Archive for category Church

Matthew 16:21-28 “Worth the Journey”

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From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” [NRSV]

Making Disciples: What is a life worth?

A very difficult thing asked of me was after mom’s death, from being hit in a head-on car accident was to give a value of her life. The attorney asked my brother and me, what was the value of mother’s life for the court case. To come up with a number for the judge. The determination was to be made on what her contributions to the common good would be. The value of her reading to middle school students, mentoring graduate school students, visiting in prison ministry, writing Sunday school lessons, volunteering at her church, and the impact would have a neighbor and citizen. If one were compensated for volunteering at a reasonable rate a figure could be determined for the projected number years she would likely live to serve and that number came to roughly $200,000. But was that value of her life? The young man who drove his uninsured luxury car into her had no assets, and his family had twenty-six previous suits against them, so the final assessment of her life was valued at 1000 hours of community service and no dollars. Is that justice? Is this how God measure our lives? For me, it was a life lesson about the misplaced value of one’s life.

What is your life worth to God?

  • You are worth the life of his only child,
  • You are worth designing energy, matter, gravity, physics, and mathematics,
  • You are worth sharing a relationship with God.
  • God has paid for our life, but does not force us to pay God back,
  • God offers a way to joy, peace, and wholeness, yet wants us to want to appreciate, trust and follow.
  • God says your life is worth it all, hoping you will choose the life God paid for you to live.

The journey of our life is about what we do with the time we have: Choosing God or humanity as our highest goal.

Discipleship: It Ain’t Easy

  • Peter declares: God forbid it to be difficult, hard, challenging, unpleasant or demanding
  • Jesus responds, Get away your evil thoughts away from me.
  • It is evil lived from only a human point of view.

Remembering we are Spiritual People in a Physical Incubator.

There are times that we make following Jesus even harder,

this is a charge against the church if we hold the keys and call the shots for what it means to follow, then there is room for abuse

Jesus models choosing God’s call for his life or the voice of emotions and reason alone.

Peter says: Don’t take the hard path, choose the path most traveled.

Sometimes things get in the way of our best plans:

A story about a country farmer who had a mule with blocked-up plumbing, he called the new veterinarian in town to come help. The young vet had a bottle of large laxative pills that modeled the phrase, ‘horse pill’ that was fast acting and guaranteed to unstop the most stubborn gastric stoppages. He found a long piece of pipe with a contraption to secure one end into the mouth of the mule and the other end he would insert the pill and make certain the pill went right to work. He secured the pipe and straps around the mule, added two horse pills, took a deep bread, but the ass blew first.

Jesus calls Peter a stumbling block

setting one’s mind on human things instead of divine things

Pray right now!

ACTION: “Lord, forgive me for being a stumbling block..”

  • Disciples recognize that life devoted to Jesus is greater than the life we can make without him. (justice)
  • Disciples recognize that life is a gift and God gives us a choice to use our life as we choose. (freedom)
  • Disciples recognize God desires good for us but does not force God on us. (meaningful relationship)
  • Disciples recognize that a good life is not measured by having stuff, or a comfortable life. (worth/value)
  • Disciples recognize God is willing to follow the choice we are called to make. (sacrifice)

Choose God’s self over the self you choose

To follow God is to find:

    • wholeness,
    • justice,
    • freedom,
    • meaningful relationship,
    • worth, value and
    • sacrifice.

in 2017 We live in mountain top period of thinking that is human focused.

  • What is best for humanity, the majority, the minority
  • What is best for me and those like me
  • My right and the right of others to choose what it good and right
  • It’s my life, my decisions, my definition, my right, my understanding, my dream, my ideal

When we exclude God or even allow God to slip into second place, we choose with the best of humanity has to offer, but without the love, wisdom, grace, and power of God.

When hearing this when others say things like: (Human limitations)

  •   Love me or accept me for choosing myself
  •   It is my life, my will
  •   Accept me for choosing my own way,
  •   Accept me for believing the common denominator is our safest place.
  •   Shame on you for not accepting my choice made from my perspective.

The court of public opinion may have the majority of human perspective and still miss the mind and heart of God.

   Peter, one of Jesus’ chosen, is telling Jesus,

     you know what is best for yourself,

     we don’t want to see you suffer

     You have God powers, just zap trouble out of your way,

The Heart of the passage: Losing and Finding

finding ourselves in following Jesus

The Journey of sharing our faith is affirmed where our trust, faith, and allegiance is grounded.

Faith means we see that for all you and I can do, we never can do enough on our own

Trust God means we know we are awesome creations with great minds and dreams, but without God death is our worst limitation.

