The Crew: Susanna: Fellowship, Stanford, Genetic Biology, Palo Alto, CA Luke: Student, USAFA, AFIT, Dayton, OH Frances Brantley: Student, Baylor School, Chattanooga, TN; Daughter and Sister Wendy Williams Brantley: Hook Marketing, CEO; Mom and Wife John Brantley: Clergy, UMC Elder at Rock Spring UMC, oikos:itsahouseholdword, CIO of Hook Marketing. King of Kotimme.com [Clergy, Author, Writer, Seeker and Poet]
Posted in #2019 on October 12, 2019
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
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
- 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.
- Things to know
- IN the Vine, is the power to win within, When I drift from the vine, I drift into vice.
- There is a flow of power, that moves from the main vine, which powers the branch for the fruit
- You have a power not available anywhere else
- If you live disconnected from God’s power your only power is vice.
- You can have to power to connect how you can nowhere else
- STAY connected
- When we get a spiritual high, we get comfortable, we begin to believe its OUR power
- We return to the old self, It was always God’s Power
- IF I DRIFT from the VINE I return to the old VICES.
- Lamp. I am the socket, you are the cord, and you will light the world through me.
- (NEED A LAMP AND POWER CORD)
- Things to do
Three major swings
- Live for the Truth
- IF someone says, there is no absolute truth, its all contextual. That statement is an absolute assumption and thus a contradiction
- Consequences of not seeking the Truth
- Father in heaven longs for us to know GOD’s Truth
- 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)
- If we continue living by our rules and the world’s rules then were already out before we go to bat.
- PLUG INTO THE VINE
- We can make things too complicated
- Agricultural example We see grapes they are connected to a vine through the branch.
- Electrical Example. PLUG in, Light up, you have light for your life
- if you disconnect you are in the dark.
1st Base is connecting to God through Character-building activities
<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
- 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
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
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
- Pray over, break the cycle of sin…
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
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.
- 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.”
Posted in #2017 on September 29, 2019
“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.
- 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.
- 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:
- we travel to help others outside our own community because we are blessed in ways our neighbors in these lands cannot.
- We meet people of different cultures who love their children and families, enjoy eating food, drinking water and breathing air.
- 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 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.
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:
- 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.
- AM I compromising God’s call upon my life?
- AM I watering down God’s authority in exchange for what I am comfortable managing or accepting?
- 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?
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
- 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!!
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!
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. [NRSA]
- The Peace of God’s Presence
- The Protection of God’s Presence
- The Power of God’s Presence
How to find God when we are lost?
“Be Still and Know I am God.” Psalm 46:10
1. Begin the day with praise and prayer.
Then pour out your heart and tell God about all the things going on in your life and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Picture yourself physically taking one burden after another, placing them into God’s hands, and letting them lay there. The act of giving ourselves to God is a life long practice of :
- a. knowing God is able, willing and desires our burdens and fears
- b. yielding our power to God’s loving grace
- c. practicing humility with our most personal struggles.
2. Meditate on a passage.
When I have a hard time quieting my mind, I like to meditate on Psalm 46:10:
“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”
Focus on one word at a time, letting your mind rest on that one word for a few seconds before moving on to the next word. Here are a few other passages to start:
- Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.
- Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- Psalm 103:13-14. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name…
3. Mental Pictures and Visions.
Imagine God seated on His throne, using passages like Revelation 4-6 to shape our minds-eye, our imagination.
“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne,”Revelation 4:2-3.
Can you picture that? Continue reading. Imagine God high and lifted up, I kneel down and bow my face to the ground, picturing myself in the heavenly throne room, joining the angels and the elders in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and then being still in His presence.
Imagine your self crawling into Abba Father’s lap and laying your head on God’s shoulder, much like a two-year-old does when she/he just needs a hug.
4. Write out distracting thoughts.
Sometimes, when I’m trying to quiet down my mind, I start to remember all sorts of things like birthday gift ideas, spring cleaning tasks, and meal plans. If that happens to you, grab a pen, write it down, and then return your attention to the Lord. Release those distracting thoughts, knowing you can come back to them later.
5. Recite a prayer of stillness.
Ask God to help calm your mind like Jesus calmed the storming sea. This can even be an imaginative prayer: Your thoughts are the waves that Jesus commands to be calm. Acknowledge your racing thoughts and ask the Holy Spirit to rule over them and help your mind rest in His presence.
