Archive for category #2mileneighbors

2 Corinthians 6:3-18Christ Focused Living

We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also. [2 COR. 6:3-18 NRSV]

The context for these words are for a time that salvation is needed.

When we have a year of locus in Africa, fires in Austria, flooding in China, global rise of earth quakes, global economic and political unrest, AND a pandemic and all its effects, this would be a GREAT time for some salvation! Am I right?

Paul is describing a time when the church is facing:

afflictions,

hardships,

calamities,

beatings,

imprisonments,

riots,

labors,

sleepless nights,

hunger”

Is this verse meant for today?

Our challenge by Paul is to live and operate by:

purity,

knowledge,

patience,

kindness,

holiness of spirit,

genuine love,

truthful speech, and

the power of God”

The tools we use are “weapons of righteousness for

the right hand and for the left;

in honor and dishonor,

in ill repute and good repute.

When we are faithful in living, thinking and behaving in these ways in response to our faith we can expect:

Thank you?

Praise?

Affirmation?

Wealth?

Ease from problems?

No! This is the list we think and the world expects

The reality of believing, thinking and acting this way:

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;

as unknown, and yet are well known;

as dying, and see—we are alive;

as punished, and yet not killed;

as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;

as poor, yet making many rich;

as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

This is why we don’t always operate from these:

purity,

knowledge,

patience,

kindness,

holiness of spirit,

genuine love,

truthful speech, and

the power of God”

And yet we wonder why we feel that:

don’t see God at work,

Why the church is facing division,

And is cast off as irrelevant to the worlds agenda

Where do we correct our mission and faith with God’s gifts as our hope and treasures?

Purity comes from God, not ourselves

Knowledge comes from God not our creation

Patience is God’s work

Kindness, holiness, love, truth… all come from God

The challenge is to be filling “in God”,

As the chaos and disorder,

the darkness and distraction,

the division and injustice

All these are not good things,

these are not life giving,

these are not truth

These are the fruit of seeking meaning without God

But how?

  1. Do not be yokes with unbelievers
  2. What do righteousness and wickedness have in common
  3. What fellowship can light have with darkness
  4. what harmony is there between Christ and Belial
  5. Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
  6. What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

[2 Cor 6:14-18: NRSA]

A Koinonia fellowship is at its strongest for the world when not dependent on the world.

Citizenship has been a treasure through history. The only reason Paul was not executed for the many things he did that were disobeying the Roman laws was that his citizenship provided him some measure of due process under the law.

But Paul is discussing a dual citizenship that we balance. When we try to serve two master and they are in agreement everything appears to be good, but when our worldly citizenship conflicts with our heavenly citizenship, and we are not choosing God, we are ultimately choosing chaos and death.

Don’t hear my words as the freedom to be disobedient. Recall the list of choosing Gods ways over the worlds ways:

purity, – without sin, how other than Christ?

knowledge, – make a brain and order the universe first

patience, – how many years has God been patience with us

kindness, – mercy is being kind when not deserved

holiness of spirit, – we are not holy without God

genuine love, – unconditional, not self serving love

truthful speech, and – truth threat comprehends the above

the power of God”. Our only answer

It begins in the awareness that we out of bounds (in sin relation)

That following prayer and confession

That follow repentance and change of thinking and behaving

That follows aligning with God and not with the world when there is disagreement with God

We are an society of achievement, wealth, and power…

We are quick to give loyalty to whose who have the greatest

And we trade for God.

I have been surrounded by this pass for the past two weeks:

(Not just the familiar vs 14)

2 Chronicles 7: 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, “You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from the land that I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And regarding this house, now exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished, and say, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, “Because they abandoned the Lord the God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this calamity upon them.’ “

We cannot say we have not been warned?

Do you want to show the world our only hope and salvation?

purity,

knowledge,

patience,

kindness,

holiness of spirit,

genuine love,

truthful speech, and

the power of God”

Do you want to hand over our salvation to technology, governments, and the dreams of worldly leaders? Then count on even more

Who do we serve because they are holy, knowing, patient, merciful, genuine, love and filled with divine power over the universe?

Who will you serve?

Who will we serve come Sunday afternoon? And M-S?

The answer is too simple:

The prayer for every day – throughout the day and night.

This is our hope and strength

This is what God is wait for from the whole world:

Lord have mercy on me a sinner.”

“Model and make my life your today, for your will.”

“You are my hope and salvation”

“I forsake, yield and give back to the world what is the worlds”

“Use my life today for your work and witness”

We must first be in Christ to focus on the world else we are blind to the worl

OR

keep fighting, crying, dividing and dying.

