt. His father assumes he is dead, and nobody comes to rescue him. Joseph has to be asking himself, “God, what on earth are you doing?”

Have you ever asked that of God? Have you ever just said, “God, I’m trying to follow you. What on earth are you allowing in my life?”

[Kevin Myers] was 30 years old, 9 years into [his] marriage. It was one of the most undoing years in [his] life when [he] had to sit down with [his] wife and ask her to go back to work. Now understand [they had] married for nine years. For the first five years, there was some good ministry stuff. For the last four years, [they] were planting 12Stone. [They] said, “Once we have a couple of kids, you get to be a full-time mom.” We had a couple of kids, but [he] had to ask her to go back to work because [he] was failing in [his] work. [They] had lost [their] house money. Some of you have heard these stories. [They] had lost cars and savings and a little IRA stuff and everything [they] had. [They] were going bankrupt. [They were] doing odd jobs and everything [they] knew to do. It was like, “Honey, if you don’t go back to work, we’re done.” I’m in this pit, and I’m like, “Hello, God! What are you doing when you let this happen?” [He] didn’t know then, but [now he] can tell you now what [he] thinks God was doing. God was helping [them] win dependence.

In fact, many of you may find yourself in pits you didn’t create, and God has allowed them to come your way. You’re like, “God, what are you doing? [We] expect it to be easy and awesome.”

Maybe God is doing the same thing. That’s God was doing with Joseph. Watch this. He was helping Joseph win dependence.

God was stripping Joseph of everything he would have used to make this dream possible so he could move Joseph from self-reliance to God-reliance. Oh, that’s a major move! See, many of us never grow up spiritually because nobody ever told us how you grow up spiritually. We know how you grow up humanly. We don’t know how you grow up spiritually. Let me just give you a quick understanding of it.

Here’s how you grow up humanly. You move from dependence to independence. Let me talk for a moment. How many of you here have children under 5 years of age? Hands up. You have children under 5 years of age. There you go. You see the hands. They’re adorable, right? You’re just drawn to them. You’re endeared. Through their elementary years, you cannot imagine them ever leaving. Then God makes them teenagers. Now you cannot imagine them staying. See, that’s a process.

You start out. They’re wholly dependent on you. Then they’re progressively moving from dependence to…what? Independence. Spiritual growth is the opposite. This is how you grow up spiritually.

You are born in sin, separated from God, distant from God. You think you’re your own god. You’re independent and independent from God you begin to grow and be drawn to God.

You discover God loves you and, through Jesus, he made a way for you to be restored to him.

You come to faith through Jesus, and your entire journey is to move you from independence to what, church? Dependence. Oh, this is a deep and wide reality. Jesus said in John 15, “I am the vine. You are the branch. If a man or woman remains in me, you will bear much fruit. But apart from me, you can do nothing.” Learn to depend. It takes a lifetime.

The second breakthrough in Joseph’s life was to win within. See, his second major breakthrough, the next one, was to win within.

He had a major temptation. See, now he was bought by Potiphar. At the age of 17, he was taken to Egypt and bought by Potiphar who was highly influential in the military arena of Egypt. He had been there, for now, five to seven years. He was probably 22 to 25 years old. He had risen up as a slave (how exciting is that?), overseeing the household affairs of his master, Potiphar, and his wife.

Potiphar’s wife made an indecent proposal, a sexual advance, engaged an affair. At that moment, he had to decide, “What kind of person am I going to be?” We all have to make that decision.

“What’s the moral code? Do I follow God or create my own?” See, Joseph couldn’t help that he was a slave on the outside, but he didn’t have to be a slave on the inside to his passions, his appetites, or his desires. He could be a man of integrity, and he made the right decision.

Oh, by the way, for making the right decision, do you know what happened? He got thrown in prison. Isn’t that awesome? “Yay, God! I did the right thing, and I lost.” See, Potiphar’s wife said he actually did initiate and rape her, and Potiphar threw him into prison. Have you ever done the right thing and took a loss instead of a win? Oh, but God is not done.

The next major breakthrough is a win with others. Get in the story with me for a moment. Just everybody here, campuses, go with me on this. Now Joseph is the servant. He is a slave. He is the guy on his hands and knees. He is cleaning the floor. While he is doing that in Egypt, very important people are walking by, and they don’t even notice him. They just dismiss him.

