Archive for category #2020

Advent4 Romans 16:25-27 “Mystery Revealed in Doing”

Tis the Season to be Trusting and love God and not the as the World.

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen. [NRSA: Romans 16:25-27]

Who knew the conclusion to a letter could be so powerful! Paul’s letter to the church at Rome,

The purpose of Jesus being born and revealing God’s heart, mind, word, and will is for us to clearly see that we would completely trust and obey.

Compare with the introduction to Paul’s letter to the churches at Rome [NRSA: Romans 1:1-5]

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,

Paul’s opening is basically a repeat of the conclusion. Bookends to hold up a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that have to do with our Advent journey?

What are the bookend in our lives?

I was recently reminded of a Peyton Manning who had shared his perspective about the occasion an athlete retires. Typically on an announcer show, a most recognizable photo of a player during their career and the years of play are shown under their name. Joe Namath, 1965-1985, Hershel Walker, 1985-1997; Peyton Manning, 1988-2015. Peyton’s comment was about the dash between the numbers. The Dash represents the career of success and failures between the two numbers. The bookends are important, but the dash is more important.

Part of Advent has been establishing the bookends, the context, the itinerary of our spiritual journey. This fourth week we best focus on the main thing.

We have reminded one another to praise, to prepare, and to practice maturing our spiritual self. The last leg of this trek is to pause.

Traditionally Advent is the time

  • we hear about John the Baptiser and his call to prepare the way for the Lord,
  • we hear God’s call upon Marry, who is both humble and faithful, to carry and deliver the Son of God.
  • We hear about Joseph and his uncertainty about the unfolding events,
  • And maybe we hear about the shepherds who are both frightened, comforted and compelled by the host of angels.

But this year, I invite you to place those stories in the position of the bookend that help define and refocus us as Christmas is now less than a week away.

Hear Paul’s words to the church as we reflect on 2020 and look forward to the power of God with us in 2021.

  • God who is able — Who is ABLE to overcome pandemics? political strife? fears and even death?
    • to strengthen you — Where will you and I find the strength to overcome these things and more?
      • according to my gospel and — Did we know this promise is in God’s word? Rethem? studied them? shared them?
        • the proclamation of Jesus Christ, — Have we told others about Jesus, his strength? grace?
      • according to the revelation of the mystery — Do we trust what’s been shown to us? experience?
        • that was kept secret for long ages — Can we look back and see God patiently at work?
        • but is now disclosed, and — Can we find God being revealed now?
      • through the prophetic writings is — Have we looked for the pieces and fitting them together?
      • made known to all the Gentiles, — God loves us who love Him but also those who do not.
    • according to the command of the eternal God, — is it an idea, a suggestion, a nudge, or a command?
      • to bring about the obedience of faith — This is the heart of it all — God is seeks our response.
      • to the only wise God, — God who knows what is best for us
    • through Jesus Christ, — Who makes clear, knowing our sin, failures, faults, & weaknesses..died for us.
      • to whom be the glory forever! — God desires an eternal relationship, love, faith, trust, obediance.

The history of God’s work with the world is revealed in the bookends of Paul’s letter:

The heart of the story is fleshed out with us, throughout human history.

We have God’s strength, guidance, word/teaching, grace, hope and life — when we give obedience.

Oh it was going so well until we get to the Trust and Obey part.

God desire good and blessing for all, but we are living in a

  • playground,
  • workplace,
  • homestead,
  • political agreement
  • neighborhood

..where not everyone Trusts and Obey and we wrestle with whom to trust.

What does it mean to Trust and Obey God? Look at the bookends we have discussed the past three weeks.

  1. We are not the potter, we are the clay.
  2. We need to repent of our sins and be made new through Christ
  3. We need to be maturing and growing in spirit.
  4. The Dash – “Dashing through the snow” Calling one another to live like
    1. We are being shaped by God and not the world
    2. Loving our enemies and the lost because it serves Christ and not ourselves
    3. Wake up and get to work growing and sharing Christ with others.

Trusting and Obeying is the DOING these.

This fourth week we gather to invest this next week…

Before any traveling, cooking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, or celebrating: Is what I’m focused on right now something that is drawing me toward God, keeping me stuck where I am, of moving me away from the heart of God.

  1. Actively do, say, and think what draws us to God and not to the world
  2. Intentionally seek out those we need to forgive and seek their forgiveness
  3. Wake up each day with this prayer: “Good Morning God! What do you want me to do today?”

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Advent3 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 “3 Rules for Christmas”

LSU training in the off season

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. [NRSA: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24]

Normally we think of Christmas as a time to forget someone the rules, but 2020 has been a challenging year, and Christmas may be the best time to remember our guiding three rules.

Wesley’s core teaching about Christian living are to 1 do no harm, 2. Do all the good you can. 3. practice the disciples of spiritual growth.

Do No Harm:

  • Tpically, this is a no-brainer, we don’t want our words and actions, or our silence and inaction to harm others.
  • Sometime we are advocate for others when we speak up and find proactive ways to help others.
  • Sometime we are to refrain from talking so that others may speak for themselves.

WE ASK IS MORE HARMFUL TO SPEAK OR BE SILENT?

  • There are times that we spend, and times to save.
  • There are times to be reckless in our loving, and times to cautious in waiting and watching.

WE ASK IS IT TIME TO BE INVOLVED PERSONAL OR WAIT FOR a FUTURE TIME?

  • In some circumstances it is impossible to avoid harm.
  • If we choose to help one person, we no longer have resources to help another.
  • If we choose to be friends with people who belong to one group, we may be excluding ourselves from being intimate with another group.
  • In choosing who you are going to marry and spend a lifetime together, there may be one person who is thrilled while the other is disappointed.
  • Before we can actually choose, we need to qualify and name whom is being harmed.
  1. In matters of personal safety,
    1. do I hang out with people who are not a good influence in my life as my friends.
    2. do I hang out with people who are not a good influence because they need a good friend.
      1. Some times we are not strong enough to be the friend in a risky situation.
      2. Sometime we are not truly friends until we can share each other burdens.
  2. In choosing, it is important to be honest with God, ourselves, and others and for some people we say, I can’t be your friend at this time because I’m too tempted to be around you while you are behaving as you are. I can connect from time to time but I can’t be there for you at the moment. I hope one day soon that I can.

Behind this honest connection is not just an excuse to get our of being in a difficult relationship, it is stating that I need to not be tempted, confessing that I’m not strong enough to be in a risky situation, because I will make poor choices given the opportunity. This is also a confession to God, that I have a greater need for God to be guiding my life. Both persons need the benefit of friend, but it is too risking at the moment.

What is the better choice: Telling someone you know who needs a support and friend that needs your friendship or do you risk both of you missing out of what your time together could be?

