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We’ve got work to do!

Now we are alive because Jesus has put fear and death out of business. #gomakedisciples

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Day 17 “Intended to Destroy”


Read: Deuteronomy 9.25 (NRSV)
God has every right to whip us into shape but God does not treat us in this way. We wouldn’t learn about God’s full nature, faith, nor the true meaning of the gift of life with God. God’s assessment and judgement of our lack of faithfulness would indicate we deserve destruction; instead God meets us in the struggle. The is the power of what we are looking to find at the cross and in the resurrection. This is our destination.

grey steel grill
Repent and be set free from the power of sin – Photo Pexels.com


The question is, will we learn from our struggles and accomplishments along the way? The movement to clean up history will certainly help us repeat our sins and failures. We can grow through our trials and tribulations no matter how small or terrible. And God’s hope is that we apply what we’ve learned to new challenges. If we erase our past, we will only see the present and miss our future.


It is acceptable to God that it takes us time to get to new places of faith and understanding, and it’s the task of experimenting, with the goal of “getting it right”, that is our path of sanctification. Therefore, rather than focus on blame, admit that we need God’s help and trust God to guide us in where we are going. Today is the best day to repent and start fresh in the grace given to us.


Action Plan: Exercise your body, take a walk, and get moving. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, move toward God.


Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for seeing your will above our sin. Give us the courage to face our failure, strength in our struggles, and hope in you on this day. Amen.

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Easter Sunrise 2019 Isaiah 65 Our New Day in Christ

Isaiah 65:17-25

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord. [nrsv]

  • Jerusalem as a Joy?
  • People will be a delight?
  • No more weeping and no more distress?
  • No more infant deaths or those whose life is cut short?
  • Those who work will receive the benefits of their own labor?
  • No injustice in wealth and home for all?
  • No labor in vain, (note not a absence of work)
  • Wolf and the lamb will feed together but not on each other
  • Lion and the ox will eat straw
  • Serpent will eat the dust…
  • Though without war

God is building a new heaven and a new earth.. will we recognize it when we get there? 

As we gather early on Easter’s sunrise we remember God is creator

  • In the Big Inning, God makes all things
  • In Christ, Changes the whole world,
  • By the Holy Spirit, God is guiding us toward the New Jerusalem, that we might lead the world to God, through Christ.

In the New Jerusalem, there is not hurt, pain, suffering or injustice, but even the serpent has a place

evil, pride/selfishness, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, wrath, and envy are no longer needed.

Think of the power of these forces in our world and in our lives

What would it take to no longer behave these ways?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

There is not other power, no other answer, no other hope, no other way.

There are various camps;

  • Those who no longer care
  • Those who want to prove there is another way
  • Those who know Jesus is the way, but trust later
  • Those who are free in Christ now and forever. 

The prophetic words of the prophet Isaiah 

[The whole chapter]

1 I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name. 2 I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; 3 a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; 4 who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; 5 who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long. 6 See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps 7 their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the Lord; because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions. 8 Thus says the Lord: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all.9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there. 10 Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. 11 But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny;12 I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my sight, and chose what I did not delight in. 13Therefore thus says the Lord God: My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; 14my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart, and shall wail for anguish of spirit. 15 You shall leave your name to my chosen to use as a curse, and the Lord God will put you to death, but to his servants, he will give a different name. 16 Then whoever invokes a blessing in the land shall bless by the God of faithfulness, and whoever takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of faithfulness; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my sight. 17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Why read from Isaiah at the Sunrise?

When the day is new we can better see the darkness of our past and hope of our future in the Word of God made new and whole through Jesus Christ, for us

  • May we invoke the blessing of this day
  • May we call on Jesus Christ to make this day new
  • May we trust Christ to overcome our sin and shame
  • May we speak God’s name and not our own
  • May the former things are forgotten
  • And the New Day in Christ is eternally on our lips and in our deeds.

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

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

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

Actions have consequences

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

JOY Interrupts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the gospel, What is the good news? 

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

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

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Advent 1 Stand Jer. 33:14-16 Luke 21:25-36

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Key words: hope, redemption, alert

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” [NRSV: Jr 33.14-16]

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.  [NRSV Lk 21:25-36]

Today we begin the four-week journey toward meeting Jesus, born anew in our lives, at Christmas. We call this time of preparing our ADVENT of Christmas. This is not Christmas, it is the anticipation and journey toward Christmas.

Advice: Don’t be in a hurry for Christmas, we might miss Christ when Christmas Day arrives.

