Archive for category 5 Practices
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; 7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 10 The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord! [NRSA]
- At the core of celebrating Christmas is the telling God’s story
- It is not a New Story
- It is a Story of Good News for a Broken World
- It is Your Story to Live
It may be somewhat strange to turn to the Psalms to hear the Good News of Christmas. Be reminded that God who has been calling all people to trust him, has the same heart of love shown in creation, revealed through out shared history, made plane in the manger in Bethlehem, is the same love and message of hope for the world.
Question 1: Do you know God’s Good News in your life?
The Good News that Jesus makes plain is fortold in the worship songs, the Psalms. Here in Psalm 146 the song retells that our HAPPINESS comes from God and not our things, not our money, not our success, not our accomplishment, RATHER – Our Joy and Hope come from God..
If you and I are looking for Joy and Hope in others things and other relationships they will all disappoint us if God is not in them.
Look around, in the world, in our community, in our church, in our homes, in our own hearts: We do not always place God first in our hearts, minds and soul.
Question 2: Are you persuaded and guided by God’s Hope?
If you believe God is at work in the world today and in your life, you have the very message that God has been trying to share with the world. It only takes a moment to see the brokenness and fear that leads people’s hearts, minds and spirits to know — Faith, Hope and Love are precious gifts that need to be shared and unwrapped.
I have to believe that most everyone of us would want to answer, “YES!” I am persuaded! I believe God loves the world and God desires the world around me to see, hear and experience God’s love through my life. (your life). But in how many short minutes or seconds before our pride, our greed, our selfishness, our demons, our dependancies, our fears tempt, test and tear us away?
Question 3. Do you remember that it is God’s Story in us and not the reverse.
Psalm 146 calls the people of God, while in worship, to remember the eternal power God has for us, who believe and serve. The words are comfort to those held captive, those blind, and those oppressed. The Lord lifts up the stranger, the orphan and the widow. The Good News to which Jesus preaches in his first home-town sermon.
The part of the sermon that gets him run out of town is that God is not saving the lost and empowering the powerless to do their own thing, God is blessing us to be God’s servants, witnesses and messengers.
The Psalm is clear that God is not about supporting wickedness, pride, greed, fear, brokenness and sin. God has come to free us from these things, but not to return to them as our master.
The 4 Question is this: Who is entrusted to tell and live the story?
Is it those who test the Lord loving-kindness or those who follow God’s ways? The Psalms sings: Praise the Lord! (Not look what I want, what You want, what I need, what you need… The seperation we experience and witness in the world is that we turn our hearts away from our hope and salvation.
As a culture-of-church we have become more of an institution, an organization and a entity of operations. We talk about OUR ministry, OUR building, OUR mission, and OUR church. We hear the Psalmist remind us, that we about God’s ministry, God’s heart, God’s temple, God’s work and God’s witness.
As a culture-of-church we have grown to expect someone else to do the work and us to receive the ‘Cliff-notes’ gift-pack that makes it easy to receive. When we expect to be served, we are not serving. When we anticipate the transaction of getting because we have given. Whew think of ourselves as entitled to the benefits of membership, we need to revisit the words of the Psalms: Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
In our journey toward Christmas and rekindling the presence of Christ in ourlives, know this:
- God is calling us to worship him
- God is calling us to repent of our sins, fears and selfishness
- God is calling us to trust him
- God is calling me (state your name) to be the witness to the world
- IF THIS IS OUR TO DO LIST: We need Christ to be our
- Our Strength
- Our Good News
- Our Word
- and OUR HOPE
Prayer: Lord make us yours, be our strength, draw us to your word and call, and open the hearts and minds of everyone we meet to receive you through our words and witness of your power, love and grace. Amen.
Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. [NRSA]
John Wesley’s “Three Rules” are 1) Do no harm, 2) Do all the good that you can. and 3) Continue to grow Spiritually by practicing piety.
Wesley offers these three rules from the perspective of living as Sanctified people who are always moving toward Christian Perfections, which is our wholeness in God.
Therefore the rules are the guide for growing into the people God has hoped and dreamed we would become through Christ.
The reality is that we have conflicts and problems with the three rules.
