Archive for category #faithsharing

John 20:19-31 “Hands and Breath of Peace and Faith”

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. [NRSA: John 20:19-31]

a kid with multicolored hand paint
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com
  • Show Me You Hands
  • Breathe On Me Your Peace
  • Help My Unbelief
  • SO, that I have life in Christ!

If you are a card player you know that one of the basic rules is that you never show your hand to the other players so that they do not have an advantage. Part of the strategy is to hold your cards closely. Many people do that with their thoughts and feelings. It is typically a good business idea to wait and see what your customer wants or what your competition is doing.

Before the fearful disciples asked, Jesus, reveals his hands. He shows them the marks of the nails from the cross. He shows them the proof and evidence that the person standing before them is the same person who was crucified and sealed in a tomb three days prior.

What does it mean that Jesus shows us to reveal God’s hand. Not only his physical hands, but he reveals God’s heart, God’s plan, and God’s expectations.

In the midst of their fear, Jesus breathes the breath of peace. One of the best ways to reduce our blood pressure or to deal with a stressful situation is the be attentive to our breathing. Thankful breathing is one of the basic motor skills we do not have to think about all the time, but in our fight or flight times of fear, we breathless or the quality of our breathing is shallow and hurried.

Jesus steps in the room.

  •  Breathes peace into the room and shows his hands.
  • What would it look or feel like if in a time of frustration, anger, fear, doubt, or grief… we had someone interrupt our normal and automated actions and call us to faith and peace?
  • Here are two gifts that Jesus gives to the disciples that we as Resurrection People must give to one another and to the world.

It is clear we are living in this season of fear in our health, fear in political uncertainties, fear of global economies, and in the unknown of what these larger fears make on our family’s security, mobility, happiness, and unity. Part of Jesus’s witness is to become those who speak and breathe the Holy Spirit into our daily lives.

Speaking the Holy Spirit

  • Is a prayer,
  • An invitation,
  • Framing the context,
  • Reminding the faith
  • Singing the chorus
  • Causes us to focus on where we find our strength,

Returning to the pace and rhythm of being in fellowship and union when we know God is present.

Exercise of Breathing:

  1. Inhale for four counts and exhale with five long with the last stretched out.

Blood oxygen measurement… take your pulse before and after,

  • Step it up but slowing down and Adding to the physical shifting intentional breathing, the prayers of request and release.

Breathing are prayers for peace going in

Breathing out and prayers for forgiveness going out

  • Place your hand in someone else and pray and breath aloud, taking turns one speaking and one listening and then swap roles. (Now some have stress about what to say if you don’t know repeat either Jesus Loves Us or Lord have mercy.)

You can show God’s hand by breathing and prayer with someone.

You have seen mothers and fathers in baby deliver classes breathing together and talking through pain and suffering.

Jesus shows his hands… There are appropriate and inappropriate touches, and we are more and less comfortable with touching people we trust or not, but offering to show our hand, is a gift of trust for someone else.

Jesus knows what the disciples need and offers his breath, prayer, hands, and touch. Did you know that the only time some people have positive physical contact with someone else is when they see their family/friends, visit the doctor, AND when they come to church and fellowship?

Even more than praying and breathing it is becoming vulnerable for the world, to find the peace, faith, and relationship we already know.  

Jesus could have come in a said to the disciples I am so disappointed that you are hiding just when I need you to be out bolding sharing the Good News.

He, Instead, comforts the fears, fills them with the Spirit, and THEN calls them to faithfulness. We must be able and willing to reach out as recovering sinners, into a world of sin, and join with others to share the faith, proof, breath, power, word, guidance, and strength that we find in Christ, in the Spirit, for God.

The big picture is that we are living in Christ…

We are living in Christ when we are showing the world and one another the love God in midst of our fears and failures.

Part of the message Jesus is giving to the disciples is handing over the reins of the church, we are now the body of Christ, God’s work is now being entrusted to our hands, our words, our prayers, our breath, our song, our witness because the world continue to run after sin, darkness, greed, fear, power, wealth, and self.

Remember the old VBS song, He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands. Not everyone had taken the offer of our guidance and grace. We are all called to believe and guide one another to trust God to Handle our lives and the universe.

  • Take a breath,
  • Remember the peace
  • And reveal what Christ has shown you by faith
  • That the world might know life in Christ, salvation, love, joy, and peace!