Maybe that’s when Joseph discovered, “You know, I used to be important. I used to walk around my Dad’s place in my coat of many colors. I was somebody. Equally, there used to be people doing just what I’m doing…servants I never noticed.” Maybe God had him in that place to teach him how to value others. Because hear me. There are few things more redefining than when God puts you in the place of people you once dismissed. Maybe then Joseph realized, “I kind of helped put myself in this place. I dismissed my brothers and their issues, their needs.”

Between the ages of 21 and 25, [in his] first ministry experience was [Kevin Myers] was the associate pastor of a church that had tremendous growth. It was the fastest-growing in our little denomination and in that territory. [He] began to feel self-important. During that time, [he] subtly began to think differently toward pastors who led smaller churches. [he] started to think, “Do you know what? If those guys would just put a little effort in, it would work.” [he] subtly dismissed.

When [he] planted [his church new church,] “12Stone,” [they] had 104 people on the opening weekend. Four years later, [they] had

82 ([He was] just that good…yeah, yeah) during which season God whispers in [his] ear, “Now, Kevin, let’s talk again about pastors who lead smaller churches.” See, that’s how we learned that if you don’t value others, you use others.

Maybe God has you in some places just like this where you’re down on your knees, and you don’t want to be. You’re in some places in work or in life and relationship, and you’re begging for God to lift you up when God is trying to teach you how to win with others and value others.

By the way, we know Joseph broke through. Do you know how we know? Because fast-forward. When he was 39 years old, which is 22 years after they sold him into slavery… His brothers sold him into slavery at 17. Quick story. At 39 years old, he was already second in command in all of Egypt. There was a famine going on, and during the famine, guess what? A group of guys who were starving came there. They were his brothers. Guess who they had to kneel before in order to get food? This is such a good story!

They had to kneel in front of Joseph. The dream! Here his brothers are kneeling. He is standing. How well did that moment have to be for him? All he had to do was just wave his hand, and they would be executed. Instead, he executed mercy and forgiveness. That’s a changed, transformed man.

The next major breakthrough was to win results. Oh, this is huge! God helped him win results. Fast-forward. He was from 17 to 30… At 30 years of age, he had been in pits and prisons for 13 years. Pharaoh has a dream. The dream is from God. It’s a vision. He can’t interpret it himself, and neither can anybody else. Then they say, “Oh, there’s this guy Joseph who can interpret dreams.” They bring Joseph up. He faces Pharaoh. I mean, this is the most powerful guy in all the earth in his time and day. Pharaoh says, “I’ve had a dream. Can you interpret it?” Joseph says, “No.”

If I were coaching him, I would say, “Joseph, the answer is yes. Yes, Joseph. If you get a shot at a new job, the answer is, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ What are you going to lose? I mean, if you lose, if you fail, you just go back to prison. Come on. That’s where you are! If you lose your head, it’s better. You die. You just don’t have to go to prison. This is a shot for a promotion. Take it!”

Joseph was a changed man. I want you to see this. Do you know what he said? “No, I cannot, but if God wants to give it to me, he can.” This is somebody who figured out even in business God is a part of the process, and he was dependent on God. That’s good.

God did give him the interpretation, and he explained it to Pharaoh. There would be seven years of feast and seven years of famine. Then more than giving the problem, he delivered the solution. “Pharaoh, you should have someone manage the seven years of feast and put food away so, during the seven years of famine, Egypt survives.” Pharaoh looks around and says, “I don’t see anybody smarter than you, Joseph.

You get the job.” He elevated him to second in command in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. In one day, he went from prison to the palace. That’s a very good promotion day, wouldn’t you say? I mean, that’s the kind of day everybody is looking for in business.

It’s like, “Whew! How did you…? Tremendous.” You would think, “Oh, my gracious. That’s such success. That’s the pinnacle of his life.” It was not.

Pinnacle is when he moved from success to significance. He figured out with the coming of his brothers that his family was starving, and he said, “What you meant for bad, God meant for good, for the saving of many lives.” He brought the whole family (his father Jacob, all the families) and saved them. This is the nation of Israel through whom eventually comes the Messiah, our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

How significant is that? It begs the next question, number three of the four questions that can transform your life.