6. Be physically still. Start small. Breathe Deeply
Begin with 30 seconds or a minute of stillness. And while 30 seconds may not seem like much, as you begin to incorporate this practice of stillness into your spiritual life, you’ll find it gets easier as the years go by. Then build up to 5 or 10 minutes. It’s in this place of communion with God that we quiet ourselves enough to hear what the Spirit wants to say to us.
7. Stillness isn’t always quiet, clean, nor neat.
Sharing Our Weeping and Wailing.
Do you know that, oftentimes, our stillness comes after the emotional dam finally breaks? I have no idea why, but it’s usually necessary to lose it before the process of healing begins. You can trust God with your deepest pain. Through it, He will lead you deeper into stillness.”
Encouraging and Allow Others the Time and Space for Peace in God.
We cannot force peace, it must be found in God.
Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. [NRSA]
John Wesley’s “Three Rules” are 1) Do no harm, 2) Do all the good that you can. and 3) Continue to grow Spiritually by practicing piety.
Wesley offers these three rules from the perspective of living as Sanctified people who are always moving toward Christian Perfections, which is our wholeness in God.
Therefore the rules are the guide for growing into the people God has hoped and dreamed we would become through Christ.
The reality is that we have conflicts and problems with the three rules.
- We don’t always avoid doing what is harmful, sinful or evil.
- We don’t always do what is good for God and others, much less ourselves.
- And we are spastic in prating our spiritual maturity, as we generally believe we have figured enough out to get by until we have crises we can’t handle.
All this affirms that we don’t fully understand the three rules as helpful tools. As simple rules, there are ideas for us to think about in our head. I offer the tool bag instead. Wesley’s three simple tools.
The first tool is the hammer. It is weighted, purposeful and designed to be used to construct when used properly. It is to strike metal nails and not fingernails. When you hit your finger, it not only cause you to take the Lord’s name in vain or at least shout our in pain, it leaves a bruise or it might take off the fingernail or open the skin for infection on top of the pain and soreness.
No one would willfully hit their thumb, but it happens. No one would strike another person with a hammer but it happens. The heavy hammers in tired and sweaty hands might drop and injure a toe, a co-worker or cause damage to the building project.
The hammer has the ability to do good or harm. Don’t intend harm with a tool number one.
Parenting. As a parent I know that sometimes setting a limit, pointing our an error, or protecting a child or the family from harm means saying “No.”, setting boundaries, and even providing a measure to shape attitudes and behaviors. From the child’s point of view, they might feel they have been harmed. So doing no harm would actually be doing harm. The perspective and intent determine when our actions and attitudes are harmful.
- People will say “the church didn’t love me, because they didn’t approve of my sin.” We address sin so that we can, “go and sin no more.”
- They didn’t give me money to they don’t show the love of Jesus, “They are all hypocrites.” We are not perfect, but loving is not always pleasing.
- I didn’t get my way, so the church harmed me.
… in these, we take the tool of “Do no harm” and use it as a weapon rather than a tool for constructing that which is good for God, others and ourselves.
Perspective and intent are what the first rule/tool is all about.
Clarified: Do No Harm is: in all we do, don’t intend to reject, don’t plan to harm, don’t let anger, fear, disappointment guide your thoughts and actions.
Tool number two: The Spoon
“Do all the Good that you can.” This is one is where the church may find its greatest threat. We assume this rule set the highest demand that we always do good. We learn from the first rule that what is good is not determined by what others ask of us, nor is it the good that we define. Goodness is defined by God, for God’s purposes.
A spoon is a great tool. It can be used to feed ourselves or someone else. It allows us to gather bite-sized portions and deliver something that is good or evil.
You know the saying, “He can dish it, but he can’t take it.” We want Good to come to us. This second tool is like the basic lesson of loving one’s neighbor, “Love your neighbor like you would like for your neighbor to love you, whether your neighbor loves you or not.
The spoon carries a portion of something that is unconditional. We can hardly do good for those we know and love; when it comes to loving those who are different or showing Goodness to our enemies, rivals and those narrow-minded knuckleheads would don’t think as we do.. The temptation is to avoid them, appease them or draw our line of goodness in the sand stand before them and God knowing we have done our part.
The power part of the spoon is that offers a controlled portion. My doctor said to me, “if you eat a spoon of ice cream, you are doing ok, if your portion is the whole container, you are way out of bounds.”
Don’t become overwhelmed with doing everything well, all at once, all the time. When we have the commandment to show Goodness and we fail or fall short, we get overwhelmed.