When is the last time you finger painted, played in the dirt, modeled some clay, use your hands to share faith, peace, and the Spirit… that they may come to trust and believe in Jesus Christ.

Remember the challenge to mentor and disciple at least one person this year… now is the time to get your hands dirty.

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John 1:43-51 “Answering the Call”

Photo: https://www.ginfoundry.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Fig-tree.jpg
  • John 1:43-51     New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha
  • “Second Sunday after the Epiphany” January 17, 2021
  • Video: https://youtu.be/j3KH3CnKq2w

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” [NRSA: John 1:43-51]    

Central to Jesus’s work is the calling and equipping of disciples. He calls Philip who is influential in reaching Nathanael and other disciples and further sharing the Good News.

The convincing thing that Jesus grab Nathanael’s interest, trust, and response concerns both Philip and a Fig Tree.

Let’s look at the fig tree first.

As a personal testimony concerning fig trees, I have shared with you that I’m not a big fan of figs unless they are inside a Newton. Then, along with a glass of whole milk, I find the combination rather enjoyable. In reflection of thirty-six years of ministry and eighteen years prior as a preacher’s kid, there have been seven parsonages that had fig trees in the yard, and typically near the driveway. I don’t believe there are such instructions in the Book of Disciples about the furnishing of parsonages that include fig-trees, but as it is a prominent story in scripture I see that it is more likely to have fig bushes than mulberry or olive trees.

The things I have disliked about fig trees are the birds flocking to eat the fruit just when it is ripe that startle one passing by and the mess the birds leave when the remnants have fallen to the grown and one slips on a slimy fig leftover walking around the bush. Also, it’s another item that needs pruning, trimming, and maintenance in the yard. Nevertheless, the one bush that is at the end of our current driveway and near the path to the back yard in our current home is a fig bush. But by now, I have grown accustomed and find it a fond site every day. (I still don’t care to eat a fig, thankful our bush doesn’t have many left after the birds do their job.)

Why would someone be sitting under the fig tree? Likely, the broad branches filled with leaves would provide a cool and shaded spot on a blistering hot day. Secondly, for those who enjoy eating that fruit, it would be a shaded spot filled with snacks available at arms reach. What better place to rest: cool shade and convenient easts. Together, that tells us that Nathanael is a smart cookie. (maybe not as smart as a Fig Newton? I digress)

It is actually more important to see that Jesus’s call of disciples is not by chance. It is with insight, purpose, and intention that Jesus is looking for those to start the work of the church and to see it through times of struggle as well.

Part of what makes Nathanael a candidate for disciple-hood, is resourcefulness, his smarts, and practicality. These are good skills for a disciple. Part of what Jesus saw in Philip was his ability to reach other people. And this is just how Nathanael comes to meet Jesus, that is through Philip. The story of this fig tree is only to further persuade ‘Nate’ that God is already at work in his life.

The “Fig Tree” becomes a symbol of God’s patience, grace, and judgment later in Jesus’s ministry. But today’s fig tree is a person’s moment and place of being known by God.

Too often we don’t actually live thinking about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit being with us on a daily basis. Surely they are too busy, with more important matters, than to monitor our moment by moment activities. And if so we imagine that God must at least be looking aware at times and not see, hear, and be aware of our everyday life.

If we think of God being with us we would either be emboldened to defy God’s righteousness by doing what is evil, or opposite, or contrary to God, in God’s presence. And, if we think that God is too busy to be present with us, always, then we are not always trusting God’s presence in our fears, anxieties, and worries.

I’m assuming that we all just don’t think God is with us in the minute details, rather just checking in when we are at church, or in prayer, or study, or some random chance. Part of the Philip and Nathanael ‘call’ stories teach us that God is at work intentional with us, even when we are not aware of those moments.

When we think of God being busy, looking the other way, with some more important, more needed, or more evil than ourselves, we actually are teaching ourselves God is much smaller. Know that we don’t have to fully figure out God, even though God fully knows us.

Though this passage teaches us God is concerned, Jesus is with us, the Holy Spirit is in the breeze, in the share, in the daily tasks, and no matter how ingenious, smart, clever, resourceful, or alert, God is always a step ahead, a step behind, and standing with us.

So what do fig-trees, Philip, and Nathanael have to do with us in 2021?

God is no less interested in working in our lives than God was working with that tree, the tree in the middle of the garden or the bush at the end of our driveway. God is not less interested in working through our relationships, our days and night, our work and rest, to reveal the kingdom of God throughout the world in our time.