Walking with Christ, we bring together the best of being human into a relationship with God.

Choosing a different path is ends in trusting what is evil, broken, limited, empty and apart from God.

How many people do you know today who have:

evil rules in their lives?

experience brokenness in their bodies, relationships, minds, and hearts?

find themselves living at the limits or out of bounds on a daily basis?

someone who feels lost and empty and distant from God and God’s people?

These are the people who need the gift of Christ that guides us..

  1. Step one for today: Pray that I am not a stumbling block. (At least don’t let me lead someone astray)
  2. Step two for today: know it is a daily choice to walk with Christ ourselves
  3. Step three for today: acknowledge it is not easy, and we need Christ to lead, bless, carry, push and call us on.

Let’s get to the journey today

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Matthew 5:21-37 “People of a New Heart”

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“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder’; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

“It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes’ or “No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [NRSV]

Core Values of One Made New in Christ

Core Value Number 1 (Murder with Words)

How you communicate affects your relationships and your identity.

Sticks and Stones AND words can kill someone’s spirit, reputation and ability to be included into the community.

Word’s spoken in anger carry poisoned daggers that kill one’s spirit, identity, reputation and relationship to the community.

  • “Well I only thought it, I didn’t do anything wrong”
  • “What’s in my own head doesn’t hurt anyone.”
  • “I was so angry at what I saw on FB I had to teach them a lesson, I didn’t kill anyone.”

 

Core Value Number 2 (Satisfying Self in a Covenant Relationship)

How we respect one another, affects both them and us.

Sexual sins occur first in the heart and head. Stop the sin there to avoid going further to lessen the effect on others. But best of all see that sin occurs before the action.

  • Don’t be looking
  • Don’t just love the one you are with
  • Don’t invalidate the person by objectifying the person and justifying a behavior that is harmful to God, self AND the other person.

Our society has so twisted the self-satisfaction, self-pleasing and self-affirming our sexual selves has become paramount in movies, songs, and laws and even in the church.

Core Value Number 3 (Don’t Look at the Line, much less cross it)

Marriage is the basis for integrity and of the family unity.

Marriage is a covenant with God, while you can’t change your spouse you can add to their relationship with God or you can pull them away from God by your actions of both fidelity and by infidelity. Everything we do affects our spouse. Don’t get into a marriage covenant if you are not holding God the whole time because marriage is not always easy nor simple.

Core Value Number 4 (Integrity Speaks truth in love)

Speaking as a person of integrity.

Speak the truth.

Don’t dodge the difficult conversations, don’t blame anyone or anything. Speak with respect, certainly don’t add God’s name to your ideas, thoughts or excuses. The practice of taking an oath or swearing our testimony assumes that most of the time we are untruthful except on these special circumstances.

  • “Don’t lie to me, we are in church.” But if we weren’t at church it might be alright to bend the truth, is the implied false assumption.
  • “I’m not under oath” I don’t have to be completely truthful with you because we are not in court. The rules are flexible to benefit me, especially when I might be in the wrong.
  • I said, “Yes, your honor, I believe I completely certain that No, I have no recollection of having said what you thought I said or did. That is my honest testimony”

 

Jesus said: The ten commandments were easy, I’m stepping up the game.

How will we ever measure up? Don’t be Discouraged:

Jesus model’s some real life issues that we twist:

Jesus said: you will need to out behavior the most devout religious leaders. Jesus said this knowing we also say/think things like:

  • I want to be right
  • Its what they do in the movies/tv, in songs, etc.
  • I want there to be an absence of conflict, so it’s ok to keep quiet even if it is not true
  • I want to be served and satisfied
  • I want to be able to say/do whatever gets me out of this mess in the name of grace and love
  • I don’t want accountability; I ask you to continue trusting me in grace.
  • It’s my turn

The Remedy starts small:

Jesus begins with the small stuff.

  • Start with how you treat the people that are around you every day.
  • Be a truthful person of integrity
  • Speak with strength, but know your words matter, speak truthfully.
  • Speak with integrity
  • Be one who respects boundaries
  • Don’t objectify people
  • Don’t forget marriage is about covenant and not being served
  • If you are looking away from God, spouse or good, you are looking at what is evil, broken even in the name caring for ourselves.
  • Speak with respect, boundaries, and integrity and you will be trusted, blessed and respected.

Don’t let your words kill someone’s spirit

Don’t objectify people in the name of pleasing yourself

Don’t believe you can buy your way out of sin

Don’t let your body kill your spirit.

Don’t think you are caring for your spirit by pleasing your body

Don’t believe your actions only harm yourself.

Don’t look for excuses, look for Christ.