The constructive use of a spoon is that with one portion we can take the next step of turning around a past of doing harm, doing evil and being broken in sin. One spoonful of good does not equal all the injustice and brokenness we create, but with one act of doing Good transforms the direction of our faithfulness. The more spoons of Goodness we share the closer we move toward God and all the people of God’s work.
Clarification: When we do what is Good, we are taking small bites of doing things God’s way.
The third tool is a treadmill. Practice your piety, growing in Christian fellowship and maturing your Spiritual self with God, others and ourselves.
NO!! Not the treadmill! Everyone knows what the treadmill is for. Walking, running, exercise. How many people have purchased a treadmill or other exercise equipment as a yard sale, only to later sell the same machine at another yard sale?
The good use of the treadmill is not as a place to hang clothes or store boxes of junk. The ownership of a treadmill offers no health benefit unless we use it.
Even a basic treadmill has some measurements. Time, distance, difficulty and measure of work accomplished.
The appropriate use of such a device is to use it, daily. The third rule is best used in the third tool.
Think of all the wonderful things we can do to strengthen our relationship with God, our neighbor, and our enemies that don’t require elevating your heart rate!!
- Witnessing, and
- Sharing in fellowship with other Christians.
Think of how practicing these spiritual exercises will build spiritual muscle for when we are dealing with rule ONE and TWO.
Three Tools: A Hammer, a Spoon, and a Treadmill
Be intentional about building God’s kingdom and not simply avoiding harm.
Be repetitive in a diet of doing Good, one bite at a time
Be renewed and growing practicing on Spirit on God’s treadmills
Posted in #2019 on August 24, 2019
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. [NRSA]
When is the Sabbath?
Calendar debate. Are we actually on the correct day? We are trusting the conflicting mathematics between the Julian, Gregorian to the British version of the Gregorian calendar is projected to be approximately 14 days off by the year 2100. So if we set aside the possibility that we may be off-center even with faith and the world’s best guess of today actually by only 14 days, we can pretty much agree that today is Sunday. Much of the fuss over the accuracy of the calendar has been over religious and political disagreements. But let’s set aside this as splitting hairs and get at the general nature of Sunday being the first day of the week.
The Sabbath being the seventh day and Sunday being the adjusted Sabbath honoring the day of Resurrection being on Sunday. So we are generally ok with not exactly keeping the Sabbath, on the Sabbath in the name praise of glorifying God’s work in Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Those who questioned Jesus healing on the Sabbath as “Breaking” one of the top ten commandments. We must remember we are unsure which day of the week we historically are living and that we have agreed to move it to Sunday from the day God determined at creation. We are breaking the Sabbath, two for two.
To better understand the charge they literalist lodged against Jesus, let’s look back at Genesis to get the early version of the Sabbath:
- Genesis 2:2-3
- 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
A Day for God to Rest from Creating
- Exodus 16:4, 4:14, 20:8-11, 31:14,
- 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days, the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
- 14 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people.
- A Day made Holy, for God’s People to Rest, Deadly Serious
- Acts 16:13, 17:2, 18:4, 20:7
- 13 On the Sabbath, we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.•
- 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
- 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
- 7 On the first day of the week, we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.
A Day at the Synagogue of Study, Debate, and Eating
Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
Sabbath is our Day for ONLY God
So the activity of the Sabbath has expanded from simply not working and being with God to a commandment, to an exercise of learning, to a time to prohibit some things and be busy with God things. Back to a day for us to be with God.
Rest from work SO THAT God my renew us
In this passage, the work that Jesus does on the Sabbath is healing.
We gather to worship God, but the fruit of our worship is placing our selves humbly before God and to be restored for the week ahead.
Today we join with the woman who has to Jesus on the Sabbath and appear before Jesus to be healed, restored, renewed, no longer crippled by those things that have plagued us, gripped and held us back. Sabbath is a day for healing.
I invite you to come and make yourself as a living offering, for God has worked for us in the week ahead and we do not need to start from a place of brokenness.
Come and share in the healing power, love, and grace of Jesus Christ.
The healing is not in the oil, it is but a means opening our hearts, humbling and willingly asking Jesus to rest in us, to heal and renew us for the service of love and the work of the kingdom for the world. Come!
Posted in #2019 on August 18, 2019
Am I a God nearby, says the LORD, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back–those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the LORD. Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? [NRSV]
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’, and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? [NRSV]
SETTING THE CONTEXT
Last week we listen to the warning from Isaiah the prophet from a 75-80 year period of the 700s and 600s. Today we hear from Jeremiah who calls out to the people of God during a 75 year period from 627 to 575 BC.