3. What is the pattern? With all of that, how does God really grow us up?

What is God’s game plan for life and leadership? When Joshua, [Kevin’s] eldest son, was 11 years old, [dad] had an awakening. Honestly, a confession. [He gives it to us.] [He] realized, “Even though he is a pastor, He didn’t know how to disciple his son.”

[Kevin] came to Christ at age 9. [He had] been in church ever since. [He went] to Bible school. [He had] a ministry degree at a university. [He’d] been to seminary. [He’d] been pastoring full-time. He realized, “I don’t even know how to disciple my son.”

Now it’s not that he doesn’t have the information. All the information in his head is all complex, but he didn’t know how to get it out and get it into something.

How would he transfer it so his 11-year-old son can know how God is going to grow him up. How to do it in an easy, transferrable, significant, meaningful way that will connect when you’re young and travel with you into your adult life. [he] was stumped. See, this whole Home Run Life thing was actually birthed from the heart of a father who wanted to help his son win.

That’s where the whole baseball thing came from, something that was accessible to a kid but could travel into adult life and even challenge pro athletes in a multi-billion dollar industry..

..There was this pattern. That word pattern became hugely important. Take your Bibles here. We’re in the book of Romans, chapter 12. This is the core Scripture God was soaking into [his] soul in this season. We don’t have time to detail everything, but I can tell you this. When it says, “Therefore…” what he is talking about is after all the theology, after all the teaching, after all, God has done to restore you to him through Jesus, now here’s the point, practically speaking.

Chapter 12, verse 1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Verse 2: “Do not conform…” Do not…what? Conform. Don’t do this. You can’t do this. “Do not conform to the…” There’s the word.

Say it with me, church. “…pattern…”

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world…” So there’s a pattern to the world. He goes on. “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” You have to see things differently. “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Oh my! There is a pattern God uses. This pattern God uses grows us up, but there’s a pattern of the world.

[Kevin] started to think, “Well, baseball has a pattern. What if what is true in life dreams is true in God’s design?” There are four bases everybody has to cover. It’s true in baseball when you’re young, and it’s true when you’re in the major league. It’s not like there are seven bases in the major league.

There are four bases. The only way you can score is when you cross… Humor me. What’s the answer? You always have to cross…what? Home plate.

In fact, when you leave home plate, you have to cover…what? First, second, and third base. This is what we know about baseball.

It’s really simple. If you miss a base, you’re called…what? Out.

Baseball is full of fresh starts. Many strikeouts but fresh starts. What do they call it when you run to the wrong base? Little league.

That’s the only time it’s funny. When a 4-year-old hits the ball and runs to third base, everybody is like laughing. “That’s awesome!” It’s not so funny when a major league player does it, because then he is called out.

By the way, that’s true in life. There is a pattern, and it’s as simple as baseball in how God grows you up. If you look at your teaching notes, here’s your fill-in-the-blank. Home plate. Home plate is where you connect. That is to say you connect to your Creator. I mean, we’re not just talking anybody.

We’re talking about the Creator of the universe, where you connect to God’s purpose for putting you here and God’s power to pull it off. Oh my goodness, this is huge! See, everything begins and ends at home plate. Everything begins and ends with God. It doesn’t start with you. It starts with God.

Just like when you come to the plate, you have to know your purpose, what you’re there to accomplish, and you need power at the plate, so it’s true in life. By the way, many of you listening are spiritually unresolved. You’re not even sure you believe in God.

You’re not sure you’re buying any of this. It’s okay. This is still your issue. Listen. It’s still your issue. You have to settle in life, “Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?” You’re living out that answer, whether you answered it or not…if not by design, by default.

The God who created you, who loves you deeply, who created a way for you to be restored to him through Jesus, is inviting you to connect. When you become the god of your life and make it start and end with you, of course it doesn’t work. You are not. When God comes into your life and you connect with him, the very first thing the power of God wants to do is take you to first base and change you.

It is called character. Home plate is ‘connect,’ and first base is ‘character.’ That’s the personal base. It’s how you win within. What often happens is when we come to faith in God through Jesus

Christ and we become followers of Christ… Do you know what happens in our souls? Oh, we get so excited. We know we can pray and God answers our prayer. Oh, this is so cool.