Community Support: The Role of the Church

It is quick and easy for us to judge, blame and segregate ourselves in the name of protection or ideology.

  • Help those who are blaming find Christ
  • Help those who are destroying marriage to refocus on Christ/Covenant
  • Help those who focus on pleasing themselves to see they sin and model loving them.
  • Model speaking the truth instead of swimming in the ocean of blame, regret, fear, etc.

We are people of the New Life in Christ, Protect the heart of God within you and do not trade it for the world.

 

 

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Hebrews 2:10-18 Childish vs Childlike

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It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [NRSV]

Act Like Children

Looking back twenty, forty and sixty years ago, Being able to be “Child-like” has radically changed.

  • Does it mean to seen as miniature adults
  • Are equally gifted with limitless possibilities
  • Do children have voice, vote or rights
  • Do children have to worry or work
  • Do children have privileges or are privileged

Children of developed and developing countries have a common starting point:

We all start dependent.

This is the relationship God desires for us all.

God steps up our relationship from simple dependent into children of God’s household.

A Relationship of Kinship

One of the few Greek words that stuck with me from seminary, thanks to XX, is the work ‘oikos’.

Predating the yogurt crazy, Oikos is kinship.

  • Oikos is term meaning household,
  • particularly, for us it is the household of the people of God.
  • We share a common spiritual fire
  • We share a common home
  • Our belonging includes all those in the household not limited to bloodlines.

Jesus becomes one of us so we know how to find God’s family.

So, What?

Living like a child of God

  • Knowing Jesus shows us we are brother in sisters in grace, in faith, in God
  • Knowing Jesus lived and died for us to both KNOW and ACCESS the God’s family
  • Living as one empowered and saved to love
  • Living to show that God has created us to see past our difference to be God’s family.

This first Quarter’s Project

  • Identify a member of God’s family that feeling excluded from the community
  • Model and teach them that you are their brother or sister in Christ
  • Share the fellowship of church community, God’s family
  • Continue until Christ returns.

What if I don’t want to work on that project?

  • I risk moving myself and others away from God
  • I test God’s grace rather than trust God’s grace
  • I model love of self, convenience, or laziness to myself and others
  • My disconnect from loving and connecting with the disconnected separates me from God.

You and I were born to be dependent on God

You and I are called and challenged, saved and claimed to model that with others

The New Year’s resolution is to not be childish, rather claim the help of our Oikos, our kin, all God’s people: and show the world how God’s children think, behave, trust, love, forgive, etc.

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Christmas Sunday Luke 2:1-21 20161225

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [NRSV]

The Appropriate Response

One fun Christmas movie is “The Holiday.” This romcom by Nancy Meyers about two women on opposite sides of the globe who swap houses only to discover that a change of address can really change their lives. At one point the character played by Jude Law professes his love to Cameron Diaz’s character, oops spoiler aleart. To which Cameron is speahless. Jude’s line is “Well I guess if your first response is not, ‘I love you’ then..”
Likewise the Christmas story, a grand love story, gives us the gifts of hope, joy, peace and love in Jesus Christ. What is our first response?

Shock and Awe

The first response to experiencing the blinding lights and thundering chorus of angelic choirs turning the night sky into daylight has the nightworkers huddled in fear.
We know they are afraid, not only by assumption, but by the angel’s first words. “Be not afraid.”
Why would God’s messengers be sent to the shepherds and not the political and religious authorities. Who should hear the news first? Shepherds: those working third shift, those least likely by the society, those who had been promised hope, joy, peace and love and were the most likely to need to hear news that was Good.

The Shepherds Go

Once having heard and understood, their first repsonse was to go see if these things were true. Given this past year of controversy and stress about “news” and its authenticity and accuracy, the shepherds model a very responsible and proactive step. They go to verify the varsity, (truth), and the meaning of what they have heard.
The heard that God had sent them Good News, and the proof was in the arrival of the Messiah. God’s savior has come for the least, the last and lost.

Who is Christmas Intended?

The most popular answer in my personal research is, “the children.” And that is one of the good answers, but the strong clue from Luke’s Gospel directs our first attention to the engaged teemage new mother delivering her first child in a barn far from her home town. The first visitors are not family and friends but those working third shift and the animals of strangers. The text yeilds that “the child” is for those who have the least give and those most willing to believe, trust and follow.
This familliar passage, recited by Linus in the Charlie Brown’s Christmas classic, reminds us that the ugly, small, rejected and left out are those who Christmas is first revealed.
When is the time to go and share the Good News: the hope, joy, peace and love of God in the world today? Right! Today, and everyday!