Our first call is to Seek God’s Righteousness/Goodness

The Prophet Jeremiah pronounces that there is a coming of the Lord’s Righteousness and the world will see Justice and God’s understanding of what is Right and Wrong.

Frances has a wonderful opportunity through school to be an exchange student. She will be living in South Africa this summer and her new friend Amy will come to live with us this fall.  So as any family would, we have been learning a great deal about that country. For all the faults that every nation has, 80% of the country is Christian and of that significant portion, 80% attend church regularly. Why is church more popular in that part of the world? They have issues of justice that the nation continues to struggle through. I am interested to learn how God is showing up to help bring peace and safety, which we all seek.

The prophetic work in our weeks prior to Christmas come as an opportunity to study and practice what it means to live in AND show the world God’s righteous way of thinking, behaving and believing.

Jeremiah speaks of the work of a singular, tender branch keeping the family tree’s promise alive. God is not measuring us by volume, rather by faithfulness. POINT: Have Hope that God will use us, even in our weakest moments, by directing ourselves toward God.

Turn and Stand Up

Jeremiah invites us to TURN our minds to God in Advent. The Gospel reading from Luke challenges us to STAND UP.  Don’t be a “pew potato”. Don’t think it is someone else’s responsibility. Don’t wait for wind to blow your sails, move yourself into the blowing of the Holy Spirit.

This season is a time to begin the journey by Standing Up. The work of witnessing Righteousness and caring out Justice are the journey.

The first action of every journey is to get up and prepare to move, prepare to take action, prepare to face the apparent overwhelming odds that nothing will change for God if we sit here and wait until we die. Stand up! is the call.

It is in Luke’s gospel that we hear Jesus tender sprouts of the fig tree that will bear fruit even though it has been dormant and lifeless. This is much like the prophet Ezekiel call to preach and prophesy to the valley of dry bones calling for them to prepare to form and army, prepare to have the breath of God in your lungs and hearts.

Jesus tells the disciples that terrible signs and calamities will surround us, but this will be the best time to see Jesus showing up. When you know Jesus is near, STAND UP, life up your heads and follow.

The crisis times in our lives and in the life of the church are the very times that we prepare to TAKE A STAND, prepare to lift up our heads and affirm JESUS’s presence and hope for the world.

In a world divided by fear and ideologies, take action, and take action in the strength of Christ.

Thank goodness Advent is a time of preparing because we are not collectively ready to advance. But we are at the moment of standing up.

The opportunity of showing up! C. S. Lewis is quoted saying:

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis

  • TURN TOWARD GOD
  • PREPARE TO STAND UP
  • LIFT UP YOUR HEADS

Third: starting this Advent Journey requires HOPE.

The challenge given to us by the world, by our denomination, by our community is to be the presence of God’s HOPE for those who are in our circles of influence.

SIDE NOTE: Our circle of influence is not only those that we come in contact in our daily living, but also those whom we could be in contact with in each day. 

Simply summaries,

We begin Advent as a quest to find Christ in our own lives, but committing/recommitting our attention toward God, Begin my taking the first step toward God, and carrying the flag of Hope for a world that is looking to ideological approval, material feed happiness and lost in raging waters of despair, grief, doubt and fear. Yuck!

Pray with me:

Lord Turn my heart and mind and soul toward you.

Give me your strength to move from this stationary place into living that is fueled by your power.

Keep your hope in me that I might shine that life and light for someone else.

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Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018 Matthew 2:7-12

Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. [NRSV]

I have such wonderful memories of racing out from Emerson to Euharlee and trying to beat the long coal train heading to-and-from the Bowen. It is so good to be back. I have been here on a cold and snowing morning when it was only two, and no more and we had Good Preaching. So I hope that is the case today. I am proud to see the growth of the ministries and good work at Oak Grove and am honored to be with you today.

I began to think back about the years I was pastor, student and neighbor. The years would have been between 1985 and 1989. Some remarkable things happened while we were in ministry together:

• The infamous “New Coke” was released, The Titanic found, The first report of Mad Cow disease

• and Madonna was holding the place Taylor Swift holds today. Michael Jackson released his “Bad” album and MTV actually played music videos.

• The Kroger in Cartersville and Town Center Mall opened. The news of the Atlanta Olympics was

• The movies out during that time included: Back to the Future, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing

• Some notable songs were: Walk like an Egyptian, The theme from Phantom of the Opera, and We are the World.

• Imagine back to the time of the start of the Internet, the first Game Boy and Nintendo, The first intel processor and MS Office and Windows debuted.