Do you know what we start praying? “Oh God, change everything else.” Right? “Now I got God. Change everything around me. Oh God, change my relationship with my job. Change my income, it is yours. It needs to go up for you. I need less. Change my boss’s heart. Change my spouse’s heart. I had no idea how much baggage we both had when we married. Oh God, change my kids. They have so much of my spouse in them. [haha] Who knew? God, change my house and change my stuff.”

Do you know what? We think the moment you get in a relationship with God, the whole point is to get God to change everything around you when the first thing God wants to do is change everything…where? Within you.

See, God wants to help you rise up with the character that keeps you from crashing and costing you his best in the rest of your life. Most of us get thrown out on the way to first.

Home plate is connect. First base is ‘character.’ Second base is ‘community.’ It is the people base where you win with others. Watch how simply powerful and profound this really is.

What is the first and greatest command Jesus taught us? To love God (home plate). Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second commandment is like unto the first. To love your neighbor (second base) as yourself (first base). Get it? Love God. Love yourself. Love others.

Third base is the competence base. Competence. So you go from ‘connect’ to ‘character’ to ‘community’ to ‘competence.’ This is the performance base. This is where you win results. By the way, when a baseball player gets to third base, is it a score? No! No, if you get left stranded on third base, it comes to nothing. Success is not an end in itself, not until you surrender that success to your significance, to the significance of why God put you here…

In other words, you have to live larger than yourself, and you live for God’s glory. This is how God grows us up, and the order of the bases actually matters. If that’s how God grows us up, if that’s the pattern that renews our minds so we can be transformed, then my question is…How does the world run the bases? We live in a world that runs the bases backward. You know this is true.

We live in a performance-driven society where what you do and success is how you’re measured. We are under such huge pressure in performing in life that we end up cheating the other bases.

We end up cheating what it takes to really build a marriage and a family. We end up cheating our integrity in order to get ahead over here. We end up cheating time with God. “Oh, we don’t have time to honor God one every seven days. I don’t have time for that. I have a busy life. Bible? Prayer? Are you kidding me? For what? That’s for weak people. I don’t do that. I don’t need that.” We end up cheating the very things that would give us the quality of life to

make sense of success and surrender it to significance. What if in a backwards base-running world we are losing a home run life God had imagined for us? That’s what Luis Ramos discovered. Here’s the rest of his story. [Video]

Luis Ramos: So I started talking about the tradeoffs we make, the fact that in a performance-driven culture, we are driven to run to third base. Very often what that results in is sacrificing relationships on second base and integrity on first base. It just hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought to myself, “This is my life. I’m destroying my relationships with my wife and my children, and it’s costing me, and it’s costing my kids. This is going to have repercussions on the rest of our lives.” I thought, “You know, I’ve been looking for this reboot. I’ve been looking for this fresh start. The reality is God is offering me a fresh start to do something with the life he gave me with the family he gave me and with the wife he gave me from my youth. I’m a fool if I think starting over with somebody else is going to turn into anything better, because the person breaking this is me.” I rededicated my life to the Lord, and I talked to my wife. I let her know. She was very skeptical, to say the least. By God’s mercy, she prayed hard about it. What she heard from the Lord was, “You don’t have permission to get out.” So she took me back. Pastor Kevin remarried us in the spring of 2001 with all of our children and our closest friends.

That running of the bases in a different pattern started a domino effect that didn’t just transformmy marriage and my children and our family, it transformed everything. It transformed my career. It transformed my business. You know, it transformed everything about me. [End of video]

See, that’s powerful. Oh yeah. When you let God renew your mind and how you run the bases of life, it will transform your life! Think about the whole of life in our society. We do our whole life backward. We spend our twenties to thirties (maybe into our forties and fifties) chasing success. Because of that, we will often burn one, two, or three marriages and estrange our kids. In our forties and fifties (or sixties) when we have enough success to realize it’s not as fulfilling… It’s a bit empty.

People enter into a marriage they start caring about and investing in and curiously want to go back and restore with their estranged kids. In their fifties and sixties, you start hearing them say to their grandchildren, “By the way, character counts. Who you are on the inside matters.” Why?