Christmas on Sunday

The interruption of our comfortable Christmas traditions is the heavenly day of Spiritual Rest, Worship and Renewal. If Christmas has not interrupted your daily routine to touch your heart to share the hope, joy, peace and love of Christ, then I offer you the interupption of Sunday into your Christmas worship.
Look and Listen for fear and brokenness and you will find the best time to share the Good News of Jesus. Without shame and full pride of God’s works of love and power for the world, show up and join with angels and sing praise, go share the news that everyone may know for him and herself that Jesus shows up for us. God’s gift has been wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger for the whole world.

Our Responses?

  • Thank you Jesus
  • Sharing the News
  • Going to See, Show and Retell
  • Pondering and Remembering in our hearts

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1 Timothy 2.1-17 I’m Not Lying 20160918 RSUMC

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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. [NRSV]
Paul gives a rather curious footnote in his letter. “I am telling the truth, I am not lying“. It is usually in our experience that if we think someone needs to hear us say these words that there is some question about our vercity, our truthfulness or trustworthiness.
There are two pieces of instruction to which this appears to be reffering:
  1. First, Paul’s instruction to pray for everyone, including kings and high officials.
  2. Secondly, Paul’s ministry of being a messenger and apostle as a teacher of the Gentiles.

A. Prayer:

Objectively and with humility, it is a simple command to pray for everyone including those who have authority over you and over us all. On the other hand, it is also difficult to carry out with sincerity, to supplicate, intercede and giving thanksgiving for everyone, including those who lead or would choose to lead us.
Two observations:
(1) One Paul is not giving the community of faith the excuse, a pass, to ignore those who oppress, make difficult or misuse their authority, rather it is the community of faith’s role to keep the conversation in the context of God’s grace and God’s working of bringing peace through all people, to all people.
(2) Paul is neither saying the everyone, including those in high offices, are not in need of prayerful help from God and God’s people. Therefore, pray with, pray for and pray into the thanksgiving to which we are called to become.
I challenge to pray for God to be known to our leaders, for our leaders and through our leaders so that God might be known, praised and thanks given to God.

B. Ministry Authority:

Paul appointed: hearld, apostle and teacher.
  • (In readying how Paul was persicuted, jailed, shipwrecked, run out of town, dismissed by others in the Way, in the church: for his earlier persicustion of Jesus, Paul is claiming athority by appointment from God.)
  • As Wesleyan Methodist we see God’s preventative, justifying and sanctifying graces at work. As well as an affirmation that some authority is revealed directly in our experience of the Holy Spirit.
  • God using someone that was the least likely person to reach the Jewish community and certainly not the Gentile community.
  • I believe this is the connection Paul wants to affirm to Timothy because he is conferring this authority Timothy, to the rest of the church and to you and me gathered here today.

Paul’s reminder to Timothy is also a reminder to each of us and to those who believe and trust some other gods, doctrines or principles.

The truthful and trustworthiness of our authority is under attack:
  • Externally, When we listen to the civil view of the church’s role it has become one of many voices.
  • Internally, When we pray only for whom and what we want, rather than for God’s will and work.
  • Communally & Personally, When we listen to fears and hate rather than prayer we attack truth and trust
The instruction is to remember that you and I are appointed to the same work:
Herald: The messengers, witnesses, and advocates for Christ’s presence in the world.
Apostle: Leader, delegator, and  one who shares Christ’s living present in the world.
Teacher: Instructor, one who models the heart of Christ internally and externally, to church and world. for everyone, including the king and other leaders.

Challenge:

Live as people of the Truth of Christ. (Not fighting over what is the principles of truth, rather trusting the truth of Christ to be lived out in how we interact, prayer, prepare and instruct each other.
The challenge to Timothy and to us is one of action. This is where Paul is not lying, not teasing, not suggesting, not holding back!

 Bottom Line:

You and I are the Heralds, Leaders, and Teacher that are called model a life of prayer for this world: teaching, revealing and modeling the grace and power of Christ to save, save us all. Amen.

LinK: I could lie, but I won’t liey to you. God is with us and calls us to tell Christ’s truth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wherever_I_Go_(song) OneRepublic Lyrics:

I know I could lie, but I won’t lie to you
Wherever I go, you’re the ghost in the room
I don’t even try looking for something new
Cause wherever I go, I’ll be looking for you

Some people try but they can’t find the magic
Others get down on their knees and they pray
I come alive when I’m close to the madness
No easy love could ever make me feel the same
Make me feel the same

Traditional Music : UMBH

  • I Exalt Thee
  • 399 Take My Life
  • 395 Take Time to be Holy
  • 402 Lord I Want to be a Christain

 

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Luke 14:25-33 The Cost of Discipleship 20160904 RSUMC

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. [NRSV]

This test describes four points of discipleship: Family, Carrying the cross, Following through what we start, and Giving up possessions.