- We don’t always avoid doing what is harmful, sinful or evil.
- We don’t always do what is good for God and others, much less ourselves.
- And we are spastic in prating our spiritual maturity, as we generally believe we have figured enough out to get by until we have crises we can’t handle.
All this affirms that we don’t fully understand the three rules as helpful tools. As simple rules, there are ideas for us to think about in our head. I offer the tool bag instead. Wesley’s three simple tools.
The first tool is the hammer. It is weighted, purposeful and designed to be used to construct when used properly. It is to strike metal nails and not fingernails. When you hit your finger, it not only cause you to take the Lord’s name in vain or at least shout our in pain, it leaves a bruise or it might take off the fingernail or open the skin for infection on top of the pain and soreness.
No one would willfully hit their thumb, but it happens. No one would strike another person with a hammer but it happens. The heavy hammers in tired and sweaty hands might drop and injure a toe, a co-worker or cause damage to the building project.
The hammer has the ability to do good or harm. Don’t intend harm with a tool number one.
Parenting. As a parent I know that sometimes setting a limit, pointing our an error, or protecting a child or the family from harm means saying “No.”, setting boundaries, and even providing a measure to shape attitudes and behaviors. From the child’s point of view, they might feel they have been harmed. So doing no harm would actually be doing harm. The perspective and intent determine when our actions and attitudes are harmful.
- People will say “the church didn’t love me, because they didn’t approve of my sin.” We address sin so that we can, “go and sin no more.”
- They didn’t give me money to they don’t show the love of Jesus, “They are all hypocrites.” We are not perfect, but loving is not always pleasing.
- I didn’t get my way, so the church harmed me.
… in these, we take the tool of “Do no harm” and use it as a weapon rather than a tool for constructing that which is good for God, others and ourselves.
Perspective and intent are what the first rule/tool is all about.
Clarified: Do No Harm is: in all we do, don’t intend to reject, don’t plan to harm, don’t let anger, fear, disappointment guide your thoughts and actions.
Tool number two: The Spoon
“Do all the Good that you can.” This is one is where the church may find its greatest threat. We assume this rule set the highest demand that we always do good. We learn from the first rule that what is good is not determined by what others ask of us, nor is it the good that we define. Goodness is defined by God, for God’s purposes.
A spoon is a great tool. It can be used to feed ourselves or someone else. It allows us to gather bite-sized portions and deliver something that is good or evil.
You know the saying, “He can dish it, but he can’t take it.” We want Good to come to us. This second tool is like the basic lesson of loving one’s neighbor, “Love your neighbor like you would like for your neighbor to love you, whether your neighbor loves you or not.
The spoon carries a portion of something that is unconditional. We can hardly do good for those we know and love; when it comes to loving those who are different or showing Goodness to our enemies, rivals and those narrow-minded knuckleheads would don’t think as we do.. The temptation is to avoid them, appease them or draw our line of goodness in the sand stand before them and God knowing we have done our part.
The power part of the spoon is that offers a controlled portion. My doctor said to me, “if you eat a spoon of ice cream, you are doing ok, if your portion is the whole container, you are way out of bounds.”
Don’t become overwhelmed with doing everything well, all at once, all the time. When we have the commandment to show Goodness and we fail or fall short, we get overwhelmed.
The constructive use of a spoon is that with one portion we can take the next step of turning around a past of doing harm, doing evil and being broken in sin. One spoonful of good does not equal all the injustice and brokenness we create, but with one act of doing Good transforms the direction of our faithfulness. The more spoons of Goodness we share the closer we move toward God and all the people of God’s work.
Clarification: When we do what is Good, we are taking small bites of doing things God’s way.
The third tool is a treadmill. Practice your piety, growing in Christian fellowship and maturing your Spiritual self with God, others and ourselves.
NO!! Not the treadmill! Everyone knows what the treadmill is for. Walking, running, exercise. How many people have purchased a treadmill or other exercise equipment as a yard sale, only to later sell the same machine at another yard sale?
The good use of the treadmill is not as a place to hang clothes or store boxes of junk. The ownership of a treadmill offers no health benefit unless we use it.
Even a basic treadmill has some measurements. Time, distance, difficulty and measure of work accomplished.
