Archive for August, 2012
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak. [NRSV]
What to Wear?
I very much like the idea of school children having uniforms. With all the social pressures that already face children’s setting to learn fashion and status don’t need to be added into the mix. Luke has had a new awakening to what it means to wear a uniform. I think he might even like it for now. Frances complains about her’s from time to time limiting her style. But there is the teaching of Jesus not to worry about what we shall wear, look at the flowers and she how God has clothed them.
As THE church in the heart of our town what is the first thing people as about our church? Most of the time it is not are you involved in mission service. Most of the time it is not do you have good Bible study? Most of the time it is not do you have a good preacher? The typical first question I am asked is, what do folks wear to your worship service? What message are we giving to the community? What things matter to our community? But let’s not miss Paul’s point.
Paul here takes the common experience of dressing and shares it with the whole church. He takes it one step further in calling the church to dress for the evils that faces us, the evils that threaten us, the evil that are spiritual.
We have worn a variety of things upon our head, Some one shared with me this week, “If you are wearing a crazy hat, I dont know if I will be able to pay attention.” I agree. I’m having a time concentrating while looking at your heads. But for all the fun of our hats, don’t miss the spirit dress code Paul ofers.
Paul is very systematic about his list of clothes. You get the image that he his sitting in his home, on house arrest, not just wearing an ankle bracelet, but watching the guard at his front door. He makes such a through list you can picture the view of a Roman Centurion from Paul’s account.
Thinking how prepared and equipped a solider goes out ready for a variety of dangers and threats, so should the church dress. Not in military dress, but in spiritual dress.
Run down the list of items Paul describes: Belt and chest pad, Shoes and shield, Helmet and Sword. Each of these are vital to someone in a dangerous occupation. This is a short list compared to the what a modern soldier, or fire fighter or law officer might wear. But think of the protective layers, materials and precautions that make the work possible for these folks.
Picture a fire fighter going to a fire with no shoes, no jump suit, no helment, no tools, no mask.. how long would they last? We would say that was a crazy and foolish what to show up for work.
Paul is tell us that same advice, it is foolish, crazy and dangerous for us to not be spiritually dressed for the work that we have today.
Look at the spiritual list Paul gives: Truth, Righteousness (doing right), proclaiming the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, spirit and the word of God. This is our back-to-school shopping list of what we need.
I look forward to back to school because it means that Walmart sells packs of crayons for 20-25 cents. I have not been to restock my supply, but it is a great time to go buy four or five packs for a dollar. You go buy five dollars with our crayons and see what God will do with those colors. Sunday School, VBS, School children in need, neighbor children, grand kids, art projects, home-made notes cards. I dare you to see how much fun you can have sharing God’s love through simple crayons with a child, and so economically.
What to wear to be ready for the evil, the temptation, the devil, the test, the trials, the stresses, the challenges and the worst the world has for us:
Tell the truth,
Dot he right thing
Tell the Good News of the Gospel and Peace
Hold on to Faith
Remember you are Saved by God, through Christ, for work with the Holy Spirit
Study and Share God’s word
We might wish there were special clothes we could wear instead of filling our spiritual back pack with these spiritual ‘things.’
But it is as urgent as showing up to a fire that we come dressed for work.
It is as timely as a trip to the Mega-lo-mart for spiritual supplies while they are readily available.
2. Dont grab a few things on the list, we need them all, the full armor.
We want to see what we can get by without, save some money, time and energy… wait until the teacher says: we are getting low on hand sanitizer can someone bring some from home… the pencils are gone can someone share a pack now that we are out. Don’t wait until the sales are gone and the prices are hight, show for the FULL list of SPIRITUAL gift and graces NOW.
First, the threats are real and so often beyond our control. Health, Accidents, Tragedies, Hurricanes, Wars, Famines, Death and Taxes to name a few.
Second, the real threats are the spiritual threats:
a) Know you are a spiritual child of God.
b) Your spirit needs to be strong and ready because we live in an world filled with evil.
c) No one else is responsible for you, but you.