Bonhoeffer devoted much of his life to this text from Luke and we can learn from his faith investment for our own journey as disciples.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews.[2] He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing. [Wiki]

  • Discipleship: One who devotes one’s life to following Jesus.
  • To Disciples others: To invite, support, and equip/teach others how to follow Jesus.
  • Q: If I am not a Disciple of Jesus, to whom/what do I devote my life?

The Rude Awakening: To be a disciple is to wager our own life, all our relationship, all our possessions and struggle toward the Spiritual person God wants us to become in a broken and sin-filled, hurting world.

In this season of political turmoil, we can easily find folks either sticking one’s head in the sand OR being consumed by the drama. What are disciples to do in the next 64 days?

  1. By all means, be an informed voter and vote.
  2. By all means, trust that God will be your salvation and strength and not the government.
  3. By all means, study, pray and encourage those who choose blindness/ignorance to be informed and those consumed to evaluate what is most important in every day, not only election day.
  4. Seek God first, and all else will be revealed and added.

FAMILY

Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple:

The family is the core community in the human community. Jesus is calling us to compare our family of choice and our family of birth.

Just because we have people who are blood kin does not mean that they are living, acting, supporting, forgiving and trusting like our struggling faith family.

The community of the saints is not an “ideal” community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness…Sanctification means driving out the world from the Church as well as separating the Church from the world. But the purpose of such discipline is not to establish a community of the perfect, but a community consisting of men [and women] who really live under the forgiving mercy of God.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Carry the Cross

To be a following of Jesus is to imitate what we see and hear Jesus doing.

When Jesus welcomed the marginalized, forgotten and excluded folks, he talked, ate, fellowshipped, touched, and healed them, AND he sent them to go and “Sin No More.”

Following Jesus is both being touched and blessed by Jesus, but it is then our responsibility to become the new person that follows the new way of life in Jesus.

  • To “Carry the Cross” is to feed people AND call people to be fed spiritually
  • To “Carry the Cross” is to clothe people AND wrap them in spiritual encouragement.
  • To “Carry the Cross” is to visit, stand with AND be Christ for someone

It is easy to carry the cross in symbolic ways, but it is ultimately allowing CHRIST to carry us on the cross.

Bonhoeffer: There is a way to measure if we are carrying the cross:

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Finish what we Start

How many projects have been started at your house, shop, work, school, and life with great excitement and zeal, but when we meet resistance, a conflict of time, or lack of resources, or loss of focus, we lay it aside.

We know in our heads and hearts what following Jesus is about, doing it is where the power is found.

“So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Give up Posessions

This is where we usually head out the door or start thinking about lunch or find some other explanation other than the obvious one.

Bonhoeffer helps us with a suttle difference about posessions and a life devoted to Christ.

Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

There is a falacy that giving our money away obsolves us from material management. Saving money to fund a life of service rather than a life of ease.

Wesley: Make all the money you can; save all you can; to do all the good you can.

Being a disciple is making a commitment that all that we have is God’s and we are intrusted with the responsiblity of doing God’s good work with all we have.

God knows we need material things, we living in the physical bodies God has made for us. Our bodies and things are not bad. BELIEVING they are our value, work and meaning becomes our God.

Cut it out because it  too hard!

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

The Hard life of Discipleship is Costly living.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

  • Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
  • and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
  • It is costly because it costs a man his life,
  • and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
  • It is costly because it condemns sin,
  • and grace because it justifies the sinner.
  • Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,”
  • and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
  • Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
  • Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

SO WHAT?

  • What do our relationships need most of all
  • What does our daily life look like if not like Jesus
  • What does our life feel like if we lay Christ aside for something new?
  • Are we possessed by that which cannot love or save us?

What does it cost to not be a disciple?

  • What does it cost to not seek a faith family’s support
  • What does it cost to not let Jesus shine and show
  • What does it cost to stop in the middle the race?
  • What does it cost to invest in that which cannot love?

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Luke 12.13-22 Eat, Drink & See Mary 20160731 RSUMC

AJC_Conyers_EatDrinkSeeMary

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  [NRSV]

Capitalizing on the Word
Annually throughout the 1990s, crowds of over 80,000 of faith and proof seekers gathered in Conyers, Georgia to visit the site of Nancy Fowler’s home each October 13th for a visitation from the Virgin Mary. In the area of Conyers, signs began to post in Chamber-of-Commerce style reading: Visit Conyers: Eat, Drink and See Mary.  Drawing on the text from Luke’s gospel capitalizing the entrepreneur spirit of the text.