The appropriate use of such a device is to use it, daily. The third rule is best used in the third tool.
Think of all the wonderful things we can do to strengthen our relationship with God, our neighbor, and our enemies that don’t require elevating your heart rate!!
- Witnessing, and
- Sharing in fellowship with other Christians.
Think of how practicing these spiritual exercises will build spiritual muscle for when we are dealing with rule ONE and TWO.
Three Tools: A Hammer, a Spoon, and a Treadmill
Be intentional about building God’s kingdom and not simply avoiding harm.
Be repetitive in a diet of doing Good, one bite at a time
Be renewed and growing practicing on Spirit on God’s treadmills
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” [NRSV]
1. Father, hallowed be your name. (YOU ARE HOLY)
2. Your kingdom come. (YOU ARE WORTHY)
3. Give us each day our daily bread. (We Trust you)
4. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. (love as you want to be loved)
5. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” ( SAVE US )
Persistence of Prayer: a Parable
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
Practice of praying
“So I say to you,
Ask, and it will be given you;
search, and you will find;
knock, and the door will be opened for you.
- Verbal, affirm was I need or want
- Enquire/ Study, see how God has answered, learn from past,
- Knock on Doors, ask others and see persistence and promise of prayer:
Promise of Prayer
For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord. [nrsv]
- Jerusalem as a Joy?
- People will be a delight?
- No more weeping and no more distress?
- No more infant deaths or those whose life is cut short?
- Those who work will receive the benefits of their own labor?
- No injustice in wealth and home for all?
- No labor in vain, (note not a absence of work)
- Wolf and the lamb will feed together but not on each other
- Lion and the ox will eat straw
- Serpent will eat the dust… \
- Though without war
God is building a new heaven and a new earth.. will we recognize it when we get there?
As we gather early on Easter’s sunrise we remember God is creator
- In the Big Inning, God makes all things
- In Christ, Changes the whole world,
- By the Holy Spirit, God is guiding us toward the New Jerusalem, that we might lead the world to God, through Christ.
In the New Jerusalem, there is not hurt, pain, suffering or injustice, but even the serpent has a place
evil, pride/selfishness, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, wrath, and envy are no longer needed.
Think of the power of these forces in our world and in our lives
What would it take to no longer behave these ways?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
There is not other power, no other answer, no other hope, no other way.
There are various camps;
- Those who no longer care
- Those who want to prove there is another way
- Those who know Jesus is the way, but trust later
- Those who are free in Christ now and forever.
The prophetic words of the prophet Isaiah
[The whole chapter]
1 I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name. 2 I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; 3 a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; 4 who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; 5 who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long. 6 See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps 7 their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the Lord; because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions. 8 Thus says the Lord: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all.9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there. 10 Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. 11 But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny;12 I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my sight, and chose what I did not delight in. 13Therefore thus says the Lord God: My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; 14my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart, and shall wail for anguish of spirit. 15 You shall leave your name to my chosen to use as a curse, and the Lord God will put you to death, but to his servants, he will give a different name. 16 Then whoever invokes a blessing in the land shall bless by the God of faithfulness, and whoever takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of faithfulness; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my sight. 17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Why read from Isaiah at the Sunrise?
When the day is new we can better see the darkness of our past and hope of our future in the Word of God made new and whole through Jesus Christ, for us
- May we invoke the blessing of this day
- May we call on Jesus Christ to make this day new
- May we trust Christ to overcome our sin and shame
- May we speak God’s name and not our own
- May the former things are forgotten
- And the New Day in Christ is eternally on our lips and in our deeds.
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long. Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD! [NRSV]
It is one thing to complain about division in the world; it is another to offer the solution.
Praise the Lord! Is the solution.
Serve the Lord! Is the solution.
Share the Lord! Is the solution.
Our culture and intellect has pressed diligently from every direction to belittle, dis-empower, and reject God and our faith in God, all the while replacing God’s purpose for creation and humanity with a chaos of something “other”, “non-” or “the anti/pro” or some lowest common denominator of the strongest voice or wealthiest player.
It is actually not a new behavior: Look at Psalm 53:1 NIV
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.