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
We have work on hear and work in heaven. We have work that benefits us and work that benefits others, we are accountable for both.
Paul closes his letter asking for prayer. Even Paul knew he needed encouragement in being ready for boldness. We living in a great time when the truth is called a lie, when value is measured by things, and we live in a time where politics, technology and ‘someone’ else tell us we are safe, protected, prepared and saved. Paul was as true then as now, the world needs our boldness and faithfulness. It needs to hear the truth from you and me. Our neighbors and nation need to hear what is good and to do what is right.
If we do not have our spiritual running shoes or work boots or steel toes ready to face the challenge, WHO will stand for us? Hmm. Get up, Get dressed!
See You Sunday!
15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts. 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. [NRSV]
Do you know someone who tried to be prepared for every problem? Beyond the efforts of the best Boy Scout, there are those who focus on being careful.
Not just the over protective first mother who wants to sterilize the tongs to pick up the tongs to sanitize the fourth reserve pacifier.
No, I mean those folks who believe that they can take every precaution to prevent or to respond to any trouble. Travel means you take twice as much no matter how short the trip. There must be a balance between being careful in an evil and unpredictable world and spend life trying to prevent every problem.
Your helpful insurance agent will advise you that you can’t insure every problem. Instead we take enough of a risk to be responsible.
Knowing the difference is the WISDOM that Paul calls the church to remember and model. Take Care to be Wise.
King Solomon could be summed as one who learned that all the things in the world and all the wealth cannot replace knowing and trusting God.
How do we take care to be wise?
Make the Most
Paul gives more than advice; his words are instruction and challenge to the church. First, making the most is acknowledging the limits of time and the preciousness of life. Secondly, Making the most is more than putting a good spin on a bad situation.
Make the most is giving our best to trust God IN the difficulty of living in a sinful world, living an economic trying times, in a society of excess that promises success, happiness, meaning and peace.
If you knew how long you had to live, would it change how you lived each day? Know this, the day will come, in your life time, that your body will die. Between today and that time, what is the best way to spend the days and nights, weeks and years?
In answering this question, Paul cautions us not to be fooled.
Don’t be fool
The greatest threat Paul suggests is when we fool ourselves. Yes there is evil that confronts us all around, but it is so easy for us to reframe and excuse our selves from God’s wisdom calling our assumptions Godly, (pure definition of blasphemy)
The example he gives is one of being sober: alert and aware.
We find thrills at the theater with special effects that convince us that lasers can be used as handheld swords, magical worlds of mythical school or transformation of actors into characters that make us cry, laugh, cheer and fear to take a shower. Looking behind the scenes, under the makeup and out of the digital add-ons, we find what looks true may only be a true reflection director’s mind.
Our task of faith is to hold true to the story that gives life real meaning, power and purpose.
How are we not fooling ourselves or duped externally?
Know the Lord’s Will
The emphasis is on KNOWING, understanding, how to make the most of life.
“Why Do Fools Fall in Love Lyrics” Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers asks the questions why, but never gives the answer.
To be wise, is to be alert and seeking God’s will… Where to start?
It seems to simply. Paul’s instruction for how know if we are living God’s will starts when we are:
a) singing, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
b) Making melody to the lord
c) Giving thanks.
This is a call to Passionate Worship.
If we are singing, praising and giving thanks we are headed in the right direction.
Charles and John Wesley placed a great trust in using hymns to teach the faith. For over 2500 years psalms have been used in worship and in personal faith development. Staying in a state of thankfulness keeps us in the lane of God’s direction.
You thought is was going to be something difficult and taxing?
Through the voice of Ellen DeGeneres, speaking for Dory, in the Disney movie Finding Nemo” saying, “just keep swimming.”
For knowing where to start finding our way to God, Paul says, “Just Keep Singing…”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [NRSV]
If you are hungry, Eat!