Even now, instead of seeing, hearing and experience Christ among us, we might settle for a crowd with generous pockets instead in place of visit with Jesus.

This text opens forcing Jesus, in the role of Moses or a rabbi, charged with settling matters of inheritance. The request is for Jesus to resolve our financial disputes when Jesus is interested in preparing our spiritual selves.

I recall a moment of misdirected attention on my very first mission trip. While visiting a home worship service, of one of the seminary students from the Juan Wesley Seminario, one of the neighbors began speaking in tounges. This style of worship was not a tradition of our mission team, and one of the group leaders insisted I take photos to show the Rotary Club, the Men’s and Women’s groups and others who had helped fund our trip. “That picture will be worth a $1000 for our next trip.” Somehow a moment of personal worship was being transformed into a monetary moment.  (I took several photos, but they were all blurry when I developed the film.)

Why Leave Home to Serve?
With every mission trip, there are always those who asked, suggest and even demand: Why don’t we take care of our neighbors in our home neighborhood before we go giving away our money, time and resources?

The answer is simple: We are a community of people with ample goods. We have the ability to feed and clothe our neighbors here in Jerusalem AND help neighbors in Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

Sometimes the travel outside our communities to serve allows us the perspective to “practice” what we can continue in our home communities. If we mess up, strike out, and just plain fail where we are not known, we are less likely to give up trying at home. Those who know us best are too often the quickest to judge and criticize our efforts.

And finally, the risk that we take to serve is the place we experience measurable growth in our spiritual practice. This week our Culebra team was starting work on a project where we assumed proper communication had approved the work before we arrived. The ‘homeowner’ had not received the message we would be digging holes in their yard and building a pole barn over the rusting old bus/van they used for a home. What would you do if a team of foreign folks began digging holes in your yard? There is a risk that cross-culture and language barriers are not working.

Taking the RISK to Find Christ
Entering someone’s home with the intention of sharing the love of God and not fulling knowing the language you need to speak, call for faith to override the situation. That is risky business.

We are a month away from when we would like to resume the Feed My Sheep Ministry but we need someone to take charge of that ministry and deliver or build a team to deliver the food, or that ministry will come to an end. That is a risky place to put the meals our neighbors who have come to depend on that meal.

We are weeks away from packing backpacks, will we have enough food? Enough money? Enough volunteers?

This lesson of the barn and bigger barns reminds us that we have the means and the persons to do all these AND even more.

Jesus’s work to disciples like ourselves is not to worry about ourselves, our opinions, our limitations, our excuses and focus on what God CAN do through us.

Risk Taking Service: Is doing whatever it takes to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house, comfort, support, nurture, remember and stand with those who suffer.

We need persons willing to deliver food. If you have a vehicle and a license your barn is big enough.

We need persons willing to pack, buy and hand out food. If you can do these tasks, your barn is full enough.

We need people who will go to Culebra, and other destinations where we can share the living Christ, your barn is full enough.

OUR Barns are Full Enough
Turn off your political filters.
Turn off your speakers that sound off, “I can’t do something like that.”
Turn off your “I’m too busy.”
Turn to your neighbor and remind them, In Christ, your barn in full enough.
In Christ, your barn is full enough.

Christ calls us to serve those around us and the world.
Our barns are full enough to serve.
Therefore, go and do likewise.

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Galatians 3.23-29 The MOST Troubling Text 20160619 RSUMC

unisexclothesNow before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore, the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian,  for, in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. [NRSV]

Who knew Gene Roddenberry was as a fan of Galatians?

The Star Trek cultural iconic uniforms that allow for individuals to be known for their role in the community by the color of their uniform not matter their origin, citizenship, nor gender.

What if the clothes Christ places on us, rather than the garments and cultural markers we self-define one another?

  • What if those who wore blue were known as healers.
  • Teachers, Grower and Designers in Green
  • Administrators and Safety persons in Golden Rod
  • Builders, Helpers, Support persons in Red
  • Orange for those who Harvest and celebrate
  • White for those who are wisdom and faith-sharers
  • Black for those who comfort and counsel
  • Brown..

Known by the clothes of Christ.

  • Some would work to discover what Jesus wore and tried to replicate first-century apparel. but that would miss the mark of the text.
  • Some would be looking at the blended areas of overlap where roles cross in different situations and contexts.
  • Some would not like the color assigned and protest

But think for a moment, what if we wore the gifts, graces, ministries and presence of Christ as we wear our clothes.