The fruit of cultivating a culture without God returns us to chaos, destruction, and emptiness.
- When the world is in chaos, turn to the one who orders life and light out of chaos.
- Praise the Lord instead.
- When the political boxing area calls for title fights,
- Praise the Lord instead.
- When we think about placing hope OR blaming trust in someone who is one breath away from their last breath,
- Praise the Lord instead!
- When God is the one breathes that breath of life into us all.
- Praise the Lord!!
Happiness is found by those who have faith in the Lord. The Lord who gives structure to life, and good – justice and faith. Vs 6
Happy, joyful and at-peace are the who find God’s purpose as our purpose.. it is the puzzle piece finding its part in the wholeness when it finds its place in the puzzle’s place and not in its own empty box.
We hear Jesus’s words from the New Testament in the verses 7-8. The core of what we know as the Great Commission for disciples: Giving Justice to the oppressed, food the hungry, freedom for those in prison, vision/insight to the blind. In verse 9 we hear Jesus’s word from the Sermon on the Mount calling for the humble to be lifted up and to care for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.
Political Talk / Silence
First, we talk too much about politics. Don’t let this be an excuse to avoid politics, but think of it this way, for every hour you spend reading and listening to news and editorials about politics, spend two hours in prayer, bible study and serving others in the name of Jesus Christ.
For those who want to avoid the reality of conflict and controversy but not listening to any news, time trying to ignore the conversations, spend twice that time reading the bible, praying and serving others in Jesus name.
For those who think this invitation is speaking to someone more than yourself, then its time for a wakeup call and spend three times as much effort praying, studying and serving others for the purposes of Jesus Christ.
Exercise for Healing
- Turn off the TV, social media and get face to face with the people of God and study the word
- Turn off the worry and fear and model for the world what it means to have faith in the chaos.
- Turn off the excuses and silence and let your service and worship clearly point to Christ in the world.
Jesus said he was the Way and the Truth. Following Jesus and you bring light to what is dark and evil. Follow the way of princes and political parties and their way leads to a cliff, not a wall.
Hear the core of this Psalm: Our hope is in the Lord, Praise the Lord.
Bottom line: praise the Lord who is
- strong enough,
- gracious enough and is
- the salvation of all generations.
The world is telling us today that, our voice and our place, we are not only wrong, but they are also bold enough to say we are oppressive, abusive and wrong.
- If the world does not trust prayer, we must intercede until they do.
- If the world does not trust scripture, we must read, listen and follow until they do.
- If the world does not listen to our songs of praise, sing until they do.
- If the world does not love as Christ loves, then love until they do.
- If the world does not follow and find its pieces fitting into God’s puzzle and plan, then find your place and invited the pieces next to you to find their hearts true home and fit.
Be the praise, Be the voice, Be the Word, Be the presence. Be the witness. Be the song. Be the church.
Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. [NRSV]
I have such wonderful memories of racing out from Emerson to Euharlee and trying to beat the long coal train heading to-and-from the Bowen. It is so good to be back. I have been here on a cold and snowing morning when it was only two, and no more and we had Good Preaching. So I hope that is the case today. I am proud to see the growth of the ministries and good work at Oak Grove and am honored to be with you today.
I began to think back about the years I was pastor, student and neighbor. The years would have been between 1985 and 1989. Some remarkable things happened while we were in ministry together:
• The infamous “New Coke” was released, The Titanic found, The first report of Mad Cow disease
• and Madonna was holding the place Taylor Swift holds today. Michael Jackson released his “Bad” album and MTV actually played music videos.
• The Kroger in Cartersville and Town Center Mall opened. The news of the Atlanta Olympics was
• The movies out during that time included: Back to the Future, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing
• Some notable songs were: Walk like an Egyptian, The theme from Phantom of the Opera, and We are the World.
• Imagine back to the time of the start of the Internet, the first Game Boy and Nintendo, The first intel processor and MS Office and Windows debuted.
• We were witnesses of Haley’s comet, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and removal of the Berlin Wall with Mr Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.
• People were watching: “The Cosby Show”, “Cheers”, “Hill Street Blues”, Johnny Carson, Magnum PI and the start of the Simpsons.