It remains our choice… isn’t God patient? Good?

Hand over the reigns of your heart, and soul, and strength

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Isaiah 60:1-9 Arise the Light is Shining

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall be acceptable on my altar, and I will glorify my glorious house. Who are these that fly like a cloud, and like doves to their windows? For the coastlands shall wait for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from far away, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the Lord your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has glorified you. [NRSV]

A prophetic word from Isaiah reminding and foretelling of God’s Light and Hope is coming.

  • The image of nursing mothers
  • A radiant light in the darkness
  • Camels, Doves, and Flocks
  • some come bringing God and Frankincense
  • they will come from far away lands, from the ends of the earth
  • all because of the Glory of God’s works, the Holy One of Israel.

This is a prophecy calling that we see fulfilled

  • in the night sky as shepherds watch their flocks by night,
  • The Glory of the Lord is shone in the darkness to the least, the last and the lost.
  • The Nations shall bring gifts of Gold and incense, Frankincense to Glorify my Host, My House

700 Years priory to the Birth of Jesus, Isaiah is preparing the people in darkness to look for a great and glorious light.

  • You and I are those who know the whole story.
  • We know what the Light of the World is all about
  • We look at the darkness of sin, lies, deceptions, divisions, and corruption and we see the power of REVERSAL

Matthew 2: 6-16

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.  Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,  and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”  When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. [NRSA]

  • Where we see DARKNESS, DEATH, SIN, and BROKENESS
    • We have the Glory of the Heavenly HOST singing and working with us.
  • Where we see 1 Night/day, 1 child/person, 1 church, our witness is intended for a world of folks struggling in darkness.
    • We have the GIFTS of the WORLD’s wealth to be used for GOOD
  • Where the are those working against us, God has another plan, another way
    • Our paths may differ from our expectations, but God has GOOD, HOPE, Light, LIfe for us

Arise, God’s Light is Shining through US!

  • We were not in the fields
  • We didn’t travel from far countries
  • We didn’t look into the manger that night
    • BUT
  • We can see the power the darkness in our world
  • We can see the ends of the earth on our screens
  • We can see the fulfilling of God’s continuing Story, shining and giving light in a world filled with politics, corruption, and division.
  • We have all the pieces and see how God fits them together throughout time for times like the days and nights we living through now.

This the day of Hope!

  • What the world intends for evil, God brings new life.
  • This is our mission, this is our calling, this is our charge, this is our responsibility
  • Where there is darkness, we shine the light of christ
  • Where there is not enough, we bring the wealth to the feet of Jesus
  • Where there are reasons to fight among ourselves God way will not be stopped, the question is will we be looking for worship with sheep,
  • Will we be those who following the political voice, or follow the songs of angels and the prayers of wisemen.

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1 Timothy 2:1-7 “Right Time”

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

The Right Time for Christ 

We live in an era where the perceived acceptable times: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. what the world needs to know and experience and 

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

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

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

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

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

This is the grey zone that gets us in trouble.

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

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

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

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

someone else be a prophet

Someone else speaks the uncomfortable,

Someone else feeds, clothe, comfort, correct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If someone is speaking of fairness without justice

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

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

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

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

Some will say, it’s not that bad or 

Others will say, it’s not worse

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

Others will speak up for the truth of God.

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

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

Christ was revealed at a certain time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the lostness that we visit today.

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

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

Asking the congregation …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have the ability to offer that gift to others

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

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

a. The task of reaching out is about our offering

B. Making the risk of trying

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

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

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

Out job is to avoid neglecting the lost

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

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

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

We are all called to help restore others

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

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

Being the Faithful vs. fixing the problems

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

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

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

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Hebrews 13:12-16 Three Rules: Refresher

Three Tools

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!!

  • Singing, 
  • Worshiping, 
  • Praying, 
  • Studying, 
  • Journaling, 
  • Fasting, 
  • Serving, 
  • 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

Three Rules:

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

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Psalm 27 “Faith Sleeping”

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh– my adversaries and foes– they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, LORD, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up. Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! [NRSV]

Sleep is vitally important to our health and renewal of body and soul. Many folks have trouble sleeping or staying asleep for a variety of reasons, which makes it even more important to control the factor that we can influence.

Affirmation of God:

Many times we take the worries, stress, and fears into our sleep which can be seen in our racing minds, worried hearts and wrestles states. We begin our resting recognizing once again that God is at work in our situation.

Psalm 27 is a useful tool for maximizing our rest. Beginning with acknowledging God has our back and has our life, we can lay aside all things knowing God is with us.