There is a better answer: We are going to commit to being friends but we both needs some accountability to protect each other. This is where God works through use as mediator for others, in small groups, in support groups, in mutual counseling and many other ways.

Do you give money to someone who is hungry on the side of the street? Is it doing more harm to potentially contribute to someone’s perpetual poor choices or not give them something and hold them accountable.

  1. It is actually more comforting to the donor or helper than a transformation of life for the recipient. The answer to the question is both have good, but neither is a solution. If someone is hungry and asking for help at least it is easy to identify a need in our community. Many more people live meagerly and we don’t know, we don’t see it. Someone on the corner is visible. On the other hand a handful of change or fist full of Benjamins will not be enough to solve all the typical struggle that lead to someone in that situtaion.

The way to look at the choice of what is harm is to be in conversation with God about our world around us.

There are concrete times that God has said to me: This persons needs that $5 in your pocket much more than you. And other times, God has said, not now, even if you gave them $100 there are not in a place to make wise choices. The difference is who is defining the harm.

Do No Harm, is to be defined by God and the only way we know is through rule number three:

Do all the Good you can.

We like this one because it adds a qualification that the first rule does not state, but both are implied. That is that perspective that tempers what we are able to do.

Do all the Good, holds the same struggle that at times we are not sure what the good is and it become filtered by what WE say is good, or what it Good for us.

Sometimes, doing that which is good for God, is not good for us personally, at least in the moment.

  • These are the times that we experience personal sacrifice.
  • These are times that we learn about our relationship with God and how much we trust or question God.

Examples:

  • Just as a parent might choose for a child to go on an adventure they would love to experience, but they stay home so the child can know the blessing.
  • Just as co-workers choose to work together for the company’s success
  • As teammates struggle are personal harm to secure the win for the team, the coach, the school, the fan, parents, etc.

Just as in measuring what is Good, we are called measure Goodness by God’s standard and direction.

Good for our friends, work, political parties might be 180 degrees from God’s call upon our lives. The way we discern what is GOOD, is through practicing rule number three.

3. Practice the Disciplines of Spiritual Growth

This is where the church is at its greatest help, because even the evilest person with the evilest intentions and goals, can justify what is harmful to them and their cause, and what is good for them personally and for their efforts.

In truth, Rule #3 is the backbone and strength that make keeping Number 1 and 2 possible.

What are the ways we practice our spiritual development. What spiritual exercising build our spiritual nature.

  1. Prayer – Meditation
  2. Study
  3. Worship
  4. Fasting
  5. Confession
  6. Christian Fellowship
  7. Rest
  8. Holy Communion
  9. Serving
  10. Generosity
  11. Chastity
  12. Disciples Making

If you are conditioning for a sport or team:

  • there are skills to practice,
  • repetition of practice with regularity,
  • planning and forecasting,
  • eating well and resting
  • celebrating and nurturing the individuals and the team.

How well would the game go if an athlete is devoted to doing one or two of these things well, how would that effect their own performance and their contribution to the collective work of the team.

This final rule is the one that will make the most different in our understanding and experience of Christmas and our Christian living: Practicing the disciplines of spiritual growth.

What do I want for Christmas VS what do I need for Christmas to be the transforming-life-changing time of my life, your life, the life of the church?

  • WORK ON ALL 12
  • Help encourage one another in all 12
  • Don’t let each other off the hook for all 12

Practice all the tools that make us ready to do no harm and do all the good that we can. For in Christ I can do all things in Christ who gives me/us strength… be strong in the disciples, it be strong in the Lord, in the church, in the world, in our lives, in our relationship.

This is not the time just repentance, don’t just look at what’s missing, look at the missing parts and get fired up! This is time to put the spiritual sweat into the life God is calling us to live.

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Advent2 Mark 1:1-8 “Tying Laces”

closeup photo of brown lace up boot
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” [NRSA: Mark 1:1-8]

  • It is interesting that Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus and John the Baptist.
  • The starting point is baptism. John’s invitation was a call for people to repent.

REPENTANCE

Moving spiritually closer toward God requires that we acknowledge our separation from God.

  • Some of the spiritual distance comes from our moving away from God by wilfully choosing what we know to be harmful to others, ourselves, and/or the opposite of God’s best for us.
  • Some come as we allow other relationships and responsibilities to come before God. It is not that the relationship and responsibilities are bad, it is that we look for strength, judgment, discernment from ourselves, or others ahead of God.
  • In this year we have particularly been asked to trust the science, trust the scientists. We appreciate those who devote themselves to using the mind, research, calculations, measurements, and follow the methods and practice of science. But even science is the discovering, understanding, and use of God’s creation. There are those who want science to be void of God and stand as an authority that needs no idea of God, this is not why God has given us the ability to reason, to be self-aware, and to imagine new solutions. If we study at the marvel of God’s creation and not honor that God is greater than our greatest minds, then we create our own God. (commandment #2)
  • Some the gap is created when we choose little, by little, our will over God’s: The fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden was just one piece of fruit. What difference does one tangerine, one apple, one pomegranate make in a garden of plenty?
  • God is gracious to forgive, but our failures to follow God’s direction and call in our daily lives in whatever form reveals the chasm we are from God. (Lazarus and the Rich Man)

John drew crowds of people from all around who came to hear him help them see their weakness and make changes. The sign of this fresh start was given through baptism in the Jordon.

  • Think about a good athletics coach, their job is not to only talk about the good things that the team accomplished, but they spend more time pointing out the problem, potential problems, studying tapes of past problems, assistant coaches to look out for offense and defense, all to make changes to improve each player and the team.
  • Even the very best teams, in every sport and league, are made of players that have mistakes, misjudgments, poor choices, grow weary, break the rules, miss opportunities, don’t score, and lose games and seasons.
  • Repentance is looking at the tapes and seeing where we failed and grace is knowing there are another game and other opponents the next day or week.

SANDALS and SERVANTS

John’s illustration is about a simple task that most everyone in this room and stream has done throughout their lives… tying shoes and sandals.

Do you remember learning to tie shoes? We have a different experience with our footwear. The task of washing feet was the task of the least person of status to prepare people for leaving the dirt of the world in the street and washing the feet to be clean in the house.

There are strong images of baptism in foot washing. Recall how Jesus surprised everyone when he washes the disciple’s feet.

There are several example of sandals, feet, and laces in the old testament:

  1. Gn 14 Abram tells the King of Sodom that he would take even a thread from his sandals so he would be faithful that the Lord’s work provides and not the wealth of other nations.
  2. Dt 25. If a woman’s husband died, her husband’s brother was to take her in and provide a family for her. If he would not, the woman would take offer her sandal and spit in his face.
  3. Ruth 4. If someone took off their shoe and give it to his neighbor, he was disowning their friendship and not welcome them as part of the community.