2021 is a call for the church, our church, every church to see the ordinary elements of our work and rest and the relationships that we already have established to be open to God’s revealing the Kingdom today.

In review, what has God seen us do this week that reveals God’s presence? Are our words, thoughts, and actions reflecting God’s presence, God’s patience, God’s power, and God’s plan — or have we done a better job of reflecting our own understanding, our own expectations, and our own goals?

Both Philip and Nathanael have different talents. God uses each of us in different ways, but the core, our starting point comes in recognizing that God’s Spirit is with us, and is longing to love us and work through us to bless the whole world.

2020 the church faced the greatest threat of being not relevant than ever in our lifetimes. We have clearly been labeled as non-essential workers. I’m not trying to make a political statement, I am clearly making a spiritual statement. In our collective lifetime, we have not been instructed to close our doors. Recall our motto was once, “Open Doors..” The threat of pandemic has made it easier to not gather for Christian fellowship, to NOT share our questions and stories of faith in the study; it has made it easier to occupy our time and interest in other activities.

When the pandemic started, if you were listening, your pastor/preacher reminded that this would be a time to spend more effort in prayer, study, and spiritual preparation. For some of us, 2020 was a good excuse to be sitting under the safe shade of a fig tree and not risk the heat of the day. We have grown more comfortable expending less in being the church in the name of safety.

We have tried to be innovative and creative, but the question comes to us: for a world that is starving for faith, security, peace, hope, trust, truth, love, and grace — have we been eating figs under the shade of the tree to prepare us for what is next, or simply to get by, be safe, be contented.

Nathanael’s ‘call’ story is as convicting for us as it was for him. Philip and Nathanael have a similar story to the familiar story of Mary and Martha. Both of those sisters had great talents and skillsets; Mary’s were needed more at one time, while Martha’s at a different time.

2020 was our retreat under the fig tree. 2021 is our call to reach out to those we know and those we are called to reach out to bring people to the love, truth, and heart of Christ for themselves.

Take this week to begin a list of persons that God might be calling you to reach, invite, call, and bless.

Take this week to move from the silent prayers of homes and hearts, into the conversation with share with others that they might clearly experience God’s Spirit working in their own lives.

2020 might been names Nathanael. 2021 is Philip. The year of stepping out of the shade, away from the figs, and into each other’s hearts.

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Matthew 4:12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. [NRSA]

The call to follow is an invitation to

  • Listen
  • Learn
  • Follow
  • Transform
  • Call others

We talking about the need to listen last week
We hear the week before what it means to follow
The most important part of this challenge is the call to impact the lives of others

Q: What am I doing that others see, hear and know that Jesus is healing, calling, working through me?

Step back to the do no harm rule:
What am I doing that is harming my witness and getting in the way of others experiencing Jesus in me?

What can I do? To disciple others.

Discern one person before the end of the month that God is calling you to reach out to disciple.
Pray for them every day
Find multiple ways to reach out to them and show the love and power of Jesus Christ
Persistence and variety. Many gifts and avenues
Call theirs friends and co-workers
She scriptures that invite learning and following
Take them to follow with you in your faith journey
Make it easy, no pressures salesmen.
Some will follow others will be reached by someone else.
Repeat each month.

Goal of your own 12 disciples..
A year of reaching our own dozen for Christ.

Now go and make Disciples of Jesus Christ
( next week food for the journey)

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

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

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

Scripture and Songs

Birth and death

Mission travels

Glisson and Churches

Fellowship and Art

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

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

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

Scripture

Mission

Spiritual disciples and practice

Worship and study

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

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

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

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

  • Hope,
  • power and
  • freedom in God

What we find in God is

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rather

Open statement of truth : speak and seek the truth

Commended ourselves : invest in connecting

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

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

  • God work,
  • claim and
  • calling

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John 12:12-16 Jesus is Coming to Town

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The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!”  Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. [NRSV]

Why Hosanna?

The words of praise. Hurray! Glory! Wonderful! come to mind, but this is a more unique word that Hebrew and recorded in Jesus’s native Aramaic. It is a phrase word. Just as the folks from Athens, GA might say: “How ‘bout them Jackets” (haha, twist intended) it would be a celebratory “Glory, Glory to ole Georgia.” If these phrases were encapsulated into a word we would the idea of ‘Hosannah”

Hosanna began as Lord, God Save us! and through the Gospel’s has come to mean, Highest Praise, who has saved us. So their use of the original context is twisted with the early church’s use of the old testament word.