  • The Lord is my Light
  • The Lord is my Salvation
  • I have NOTHING to Fear
  • The Lord is my Strength
  • The Lord is my Life
  • I have NOTHING to fear

This prayerful hymn begins with setting the stage with the focus on God. Rather than unloading the garbage of the day in a spiritual data dump, think of beginning sleep as an orienting prayer that places our attention and presence in God.

As a typical alternative, the TV or some screen is our light. Worries about money, debt and demands waiting for us at the break of day reveal our weakness. We hone-in our weariness, regrets and mind-reading of the day’s events and the projects of what tomorrow will bring.

Try the new model. Begin rest placing ourselves before God.

  • You are my light tonight
  • You are my meaning
  • You are my strength
  • You got me safe, I have nothing to fear, to worry, to distract, etc.

Naming the Struggle

After taking the time to place ourselves in the presence of God, then we ready to let go of what we have been holding. Some things we care are useful responsibilities, even though meaningful and good, can be stress for and tiring.

Some things are beyond our control. We live in the presence of evil. There are people, forces, organizations, ideologies, and the like that will sap up every bit of energy and attention, our health and our minds, even to the point of death.

There in the Psalm acknowledging of God’s place, our place and then the things and people who are encamped around us. So that even if we are in a good place with God there are things waiting to tempt, harm, challenged and confuse us.

A Reminder of Confidence

The model is to be confident in God in the face of evil. “I will be confident in ..asking God.” God let me live in your strength, light and love, all the days and nights of my life.

In our sleep it one of the most intimate times of being present with God. We might think it is the response to exhaustion or simple time for our bodies to rest and renew, but SLEEP can be a time to renew our trust and faith.

Some times we try doing things to distract or wear ourselves down to fall asleep. Most times we read a book or watch a show or screen we are overloading our minds to reach a point of auto-shutdown.

This Psalm consists of a hymn of faith, as all Psalms are, and it calls us to worship.

  • Naming the Joy in the world and in our experiences,
  • Singing songs of praise
  • Calling for Grace to surround and cover us
  • Seek to find God face to face, heart to heart.
    • Even if my family and friends can’t or won’t help, you are with me.
    • You are with, You have not given up on me.
  • Remind God and Ourselves how God might handle or show up in the responsibilities, threats, challenges, and work that awaits us. Anticipating the ways our faith will the renewed when God indeed helps us.

Hope:

Believing God’s Goodness will restore, heal, help, bless, lead, strengthen and give power in what awaits us.

Wait in the Lord (Hope in Practice)

Finally, trust that preparing for sleep to be more about God than ourselves, helps us to lay aside, even if for a few hours, to remember what we pick back up and what we face tomorrow will be good, because God is good, strong, and true.

Use Psalm : Some times we begin by reading and listening to word, When we take the pattern of Affirmation Who God is, Naming our struggles and anticipation how God will help us, Worshiping God for all God has done, and Rest in Hope.

Short List:

  • a. Make your sleep about God and not yourself
  • b. Name your worries and name of God might do with them
  • c. Name your struggles and anticipate what God will reveal
  • d. Name your fears and picture how God will use you.
  • e. Worship, remembering joy, singing songs and praise God
  • f. and wait on God to renew and revive us.

b.

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2Cor 3:12-4:2 Engaged in a Ministry of Reflecting God

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. [NRSV]

There are a variety of places and moments where I have come to know God most clearly:

Scripture and Songs

Birth and death

Mission travels

Glisson and Churches

Fellowship and Art

It is vital to cultivate the number of people places and moments that we more clearly see and experience God.

When we are in times and periods of drought it is helpful to have places to see reconnecting and renewal.

How to I find God revealed? Go looking where others have found God

Scripture

Mission

Spiritual disciples and practice

Worship and study

When we place ourselves as vulnerable and willing to know God we more clearly experience God

Unfortunately we hold on until we are in a mess, end of resources, spiritual or physically bankrupt that we are forced to be open to God.

So help by taking off the veil, removing the layers and be present before God:

Unveiled. Seeing truth > knowing the presence, reality of God

  • Hope,
  • power and
  • freedom in God

What we find in God is

  • the hunger of our spirit
  • The strength to move foreword
  • The freedom to trust and share

Being the nerdy trek fan I love to hear the captain say to the crew, “engage!”

  • Or make it so
  • The words in each day of creation were So be it,
  • These words declare authority and commitment as a call to action

God called Moses, spoke through Jesus and calls us to action and faith as well

Our ministry of reflecting God’s light, love and grace

  • Engaged I this ministry : do not loose heart
  • Renounce Shameful things:
  • Not falsify God’s word :

Rather

Open statement of truth : speak and seek the truth

Commended ourselves : invest in connecting

to the conscience of everyone in God : awareness that God desires us all.