These three examples cover, tithing, marriage, and care of one’s neighbor, and now baptism. Key themes we weave together through laces.

John’s connection is that the Messiah was so much more qualified, able, AND worthy to look for, follow and trust, that John, himself, was not even worthy to carry his shoes or untie his laces.

The baptism John is offering is a helpful sign of washing away the past to start fresh, but it was only symbolic, and all the ‘work’ and the need to ‘wash’ happens as often in daily life. BUT, Jesus is coming to wash our spirit!

LACES and BETTER FIT

  • When we tie our laces we are drawing together the wide open gaps to a snug fit.
  • When we untie our laces we are making room and setting free our feet for rest and welcome.
  • What can set our spirit free to be fulling God’s People?

John the Baptist:

  • I’m famous, but I am not worthy to set you free,
  • I’m a good coach, but I am not worthy to hold your faith together;
  • I can draw a crowd, but I am not worthy to keep your family safe;
  • I can offer you a valuable message, but I am not worth enough to make you wealthy,
  • I am not able to hold the community together, BUT the Messiah can do all that and more…

Here John Proclaims the coming Good News: Jesus both holds’s us snug in this world and free’s our spirit and makes us both physically and spiritually whole.

  • You and I help each other see our sins and Jesus is the one who saves us
  • You and I care for those who hunger, and Jesus makes our spirit new and full.
  • You and I can do great things, but if we think they are possible without God, we steal the glory
  • You and I cannot do all things, but Christ can.
    • This is who we seek,
    • this is who we trust,
    • this is who we praise.

In this second week we review the tapes from this year’s season and see what we need to repair, renew, and restore… Through this we repent and make ourselves ready to meet Jesus who is our salvation, hope and joy.

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Advent 1 Isaiah 64:1-9 I am Not the Potter

Photo from https://dailywalkdevotion.com/potters-hands/

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence– as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. [NRSA: Isaiah 64:1-9]

We begin Advent as a spiritual Journey

Our starting point is our current condition. Looking around and within ourselves. Things are not perfect. We are not perfect, but we have hope. Our hope is in Christ!

• We have been blinded by enormous data,

• we have been swallowed up by conformity,

• we are already investing beyond our control,

• we have the demons that test, tease, and torment us.

• We feel grip of grief. We know the repetition of confinement.

• We think what is evil; we do what is evil.

• We welcome evil into our hearts, minds, and souls.

• We watch what is sinful round the world,

• we grow a custom to brokenness and violence in the news,

• we are desensitized in the entertainment we consume. It’s ok, it’s not real, it has no effect on me.

• And yet it does. It all make evil more normal and digestible

How do we break through?

We come at Advent and recognize we are but a lump of clay before God. But we are not just any lump of clay. We are the lump of clay that God loves, molds, and patiently reworks. God has unfinished business with each of us, as with all of us.

Advent begins a spiritual journey that starts our knowing or remembering that we are the clay and not the Potter.

Here is our prayer for this first week: . Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

• Knowing Christ in our hearts and out hearts in Gods is our destination,

• we need to acknowledge we have a way to go.

• But we have been given, The Way. Out, the Way through, and the Way home

Thankfully, while God has every right to be furious with us, God loves us more than we can imagine.

The journey is one of yielding to potters hand, vision, and will for us.

Packed for the journey

Every trip, even in unknown adventures needs resources. Has in the tank, snacks for nourishment, and. Map if we lose out way. The counterparts for our spiritual journey as the same. We find direction, energy, and nourishment from our Christian fellowship, worship, study, and service.

These are the tools, activities, and necessities for us to gather, trust and use.

Our first steps are

1. to confess,

2. repent, and

3. remember we ARE plagued with the struggle of sin and weariness.

4. And we are taking first steps back to the heart of worship, heart of faith, to the heart of God.

Step one: Remember “I am not the potter. I am the clay.”

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Prayers of confession: (portions from various UMBoW prayers)

Almighty and merciful God,

we know that when we offend another, we offend you.

[We choose other paths, we move away from you.]

We are aware that we have often allowed the shadow of hate

to cloud our souls, hiding the light from our [weary and disinterested] eyes.

We have said unpleasant and hurtful things to our brothers and sisters

when they failed to live up to our expectations.

[We have said things that are pleasant to ourselves and others, but in so doing we have said and done hurtful things to you]

Grant that we might find that spark of love that ever burns within us,

[Fan the flame of your Spirit]

[We long for the grace we know in Jesus Christ]

the love that you have shown to us even when we failed you.

Fan the embers of that love until it roars again

in flames of love, peace, and reconciliation.

Forgive us our sin and help us to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Lead us into new life through your Son Jesus Christ,

who died for the sins of all. Amen.

[Based on (MICHAEL J. O’DONNELL, U.S.A., 20TH CENT.) but with additions]

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2 Corinthians 9:15 Living the Indescribable Life

RSUMC Worship including this sermon

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;  for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.  Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!  [NRSA 2 Corinthians 9:6-15]

This thanksgiving, little will be different for all the hype and warnings. People will find ways to share a meal of some size and flavor, People will talk about

  • family,
  • politics,
  • church,
  • football, and the
  • weather.

People will experience both the joys of traditions and the pangs of conflict.

The first Thanksgiving was a three-day celebration, developed out of a) conflict, b) theft, c) survival, and d) giving thanks to God for 1. forgiveness, 2. learning to work together with our enemies, 3. relationship building and 4. celebration around sharing food, and milestone for looking back< and >looking forward.

Even if we are separated by distance this year, we will find ways

  • to remember,
  • to hope,
  • to fuss, and
  • to love one another.

Paul writes these words to the churches around the of Corinth and in this passage is speaking about two matters. First, Paul is asking all the churches around the Mediterranean where the gospel is being preached and churches are springing up, to contribute to the needs of the church members experiencing a famine in Jerusalem.

For nearly 10 years, Paul goes about calling churches to see the needs beyond themselves and to help feed those who are physically hungry as Jesus had commanded his disciples to do.

This passage speaks to why we support foreign mission ministries that are outside of our own community. We who know Christ, know that God will provide for us both. Sometimes we are in the midst of a pandemic, famine, or storm and God will send others to us, and other times we are those called to help those who are.

Paul reminds us all that God is generous and calls us to be generous.

God is praised when we show our gratitude by sharing our love, devotion, obedience, and giving.

  • We show our love to God by caring for those God calls us to serve.
  • One of Paul’s affirmations for the church is to LIVE as GENEROUS PEOPLE.
  • Be known for being gracious, generous, and obedient to God.