So we have Palm Sunday as a pre-celebration that Jesus coming into the world, and in our hearts and lives, is the celebration of our salvation.

Which means if Jesus does not come to the world, to our heart, and to our town, then we are NOT saved. Here in is theological of preparing for a life as Easter People.

We usually only read this passage as an observer of a historical event, but it is shared in the Gospels as Good News and not just historical newspaper clippings.

Hosannah: Jesus has saved me, even though we celebrate the death on Good Friday and the Resurrection of next Sunday as Easter, we look at this story of entry into the city as a necessary part of the process.

We prepare for Easter knowing it is our victory march! The ASSURANCE of what WILL be and not just hope of what MIGHT be.

Why Palms?

The disciples did not gather to get Creighton’s Florist to order dozens of palms to be ordered, the palms were a response from the people who are making a traditional sign of welcoming the king.

This is a difficult time for us to respond in unison with any unifying act of praise and celebration because we have become a culture of suspicion, rebellion and divided support.

Some might hope, in our country that the “Stars and Stripes” would be an obvious rally flag. For some, it an illicit political protest.

I hope that you will do the spiritual work to see that the people might have divided reasons for welcoming Jesus as King.

Some who were in the crowd that day had experienced Jesus teaching, healing or miracles, while others knew only the oppressive Roman rule, and still, others were supporting glorious days of kings of the past hoping for the revival of political greatness.

Bottom line the palms are unifying symbols of many different individual reasons, some helpful and some dangerous.

Why a donkey’s colt?

Jesus came to town with is Colt? Would mean have met the expectation of many who were hoping for a new sheriff to clean house and restore order. When in fact, Jesus comes in humility to spiritually reorder the whole world and all time.

Think of the Jesus riding in a church parade. If this were a political parade there would have been legions of soldiers, a banner of the empire and emblems of Cesear. This is a church parade. Not everyone entered a float, but the people respond as if it is a political, flag-waving event.

Jesus rides in, not in a BEAST of an armored car, not on the back of a convertible, not even proud Clydesdale stallion. It’s more like he rides in on a pickup truck, not a four-door, HEMI, but a simple work truck.

But the symbol for some would be as if the self-proclaimed president was riding in ‘on’ a smart car.  You know that Consumer Reports does not the rate the “Smart Car” in their rating in a polite way of saying: “If you can’t say something good and helpful, don’t say anything at all.”

The palms and praises are the people’s response, Jesus message is the spiritual work that is being completed through the events of the week at hand. We call it Holy Week, but it is the week when everything we hold dear is lost and hope is out of our grasp… Oh, how we long for Easter, Salvation, Life, and Christ!

Wave OUR palms because we need to lead others out of hopelessness, fear, and sin into the joy that aways through the journey at hand.

This is what we share, this is why we praise, this is why we are the church, we are Christian, not for ourselves, but for OUR collective hope in the ONE who does save us. This week of Journey is the toughest part. Reach out to one who is in the hardest part o that spiritual and physical journey sharing the hope and joy that we KNOW is coming soon!

Again the call is to share the journey with those who cannot see this week is holy.

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John 2:13-22 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Signs and Fools

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. [John 2:13-22 NRSV]

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. [1 Corinthians 1:18-25 NRSV]

 

Foolish Signs

Think of the foolish things that Jesus did in his ministry:

  • Cut ties with his family
  • Entrusted 12 ordinary men to lead the church
    • He does not include a body guard
    • He does not find a promoter
  • He does not build building
  • He does not receive people at their very best, usually in their brokenness
  • He does not stay in one place for very long
  • He does not get a college education
  • He preached to the least, the last and lost.
  • He taught using simple stories

I recall one summer at the grandparents farm, my grandfather wanted my eldest cousin to cut his shoulder-length hair to be “clean and neat”. My cousin reminded my grandfather that even Jesus had long hair, (not something we know one way or the other, but tradition would suggest, but my 5th grade educated grandfather replied, “and Jesus walked everywhere he went.”