It surprises me that the first question that people ask about ‘my/our’ church is about our dress code. Not that we have a formal dress code, most folks would want folks to be ‘in’ the fellowship with us no matter what close they might wear.

But we follow that with a few qualifications, even if we don’t say them aloud:

You don’t have to wear a coat and tie or dress, just be clean and neat.

We live in a time when folks have extremes about clothes, fashion is a billion dollar industry for nearly every price point of our society.

We also have a culture that would rather buy or receive something new than wash and care for the clothes we have. How does this culture connect with our being clothed by Christ.

One Time Use for Christ

  • We wear difference clothes for different occasions.
    • Jesus Clothes us for eternity.
  • We wear something for a season
    • Jesus Clothes us for eternity
  • We wear something until we wear it out or outgrow it or tired of it.
    • Jesus Clothes us for eternity
  • We wear something so people will respond to us in a certain way.
    • Jesus Clothes us for God’s Work
  • We wear something to wear to work
    • Jesus empties himself and wants to work through us
  • We judge and value by what we wear
    • Jesus loves who we are with nothing to show

Walter Wangeren Jr’s Rag Man short story invites us to allow Christ to clothe and mark us for service.

People will misuse this passage from Galatians to say that whatever group society might divide and define us is acceptable, but a closer listen to the whole message of Paul’s letter and his message about Christ defining us.

Look in the Jesus Mirror: Who does Jesus See “in Me?”

Does Jesus see me as Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, tall or short, etc. Jesus sees me as I am, and no matter how the world defines me, Jesus sees me as:

  • Worthy of his life
  • Worthy of his grace
  • Worthy of his ministry
  • Worthy of his service
  • Worthy of his praise
  • Worthy of his devotion

The things that we use to limit and divide, Jesus knows, Jesus is not blind, but Jesus sees in us far more than we might see in ourselves.

Paul’s invitation is to see each other as Christ see us

  • see each other as Christ sees
  • see the value Christ sees in us
  • love the persons Christ sees in us and in one another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Romans 12:9-16 “Christian Living” 20160605 RSUMC

XinMYheartLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. [NRSV]

Down in My Heart

Do you remember that Camp/ VBS Song: I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, down in my heart! Where? ” Down in my heart!”

It is a great reminder of where the core of the Christian life begins.
To be a follower of Jesus Christ might very different than being a Christian

Paul is building a case for the life and Christain community that is ours to emulate.

Let your love be genuine.
I love fresh lemonade verses I love you even when you misbehave.
Hate evil.
Strong words: Let’s be clear about evil. Don’t vilify the person, hate the unGodly things, attitudes, look past the words, to the other persons’ heart.
Hold on to Good.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride; not every handle is one you need to hold.
Devotion to God models our love of others.
Start at the beginning, love God first, greatest commandment.
Honor others, first.
Think from the other side first before you post or speak.
Life for God with a Passion
Don’t leave home without a case of Zeal for God.
Don’t be lukewarm or worse.
Keep the Spiritual fires warm while serving the Lord

So, if you are telling, teaching, explaining what it means to be a Christian:

1. Christian living begins in the heart.

Genuine heart hates evil, but holds on to Good, models devotions, respects we are different, but is passionate about living for God.

Attitudes in Action

Second to our Heart are the thoughts and ideas in our head.

Facebook and all social media are easy targets to see where people, who may have great hearts for God, but choose to forget or not to listen to their heart.

Here is the test:

  • If you find you can share Joyful Hope on Facebook, sign in!
  • If you can use it to patiently see the world through others’ perspectives, log on!
  • If you can use the media to offer your heart’s passionate prayers? Get social.
  • If not, don’t sign in, don’t log on, get to heating up your God’s Spirit in you instead.
1. Christian living begins in the heart of God
2. Christian living filters God’s voice through the world’s voice.

Our Witness in Community

To live in a Christian is to draw on the heart relationship we have with God, filter through what is joyful, hateful, shameful, grace-filled, good and profane and use this perspective in the world. Too many people are Christ-like in their hearts OR minds but get derailed using these tools in the world beyond themselves.

Paul’s list of sharing our witness in a relationship with others.
+? “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”
Interesting, Paul begins with helping the “Lord’s People” in need.
+ Practice hospitality
Have an open heart and mind that welcomes others.
+ Bless those who persecute you.
Know that not everyone will return kindness and love and grace.
-Do not curse, rather bless
Take the high, Godly, Good Road, don’t blame, bless and grow away from evil.
+ Rejoice with others
Celebrate when the news is good, and Joy is clear
+ Mourn with others
Be open to comfort, even when you are not the one hurting
+ Live in Harmony
Find ways to get along without having to agree with everyone.
– Do not be proud
Remember God loves and saves you, AND everyone else.
– Don’t be conceited, Associate with the poor and wealthy
Be a friend to those who are easy and difficult to live with.