Secondly, There are series of truths we need to remember about God

  1. God is generous – giving us earth, water, air, spirit, live, AND that most special gift.
  2. God love us – God doesn’t need us, but God chooses to work through our work and words.
  3. God is praised when we love generously – loving both God and all others.

This Thanksgiving, the thing that I hope you will choose to make different is not about protocols or travel plans.

  • This is the year that we make Thanksgiving about God rather than just a meal.
  • This is the year that we make time to Praise and honor God with appreciation.
  • This is the year that we focus more on the present need for Christ in our lives than traditions past.

Verse 15. What do we do this year that’s different than the rest?

Have the food, call the family and friends, watch the games and tell the family stories… but first deal with verse 15 of 2 Corinthians

  • Thanks Be to God.
  • God’s Indescribable Work.
  • God’s gift of Christ for the world around me to know through me.

Three things:

  1. Make God the focus on Thanksgiving.
    1. Typically, we say “I am thankful for my relationships, my home, our food, and work, or our belongings…. But where is God in this list?
    1. The power words in our affirmation of gratitude most often include “I” and “my”.
    1. Paul is challenging us to turn our thanks toward God first:
      1. God its because of you I have my family
      1. It is because of your I have a home
      1. It is your work that is my life’s purpose
      1. It is you that guides me at work, at school, in life.
      1. Every bite I eat, may it be for your work,
      1. I belong to you, do with me what you will, for your work, I am yours.
    1. In this way, The appreciation is not for what is ours or is mine, but that we are Gods., Hear the difference?
  2. We are most thankful for the gift that there are not enough words to describe, be we commit the rest of our lives to live out our appreciation.
    1. We are saying not only with our words “Thank you”, we are also putting our daily life into God’s hand, our work, our money, our time, our school, our worries, our sins, our success, our opportunities —- at God’s guiding spirit.
  3. Finally, is the gift: The gift is our grace, hope, salvation, and life that is paid by Christ, wrapped in the church as the body of Christ, and given to us.

Paul is calling the church to :

  1. Praise God with our words
  2. Preach God with our thoughts and actions
  3. Trust God’s gift as truth, power, and purpose for us, our family and friends, strangers, enemies and all people.

There is a difference between saying a prayer, cutting a turkey, complaining about politics, watching the game and taking a nap. — that stuff never changes.. the change we MUST make is to

  1. Shift the ideas of our heads and words to God’s heart & God’s word.
    1. See and Trust God to use our lives, relationships, and opportunities to share the wonderful “Gift of Christ” in our circles of influence.
      1. To experience the up wrapping and applying of the gift Christ is as God works to transform the world, through us.
      2. Say Thank You by Sharing Christ…

Tonight we will have our church family Zoom meeting! No, it’s not ideal but we will not be gathering to share a meal at these tables, but we will begin at the table, sofa, or tv tray at our own home.

Share your email address, log on to zoom, the meeting ID will be in the comments. We want everyone to gather, even if you are not joining us online, pick up the phone and call someone and share this time with some in the church, in your family, a neighbor, make some connection to share the holy time of giving Thanks to God.

Your homework between now and 5pm is to make a list of what GOD has done, what has God provided, What has God opened in your life?

What doors has God help close?

Are you grateful, are you relieved, are you sad? Grieving? Are you appreciative? Are you scared? We gather as the body of Christ to give our whole self to honor God, to trust God, to find a new God’s save grace and loving gift unfolding in our spirit.

  • a) How has God been working in your life and
  • b) what do you want God to know?

Prayer of Thanks, asking for accountability, Offering praise, and Thanksgiving. Lord have mercy on us, your people.

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“Sins Set Before God” Psalm 90:1-17

Lord Have Mercy on Me a Sinner

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.” For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance. For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands!. [Psalm 90:1-17: NRSA]

  1. Who are we to you who is ageless, all mighty, all powerful? We must be light the grass.
    1. Anger and Wrath –
  2. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
    1. Not only are we speck, no a fly, on a frog, on a knot, on a log, in the bottom of the see, but you know our fears, our failures, and weaknesses.
  3. What do we matter? What is our value to God?
    1. Who are we to ask anything of God, Who are we to the Almighty, What does God need from us?
  4. Not only is God Mighty, Aware of our sin, God has no reason to be patient with us.
    1. Our prayer is for compassion.
  5. We cry out to God because even though God could crush us, ignore us, and eliminate us, God loves us.
    1. The Prayer request of Ps 90 is for God to start tomorrow fresh in God’s steadfast love.
    1. That we might start anew
    1. This is possible by seeing our sins, acknowledging our fear, confession our pride, owning up to our

Greed, Shame, weakness, failures, etc..all that tries to separate us from the Love of God.

  • Let the rest of our days count more than the days of sin that have past.
    • God’s accounting is “graceful forgetting.” God chooses to blot out what has been broken, evil, destructive, abused, all of the prizes any victim might grasp-to, God’s desire is to start fresh, make us knew as the new day, as the new grass, and the new life in Christ that we celebrate today!
  • Goal of having a wise and faithful heart with God
    • Let the world see your transforming work in our lives. Let the world hear you in the words we speak, and the ideas we share, and the work we produce.

This Psalm is laying our what life with God is like:

Being near God is like standing on the edge of an active volcano, feel the heat, the steam, the molten rock, the consuming power and threating explosion of power. Just standing that close to mouth we could not stand and yet, God is calling us to him.

Being near God is like standing next to a two story electrical generator, sitting at the base of a nuclear reactor. The awesome power to create also has the power to destroy.

There is a fascinating new computer program called gpt-3 and it understand the English language and generates results in various languages, including different computer codes, it can write an essay in the style of Abraham Lincoln, it can construct a novel with all the dialogue of all the random characters that it needs to tell its story. It is not available to the public because it can write essays, college acceptance letters, and legal briefs, medical diagnosis, that would challenge the legitimate work of students, attorneys, authors, and doctors. And it generates these types of products as quickly as you might do a Google search for something.  It simulates conversations with historical figures, renders photos of people who do not exist. It draws on nearly 2 trillion records a data sources and generates what it ‘creates’ with enormous speed and accuracy.

I find is fascination and terrifying. A portion of the debate about using this machine is who holds the copyrights of what it produces and who gets the credit or blame for its answers. I do not marvel at it as something that could replace us, but something that could easily cause many people to stop thinking and working for themselves if a computer can generate a product with no effort but to enter a few words of a request. Its access is limited because the threat of misuse is too great.

And it no way comes close to the knowledge of God, but some would give us their own minds to save the labor and reduce the risk of failure, and the easy of not having to strive, grow, fail, and figure out solutions.