My grandmother Brantley never asked if we were hungry. She would just prepare at least two meats and five vegetables, bread and dessert just in case. Hungry or not, the table was spread for a feast. (A fine example of prevenient grace.)
For generations we have heard it was essential hat we eat three meals a day, when it is probably better to eat half the calories over five meals a day. But after proper conditioning from school lunches, lunch breaks, and drive-in window eating, we eat because the clock tells us to eat.
Mikey is always telling us that we eat too fast; he reminds us to enjoy our food. I have thought about our fast food, on-the-go, we use our average seven minute allotments of eating and we move on to the next task or responsibility. He may just be right. I know he earns his nickname for a reason.. (Mikey of the Life cerel commercial, Mike: He eats everything.)
Jesus talks about our need for spiritual nourishment using the familiar and repetitive example of daily bread. Just as the children of God ate the daily bread provided by God in the wilderness, so now Jesus reminds us to eat, daily of the things of God.
Here is the problem: We don’t always know when we are spiritual hungry.
Have you ever skipped breakfast, got so busy you missed lunch and found it about three in the afternoon and you feel a cramp in the stomach, maybe a bit dizzy or just plain irritable? Our bodies have clear signals to tell us that we a past due.
Spiritually we have signals as well, but we may not be as aware or as familiar with what to look for.
- How long has it been since you prayed as long as it takes you to fill your stomach?
- How much time do you spend preparing and cleaning up after meals?
- How much money and energy goes into buying and storing your food?
- How much time do you spend looking for deals, coupons, bargains, sales and transporting food?
- Compare the time and energy spent preparing, eating and cleaning food…
- Compare the time and energy spent praying, worshipping, studying and reading, and in Christian fellowship and service.
On average: 2008 data: 67 min eating / day (age 15+) 23 min eating while doing work/tv/reading and 63 min drinking while doing work/tv/reading [2.5 hours/day]. The Barna Group has been tracking our prayer stats since 1993, report that pastor’s pray on average 30 minutes a day. They report 83% of congregants pray at least once in the past seven days.
2.5 hours eating and drinking, 30 minutes praying. Jesus has a point for us.
EMOTIONS and RELATIONSHIPS:
- Feeling tired, weary or worried?
- Stresses, focused, or preoccupied.
- Overwhelmed, grieving, or confronting difficult relationships
- Challenged, stretched and facing unknown territories
- Tired, Weak or Worn down
- You have a full calendar of commitments and responsibilities
- You have an empty calendar of commitments and responsibilities.
- These are not an exhaustive list, but a heads-up, of the kinds of things to l
For what do you hunger?
If prayer is a measure of our hunger: We prayer on average:
- 12 minutes with prayer requests,
- 8 in quiet time,
- 7 giving thanks,
- 7 more in praise, and
- 5 confessing sin.
The top 5 things they pray for are:
- individual congregation member’s needs,
- congregation’s spiritual health,
- spiritual growth for church,
- and personal spiritual growth.
Are you still hungry?
- Have you tried a taste of prayer
- Sampled some worship
- Dabbled in some study and service
- But still hunger?
If you are still hungry, then eat! Eat from the words and grace of the Bread of Life.
- Our ritual of Holy Communion is not a once in a life-time event. It is Jesus’ instruction do “eat” every tine we break bread.
- Try in one day to eat for 30 minutes and pray, study, ready and serve for 2.5 hours and see if you get your fill for the day.
- Start Bible Study, Daily Devotion
- Take Turns, change it up, read the prayers of others, write and share your prayers
- Commit to worship, Sunday school, Spiritual Journal, etc.
- Volunteer in the name of Christ,
- Forgive some folks who don’t ask and would never earn it.
As United Methodist we have a heritage of practicing our piety, growing our spirit, and yet we have been declining since the 1960’s. Let’s get back to our 1760’s and look toward the 2060’s and set goals of spiritual growth.
Nike says: Just Do it, Jesus says: Just Eat!