  • Only once in all the travels of Jesus do we find him traveling other than by foot and he rides a donkey.
  • Just when the crowds start gathering critical mass he leaves the spot light to be alone in prayer.
  • Most every action and example, Jesus lives out what the world and other leaders would identify as foolish.
[ Foolishresulting from or showing a lack of sense; ill-considered; unwise:

a foolish action, a foolish speech; lacking forethought or caution; trifling, insignificant, or paltry. ]

It was foolishness to think that one person could rebuild the temple in three days when teams of workers had been working straight for forty-six years

For all the world’s foolishness, God is working signs of power

Everyone of the sign of the world’s foolishness for Jesus is a sign of God at work, in the world, through people like you and me and the characters we see in scripture.

Think for a moment how the author of love and architect of the universe is reaching out to us through people, through struggles, through impossibilities, through life and death to connect with us and the whole world.

Awesomely foolish. Wonderfully divine!

The words of Jesus from John’s Gospel and Paul’s letter the church in Corinth call our attention toward God and not our own thoughts, success, triumphs and plans.

God is working through our brokenness, through our sin, through our failures.

When we focus on our labors, what we have earned, what we deserve, how we have figured and achieved we loose sight of God in exchange for our best.

In a very practical and plain fashion

Which is more powerful? Words of wisdom from our thinkers, theologians and politicians? Or words spoken by God, Jesus the Holy Spirit?

God continues to trust fools in the most important task for all humanity.

  • You and I are the witnesses.
  • We are the messengers.
  • We are the ones who hold the keys,
  • You and I have the first line of kingdom of God.

Why do we settle for the world’s foolishness, when God is all-in, relying on us?

One of the legs of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour is Mr Bill Engvall. His catch phrase is, “here’s your sign.”  When people say things that reveal they are not at their brightest moments.

  • Honey our plane hit a deer? Were you still in the air?
  • Dad, I’m going to play you the theme song from Harry Potter on the piano. From the movie? No Dad, from the book.
  • Covered in camouflage clothes head to toe, painted face and smelling of the woods, the Walmart Greeter asked, have you been hunting? No, I’ve been hugging trees.

Rather than worrying about signs of weather and rumors of wars and portents of end times, let’s be about sharing the signs of God’s power at work in our lives.

Signs of Foolishness

  • Taking Cleaning supplies to folks who have none in Jesus Name
  • Taking thread and material and covering people in prayer
  • Singing songs and breaking bread for kids who are hungry for Good News at home and at camp.
  • Taking the Good News we find when we gather in this place and sharing hope with the people we see at work, school, shopping and everywhere we go.
  • Hearing the worry, fear, division in the world’s conversation, and reminding each other that God shows up in our greatest failures and fears to teach us grace, love and power.

These are our signs, show the world!

 

 

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Luke 2:1-7 Placed in a Manger

mangerIn those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. [NRSV]
God is Born in Human form
God is placed in a receptacle intended for feeding
In a world that has no room for God to be received, God comes through those willing to receive him.
It is into a world that diligently to ignore, disprove, discredit, disarm and deny a need for God, is given God’s most simple and direct appearance and encounter.
Those who are willing to receive, do find God.
We have had a three month season of preparing to place Jesus in the manager. I invite you to see yourself as manger holding Jesus Christ.
  • The manger is an instrument serving a purpose larger than it is away.
  • This manger is not simply a historical reference to a cattle feeding implement, it is God placing Jesus where others are spiritually empty.
  • The manger is a not simply a place to hold hay, it is the vehicle entrusted to hold the bread of life for a world of persons who hungers.

You and are about to begin a season of sharing Jesus Christ. The final step of preparing to be a people of faith-sharing is affirming that we are those who hold Christ for the world.

Do you have the gift of Jesus in your heart and mind?

Turn to your neighbors, left and right, and share with them: “I’ve got Jesus and I’m ready to share him.”

I remember making prank phone calls at my grandfather’s request. He would open the metro Atlanta phone book at random, point to a number and dial the phone, he would hand us the receiver and were we instructed to say to the party on the line: “Sir/Mama, on behalf of the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a can? If you do, you should let him out.”  Which was a corny twist, that made my grumpy grandfather cackle with laughter with every call.

Not unlike the Forrest Gump line when Srgt Dan asks Forrest if he had found Jesus, to which Forrest replied, “I didn’t know he was lost.”

Having Jesus vs Sharing Jesus

Turn and ask your neighbors: Are you a manger?

Are you carrying Jesus ready to feed someone the bread of life?

Too often we looked to Jesus as our daily bread as though there were not enough mana to go around and we want to save Jesus for use in our own struggles and fears.