• We were witnesses of Haley’s comet, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and removal of the Berlin Wall with Mr Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

• People were watching: “The Cosby Show”, “Cheers”, “Hill Street Blues”, Johnny Carson, Magnum PI and the start of the Simpsons.

We are not the same people today. The world has changed and is changing in a whirlwind of transformation. As our denomination looks ahead to the Winter of 2019 we know that more change is to be expected.

As important it is to look back and remember from where we have come, it is the witness of the magi that call us to look to the present and prepare for the future.

I have always found it remarkable that the Bible contains the story of people of faith who look for God in the movement of the starts, in a distant country with a different culture and perspectives and yet God is self-revealing in all creation.

I had a conversation with young man in his mid-twenties who was convinced that there was no need for God. The wonders and marvels of creation were but the finely tuned change of random variables that brought him more peace and “common sense” to his perspective. I asked him from where did the forces of gravity, fission, fusion, physics, mathematic and love evolve. He uncomfortably had no clear answer except to say they were only explained as observations that followed rather than formed the universe. He left the conversation and went home the same person. I hope that some of the conversation helped change his fears and desire to control rather than to follow and trust.

We live in a divided culture that is more segregated than at any moment in our lifetimes. The struggles leading through Civil Rights Era and the Civil War are not our finest moments. Now more than ever are we needing to make a life-giving, hope-sharing, love-trusting impact on the world around us.

When I was at Oak Grove I was married to Sarah Jane, who search the Cassville Church for a couple of the years. We enjoyed covered dish dinners, singings, and being with you in worship and in your homes. That is no longer the relationship that shapes my life. She loved the idea of being married much more than being married to me. I didn’t share that at the time, as I was immature and unwilling to share what it mean to fully share what it means to be a community of faith. I finally learned that 1) clergy are people who struggle with marriage too, 2) I’d be happier unmarried or married for a few years than to be miserable for 50 pretending a marriage. 3) I have learned that God’s path for us is only as straight and narrow as our willingness to trust. But grace goes before, with and behind us.

Now I have three children: Susanna at Stanford, Luke at 1st Leu in the AF, and Frances a sophomore studying AP Chinese and my wife Wendy is beginning her second career in Insurance. (If you ever seen the Hot-ones sign, a Hardees star, a Georgia Tourism commercial or a magazine in a plastic bag you have seen her work.) The past ten years we have cared for her parents in our home, her mom having Dementia and her father having Kidney failure, was not the road that we had planned, but God has carried us through a different way that blessed and shaped us profoundly.

Why the Wise-men passage on Home Coming?

During my years at Emerson and Oak Grove, Singer, James Taylor, released a song by David Bailey called, Home By Another Way. David Bailey was the son of a Presbyterian minister. As a fellow preacher’s kid the song resonated with me: Here was a famous hippy trippy ballad rocker singing about a bible verse: Not the paths that typically cross. Listen to the lyrics of his song:

Those magic men the Magi, Some people call them wise, Or Oriental, even kings, Well anyway, those guys

They visited with Jesus, They sure enjoyed their stay, Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme

They went home by another way

Steer clear of royal welcomes, Avoid a big to-do, A king who would slaughter the innocents, Will not cut a deal for you, He really, really wants those presents, He’ll comb your camel’s fur

Until his boys announce they’ve found trace amounts, Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh

Time to go home by another way

Home is where they want you now, You can more or less assume that you’ll be welcome in the end

Mustn’t let King Herod haunt you so, Or fantasize his features when you’re looking at a friend

Well it pleasures me to be here, And to sing this song tonight, They tell me that life is a miracle, And I figured that they’re right, But Herod’s always out there, He’s got our cards on file

It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch, Old Herod likes to take a mile

It’s best to go home by another way

Home by another way

What does it mean to Go Home, by another way?

To God home is hopefully a place of security, grounding and belonging.

Hear the Good News: God’s home, “Oikos”, is with us! With us!

It starts in a garden, it travels in a wilderness, it crosses paths in the crucifixion, it opens through an empty tomb, it blow as the wind around us, and surrounds us.

We are not who were once were:

In Christ we are those who make straight the paths for others

In grasp of the Holy Spirit we are those who open hearts and conversations

In the love of God we are those who God is creating new life and ways of living.

I regret that I must leave without a longer visit but I am leading a class for the district to build our skills in sharing Difficult Conversations as churches and church folks. As I look back on the Roads and Paths that God has lead, carried, and immersed me, I see at:

• Oak Grove taught me that God can take a mustard seed an make something grand and purposeful beyond our dreams.