We are not the same people today. The world has changed and is changing in a whirlwind of transformation. As our denomination looks ahead to the Winter of 2019 we know that more change is to be expected.
As important it is to look back and remember from where we have come, it is the witness of the magi that call us to look to the present and prepare for the future.
I have always found it remarkable that the Bible contains the story of people of faith who look for God in the movement of the starts, in a distant country with a different culture and perspectives and yet God is self-revealing in all creation.
I had a conversation with young man in his mid-twenties who was convinced that there was no need for God. The wonders and marvels of creation were but the finely tuned change of random variables that brought him more peace and “common sense” to his perspective. I asked him from where did the forces of gravity, fission, fusion, physics, mathematic and love evolve. He uncomfortably had no clear answer except to say they were only explained as observations that followed rather than formed the universe. He left the conversation and went home the same person. I hope that some of the conversation helped change his fears and desire to control rather than to follow and trust.
We live in a divided culture that is more segregated than at any moment in our lifetimes. The struggles leading through Civil Rights Era and the Civil War are not our finest moments. Now more than ever are we needing to make a life-giving, hope-sharing, love-trusting impact on the world around us.
When I was at Oak Grove I was married to Sarah Jane, who search the Cassville Church for a couple of the years. We enjoyed covered dish dinners, singings, and being with you in worship and in your homes. That is no longer the relationship that shapes my life. She loved the idea of being married much more than being married to me. I didn’t share that at the time, as I was immature and unwilling to share what it mean to fully share what it means to be a community of faith. I finally learned that 1) clergy are people who struggle with marriage too, 2) I’d be happier unmarried or married for a few years than to be miserable for 50 pretending a marriage. 3) I have learned that God’s path for us is only as straight and narrow as our willingness to trust. But grace goes before, with and behind us.
Now I have three children: Susanna at Stanford, Luke at 1st Leu in the AF, and Frances a sophomore studying AP Chinese and my wife Wendy is beginning her second career in Insurance. (If you ever seen the Hot-ones sign, a Hardees star, a Georgia Tourism commercial or a magazine in a plastic bag you have seen her work.) The past ten years we have cared for her parents in our home, her mom having Dementia and her father having Kidney failure, was not the road that we had planned, but God has carried us through a different way that blessed and shaped us profoundly.
Why the Wise-men passage on Home Coming?
During my years at Emerson and Oak Grove, Singer, James Taylor, released a song by David Bailey called, Home By Another Way. David Bailey was the son of a Presbyterian minister. As a fellow preacher’s kid the song resonated with me: Here was a famous hippy trippy ballad rocker singing about a bible verse: Not the paths that typically cross. Listen to the lyrics of his song:
Those magic men the Magi, Some people call them wise, Or Oriental, even kings, Well anyway, those guys
They visited with Jesus, They sure enjoyed their stay, Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme
They went home by another way
Steer clear of royal welcomes, Avoid a big to-do, A king who would slaughter the innocents, Will not cut a deal for you, He really, really wants those presents, He’ll comb your camel’s fur
Until his boys announce they’ve found trace amounts, Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh
Time to go home by another way
Home is where they want you now, You can more or less assume that you’ll be welcome in the end
Mustn’t let King Herod haunt you so, Or fantasize his features when you’re looking at a friend
Well it pleasures me to be here, And to sing this song tonight, They tell me that life is a miracle, And I figured that they’re right, But Herod’s always out there, He’s got our cards on file
It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch, Old Herod likes to take a mile
It’s best to go home by another way
Home by another way
What does it mean to Go Home, by another way?
To God home is hopefully a place of security, grounding and belonging.
Hear the Good News: God’s home, “Oikos”, is with us! With us!
It starts in a garden, it travels in a wilderness, it crosses paths in the crucifixion, it opens through an empty tomb, it blow as the wind around us, and surrounds us.
We are not who were once were:
In Christ we are those who make straight the paths for others
In grasp of the Holy Spirit we are those who open hearts and conversations
In the love of God we are those who God is creating new life and ways of living.
I regret that I must leave without a longer visit but I am leading a class for the district to build our skills in sharing Difficult Conversations as churches and church folks. As I look back on the Roads and Paths that God has lead, carried, and immersed me, I see at:
• Oak Grove taught me that God can take a mustard seed an make something grand and purposeful beyond our dreams.