Olympians say: Strive for the gold. Jesus says: Strive for what satisfies
SO WHAT: This is not a brow beating of our failures, rather a measure of why we might be where we are and how to become more FULLY the people God has created us to be… Eat Up.
1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. [NRSV]
Childhood: To Be Loved
We enter this human experience as a recipient: Hungry, Crying and Thirsty. We may hold great potential, but from the start we cannot feed, clothe, transport or even understand ourselves, much less add to our surroundings. We are only able to receive. Doting and grateful parents my feel the blessing and gift a new child, but as infants we are totally dependent.
It would wonderful to think every child had loving and able parents. This is not the case. Not every child begins life surrounded by love. This word of Paul’s to the church both then and now affirms God’s love and grace that surrounds us, even when evil and deceit may seem to rule around us. As United Methodist we call this work of God’s love, preventing-Grace. We do nothing to earn or prove ourselves for this love and blessing. But we do remain infants. So don’t continue to spiritually live like babies.
Baby’s cry when they need attention. Baby’s call for comfort when they the feel abandoned. The cry when there are things that need to be changed that they cannot change themselves. And parents, grand parents, siblings, relatives, friends and care providers feed, cuddle and change us.
Can you image church folks crying and complaining because they didn’t get their way? Can you imagine church folks not getting the attentions the feel they deserve and they complain because no one cares? Can you imagine church folks thinking that church should remain the same while the world changes with each passing day? Paul know the church at its beginning and knows us even now. His words call us to not stay as infants or even those in their terrible-twos.
“tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine”
Paul describes our spiritual development stage begins in a vulnerable state where we might be swayed and carried by someone else, not knowing we have our own feet of faith on which to stand. My Old Testament professer told me in his office that the seminary had the task of finding what run we stood on and, then pulled it out from underneath us and helped us develop a clear awareness and context for where we stand.
As children we love God is love. Sunday School and Bible School teach us stories of the Bible and basic ideas of faith, forgiveness, salvation, love and God’s power to create, judge and restore all things. While those great lessons are the heart of our foundation, our spirit hunger and thirsts for more. Have you been eating at the kids table all this time or have you come up to the big table. <farm: Brantley, holiday meals>
Adolescence: Awareness of the being Loved and Un-Loved
The beginning of self awareness and the accountability of our actions is found at a different age for each person. Some people do not learn the responsiblities of their actions and their responsibility for others even as those in double digits of year or more.
Paul speaks to the church at Ephesus in terms of “Trickery, craftiness, and deceitful scheming” These activities are actions of evil done with the awareness that they are self-serving, un-true and misleading.
<examples of mischief, dirt in the potato bucket, etc.>
Maturity: Technicalities vs Ability to Love
A teenager has legal rights to determine which parent will be their primary residence. At fifteen and sixteen we allow folks to drive. R Movies at 17. Voting and military service at 18. Drinking and legal contracts at 21. President at 35. Retire at 62 or 65 or 67 for me. There is a difference between being legally permitted and adult behavior
We may grow in our responsibilities of church, work, life, community, but doesn’t me we grow in love.
Paul writes to the church, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”
Not that we are fully matured, rather we are in process of maturing. As United Methodist we call this relationship of grace, SANCTIFICATION. While we know right from wrong, good from bad, faithful from unfaith, we may cross the lines, but we are aware and are working to improve.
Sometimes we act like children and even babies, but we know we are called to mature in faith, in both believe and practice.
We are living in times of financial struggle, political uncertainty and turmoil, there are wars, famines and others faiths and apathy that demand our attention.
The mature voice must be heard and must lead by example.
When we hear one another talk in the voice of spoiled children or infants crying for attention. We meet the needs but do not follow their example.
In Heart of our 5-Practices of Ministry is our INTENTIONAL Spiritual Growth.
This is the acknowledgement that we are called to mature our faith as an ongoing practice of our Christian Living.
RESPONSE: Sign up for Bible Study. Get back in the routine of Sunday School. Start a new devotion and prayer practice. Grow your faith and Grow up in God.