Because it’s borne out to be true. In their sixties and seventies, up to eighties, they start facing their mortality. They think, “Do you know what? Maybe there is a God. Maybe all along I got this wrong.”

It’s interesting. This November, Ted Turner, our local Atlanta CNN-Braves-Rancher-Philanthropist-mogul-Billionaire, is turning 81. In an article a few years ago were these thoughts. “Ted…the outspoken agnostic who had formerly described Christianity as ‘a religion for losers’ recently reaffirmed his openness to the religion. […] He no longer considers himself an atheist and prays for sick friends.” He closes, “Well, I sure don’t want to go to hell.” You see, we live in a world that runs the bases backward and ends up forfeiting the best God has for us. We could have a renewed mind and change the way we run.

4. How do you run the bases? More importantly, how will you run the bases of life?

Bow your heads with me. I want to take a moment to lead us in prayer. Our gracious God, many of us would have to confess like Luis that we get caught up in the ways of our world. Maybe it’s never occurred to us that we conform to the world’s pattern. Maybe it never occurred to us that under pressure, we’re costing ourselves the very things we long for. Would you grant us awakening as you did Luis? Would you do in us and for us and through us what you did for Luis? That will mean some of us right now… Even those of us who, maybe like a Ted Turner, are not even sure what we believe, but we’re starting to enter prayer because we know we’re not in control. Even us, Lord. We would ask you to renew our minds, transform our thinking to transform our lives. Maybe even some of us like Luis would have to say, “Lord, I rededicate my

life to you. Lord, I’ve gone adrift. I’ve gotten sloppy. I’ve joined the world. I wasn’t even aware of it. I’m not running the path that allows you to grow me up.” Lord, whatever would be our prayer unique to each individual, I ask you would give us the courage to confess and own what is ours, humility to ask for your help, and surrender to you that allows you to teach us not only this day but in this series. As a result, God, you would so bless our lives and our families, our character and our careers, that we would experience life to the full. Grant this blessing I pray, in Christ’s name. Everyone agreeing, say, “Amen.”

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Luke 16. Making a Name

Iceland. North American/ Eurasia Divide. 2017 at Midnight.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–that he may warn them so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” [NRSA}

The punch line 

“A poor man and a rich man each die one and they meets Abraham in heaven..”

This is how most religious jokes start. 

Actually they don’t meet at the pearly gates, they meet across a great Grand Canyon.  Lazarus is in the Bosom of Abraham. And the rich man is on the other side roasting in Hades.

  1. Here is the first punch line, in heaven the man who goes to Abraham is known as the rich man and the poor man is known as Lazarus.
  2. Here is the second punch line, the man who has everything that he needs here on earth, best to make sure, he not only has the faith that Lazarus has but also desires to care for Lazaruses at the doorway.

For those who have seen the Grand Canyon or even Cloudland Canyon, it is just too far of a distance to reach across and hand someone a drink of water.

The rich man pleads to Abraham to send Lazarus on a mission trip. A mission of mercy to those who are suffering on the other side of the tracks. 

One of the great things that go on a missionary travel trip beyond what is familiar to us is that it helps us see more clearly ourselves and our home turf and environment. I have had the opportunity to see extreme poverty in slums of Mexico, desert Peru, the rivers in Brazil, the mountains of Honduras, and rural outskirts of Moscow Russia. 

Every trip reveals three things: 

  1. we travel to help others outside our own community because we are blessed in ways our neighbors in these lands cannot.
  2. We meet people of different cultures who love their children and families, enjoy eating food, drinking water and breathing air.
  3. It sometimes takes crossing great chasms to see we are closer to Hades than Heaven in our daily lives. 

There are great opportunities to serve our neighbors in our community and around the world and we can reach in both directions because we have the honor and responsibility to do both as we wear whatever we choose and eat whatever we like.

  • The second punch line is that one fellow waiting to late to realize truly how blessed he was living. 
  • The first punch line reveals how we make a name for ourselves. Not by being poor necessarily, but when we are poor we can more clearly see what we cannot do for ourselves. 

One of the great things that he rich man cannot see is that he is asking the poor man to do something for him, the rich man is asking Lazarus to be his servant.  

The rich man has lost sight of caring for Lazarus as his neighbor 

He has also forgotten that he is to be a servant himself. 