God is not a virtual mind, God is the author of creation, the builder of plants and stars, the architect of physics and mathematic and all that the world’s claims is science discoveries, not scientific creations.

Who wants to be around a God that is all power, all knowledge… it’s too much to bear/stand.

God is more than strength and knowledge, God has made us and desires to be with us.

  • God is
  • patient,
  • honest,
  • transparent yet revealed,
  • and most of all, God cares for us, gives us grace, because God loves us.

God who is the source of all the universe, is concerned without relationship.

God knows our sins, failures, fears, weakness, shortcomings, excuses, meanness, jealousies, our greed, shame, selfishness, misuse of gifts, powers, time, life, faith, and all that God has called good that we have used from some other reason than God’s reasons.

If God didn’t care about us, then sin would not be a ‘thing’ in our lives.

Sin is the measure of how close we are to the heart of God.

Hopefully, we stay close and face in the God directions

  • We do this through the Means of Grace/ Wesley’s understanding.
    • Preventative Grace that helps before we know better
    • Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that saves keeps the door open to God for us to return
    • Sanctifying Grace includes all the ways we work to keep heading in a God direction
    • Toward, Perfecting Grace that is finding ourselves at the feet, in the arms, at the heart of God

The Psalmist doesn’t know Christ, but knows Christ through God’s gracious willing to start new.

That is the reason we know to pray and cry out to God, SAVE US. HEAL US. BLESS US. RENEW US. RESTORE US.

We are able to call out to God, because God wants to help, hear, and bless us.

Why? Because God loves us.

  1. In this particular song, the writer wants God who looks at our sins, laid out on the table before God, to not be the measure of our life, the fruit of the time, resources, talents that God has entrusted to us.

Just as in the parable of the vineyard owner who gives out the talents while he is away, to one 5, one 2, and the other 1.

When the owner returns the first two have invested and use wisely what has been entrusted, the other buries the talent because he only see the fear, wrath, anger.. there is not relationship of grace that knows, even if we mess up trying God is wise, patient, gracious, and loving enough to see how we use the fruitfulness of God’s love in our lives.

  • In this particular song, the writer wants us to remember that God would rather have us make our days count, our use of God’s time, space, and resources for God rather than fear God, love God in return

The wise choice for our life: Choose for the God who knows our sin, to hear our repentance and desire to try again.

  • The wisdom to know when to scramble the eggs so that they are not cold
  • When to you start the coals so they are ready so we are not waiting on the chicken to get down,
  • Know where to spend the nest egg of savings, knowing when to invest in a volatile market.
  • Knowing when to plant and when to harvest, when to water and when to fertilize
  • The wisdom to confess and see that God would rather we learn from our mistakes than be spiritual or physical dead in our sins and failures.

Our Goal is having a wise and faithful heart working with God’s grace.

How?

  • Let the world see your transforming work in our lives.
  • Let the world hear you in the words we speak, and
  • the ideas we share, and
  • the work we produce
  • The Test? Ask someone Do you hear God in what im saying?
  • Do you see God in my work?
  • Do you know God is working through my thoughts?
  • Do you sense God has given me another chance?
  • Do you hear Jesus in my words
  • Do you know the Spirit is guiding my decision?

If not, here is our prayer: Lord have mercy on me a sinner, renew me like the leaves on the tree, grass on the lawn, flowers in the ground, let me be connected to your grace anew, that the world might see, hear, and know your love through my love for you.

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Amos 5:18-24 “If 2020 Were a Bible Verse”

A lion, a bear, and a snake go into a bar…


Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. [NRSA: Amos 5:18-24]


The prophet Amos served God’s people as an obnoxious alarm clock, giving the people a much-needed wake-up call from God through Amos’s words to the people. And he was faithful to his job, but he was not known for being a a fun guy at the party.

This chapter starts with Lamentation. To lament is to be passionate about expressing grief or sorrow. In the biblical culture, there were even people who had the job of being in charge of lamenting at a funeral, a team of people who would weep, wail, and lament. We usually settle for a team that will prepare a ham luncheon after the graveside. For the most part we see lamenting as a negative. People will say, “Don’t cry our I will give you something to cry about.”
Amos is one who is passionate about reminding God’s people that they are going to have something to cry about if they don’t change their ways.

The message is about a nation being corrupted from within. The people had forgotten God’s ways and expectations and Amos was reminding that we pay a price for NOT living in a relationship with God individually and collectively.

Amos probably had billboard all over town and ads on social media that read:

  • “All if lost, we will be forsaken, with no one to raise her up.”
  • The city of many will become only a few.”
  • “Justice has been turned to wormwood [or bitterness.]”

At other times he had Meme and commercials that said:

  • Trust God! Not King or the neighboring Kings.
  • Seek the Lord and live.

His marketing plan didn’t win any awards, but he got some people’s attention and God touched some people’s hearts.

But most ended up in exile, enslaved, and far from home, even though they were warned repeatedly.
Amos made an important case that is worth remembering:
God who made the universe, the sun, the earth, the season, day and night, has given us all things for God’s purpose and not our own purpose. All life is the Lord’s and is intended for the Lord’s glory and praise.

Amos reminds the people that God see the evil of those who sin

  • Those who profane justice will receive none.
  • Those who speak evil will be consumed by evil.
  • Those who trust lies, will not recognize the truth.
  • Those who use the weak and oppressed will become weak and oppressed.
  • Those who think they have built strong buildings, incomes, portfolios, and see the fruit of God’s work as their own, will end up with nothing.
  • Those who have taken bribes will be pushed aside for those who love integrity.
  • The destruction will come to those who seek, trust, and do what is evil

The People would ask then, as we would now:
What can we do? How do we make things right?

  • Be prudent
  • keep silent
  • Seek and love what is good, Godly
  • Avoid evil and all sin.
  • Protect life,
  • Establish justice at the gate,
  • Trust the Lord, The God of all creation, God will be gracious to those who remain faithful.

Amos reminds the people that God hears the oppressed

  • God hears the cries of the cities
  • God knows the fear in the streets,
  • God sees our failure to trust God instead of trusting our goods, services, and worldly wealth…
  • God promises I will pass through the midst of you….

God’s Answer: The Day of the Lord?

Have you heard people say, “It would be good if Jesus would just come on and return and take us home. We are tired of all this crazy.” I know I’ve said that myself

But Amos asks us are we sure about that?

The Day of the Lord’s return will be darkness for the majority and light only to a few.

The title of my sermon is “If 2020 were a bible verse” It will be like 2020, as if you were running from a lion and met a bear, you run into the house and a bitten by a snake lying in wait.

Amos reminds: Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

Amos tells the people that God has no interest in our festivals, celebrations, world series, super bowls, and championships, tailgates, parties, and showers.