Skip to the end of the story. Things go from fair to complete division and exile to Babylon, completely out of the Promised Land.
Even though generations pass and kings and nations continue to develop, the People of God eventually find themselves removed from their country and become enslaved to a foreign state and culture.
Like every other Prophet, Jeremiah calls for faith and faithfulness. He shares God’s words to inspire
- Devotion to God and not to other Gods and not to a life apart from God.
But We are Modern and we Know better:
In our modern world view we are quick to that fall of Jerusalem and all the people being driven out of their home and country would never happen to us. We are the U.S.A.
The ‘faithful’ once divided from one another also became divided from God and squandered their inheritance and ended up in the far country. (much like the prodigal son story)
What ‘was’ Baal Worship?
Historically the principal practices of Baalism were child sacrifice, sexual immorality, and reverence of creation over the Creator. We may have different practices but the core misplaced-spiritual devotion remains a threat to us.
Think when we say our personal success and networking were dependent on “playing the game.” If you quit playing along, avoid going to the parties, not participating in group-think, you would not be able to do business, lose your friends, not be successful. Your network would dry up. In various ways, our social and business The groups’ places demanded that we “support” to be liked, included or productive. Therefore, we give time, talent and allegiance that is misplaced. “Support” is based on participation and financial contribution. It was all tied up with the rules of doing business. Think of the high place of diversity. (College acceptance is not about the best students, its about demographic profiles. [ref.]
Misplaced Love, Devotion, or Trust
Anything good can become an idol if we love it too much. That’s what Paul was driving at when he called greed a form of idolatry. What is greed if not loving something too much?
Let’s consider some modern-day idols in three separate categories.
YAHWEH OR BAAL?
“When the Israelites entered Canaan, they found a land of farmers, not shepherds, as they had been in the wilderness. The land was fertile beyond anything the Hebrew nomads had ever seen. The Canaanites attributed this fertility to their god Baal, and that is where the Israelites problems began. Could the God who had led them out of Egypt and through the wilderness also provide fertile farms in the Promised Land? Or would the fertility god of Canaan have to be honored? Maybe, to be safe, they should worship both; Yahweh and Baal.
An intense battle began for the minds and hearts of God’s people. The book of Judges records the ongoing struggle: the Israelites attraction to, and worship of, the Canaanite gods; God’s disciplinary response; the people’s repentance; and God’s merciful forgiveness until the next time the Israelites reached for Baal instead of Yahweh.
This struggle to be totally committed to God is of vital importance to us today as well. We don’t think of ourselves as idol worshipers, yet we struggle to serve God alone in every part of our lives. It is easy (and seductive) to honor possessions, fun, relationships, fame, money, and a host of other potential “gods.”
We need to learn from Israel’s experience and respond to Jesus’ command for total allegiance. One way we can accomplish this is to study the gods that attracted Yahweh’s people 3,000 years ago.” [ref.]
How Does it Happen
First, we worship at the altar of materialism which feeds our need to build our egos through the acquisition of more “stuff.” Our homes are filled with all manner of possessions. We build bigger and bigger houses with more closets and storage space in order to house all the things we buy, much of which we haven’t even paid for yet. Most of our stuff has “planned obsolescence” built into it, making it useless in no time, and so we consign it to the garage or other storage space. Then we rush out to buy the newest item, garment or gadget and the whole process starts over. This insatiable desire for more, better, and newer stuff is nothing more than covetousness. The tenth commandment tells us not to fall victim to coveting: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). God doesn’t just want to rain on our buying sprees. He knows we will never be happy indulging our materialistic desires because it is Satan’s trap to keep our focus on ourselves and not on Him.
Second, we worship at the altar of our own pride and ego. This often takes the form of obsession with careers and jobs. Millions of men—and increasingly more women—spend 60-80 hours a week working. Even on the weekends and during vacations, our laptops are humming and our minds are whirling with thoughts of how to make our businesses more successful, how to get that promotion, how to get the next raise, how to close the next deal. In the meantime, our children are starving for attention and love. We fool ourselves into thinking we are doing it for them, to give them a better life. But the truth is we are doing it for ourselves, to increase our self-esteem by appearing more successful in the eyes of the world. (Ecclesiastes 2:21-23).