We draw to close the season of Epiphany with the call to use the gifts entrusted to us to be used to show the world

  • God work,
  • claim and
  • calling

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13 The Greatest is the Hardest

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If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSV]

These verses are the definitive description of the extremes and expressions of love. Love is indeed the greater power. Love is the great gift. It is freely give, but requires all things to be fully experienced and shared. To be loved takes no effort on our part as the recipient. Yet, it means the most to make good on its reality.

What or Who do you love?

To love a thing, or an idea, or a goal, or a dream, is an impossible investment of love. To say I love donuts, mashed potatoes or country-fried steak may reveal a passion for carbohydrates, but these items will never return love to me.

I can more appropriately say I extremely enjoy the taste, experience of flavor of these items but to love them is to invest in something that can never return love, which will ultimately lead to an emptiness when the temporary fullness passes.

To say that I love my job, my house, my car or my hobbies is also a misinformed valuation. These treasures surely provide, means, space, access and interest in my life, but they will never have the capacity to complete the circuit of love I might try to bestow.

More than semantics, Love should be reserved and invested in persons and relationships that have the potential to love.

God loves us.

What does it say about US and about God, that God loves us enough to trade God’s-self for us on the cross?

God does no see us a objects in creation. We are more than bird, tree, day, night, snow days, or sunshine.

You are my Sunshine.. as important as sunshine is for light, warmth and vitamin D. The sun does not love us knows nothing of us although we depend on it continually. It is not the source of our being loved, but it is a gift from the one who does love us.

The Son, for love

God loves us enough to exchange our inability to return love, so we can love. Our society has doubled-down on being able to so definitely define and determine and self-declare every detail, label and category except for the most stubborn of them all: for example..

“Sinner”

Every human that has ever lived has failed to be loving, kind and worthy of the existence we have been born into. Even those in the most deplorable of conditions has value, chromosomes, living and multiplying cells of possibility that are not self-willed into being.

We are born into a world filled with every example of those who precede us with some level of brokenness, self-focused not compassionate moments, some more than others, and some we assume are continually so bent.

I have yet to have business card printed that state my name and underneath that name says sinner.

John Thomas Brantley: Sinner

I profess to this be true and claim it in my daily prayers, but I don’t introduce myself this way. Before I met Wendy, a host of friends, family and church members set me up with people to date. (Worst were those who had dreamed of being a pastor’s wife, yikes!) I finally printed up a card that came closest to the plain “Sinner” card.

On the front it listed in 30 words the reason I would be a good, safe and decent person to spend time with. One the back of the card we 30 word of confessions what to expect when I was not presenting my front side. I presented this card two four women at the end of the first date. Two of them never called back. One called back to ask for a copy because they lost it and wanted to show their friend, but was not interested in a second date. Wendy met for the lunch two days later.

The old tourism catch-phrase from the Virginia board of Tourism stated: VA is for <heart/emoji>. Imagine the bumper sticker from God that reads: “Life with God is for “Sinners” with an emoji of our own face.” We don’t like to see ourselves as such. And if we do we spiral in depression and self-hate which is not the purpose of acknowledging our trouble with loving God.

I have trouble love God and Loving my neighbors.

If I love my neighbors it is typically because they are easy to love and we share things in common. If my neighbor is very different I tend to be cautious and hesitant until we find some common ground. Our common ground with all humanity is that we all have moments where we love ourselves more than we love God or our neighbors and some of us have more times we don’t love even ourselves.

Most of this we probably know in our heads.

The church, the governed, our neighbors and even our families are begging to be loved, valued, included, shown compassion, taught what is meaningful, corrected when we are lost, listened to, trusted, and the like.

The admonition from Paul to the church to model loving one another in the ways we find God loving us:

  • Don’t talk about love and not actually love.
  • Don’t talk about your expertise becase your not always perfect.
  • You may know I love, but do you know those who need love around you?
  • You are a person of faith but others are watching when we don’t model faithful speaking and acting.
  • Don’t let our stuff and wanting stuff get in the way of actually loving others.

Ask some to be totally honest and ask all these each day:A

  • Am I patient with you others around me?
  • Do you experience kindness from me?
  • Am I jealous?
  • Do I look out for what’s good for me before others?
  • Am I as wonderful as I think I am?
  • Have you seen me be arrogant?
  • When was the last time you saw me treating someone rudely?
  • Is it my way or the highway?
  • What do I sound like when I’m irritable?
  • Do I cheer when my enemies get what’s coming to them?
  • Do I celebrate when God shows up?
  • Does my faith show in all things?
  • Am I always hopeful?
  • Am I committed to see our relationship through the hardest things and times?