The proof is in the pudding.

Scavenger Hunt > searching in the canned pudding story

The proof

The rich man asks on behalf of his family. 

Abraham’s reply is that you didn’t listen, you didn’t serve, you didn’t believe, neither will they.

The proof is ultimately in our willingness to trust God over the world, wealth and self.

Of course, we have the privilege of hearing Jesus tell this story to disciples like ourselves.  

The final punch line is that even though we have 2000 addition years of proof some of us are no closer to god in these days of great division.

Are you on the correct side of the great divide?

There is some assumption about Lazarus feeling snuggly satisfied that the selfish rich man got what was coming to him, but the truth in this story that Lazarus has nothing to say, no comment nor commentary. 

  • The only one making excuses
  • The only one taking and suggesting
  • The only one scrambling when that train has gone
  • Is the rich man 

The man with no name, no hope, no humility, no judgment, no shame, no chance

Is the one on the uncomfortable side of the chasm. 

<side note about those folks who ask if their will be Jews in Heaven, ask Abraham>

So what do we do with this parable?

Every parable teaches us about the kingdom of God. If we back up a few verses in Chapter Lk 16:15 “So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.” That is a powerful, powerful declaration.

What is an abomination in the sight of God?

“You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings…

  • A cup of cool water
  • Scraps out of our abundance
  • Recognizing we are called to serve nor be serve
  • Recognizing there are opportunities at our doorstep and around the world 
  • Recognizing there is an urgency to serve today, for tomorrow is not promised 

What is promised is a place of wholeness and rest in the bison of Abraham in the grace of Christ in the breath of the Holy Spirit and the heart to God.

Just two weeks ago I asked if you were willing to step up and reach someone who is lost 18 of us said yes.  

There is a chasm Andre wonder why our church faces a chasm

Why attendance is a conversation 

Why money is tight

  • If you are ready to offer that cool water to me who thirsts for Christ
  • If you are ready to serve the one who you’d expect to serve you
  • If you are ready with an assurance that God will save you, bless you, guide and fulfill you..  then get it there and love like Lazarus. 

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1 Timothy 2:1-7 “Right Time”

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all–this was attested at the right time.For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. [NRSA]

The Right Time for Christ 

We live in an era where the perceived acceptable times: 

  • to speak of Christ or 
  • to give witness of Christ or 
  • to worship is limited to a handful of moments, locations and circumstances. 

1. This is evidence and witness that there are those in the world works against us

2. This witness that we have listen to the powers and voices of our society and affirmed that our voice is second to others

3. This example shows that when pressed we as a whole are more comfortable clamming up, acquiescing the message of Christ.

Q: So a question is: When is the Right Time for Christ?

From the text, in history, God chose a specific season in human history to reveal covenants, commandments, and challenges.

In the specific time in history, God chose to be revealed not in words and idea, not in law and rules, but as person inviting relationship.

Paul’s words to the youthful pastor and church leader-in-training to see that God continues to have specific moments for showing the world, 

1. what the world needs to know and experience and 

2. what the faithful followers need to know and experience.

We are clear that God calls us to know and experience God’s power, teaching, presence, and guidance in dependable ways:

  • Worship
  • Home
  • Private groups – study groups, fellowship groups, gathering to learn and share
  • through actions of service

We come to recognize that there are some places that it seems less appropriate to live peaceably with our non-believing, non-agreeing neighbors:

  • Not work or school 
  • Not social media or 
  • Not with strangers in a public place

This is the grey zone that gets us in trouble.

There ARE times that we are called to be prophets and to call out the king/leader

There ARE times we take the political platforms to make clear God’s word.

There are times we interrupt social comforts and cross boundaries so that those who do not know and trust God know God’s word, will and expectations for all humanity.

The majority in the church, and even in our church, is quick to let 

someone else be a prophet

Someone else speaks the uncomfortable,

Someone else feeds, clothe, comfort, correct

There are times that we called to speak clearly what the world, the congregation, and the whole church needs to hear.

In order to do this we have to follow and trust the example Paul gives to Timothy carefully:

This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In all times, God desires for EVERYONE to come to the knowledge of the truth.