Third, we idolize ‘humanity’ through naturalism and the power of science. We cling to the illusion that we are lords of our world and build our self-esteem to godlike proportions. We reject God’s Word and His description of how He created the heavens and the earth, and we accept the nonsense of atheistic evolution and naturalism. We embrace the goddess of environmentalism and fool ourselves into thinking we can preserve the earth indefinitely when God has declared that this current age will have an end. Our focus should not be on worshiping the environment but on living holy lives as we wait eagerly for the return of our Lord and Savior. We need saving, not the earth; God our hope, not ourselves.
Finally, and perhaps most destructively, we worship at the altar of self-aggrandizement or the fulfillment of the self to the exclusion of all others and their needs and desires. This manifests itself in self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, and food. Those in affluent countries have unlimited access to alcohol, drugs (prescription drug use is at an all-time high, even among children), and food. Obesity rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed, and childhood diabetes brought on by overeating is epidemic. The self-control we so desperately need is spurned in our insatiable desire to eat, drink, and medicate more and more. When we love the Lord and others with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our hearts for idolatry. [ref]
I. Idols of Power
Idols of power are those created things that give us a sense of significance and personal worth.
II. Idols of Pleasure
So many things fall into this category.
Pleasure. It could be something that seems harmless—hobbies, sports, success, the promise of ‘ease.’
Sexual Satisfaction. Pleasure, power, self-fulfillment. Choice, Identity. All that is about self and not giving of oneself in devotion.
Personal Identity. When I ask you to validate my view of myself don’t care what you think of me nor do I care what God see’s in me.
Technology. We can’t live without some background noise. If you don’t think TV is an idol, try living without it for seven days and see what happens. TV, so can the computer, or phone, social media, artificial intelligence.—virtual reality gods that will advise us exactly as the gods of ancient Greece and Egypt instructed their followers.
Opinions: Many people today adopt this as the bottom line on personal morality. If it makes you feel good, go ahead and do it. Just don’t hurt anyone else in the process.
Self Gratification: How many times have you heard sin justified with the words, “I just want to be happy?” And so we divorce our spouses because we are unhappy, we break our commitments because we can’t find fulfillment, and we abandon our promises and walk away from family and friends—all in search of that elusive thing called happiness. We do wrong and excuse ourselves by saying, “God understands.”
Sexual fulfillment may become an idol. At this point, I would say that so-called Gay Christianity is a very clear form of modern-day Baal worship because homosexuals attempt to justify their sin by baptizing their immorality in the guise of Christianity. This is unspeakably evil because it links the holy name of Jesus with that which God has condemned.
Drugs, Alcohol, Food, diversions, and avoidance. When a thing or substance controls you, your time and your resources, you are an idolater whether you admit it or not.
So many of the addictions of life fall into this category. When God created the world, he pronounced it good, but ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, Satan’s number one strategy has been to cause us to take that which is good and put it in the place of God. We may say it quite simply: Whatever controls you at a deep level is the god you worship. If you are not controlled by God, then you must be controlled by an idol of your own making.
III. Idols of the Heart
Jesus warned us that you cannot serve God and money? “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). Money is capitalized because when you serve it, it becomes your god. Our Lord said you cannot have God and money both in first place in your heart. One of them has to go. You cannot serve two masters.
Along the same line, a relationship can easily become an idol when it becomes the controlling interest of life. You can love a person too much or for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way or with the wrong motives. Once you say of any human relationship, “I cannot live without that person in my life,” then you have crossed a line that should not be crossed.
God’s warning: Destroy your idols or I will do it for you!
Let’s go back to the Second Commandment for a moment. Notice the warning in Exodus 20:5 — “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” In the end God, we belong to God and we are left with nothing but God, is the only way we find God sometimes.
Two Sobering Conclusions
A. Anything good can become an idol if we love it too much.
That should be completely clear by now. Idolatry lies in the worshiper, not in the thing worshipped. A golden calf is not an idol by itself. Left to itself, a golden calf is just a golden calf. It becomes an idol only when we begin to worship it. It is a wrong attitude that turns something good into something bad.
¨ Don’t blame your car if you aren’t happy. New or old, running or limping. It won’t love nor save you.
¨ Don’t blame your boy/girl friend if you aren’t happy. Address your own faith and bring that power.
¨ Don’t blame your spouse if you aren’t happy. No husband or wife can make you happy all the time.
¨ Don’t blame your boss if you aren’t happy. — Their job is to create wealth through you.
¨ Don’t blame your children if you aren’t happy. they are our joy but not our God
¨ Don’t blame your new house if you aren’t happy. No house can provide the ultimate happiness.
¨ Don’t blame your church if you aren’t happy. No church can make you happy.