• Grant Park I learned from one of the most diverse congregations in the Southeast what it means to share love
• In some other congregations I learned what looks like when we live in fear, pride, greed and worship of self.
• At Candler and Gammon I learned how to prepare for God to use me in changing ministry conditions.
• At Rock Spring I am ready to see how God will lead us into being a relevant part of the body of Christ in the 21st century.
The message I have received from much prayer, much prayer, much study, much conversation, much reflection, writing and reading is this:
1. Change is to be assuredly expected. (It is ok to embrace change, WHEN God leads us.)
2. What will be has not yet been revealed.
3. But when it is revealed: Count on seeing Jesus or not seeing at all.
• Therefore it is all important to make our home in God who does not change.
• Therefore it is essential that we find our way through what has been revealed.
• Therefore it is our purpose, passion and path to stick with Jesus, not for our sake but for Christ.
God Lord, we give thanks for these and all other blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
(Drawn on Adam hamMilton’s Resources for Enough)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want. (Prvb 21:5)
Precious treasure remains in the house of the wise, but the fool devours it. (Proverbs 21:20)
Where Did All Our Money Go?
FROM LAST WEEK: We must allow Christ to work in us.
Christ works in us as we first seek his kingdom and strive to do his will. As we do, we begin to sense a higher calling—a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to look at ways we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources. By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. A key part of finding financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising restraint. With the help of God, we can
- simplify our lives and silence the voices constantly telling us we need more.
- live counter-culturally by living below, not above, our means.
- build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit.
- build into our budgets what we need to live generously and faithfully.
Living as prodigals
From Jesus’ description in Luke 15:11-16, we see that the prodigal son had the habits of squandering and spending. The word prodigal does not mean someone who wanders away or is lost. It literally means “one who wastes money.” Many of us struggle with that habit. We’re not worried about tomorrow; we want it today. The problem with that kind of thinking is that, for most of us, the “famine” eventually comes. It comes when we have spent everything we have and even a little bit of next year’s income. So we use the credit card and charge it, and we go a little further into debt. Finally, we come to a place where we have nothing left, not even credit, and we can’t figure out how we are we going to get by.
The more we make, the more we waste.
It seems that the more financially secure we become, the less we worry about spending money here and there. We waste a dollar on this or that, and we forget where it went. Money just seems to flow through our fingers. We’re not as careful with our money as we should be. There are many ways we waste money, but there are two primary money-wasters that many of us struggle with. It is not necessary to eliminate these two things altogether, but we should think more carefully about how we spend our money.
How to avoid impulse buying
- Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.
- Shop only for what you need.
- Don’t wander down every isle, only go where you need to go. Make a list and stick to it; buy what you need and get out of the store!
- Consult a trusted person and wait twenty-four hours before following through on an impulse buy.
Number One Area of impulse spending is Eating out
- The issue is frequency. The average American eats out an average of four times a week.
- By eating out less frequently, we will have more money to save, to spend on more important things, and to give away.
If you were to simply prepare all meals at home, you’d move 4.2 meals from restaurants to your home. At an average cost of $12.75 per meal, you’d save yourself $8.75 for each of those meals. In other words, the average American would save $36.75 per person per week by moving all of their meals from restaurants to home-prepared meals. If we are eating out more than 4 times a week, we need to evaluate our lifestyle.
Clarifying Our Relationship with Money and Possessions
We do not exist simply to consume as much as we can and get as much pleasure as we can while we are here on this earth. We have a higher purpose. We need to know and understand our life purpose—our vision or mission or calling—and then spend our money in ways that are consistent with this purpose or calling.
Be clear about your purpose and calling.
Our society tells us that our life purpose is to consume—to make as much money as possible and then to spend it. The Bible tells us that we were created to care for God’s creation. We were created to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We were created to care for our families and those in need. We were created to glorify God, to seek justice, and to do mercy. Our money and possessions should be devoted to helping us fulfill this calling. We are to use our resources to help care for our families and others—to serve Christ and the world through the church, missions, and everyday opportunities. We have a life purpose that is greater than our own self-interest, and how we spend our God-given resources reflects our understanding and commitment to this life purpose or mission.