  • When the world twists the truth.
  • When people trust the power of wealth
  • When people are blind the plans of those who call for kindness, goodness, and peace, but don’t have the goal of what is right and acceptable in God’s sight as the agenda.

Bottom line: if someone is NOT promoting what is right and good in God’s sight, they are promoting something or someone other than God. This is one of the lines in the sand that become a defining moment.

If someone speaks of unity and community but it is not a gathering in the heart of God and is empty of God… this is not something we can stand back and accept.

If someone is speaking of fairness without justice

If someone is offering that the only authority is Government and not see that authority as entrusted by God, then we are misplacing our trust. 

If someone is calling a lie, the truth because the majority of people agree, does not make something true.

Every generation struggles with authority, wealth, leaders, nations and wars, greed, poverty and worse..

BUT we now living in a world that is more populated, more divided, more selfish, more controlled by evil and apathy than any other time.

Some will say, it’s not that bad or 

Others will say, it’s not worse

Others will say, I’m will bury my talents and head in the sand.

Others will speak up for the truth of God.

  1. AM I compromising God’s call upon my life?
  2. AM I watering down God’s authority in exchange for what I am comfortable managing or accepting?
  3. AM I ready to devote my talents, times, skills, dreams, family, resources on the heart of God over the values and powers of the world?

If we are not ready to consider these questions then we have already answered them!!

Christ was revealed at a certain time.

  • We are living in a time that the church is being outnumbered by others faith,
  • made irrelevant by those without faith,
  • and our authority challenged by our inaction

As we prepare to be the church in the new decade and for the next 200+ years, what are we doing today, individually and collectively to make ready the GOD’s visions, God’s plan, God’s goodness, God’s will is revealed in THIS time?

The right time for shaping the future is THIS morning, this year, this moment.

Here is our call to accountability that we share with Timothy in his time.

The church was being born and shape for us now by the faith of Timothy and his congregation then.

Q: How are we seeking to make clear the heart of God in what we are doing this morning  — stop fear, complaints, blame…

Q: How are we making bold the vision of God for our church

How are we bring the goodness of God’s authority within the grasp of those who are hungry, thirsting, wandering and running 180 degrees away from God?

Final thoughts:

It is an interesting statement Paul gives to Tim and the churches then, “I’m not lying.”

Usually when some will say, “now pastor, preach I’m going to tell you the truth.” Does that mean they usually don’t tell the truth but this time I’m going to speak truthfully 

Is there a right time to be quiet and allow the society and the leaders lead so that we may live peacefully with those who oppose us, but there are right times that we boldly speak the truth of Christ. 

This time for us to begin to more clear and intentional about speaking the truth in the world that will sell a lie, greed, fear IN the name of GOODNESS but without the heart of God’s.

The “I’m not lying” is an affirmation of the timeliness to be 

  • Strong
  • Bold
  • Clear
  • Intentional
  • Faithful
  • and Devoted to God who loves, saves and empowers us to lover 
    • our family, AND 
    • our neighbors, AND 
    • our enemy, AND 
    • the stranger 
    • SO THAT everyone, EVERYONE may find the heart of God!!

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Luke 15:1-10. Rejoice in Finding the Lost

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” [NRSA]

  • Finding lost money. I put on a suit coat to see if it still fit and found a $20 bill in the pocket. Let’s go out to lunch?
  • I found a $100 dollar bill at the mall at Christmas time. We asked at five shops and two dozen people to see if anyone lost money. No one claimed the $100. We went to the toys story and spent the whole amount to give to angel-tree family for Christmas.
  • We found Susanna sitting inside a clothes rack watching Barney in the children’s department in Belk’s and took her to celebrate y eating ice cream. She had not run off we walked away from her and didn’t know she had stayed.
  • We have caution our children to hang on to their tickets stubs at ball games so that if they became lost they could use the tickets to find our seats.

These are a taste of being lost, but invite you to see from the eyes of those who are lost from the heart of God, but I ask you to step into the world of true emptiness and the hopeless of being lost.

We phrase this as loosing our way, loosing our mind, loosing our place, loosing out perspective, and even loosing our dreams, hope and purpose.

This is the lostness that we visit today.

First we must own up that all of us are lost without a relationship with God. God who loves us, formed us, fills us with breath and spirit, the one who long’s for us to find our purpose, peace, strength and wholeness in a relationship, with God and with one another.