Being a Christian is easy if you rare filling out a survey.
More people are identifying themselves as less Christian these days.

  • What does it look like when we say we are Christian but have lost hold of the heart of God?
  • What does it feel like when we say we are Christian people but have forgotten or never learned how to find our way home and settle for where we are rather than where we belong?
  • What does it sound like when we have our faith all worked out in our head, and heart but other folks don’t see, hear or experience God around us?

Paul reminds the church at Rome and Rock Spring:

It takes all three, growing in the heart of God, filtering through good and evil, to model our relationship with everyone.

Thank goodness we come to the table to start our journey today.

Here is our grace to begin anew and fresh.

Come.

Christian living begins in the heart of God
Christian living filters God’s voice through the world’s voice.
Christian living must interact with the community and reflect God at work through us.

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Luke 19:28-44

PalmCross  As [Jesus] was going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it.’ “ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
  As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop. He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
  As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” [NRSV]
The entrance into the holy city Jerusalem is akin to the presidential motorcade after the inauguration swearing in service. People lined the way, shoulder to shoulder, waving and cheering the confirmation of their new leader. But Jesus did not arrive in the usual way. Neither had he been endorsed by the Sadducees nor Pharisees. He entered riding on the back of a humble work animal instead of a proud steed of power and status. He was praised by the disciples, those who had been healed, fed, blessed and taught along the way of Jesus’s ministry. I make NO contemporary political correlation to candidates running today, only to the stress and strife of a non-establishment figure being ushered into the city by the voice of the people.
We may have more insight into the context of this event that other generations. The Pharisees saying, “If this Jesus becomes our leader, I’m leaving Jerusalem” The Sadducees saying, “If they don’t get a handle on this outsider, we will take steps to bring our own man in.” Do you get the scene and the tensions?
The establishment says, stop your people from this circus. Teacher, we hold you responsible for the chaos. It’s your fault. We will stop you if you don’t stop the unruly crowd. [Again, I am not suggestion that any of our political figures are messianic leaders, but I am listening to the similarities of the crowds and the commentators and voices of the establishments then and now.]
All this sets the stage for Palm Sunday. We would much rather look at the scenes of the children lining the streets waving along the Jesus parade as a sweet image of Palm Sunday and not see the emerging political unrest that blows up in less than a week. I believe it is vitally important to look at the politics that is very much part of the Palm Sunday story.
The sweetest fruit in this passage from Luke’s Gospel is about seeing and not seeing. It is about believing and refusing to believe. It is about choosing to accep or closing our eyes, “sticking our heads in the sand in times of fear”,
instead of proclaiming
  • Jesus Christ is real,
  • Jesus is King, and
  • Jesus is with us.
The secondary witness is about praise that cannot be held back.
  • When we know Jesus is real, this becomes the foundation of our life
  • When we know Jesus is King, this becomease the guide for our living
  • When we know Jesus is with us, nothing can stop us from praising.
So What is “Palm Sunday About?”
  • There story is about preparing for worship
  • The story is about making way/room for Jesus in our public/fears
  • The story is about remaing awake and aleart that it is Jesus that leads us and not anything or anyone esle.
Where does Peace come from? The Prince of Peace:
  • Peace does not come from armies and weapons
  • Peace does not come from governments and policies
  • Peace does not come from acts of kindness and justice
  • Peace comes from God, through Jesus Christ, guided by the Spirit, through the church, through us for for the whole world.
Palm Sunday is about seeking peace from God with us.
If we cant’ see God with us, we will never find Peace.
Peace in Syria?, in Instanbull?, in the media? in the streets of our nation? in our homes? in our hearts?
  • Peace comes when Jesus comes in.
  • Peace comes when Jesus is praised
  • Peaces is possible to see when we see God showing up on our streets.
We life our palm brances as signs of a
  • new life,
  • a new way
  • a new day, made possible thorugh Jesus Chirst, our King.
The Practice response..
Start with what we have: cloaks and branches and pave the way.
Start with our
  • Praise
  • Words
  • Witness of kindness
  • Forgiving first,
Loving even though others have not loved us first
  • Our hearts
  • Our gifts
  • Our time
  • Our presence
  • Our wintess
Use these to pave the way for Christ to enter our
  • hearts,
  • conversations,
  • homes,
  • streets,
  • communities,
  • nation and the world.
That means raise the praise in church but don’t stop there, don’t stop now,
LIft Christ… and let a hurting, hateful, fearful, broken world know Jesus is here.

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