Don’t blame the government if you aren’t happy. No politics will make you happy.
Happiness comes from a living relationship with Jesus Christ. He alone can satisfy the deepest needs of your life. Looking anywhere else for ultimate happiness is really just a sophisticated form of idolatry.
B. The ultimate tragedy of idolatry is that it takes all that you have and gives nothing in return.
Have you ever thought about how strange life is? You are born, you grow up, get married, get a job, have children, raise your children, take a vacation, retire, and then you die. And your children, what do they do? The same thing. And their children? The same thing.
You have two choices. You can spend your life chasing idols your hands have made. But what happens when you die? Your idols die with you. Or you can spend your life doing God’s will. And when you die, it’s not over. Life has just begun.
The folly of idolatry is that it’s only for this life and then it’s over. You’re a loser now and a loser later. The idol robs you now and leaves you penniless in the grave. You’ve cheated all the way around.
Idolatry makes sense if you are going to live forever on earth. But if you plan to die someday, it’s the greatest stupidity of all.
The only lasting cure for idolatry is a fervent love for God.
As we pondered the matter, it seems to me that the hardest step is seeing our idols in the first place. Even as we share these words, we are conscious of a little voice inside saying, “Hey, don’t worry about it. You’re not an idol-worshipper.” But that voice is not the voice of God. If I am honest before God and open to the Holy Spirit, I must admit that I have my idols that must be torn down. [ref]
The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah….Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. [NRSV]
A Vision of Isaiah
Concerning Period 3 Kings and 1 regent
The period of time is between 790 to 690 BC. Isaiah lead as a prophet through the end of Uzziah into the reign of Hezekiah.
During this period, God’s people of Judah fought with God’s people of Israel and made expedient allies of Syria and Egypt as they needed help. The people shifted for faithfulness to completely selling out to Idolatry with the Canaanites, with King Ahaz made a replica of the idea of Baal in the temple of Judah and made offering go his son’s life to the altar of Molech. Hezekiah finally brings faithfulness back after heading Isaiah’s warning and even invited the Northern Kingdom to celebrate Passover together.
An Argument with God.
First, it’s acceptable to argue with God if you know in the end that God is God and that you and I are not. With that said God is supremely patience, but will, in the end, call us to faithfulness and obedience.
Isaiah’s Account of God side setting up for the argument:
- rulers of Sodom!
- you people of Gomorrah!
- So you talk about the many sacrifices?
- Do You think that your offerings buy my favor?
- Your many holiday and celebrations? I don’t want your songs and gifts.
- Why would I want to be at your good holiday, and you ignore your sin?
- You think you have figured out creation, and use the heavens as a tool to measure and control me?
- You can raise your hands and prayers and songs, I’m not listening.
- If this is how you make religion replace a relationship of trust and obedience, then I don’t want you in my sight.
- Wash yourselves;
- make yourselves clean;
- remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
- cease to do evil,
- learn to do good;
- seek justice,
- rescue the trampled, taken advantage of, or forgotten.
When you have done these things, then let’s argue.
The Good News is that when we find ourselves through obedience to God, we find the Goodness in life.
- It is easy to dismiss this passage as history and not hear it applying to ourselves.
- First, as this is presented as God’s Message for the political and spiritual leaders of the day.
- So it is easy to point fingers and blame the king.
- This word does not excuse the king of doing what is Godly.
- Nor does this word excuse US for doing what is Godly and obedient, we can’t blame our leaders for all the sin.
You pick the topic of news, debate, crisis, and threat of this past week alone, and know-how quickly people look for blame. Isaiah’s word is for Judah and Israel. It is for you and for me.
- Stop Blaming
- Stop making excuses
- Stop looking for our own ideas and solutions
- Turn back to God
- Trust God’s Goodness and Word
- Trust God’s will and wisdom
- Trust God’s way and place ourselves as a servant of God and God’s people and will then God will make us the witness to all the nations.
We live more in time like Ahaz rather than Hezekiah. When the world is rejecting God and replacing anything and everything in God’s place, it is no wonder that evil and chaos.
So what are we to do about our nation and our leaders?
We are not only called to
- Repent of our sins,
- Stop acting like knuckleheads
- Start witnesses to those who are
- and be a strength to those who are trampled and taken advantage of.
But not in reverse:
We’d rather just do one or two on the list… but its a process
- It’s not about just serving the oppressed
- It is also dealing with sin, ours and theirs
- It’s not just about talking about forgiveness and change
- it is becoming an actual example of obedience.