  • I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
  • God is not impressed by our being polite and forsaking what is Godly.
  • God doesn’t need our burnt offerings,
  • God doesn’t need our holidays and decorations.
  • God doesn’t need to be entertained or soothed.

God is about justice… God is about loving and hoping for love in return and when we use God’s good gifts and we see our very lives our successes, our wealth, our victories, our trophies, our rewards, our power, our accomplishments, our wealth, our life… we are unjust before God.

God does not need kings and false gods and graven images, — those of our creation for our pleasure.

WE ARE GOD’s CREATION for GOD’s PURPOSE AND PLEASURE

The Day of the Lord is about Justice rolling down like the crimson tide, and God’s Goodness and What God has determined is righteousness flows like an ever-flowing mighty river.
The day of the Lord for Amos is God’s accounting for God’s Righteousness being reflected through us, those who seek, teach, practice, promote, sell-out, or trade for God’s righteousness will find them selves in exile.

Exile is being outside the garden, not at home, not free to live, worship, work, and thrive, but to be captive of others who don’t love us, but see our conquest, property, victims, etc. [NRSV: Amos 5:13-27, Key 18-24]

So is Amos speaking to us, or just to those old testament people?

Here is the measure. When Christ returns, he is wanting to see the fruit of our faithfulness and not the fruit of our ledgers.

  • God is wanting to see that we speak the truth and expect the truth from others.
  • God is anticipating finding people singing God’s praise that they learned from our witness at worship, and at home, at work, at school, everywhere.
  • God is expecting to see how we have learn to love our enemies
  • God is returning to find the investment bearing interest in grace God has extended to us, through us.

Amos is sounding harsh, but he is showing Grace.

Do you want Christ to return this moment or do you need a little more time to get your spiritual room cleaned up, your witness sharpened and honed.

Do you want Christ to come save us from the crazy 2020, but what God finds is us worried about politics, stock markets, building, worldly values and selfishness, pride, greed, being non-offensive and protected from germs.

  • Oh for the day that we were as committed to wearing the Gospel as some wear a mask.
  • Oh for the day that we were is eager to chastise someone speaking in hate or hiding in fear, as if we might for not wearing a mask
  • Oh for the day that we hear the words of Amos, not just for Israel long ago, but for my very own life and for your very lives.

And claim the grace that Christ has not yet come and repent,

  • Be prudent about God’s goodness and rightiousness
  • keep silent, about our opinions and acheivments
  • Seek and love what is good, Godly
  • Avoid evil and all sin.
  • Protect all life, all who are forgotten, pushed aside, rejected and aborted
  • Establish justice at the gate for all people and not just a few.
  • Trust the Lord, The God of all creation, God will be gracious to those who remain faithful.

If Jesus is coming today, I hope its this afternoon so I can begin to make these changes right now!

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Matthew 5:1-12 Reassemble the Saints

action adult american football athletes
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com – some times the bears forget they are the saints

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [NRSA: Matthew 5:1-12]

The Roman Catholic tradition of honoring and venerating persons as Saints is to recognize that there are some persons who’s lives, and witnesses reveal God’s work and actions in concrete and remarkable ways. The added tradition of asking these persons to pray for them is similar to the practice we have when we ask our family, friends, and pray warriors add their prayers to our own.

There are ways that their tradition elevates these Saints above all the rest of us is one of the differences that are not helpful to us, but I ask you to look at what we share in common about the first two points: 1) recognizing God’s works in the lives of others, and 2) relying on others to share the burden of our spiritual journey.

The familiar selection from Jesus’s sermon on the mount, was shared on a hillside because no one building could contain the gathering of thousands, in the norther edge of this was a singular place that this enormous crowd could gather to hear Jesus without being in direct view of those who in the government or establishment would not initially come to interrupt or stop. In this very open, yet secluded spot, Jesus paints images of what the saints, the disciples, the followers, the church was to be known for doing with their lives.

The saints are all those who do things like those Jesus describes:

  • The poor in spirit
  • The lost in sadness
  • the simple,
  • those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
  • the merciful,
  • the pure in heart,
  • the peacemakers,
  • those persecuted for doing what is Godly,
  • those reviled, persecuted, or defamed, for the purpose defaming Christ in your witness.

If the example of saint living is not for the exceptional example, but for all who followship Christ. The veneration of Saints by the Rom. Cath. Might be the ‘excuse-factor’ for us to not take this list seriously.

The Yoke of Christ is easy, when we share the faithful work with Christ who is ALWAYS faithful.

Think of poor example: imaging a sports team, let us say it’s a high school team, but one of the team members is a current member of the professional all-star legion hero of the sport, is playing on their team. If you take field or court and that caliber of player is on your team do you want them to help your team? Do you want to learn from their experience? Do you want to model their skills of preparation and planning for the game plan, or would you rather they sit the bench?

It would not be fair would it, but would it be helpful if your team continued to slip up, show up ill prepared, or failed to execute the plan as practiced and hoped? Sure, it would, but that is what it means to be on Christ’s team. Alone I would fail, continually; with Christ, is my only hope.

But Jesus is not taking the field with us in the way an athlete might, but there are those who are showing up in our daily lives that we have something great examples to both learn from and lean on in being the church. We rely on other Saints, and in the process, we are the Saints that others will turn in at other times.

The best news of the nine examples in the Sermon on the Mount are not a check list. We do not have to master the who list. Each of us, firming committed to know Christ is with us, working together as a collective pool, team, or church can do all things, for Christ is our strength. Do you see how these fits?

In preparing to cease the day for Christ we have cloud of witnesses both on our team, and those in training in the grapefruit league.

The saints are all those who do things like those Jesus describes:

  • The poor in spirit — those who know they have more to learn, give, and trust in Christ.
  • The lost in sadness – those who have compassion and will be compassionate
  • the simple, —  those who know our greatest wealth is nothing that world calls value
  • those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, — not just the hunger, but desire with passion to know and love Christ.
  • the merciful, — those willing to step in and bridge with kindness without praise or glory
  • the pure in heart, — those who are not using God for their own power not to please others
  • the peacemakers, —  those willing to see options, look for the doors in the wall, those with hope.
  • those persecuted for doing what is Godly, — know all this is not easy, but willing to trust with it is inconvenient or we are not rewards nor respected by the world for our trusting God.
  • those reviled, persecuted, or defamed, for the purpose defaming Christ in your witness. – basically the same as the one before.

Here is where we need to see Christ at work in others. It inspires our faith and journey. Witnesses for us

It reminds us that we are called to inspire others with our faith and journey.  Witnesses for others.

Today we remember those who have died this year, members, non-members, who have been spiritual role models for our faith, and for our world..