That is a heck of a check-list.. This makes it easier to simply claim the business card and acknowledge, Yes, Lord! Have mercy on me a sinner!

Here the Good News: God loves us while we are still sinning.

God doesn’t want us to keep living in these broken ways, but that does not stop God from loving us. God does not give up!

Application Time

Who in your life needs to hear these words? Who in your areas of influence needs to see God showing love through you to them?

The best marker in journey of learning to love are the moments we love like an adult loves. A child loves because she or he needs. And adult loves not only from the point of need, but also because we know that self-love is never enough. We need God’s help. We need the power of God’s Spirit surging through us, because our Sinner List of when we are not loving shows we have the capacity to try, but not the frequency to make it through.

Loving in the Mirror

If we look in the mirror and see only our own reflection we will fail. The task it to seek God through us.. and we will love for ever.

The Greatest thing is the hardest.

You can do it, in Christ!

Come to the table, and start allowing God’s love to shine through you afresh and anew.

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Adv3: Do Zephaniah 3:14-20 Luke 3:7-18

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Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord. [NRSV:OT]

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”  In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV:NT]

Actions have consequences

  • When we do what God asks of us to do God is revealed and order and justice follows.
  • When we do not do what God asks of us we make God look bad, and chaos follows.
  • And inaction neither reflects God nor ourselves.
  • Key words: repentance, rejoice, festivity 

JOY Interrupts!

This week in the Advent season is known as the Sunday of joy. The Pink candle is the interruption of “Joy” to remind us of why we prepare for Christmas.  

Don’t rush ahead to the end of the story though, the Joy begins with God’s desire to love us, bless us, and to restore us from the chaos.  Rather than only finding meaning at the end of the journey, it is important for us to cherish the joy found along the way.

Did you ever know someone named, Zephaniah? The prophet’s text promises that the people’s fortune and future have been changed from judgment to hope, from destruction to restoration, from oppression to liberation and from dread to praise (Zeph. 3:14-20). 

This message comes in the process. Too often we are discontent and give up hope when the struggle is long, chronic and weary. Advent is our intentional infusion of joy into the journey toward Christ.

As those who know this hope in a 21st century world who is rushing toward winning, success and ‘profit’, little if any attention is give to the prophetic words of hope and joy before we arrive.

In the gospel text, John the Baptizer opens the curtains before those who seek to stop and thwart goodness and godliness of the coming of the One, the Messiah, who will bring a new act of salvation, (Lk. 3:7-18). 

The festivity right now center on the “Doing.” God has promised to change the people’s plight from a world of corruption, misplaced faith, failed authority, captivity under an oppressive powers, and inequities and injustices severely affecting the whole community. 

In the Old Testament passage we see the trouble when the spiritual folks, those concerned for holiness, worship, love for the poor, respect for God’s laws were all abandoned, and the prophet was sent to call the covenant people on it!

Eventually, God’s mercy is granted, and the promise expressed in the final chapter of Zephaniah’s divine oracle brings a new beginning. There is a song of joy in the air and a call to Do! This tiny word has a message of assurance and comfort.

“Do” implies that some action can help turn things around. In 3:16-17, we hear the prophet’s message: “On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: DO NOT FEAR, O ZION; DO NOT LET YOUR HANDS GROW WEAK. THE LORD, YOUR GOD IS IN YOUR MIDST.” 

The DO is to a call to worship, to praise, to celebrate, to recall the words of promise, the remember God is for us, to remind one another we are called to love even though we have not always been loving. The results: “Loud singing, a day of festival, disaster removed, renewal in God’s love and much more” (Zeph. vv. 17-18). 

In the gospel, What is the good news? 

  1. God loves us even though some consequences we bring upon ourselves, and some are the ripe or rotten fruit of others. (My bee hive) (National politics) (trusting others to ‘do’ for us – user/consumer mentality) God still loves us, longs for our trust,
  2. The “DO” that we are beginning is in our 2Mile Ministry. [INTRO TO PREPARE FOR 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS] the work we “DO” now is in anticipation of the joy we will share.
  3. We need Folks to share gifts to our neighbors through 2mile to show love without cost, hospitality of grace and the welcome of Christian community.

SIGN UPS: 2mile and 12 Days of Christmas for our neighbors…. anticipation of the hope to share!

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