When we are truthful about our hearts, our family, our own inner and personal self, we know what it feels like to be lost:

Asking the congregation …

We can spend a lifetime blaming and excusing ourselves, but it is more important to recognize our state of being lost and seek to find our way or to make us easier to be found

Once on a scout camping trip we spread out our troop throughout the woods moving each campers lean-to just at the edge of being in sight of the next, maybe 200-300 yards apart. When the sun rose, some wrestles camper awoke and made their way bake to the base camp. The last camp slept a bit later, got turned around and walked the opposite direction of the camp. Two hours later we found his sleeping bag and gear by the road, but he was nowhere in sight. Two more hours passed with Forrest service persons, sherif and ems searchers we got word that he had hitch hiked a ride home and was asleep in bed. It had a good ending but it helped us realize how quickly someone becomes lost.

The ease of sneaking a few beers, coolness of vaping, the curiosity of marijuana, the high of meth, the addiction of heroine, the deadliness of fentinyal. It’s a slippery slope that everyone who starts down a path believes they can handle and avoid what everyone else fallen victim.

How many families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other we know who find themselves lost in addiction. Again we can focus on blame and excusing but the transformation come in becoming “found”.

In Jesus’s parable, a sheep my happen to find its way home, but it is 99% more likely to be found when those who have the perspective of compassion, hope, and access to salvation go out to the one lost and bring them home.

In the parable a lost coin could never find its way home, it is because of the diligence of those who search that the lost are found.

Jesus’s parable is calling us picture the joy of helping someone find their purpose, hope, strength, perspective, healing, restoration, new life..

Samuel Bangura of Sierra Leone. Lost, alcohol and failure, lead him accross the Atlantic, down the east coast and to the streets of Atlanta, we welcomed him to dinner, to buy clothes, to spend Christmas Eve night and to share in the family Christmas celebration and his love blossomed and he gather a freight container of clothes and he returned to SL to start an orphanage and school, loving and dying to save children in a warming homeland. It started with a conversation, a meal, a sleep over, worship, bible study, mission project, to transforming hundreds of others.

Recapping, there are none of us who escape feeling and experience being lost at times.

We know the joy of being found, helped, restored and

We have the ability to offer that gift to others

The problem: many times folks don’t think they are lost, the say we are

Many time folks don’t see another way of hope or happiness their what they have committed to

a. The task of reaching out is about our offering

B. Making the risk of trying

C. Our task is not to wait until someone comes to us but to go to those who are lost

D. Ultimately we offer the compassion, strength and hope of Christ, in tangible ways and let God work through us.

NOTE: One crazy thing is that for some you may not be the person someone will listen to, but you can connect them with others that might.

Out job is to avoid neglecting the lost

2. In Jesus’s parable he risks leaving those who know his voice and the comfort of the green pastures and the still waters and the shade of the tree and going out to ONE who is lost.

Our denomination is struggling. Over forty years we have dodge around the gender identity issues and focused on policies and politics. When we have been called to offer the saving, loving, restoring power of Jesus Christ to all persons.

As a denomination we have lost our way. About a month ago, Scott and I looked at the attendance and membership data of 40 churches in the North Georgia and in to Chattanooga and of those congregations 1 church has held steady, one started a second worship service Ana has reported some growth, but small, medium and large church have decreased in participation. Again we can dwell upon the blame and excuses, but until we return to our neighbors who are lost we will continue to be less of the church we are called to be.

We are all called to help restore others

3. This message is directed to disciples, Pharisees, teachers, agents of the government and all the other sinners.

If you are happy and celebrate when you find lost money or a runaway animal, how much more wonderful it is when we go out to search for our neighbors who are hurting, broken, empty, lonely, grieving, struggling, and worse.

Being the Faithful vs. fixing the problems

4. The charge is to bring persons into the fellowship of belonging, growing, worshiping and maturing in faith and not necessarily what the lost person is asking as help. “If you truly loved me then you would pay my bills, give me a house and car and job and not expect anything of me…” but this is never true.

To be found is to be found, to belong, to be joined as family, restored to the collection, part of the fold.

I look forward to hearing about your celebration of God working through you!

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