Today we remember that we are not waiting to be seen and names as witnesses, we are on Christ’s team and need to know that all this is not only possible, but is the fulfillment of what it means to be the church. We are on the same team. We don’t have time nor energy to listen to a world that would divide us. We are called to be at Christ’s table, on Christ’s team, in Christ’s fellowship, we are living body of Christ for the sake of the world.

As we look around all the fruit of 2020, we can see that we have not been faithful to the task. We need to 1) Repent , admit we have not been faith 2) Affirm/Reaffirm Christ in us, 3) come to the table and quench the hunger and thirst of our spirit. 4) hear the words of Jesus and the witness of the saints and get back to being, FOR THE WORLD, the presence of Christ! That will turn the world right side up!

Will you come to the table.

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Galatians 3:27-29 Mortar is to Bricks as Christ is to Us

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. [NRSA: Galatians 3:27-29]

It is important for us to know some context of this area. More of a recognized state or region of the people who have Greek and Roman heritage. Thus, making it a place of blended culture and religions.

The region in what we now know as central and southern Turkey was in Paul’s time known as the region of Galatia. Historically a Greek formation, the Celts, were later occupied by the Roman empire in our period of the Apostle Paul and his missionary work in this area. It was more than a city, but rather an area with thirteen divisions. It is from the accounts in both Paul’s letter to the Galatians and in Luke’s recording in the Book of Acts, that we learn about this region.

Paul was extraordinarily successful in connecting the know cultures and religions and using those as entry points to show the inadequacies of the local gods with the One, universal God by belief in His Son. Paul is likely to have been building upon some missionary work from Peter and Sillas as his typical approach was to start with the Jewish communities at local synagogues, which were rare in the region of Galatia.

But what of any of this speaks to us?

Paul offers Christ to a diverse and divided culture that has been bouncing through generations of sweeping religious, political, and cultural changes. It is in this context that we see Paul being particularly helpful in transforming devotion into discipleship, and loyalty into faith and belief.

What if the world, the nation? Georgia? North Georgia? Our communities? Or our fellowship was so clothed in Christ, that the first thing we see in one another is Christ.

When you introduce yourself through writing, what is the first detail you would share about yourself?

  • Would it be career?
  • In some type of relationship?
  • Having kids or grands?
  • Would it be gender, or some other physical descriptor?
  • Would it be your hobbies or talents?
  • Most would say it differs by the context.
  1. Facebook: “Human, husband, father, pastor, writer, #humorinlife #foodie #techie #zippermerging #zoomevangelist”
  2. Twitter: “a sinful child saved by Christ, pastor, husband, father, writer, techie, foodie, neighbor, voter looking for humor, and humor in life. clergy.pro
  3. Business Card: “Sharing Christ and the Journey”

And how would you describe Rock Spring in 100 words?

Is their any church that would not consider starting with the words, “We are a friendly church” no matter if we were or were not.

                Many times we are, Sometimes we are not, and sometimes most are friends, but always a handful on any give Sunday are distracted with something else in lives or on their heart.

  • Would we share our missions because we are proud of our accomplishments or how much Christ has done for and through us?
  • Would we list our activities we like or think others would like or how Christ shapes, guides, and challenges us?
  • Would we describe what we enjoy about our worship, or how God is blessed by our praise and fellowship?
  • Would we tell about how easy it is to visit and join, or how much work and devotion it takes to continue growing, serving, and following Christ?

Paul starts reminding the church: You are the baptized in Christ. You are clothed in Christ.

  • Baptism is the sign of our adoption as sons and daughters of God, through and with Christ.
  • Baptism is the moment we celebrate our life being more than our own.
  • Baptism is our joining the family as heirs of the witness, work, and reward that God would bestow.
  • Baptism is our spiritual birth into our heavenly citizenship.
  • Baptism is not just something we hope people have done before they die, it is the belonging-relationship that we celebrate while we are living.

Paul is reminding the church that we are first responders to the fires burning in peoples hearts and minds, we have something better than Kevlar and Nomex, we are clothed with Christ who has died for us and lives for us to be in God, forever.

Paul encourages the church painting the warm quilt of love, faith, and prayer that surrounds us in the cold world, and the from the emptiness of being lost or alone. We are clothes with Jesus Christ who renews and restores and walks with us in all of life and death.

Paul is teaching the church to put on the arm, put on the baptism, put on the quilt, put on the strength, wisdom, and faithfulness of Christ because without it we are wearing the [Emperor’s New Clothes/ ‘naked’] instead that the world is selling as truth, safety, and meaning.

Once we wear the team uniform of Christ we are no longer divided; we become united in Christ.

If we are clothed by opinions, ideologies, data-points, peer-reviewed conclusions: all these change for day to day and as the context and balance of power shifts in the world. We are clothed in the life of Christ, don’t forget, don’t let go, don’t exchange it.

Think of all the descriptors in our lives: We rally around being in different camps: bulldogs, hound dogs, elephants, eagles, tigers, lookouts, Biscuits, owls, gophers, moccasin shoe, pickles, and our family favorite: Mighty, Fighting Okra from Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi.

We divide up by age groups: Gen Z, Millennials or Gen Y, Gen X, Boomer, WW2ers, Depressists. They all sound terrible. But we try to make generation distinctions to hopefully better understand when we actually labeling and dividing people with names.

The is one race. We are humans. We have different cultures, pigments of skin color, and varieties of traditions and assessments of our identities as individuals and groups. We are all creations of God’s handiwork, created, loved, and saved by God.

  • We have some shared features, but all have different fingerprints, and DNA markers that show God creates, not simply to mass produce, but value us one at a time, here is our weakness and strength.
  • We are free to choose to love God or run from God. But living and seeking God acknowledges our questions, failures and fears and ability, through the grace in Christ, we have a way together, in Christ.
  • We are valued by God both 1) the unique person we are and 2) the whole fellowship we become in Christ.

This week’s realization: The following is not politically bias: In the most recent weeks, I have had more occasions to speak with people who are anti-church, anti-religion, religious in practice-but not thriving in spiritual fruitfulness. I offer a both/and observation. There are flaws in our country, but we continue to be the nation that immigrants desire to leave their home to live. There are divided opinions and bias news surrounding us from every side, but other nations continue to turn to us for support, technology, and protection. There laws that need to be added and improved, but our system of government has built a nation that can welcome, respond, and adapt because it is a both/and relationship: Holding fast to our roots AND continues to amend our flaws.

Paul is telling a region of none Jewish people to believe in a God who is working through the Jew’s messiah, Jesus, God’s Son, to bring hope, meaning, salvation, love, power, grace, and is continuing this work through ALL who are baptized and clothed with Christ. Not destroying the framework but building upon it the work of the church, that whole world may know God through us.