What an awesome opportunity you and I have to be the box that carries the gift of Christ until they unwrap and find Christ for themselves.

The Good News:

You and I don’t have to be gift

You and I don’t have to know all the answers

You and I are called to carry and share what WE know and experience Christ.

“I am a manger”

I carry the bread of life, Jesus Christ, so that not only am I nourished but those who I carry Christ to will also be fed and filled.

“I am a manger”

God is using me and using your life, your words, thoughts, your praises, you lessons, you conversations to give hope, grace, forgiveness and power to broken and hating world.

“I am a manger”

No one might expect God to be using my life and witness, but God is at work in us for those where we live, work, play and rest.

“I am a manger”

We carry Jesus to keep him or we carry him both trust and to share. Mary places Jesus in a feeding trough, he is not only her child, Jesus is for us all to be nourished and made whole.

“I am a manger”

I hold the keys of heaven. God is entrusting us with sharing hope for the world or we can double-down on fear, grudges, doubts, weakness, shame and all matters of brokenness.

“I am a manger”

The God who loves us, calls us to love our enemies and one another

The Jesus that saves us calls us to feed and fill those who hunger in a sea of sin and fear.

The Spirit that guides us leads us to those who need to hope.

“I am the manger”

“Here is my Jesus, Here is my God, Here is the Spirit, I am the manger”

,

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Starting our conversation on Faith Sharing (Bible verses from NRSV)

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 5:17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Acts 10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Luke 15. Lost sheep, lost coin, lost child (prodigal son/elder brother)

Faith Sharing: some practical How to-s

-It is: Role as announcer of the gospel, God will use us to reveal

-It is not: Sharing your faith, verse persuading your point, using your faith.

Simple starting point:

1. Starting: The best way to share your faith is to start sharing your faith.

2. What to say: When it is your story

-you don’t have to figure it out,

-it is authentic, real and genuine

3. Pray for people around you.

-Pray for neighbor, even if it’s for 10 seconds.

-Pray for them to be receptive, open, willing

Start thinking of yourself as announcer: practice- “attention ladies and gentlemen..”

-think of a ball game, see the actions. Tell what you see

be an announcer of the gospel, God will use us to reveal

Prayer is essential for each session of preparing

1. out pouring of the HS

2. a ew awakening by God’s church

3. the teachers and participants of the class

4. God’s grace to empower you to build relationships and share your faith

5. the world to come to know Jesus Christ

What exactly do I say? How to start?

-Begin with invitational statement

-“a send of a question within it and waits for an answers”

Example: Good weather today… That looks like a warm coat… “

TASK: Start the conversation

1. Start with a statement

2. Speak in the first person: I hope you are doing well today.

3. Know you only need one minute to get to the point

or nothing,.. either, lead to conversation of the next

-Fruit any homework: Most helpful, personal experience determined,

I hope you are doing well today.. 99 I get a smile, most people are not interested in cashiers.

TAKE ONE MINUTE

Practice the transition:

“It’s raining cats and dogs”

“Yes”

“Jesus said it (Matthew 5.45) rains on the good and the bad”

“So what”

“I find peace knowing Jesus care about me when it rains and when the sunshine’s”

A statement

A bible verse, faith observation, that introduces faith topic

A person statement I believe

The door is open

Prayer

Preparing

Announce the gospel message and wait on the Holy Spirit, and follow HS lead

Why share our faith?

Motivation

-Christ commanded, not suggested, maybe you should make disciples, nope, you shall

-Christ loves disciples, we are more willing to do something asked by someone who loves us.

-We know what is at stake for us and for those who do not know,

Some success stats

Why should we refresh / share our faith?

77% people become disciples through someone they trust

a year of trust building make be required to earn/build trust

we have to be plain and clear, we can no longer use Christina language

we can no longer depend solely on programs of the church

many people have difficulty building new relationships with new persons.

lots of people have no christian memory

Reasons we stop Sharing (of Church people)

-unaware of sin 1%

-indifferent to sin 16% they live as they want, self id as Xtn, but don’t care

-worried about sin 39% (have not moved on, still worried)

-Forgiven from sin 9% (unhappy members, unfulfilled

-39% Forgiving/Active in Church 24% of those 89% have stopped being transformed or refreshed

Churches historically have been teaching that when you become a member that’s it, your done

11% (Even to 11% need to step it up)

6% have a holy discountent (Know the core, but

3% broken by God ( God will make life good and easy)

1% surrendered / submitted (Do what you will)

0.5% have a profound love for God.