Set worthy goals.
Being able to accomplish the greater purposes God has for our lives requires some measure of planning. Taking the time to set goals related to our lives and our finances is crucial if we are to become wise stewards of our God-given resources. Each of us should think about our life purpose and goals and then identify two short-term financial goals, two mid-range financial goals, and two long-term financial goals that are aimed at helping us accomplish our broader life goals. At least one goal in each category should relate specifically to our faith. (Suggestion: Use the bulletin insert “My Life and Financial Goals Worksheet” in 3. Communication Resources.)
The Discipline of Managing Your Money
Adopt/Review your budget and spending plan.
Once we’ve set some financial goals, we need to develop a plan to meet those goals. A budget is a spending plan that enables us to accomplish our goals. Some people use an envelope system to help them manage their saving and spending and stay on budget. Others use a variety of different approaches. Many people find it helpful to seek the advice of a financial advisor. For those who find themselves in the midst of a financial crisis, a financial counselor can help arrange terms with creditors and develop a workable financial plan. Whatever approach you choose, the important thing is simply to have a plan.
Follow six financial planning principles. (Ramsey Model or others)
The following financial planning principles can help us manage our money with wisdom and faith:
- Pay your tithe and offering first.
- Create a budget and track your expenses.
- Simplify your lifestyle (live below your means).
- Establish an emergency fund.
- Pay off your credit cards, use debit cards for purchases, and use credit wisely.
- Practice long-term savings and investing habits.
What can we do? Simple Truths:
- Seek God’s wisdom,
- Listen to the wisdom of those who are trustworthy,
- hold one another accountable* (See Goal Setting Worksheet)
- Remember we are created out of generous love and
- We are called to live generously
God, you know all about us, even when we don’t. We don’t know where every dime went, but somehow you know what we did with all that we had, last year and every other year. You don’t forbid us from having joy in our possessions; in fact, you delight in our having joy. But what you know is that simply acquiring more stuff isn’t where we find joy. Lord, forgive us for being wasteful, for being prodigal. Forgive us for leveraging our future in order to have pleasure in the present. And help us to be good managers of the talents that you’ve given us. Help us to be generous and willing to share, kingdom-minded and focused on accomplishing your purposes for our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
My Life and Financial Goals
How would you define or describe your life purpose?
What are some goals that can help you achieve this life purpose?
What are some financial goals that can help support your life goals and purpose?
Short-term financial goals (next 12 months):
Mid-range financial goals (2–5 years):
Long-term financial goals (5 years to retirement):
Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. [NRSV]
We love because he first loved us.
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
It would seem simple, easy and direct to follow the commandment to love one another.
At the heart of this is the most recent addition to the promises we make when we become a member of the United Methodist Church. We promise our prayers, presence, gifts, service, AND our witness.
This last step is what brings our faith full-circle. The first four are a progression toward the fifth which was assumed since we know what happens when we ass-u-me too much?
Love must be shared to be found.
The idea of sharing our witness is the intentional living a life of Love that does not assume people will automatically see Jesus in my actions.
We gather in worship today to play music/sing and worship for whose benefit?
If we say the number one reason is my me, what I get out of it, we would benefit more from re-learning why do “church” in the first place.
The church is a place that we gather to pray, grow in spirit, share our talents and practice our faith with one another. But we come to worship, the largest gathering of our church for
#2 Those around us and those outside the church
#3 For our own faith and strength.
We live in a consumer society that generally assumes its a three-in-one product, but that is not always true.
Getting the Horse in front of the Cart
vs 21 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love”
Our witness is to a world that is afraid. Where we see and hear fear, we know love is absent or at best weak or at risk. We talked about making disciples and faith sharing for three months of sermons. Some of you have shared faith-sharing stories and I’m excited and proud of your boldness and progress.
When you hear me say, “I am afraid” I have lost hold of God’s hold on me.
We all know fear at different parts of our lives: new environments, as we grieve lost relations, when we cannot control a given situation, etc. When we meet people in moments of their fear, we have the very best opportunities to connect people with God.