Whether is to church OR state, the foundations have provided the framework, that without it we would not have the opportunities we enjoy today.

  • The State will never love us, only use or appease us.
  • The state will never be our salvation.
  • The State will never die that we might live, rather calling us to suffer for its life.
  • Remember who’s uniform you have been saved to wear?
  • Remember which team that has died for you?
  • Remember it Christ that truly unites us and not common law, identity, or opinion.
  • Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”
  • Don’t let the worldly division sum up your identity or communities. Be those clothed in Christ.
  • Let the world see Christ, just as they have seen your sport team colors and generational style
  • Let the world look to those who are clothed in Christ, as sinners who are made who by Christ.
  • Let the world see God’s presence in the living our faith and sacrifice to follow and grow.
  • Let the world see in this context, this time in history, the eternal love and power of Christ today!
  • Be Not afraid, God is with us. Repeat these words of assurance with me: “Be Not Afraid, God is With us!”

In his letter to the Galatians, he appeals directly to their well-known love of freedom and independence (5:1) and repeatedly contrasts freedom of the spirit through Christ with the slavery offered by pursuing worldly pleasures. He even specifically cites behavior and sins long associated with the Galatians such as jealousy, drunkenness, liberal sexuality, and idolatry (5:19-20) and contrasts these with the freedom from vice and corruption offered by Christianity (5:22-24). His appeals worked well, and the Galatians were converted, exchanging Sabiazos’ and Cybele’s protection for that of Jesus Christ. Herm notes that “the Christian communities under the jurisdiction of the Drunemeton were among the oldest founded” by Paul and Galatia grew into one of the most vital Christian centers of the region (43).

The Galatians by this time were almost thoroughly Hellenized and had further substituted their Celtic-Greco customs with Roman beliefs and attitudes. Christianity replaced their old religion, and the temples were turned into churches. This same paradigm was repeated, with the addition of military force, following the Muslim Invasion of Anatolia in 830 CE when the populace was converted to Islam and churches became mosques. By this time, there was little left of the original Celtic-Greco culture of Galatia. Its name survives today primarily through the biblical epistle of St. Paul and, possibly, the suburb of Galata outside of Istanbul, Turkey. [Mark, J. J. (2019, October 24). Galatia. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/galatia/%5D

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Romans 14:7-13 Mature Enough to Include

Photo: Creator: Michael Luhrenberg | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. [NRSV: Romans 14:7-13]

What are the best foods each holiday?

  • Best tailgate food?
  • Best Halloween candy?
  • Best Thanksgiving side dish?
  • Best Christmas food?

Look, we have just divided ourselves into different groups based on our preferences, heritage, and practice.  

In the context of election if there is someone who will or has vote/d in all of the opposite candidates, why argue with them and divide your relationship? Which is more important to press someone to belief, or hold fast yourself and allow them to learn from your faithfulness?

  • We get impatient
  • We are lured to believe what we here,
  • We trust opinions without review, and
  • We stand on principles that are not grounded in God.

First, Paul is saying, don’t divide and create enemies over trivial things. Don’t close the door on a relationship just to be right. INSTEAD, be righteous in your own thinking and actions, AND surrender yourselves to CHRIST, and let God be the judge of things.

Part Two – be open to love everyone.

If God only loves and be-friends us when we are good and blameless, then God would have condemned us all long ago.

John 3, while we were yet sinner, he sent his son, to give his live for ours. Even though rejecting the sin, God embraces us in the hope that we learn from the life, and sacrifice of Christ and come to understand, believe, trust, and devote our lives to God, to Gods purpose. 

Our denomination never lived into the motto, “Open hearts, minds, and doors” rather than hold one another accountable, and we adopted a new motto.

Part One – (Out of order because we typically think it is an afterthought or that we don’t need Spiritual growth or even Spiritual Maintenance.

Part One is that which we must master first: Accepting Christ has died and now lives for us personally, AND that we are surrendered to him with our own sin and struggle.

  • Both parts are vital.
  • Jesus both teaches the crowd of thousands AND feeds them.
  • Jesus invited us to follow AND calls us to disciple others. 

It’s not either-or.  Our calling is to feed, clothe, and provide for those in physical needs, AND it is all to spiritually feed, spiritual clothing, and provide the spiritual Community for all.

Context of Romans: Paul, who wrote many letters as the social media of his day, shared this letter as his final letter. From this more mature place he becomes STRONG in CHRIST for himself, and TOLERANT of others less mature, so that his faith become his witness.

If I continue to sin, who, are we to judge any other person. Paul is clear that our job is NOT to be a spiritual judge.  But we ARE to be passionate about building up the opportunities to transform our relationship as disciples. and leave the rest to God, who deals with us individually knowing the struggles and journey of every person. ( some laborers work all day some mid-day other the last our but all received the same reward.)

The Mature and reflective Paul

Even if some is wrong, be mature enough to to keep the relationship open,  live out what you know to be true but do not make enemies.

Two people can be both wrong, and will also stand before God, whether they believe in God, accept God, or not. 

Allowing someone the room to be wrong, but close enough to learn from being close 

We belong to the lord

Whether people believe in God, God continues with love, hope, and waits in patience for each of us to come to know and to worship or reject God.

Ref. Isaiah 45:23> “every knee will bend and tongue confess or acknowledge”  God is not only real, but also the author of life, love, and authority.  

Gameplay

A mature player knows that tick tack toe ends up in a scratch more often than not and the two places that typically allow someone to win most every time. In card games, any strategy game the experienced player has the opportunity to teach the opponent to become a better player so that the game eventually is more Challenging and satisfying, OR they only play to win, which has glory at that moment only.

God is not gaming us, but is inviting us:

to AVOID being a stumbling block to others,

to be discipling others by welcoming and tolerating others,

and particularly ‘difficult’ relationships

As your neighbor the Charlie Brown Spiritual advice question: Q?

“Am I a Spiritual Blockhead?”

  • Is my attitude
  • or my behavior
  • or my words keeping someone from seeing and know Christ lives in me?

A “Christian” high school played Frances’s volleyball team last night and just before the game, the other school was celebrating their victory over their last football game. The announcer said, “We are honoring our team for demolishing the competition.” Are we saying things that others hear, and doing things that others see, and closing relationship before they start or shuting doors, minds, and hearts from Christ.

  • Don’t be a blockhead,
  • don’t be a stumbling block,
  • don’t be focused on the log with a speck in our own eye,
  • be mature Christians.
  • Be seasons in your own faith.
  • Encourage, invited, inspire, inform, but don’t beat the sheep into submission. The Good Shepherd goes out looking until the lost are found and rejoices at THEIR return.

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