0.5% love for people. (Isnt this the greatest commandment ) love God and neighbor.

NO WONDER WE ARE NOT WITNESSING

Mentally/Spiritually Want to be BUILDING NEW relationship everywhere we go, example is Jesus not at other example

DAILY INITIATING ONE MINUTE CONVERSATIONS

endless

….more practice next week

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2 Corinthians 9:6-15 Faith Sharing: The Abundant Witness

5GenWitness

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! [NRSV]

Abundance

This text is often misused by many, including popular tv-preachers, to justify a theology of material wealth abundance. The promise God makes us is to multiply what we give, but that is not a multi-level get-rich investment plan for our bank accounts.

Starting Balance

First, let’s look at our account. God has given us love, breathe and choice, in a broken world where sin, temptation, and selfishness keep these gifts in the balance.

Second, God further gives us the Word, (scriptures), the witness of the faithful who has gone ahead of us, namely, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the church.

Understanding Blessings,

A blessing is God taking what is ordinary and making it/us extraordinary.  Paul writes to the Corinth church and us, through several letters, know as 1&2 Corinthians, encouraging us to see how God is showing up through the many ways we show/witness God’s presence to the world.

The more we show the world Jesus, the more the God works with us to make our small part a greater witness, a longer-reach, a bigger impact, a more abundant gift.

Key Text: Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

It Only Takes a Spark 

Picture a time when your occasion that someone to whom you have shared Jesus Christ with uses the words you shared with them to inspire someone else.

Parents hear their children say all sorts of words. O e of my favorite kids speak moments was when a five-year-old smelled myrrh one Christmas Eve and belted out how terrible the smell was and it smelled like “$hit”. “This stuff smells like bull$hit” not the words of faith his parents and grandparents St had hoped they would share.

There are precious slices of life where a child will remind fighting parents that Jesus hears their hurtful words just as the child has heard them and that’s not what Jesus wants.

When the whole event is ruined by rain and the child stops to celebrate the promise of the rainbow, that God has saved us for a different purpose than the mess that has flooded today.

But when you hear campers at Glisson teaching another generation about what a friend in Christ is about knowing that you heard it started at camp in the summer of 1984 and summer after summer kids have experienced friends in Christ and will sing that song in 2017 to generations to follow another thirty years.

The challenge of Abundance

So we know God is with us. We have a great supportive cloud of witnesses to learn from, both those living and those who have gone ahead to heaven. We have the Word, the Wisdom and Wit God gives us, a World of opportunities…

  • WHAT are you committed to planning for an abundant crop?
  • What does my collection of tools empower me to do?
  • What does a house full of stuff afford me to share?
  • What does an experience of a job give me to teach others
  • What does the money, talents, resources give us the opportunity share?
  • What do the facts, stories, memories in our heads have for other hearts and minds?

We must recognize that we, while we all have different parts to share, we are all gifted.

  • If I want to see God’s praised
  • If I want to see others know what I know
  • If I want the next generation to be strong in the faith
  • If I want my enemy to no longer me, my enemy
  • If I want my community, nation, and world to be healed
  • If we have the same mind as Christ,
  • if we have the same love for God,
  • If we have the same journey as the Holy Spirit,

Key Text: Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

So what does this call us to be doing?

the obedience that follows our own confession of faith.

If I say that I am a follower, a Christian, a disciple, a member, a child of God, what follow is to be obedience.

What do we do to show that we obey?

We share our faith, our hearts, our witness, our love with others.

  • Not only, but continually,
  • Our whole lifetime.

God wants each of us in a relationship with God, AND with one another.

So we are getting to the gift challenge for this Christmas:

What are we suppose to do?