It does not take long to hear someone share:
I’m frustrated, etc.
it is a great time for faith sharing and witnesses of God’s love.
1 John Reminds us that God loves us. The example is most clear in the sacrificial gift of Christ, AND yet there are times we still let fear cheat us out of our inheritance.
Said another way: On our worst days and nights is the time we most need to be taught or reminded how very extraordinary it is to be loved by God and God’s people.
The tendency, when someone is scared, is to boldly retreat into protection and self-preservation mode or to rashly grab the reigns of self-made control mode. Neither example is relying on God’s love and strength to protect or order our lives.
God is love
There is no fear in love
When you see, experience or faced with those in fear, its time to practice loving as God loves us.
The Heart of the passage
We have the very best example of love in Jesus Christ
He takes our sin and makes us new, calling us to live lives free of sin and fear.
Some days we believe and trust this love
Other days we forget and trust something or someone else and we find the broken state of fear, hurt, rejection, guilt, shame, etc.
We belong to the body of Christ that reminds and encourages us to trust God instead of ourselves or our friends or our enemies, instead we challenges and inspire each other trust. God.
John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer is an example of the witness we are called to share:
Put on these words and trust God to make you whole, give you peace, surround you with love and share this with the fearful divided world around us:
I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. [John Wesley, Covenant Prayer]
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. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. [NRSV]
Give light to the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Shining light OUT of darkness
The power of Darkness is real
• There is darkness in the oppression of the people of North Korea.
• There is darkness in the cycles of human trafficking
• There is darkness in the evil of terrorism
• There is darkness in the homes of those abused and batters
• There is darkness in the rollercoaster of addictions
• There is darkness that divides us into opposing camps
• There is darkness in the face of cancer and other diseases
• There is darkness in the loneliness and grief of loss
• There is darkness in broad daylight
• There is darkness in middle of some crowded places
• There is darkness in churches, homes and hearts among us.
And when we stand alone and even if we stand together, we are over whelmed as the ocean waves crash upon the best castle of our design and labors.
It seems like retreat and apathy rule the day and the hour and the years..
But that is when we look at darkness without the light of Christ
God is the Power Company
God so loved this broken work that he sent the only light strong and bright enough to overcome the darkness.
Our task is not to stop evil,
Our task it is cling to Christ upon the stormy sea, and from THAT place of strength and assurance: that Jesus Christ has been unveiled and revealed through us!
We step into the raging seas because
1. That is the reality of where we are
2. This is where we might best see Christ
3. This is when we and the world need hope and salvation more nearly.
We clothe, feed, comfort, and befriend because it is Christ at work in us..
We pray for healing and wholeness in Jesus’s name because God is the source
We stand with Christ because these bodies we carry suffer, and eventuality die.
We ride the rollercoaster of struggle because life fluid and always testing
We trust Christ when to step in to stop others from harm
We trust Christ when to step back and no longer remain oppressed and abused
We trust that we are powerless over evil, fear, terror, and all sin without Christ
Jesus Christ came to save sinners..
We are those who have seen light light
Jake and Elwood Blues go to James Brown’s ole Landmark Church and after hearing the good news Jake proclaims that he has seen the light of how to save the soon to be closed orphanage that was his childhood home… I can’t say that what follows is Gods work but they end up saving the children’s home even though they go back to jail.
This cult classic movie tells two truths
1. God can work through every situation for God purpose
2. When we put our name on God’s home work we are going to fail.
3. Our mission is to tell of God’s work.
Encourage one another in shining the light of Christ
What are you going to say when politics fuel start to burn you up?
Say this: “Instead of debating, fighting or disagreeing with you, I need you to pray for me to love my enemies”
• If someone is hurting, struggling, complaining, as them “how long are you going to keep working on that alone when Jesus is ready to be your strength?” E ready to be strong with that person.
• If someone is grieving or afraid, or alone, “ how long do you want to feel lost?” Offer to be Christ’s presence.
• You make ready your own conversations that lead and encourage one another to lean into, trust, stand-with Jesus.
Be the flash light, candle. lantern, headlights, spotlight, laser,… you don’t have to be the light, be the one who directs and reflects the light of Jesus Christ