  1. Pray for someone whom you have not shared your faith with before.
  2. Pray for God to reveal this person/s to you, that you believe God wants you to share your faith story/journey with as gift this Christmas.
  3. Begin to set up the opportunity. Make a plan to be with this person during the Christmas season, December 25 and the 11 days following make the Christmas Season. Make a date to spend time with them, face-to-face, on the phone, online, but make a date inviting them to know that you have a most special gift you want to give them this year.
  4. Begin to listen in prayer for what God wants you to say. (It might be one simple thing, it might be a detailed list.) {Don’t tell him, yet if you see my brother} [God wants me to tell my brother that I love him, that God has Good for his life, and the Christmas is the time for him to be growing his faith, writing his heart and loving someone in the way God loves him. (He doesn’t have to love me, yet. The message is it is time to find your home in God’s house and God’s heart. Start where you have found in the past, with people who love God, go to the church closest to your home or work and meet God there; Talk with his people, listen to his call and song, grow and work in grace.]
  5. The Plan: In my plan, I am called to share a repetitive gift. Same gift wrapped in three ways. Mail it in a letter, send it in an email, and call and talk in person. I have not set up the day, but I know the message.
  6. The expectation: My exercise is not to get a response, not to expect feedback, not to expect anything. God’s expectation is that I share the message with love and grace.
  7. The fruit will be for his heart and God’s and that will be joy abundantly to me.

I cannot tell you who, or exactly what God wants you to reach out to, but I have not shared my faith with my brother in many years. I have assumed, that has not served him, God, nor our relationship. It’s time to be faithful in faith-sharing.

 

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Phillipians 1:21-30 Share Faith: Progress in Joyful Faith.

difficultJoy

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them, this is evidence of their destruction but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. [NRSV]

I’ve Got my ticket, Who Cares if you have yours?

One of the reasons that we find to justify why to NOT share our faith is summed up in the thought: “I figured it out, they can too.”

“They have the bible to read.”

“They could have gone to church.”

“They should have made other choices.”

“It’s their choice/fault/responsibility/issue.”

Paul acknowledging an affirmation we need to remember: Through Christ, we have salvation. While salvation is a ticket to heaven, it is not a pass from suffering.

The joy of finding Salvation ourselves is that we have the most wonderful and appropriate gift to share with those who are suffering.

Even though life is not easy, we have hope beyond this life, we have encouragement in this life, and we know how to love when everyone else is [Hobbes:] is selfish, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. T

In Jesus Christ, we have Joy knowing our future is more certain than our past and present and that What God has done for us in Christ and what God’s Spirit is doing through us now.

We live in the assurance of our place in heaven AND in the assurance that even though we might be experiencing hell on earth, we continue here to help each other progress in JOY and in FAITH.

We don’t want to be like Lot’s wife, don’t look back.

The tragedy in Las Vegas shows how broken one person’s mental illness can affect hundreds of others.

The tragedy of flooding in Texas, Peurto Rico, Culebra, Florida and again now in the gulf, the earthquakes in Mexico, Japan, and New Zealand; the nastiness in social media and divisive words, accusations and assumptions upon people’s character, the threats of war from

When the signs say run.

With melting glaciers, erupting volcanos, multiple hurricanes, and storms,

When we heart of attacks, wars, rumors of wars, and see people value political principle above God’s, when people would rather blame and attack rather than forgive and love.

It is no wonder we feel the call to be “traveling on”

I feel like traveling on,

My heavenly home is bright and fair I feel like traveling on
No pain nor death can inner there I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on I feel like traveling on
My heavenly home is bright and fair I feel like traveling on
Its glittering towers the sun outshines I feel like traveling on
That heavenly mansion shall be mine I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on…
The Lord has been so good to me I feel like traveling on
Until that blessed home I see I feel like traveling on
Yes I feel like traveling on…

Written by J. R. Baxter, William Hunter • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group, Popularized by Loretta Lynn, All Time Gospel Favorites.

The Reason for Staying and Standing In (Why doesn’t Vanderbilt call the game at half-time?)

If everyone who believed in Jesus left and went to heaven how would those who doubt, question, reject and run the other way have a chance?

We remain to encourage others.

We remain to enjoy each other’s company

We remain to strengthen each other faith

We remain to be that light on a dark night

Stay without Standing Still

Paul see’s the importance of sticking with people who are difficult, sticks in the mud and working with persistence for some measure of progress.

Joy is the passion that we are making a difference in a broken world

I’ve not reached my goal, but at least I’m making progress.

Joy in the progress

Celebrate the advances in what is Godly

Remember where we see God is faithful

Highlight where we experience the Holy Spirit showing up

Continue to call and challenge each other to progress.

Progress in Faith, Progress in Joy, Progress in Sharing

If you go-to story of faith is over a year old, we have not progressed in faith since that time.

We affirm the historic ways we meet God, but let’s be about the business of progressing, even where it weary, dry and difficult.

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