• Grant Park I learned from one of the most diverse congregations in the Southeast what it means to share love

• In some other congregations I learned what looks like when we live in fear, pride, greed and worship of self.

• At Candler and Gammon I learned how to prepare for God to use me in changing ministry conditions.

• At Rock Spring I am ready to see how God will lead us into being a relevant part of the body of Christ in the 21st century.

The message I have received from much prayer, much prayer, much study, much conversation, much reflection, writing and reading is this:

1. Change is to be assuredly expected. (It is ok to embrace change, WHEN God leads us.)

2. What will be has not yet been revealed.

3. But when it is revealed: Count on seeing Jesus or not seeing at all.

• Therefore it is all important to make our home in God who does not change.

• Therefore it is essential that we find our way through what has been revealed.

• Therefore it is our purpose, passion and path to stick with Jesus, not for our sake but for Christ.

God Lord, we give thanks for these and all other blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

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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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Romans 13:5-14  Faith Sharing: Love and Time

sharelove

Therefore one must be subject [to authorities], not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason, you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. [NRSV]

Faith Sharing: Early in our journey toward sharing the gift of our faith, we need to address the WHY question. Why share our faith. Over the next few weeks, we will explore some basic reason WHY we share our faith.

Today’s text from Paul in his letter to the church in Rome we will look at two:

  1. Because of Love
  2. Because we have limited Time

LOVE Motivation

Paul reminds us of Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbor. God loves us and how to relate and interact with others around us reflects and influences others.

Invest/Trust/Living Sharing LOVE

  • Don’t get side tracked with politics, trust God is using every authority for God. If they are not, they must answer to God, err on the side of being a responsible citizen.
  • Don’t get weighted down with debt, If you must be in debt, do so in showing love, respect, and honor, to THOSE who it is due.
  • Do not split hairs over the law of the land or the church, devote your selves to loving sinners, so they/we will go sin no more.

Limited Opportunity

Look at the times, read the signs, know it is closer to the end than the beginning.

Live as though the test is TODAY, rather than next week.

Our physical bodies, our earthly structures, our laws and rules, needs and wants need to be focused on what is spiritual, Godly, and Christ-like.

THE PROBLEM

  • Live worried about your wealth of love instead of things
  • Live focused on caring for sinners instead of comforting the found.
  • Live devoted to satisfying the hunger of your spiritual relationship/s, for eternity instead of pacifying your physical urges and weaknesses.

Our Question: Why do we need to be sharing our faith with others?

We who know love trumps and triumph over all, need to show a

  • divided,
  • self-serving,
  • self-gratifying society,

that accepting world’s idea of good and the world’s understanding of love is not the love that stands with you in ‘firey’ furnace.

How do we share our faith in these conditions?

  • One way is by honoring and respecting those whom honor and respect are due.
  • One way is by being the best citizen and neighbor under the laws of the world’s authorities. If any leader, authority or government is not Godly, the leaders and representatives will be accountable,
  • One way is loving sinners, as sinners, who a seeking to not be sinners. (We don’t love a gambler by betting our farm when they have lost theirs, we love them but help them make new better choices.)

Why not let someone else share their faith?

  1. God loves you and me. God instructs that we respond to love by loving. We have skin in the game because we have been loved, we respond in love.
  2. Jesus is coming soon and you and I have to answer for those we have not reached out to love.

Examples of Loving

Jesus gave the command to feed, clothe, visit and encourage not as an exclusive list of rules/laws to fulfill, but as examples of everyday loving…

Love those who need to be loved so that your loving acknowledges God’s love.

Witness Trusting God by being honorable, respectful, contributing the good of neighbors and citizens. AND let people know that is your drive/motive/purpose.

          Model for your neighbors: honor, respect, and responsibility so they see you trust God.

The Caveat

Love, not so that they see YOU are a good person, rather that they KNOW God’s love drives you.

Participate in community responsibility not so they approve of you, but they see God can conquer brokenness.

The Temptation is to leave the light shining on ourselves.

This is the daily, “home work”

love others, participate in community life

1. In response to God’s love, AND

2. with the urgency that the world comes to know Christ through your faithfulness.

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Matthew 16:13-20 Who Do You Say?

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea, Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. [NRSV]

Why Tell No One?

“Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” v. 20

Banias03 Ceaserria Phillipi was a worship center for many different faiths and deities in the region at the time Jesus visited with his disciples. Now it is but a historical site where pilgrims and tourist come to visit the remnants of a shopping-mall of temples at the edge of one of Herod’s many palaces.  Jesus gathers with his core leadership and asks for a status report. “What are people saying?”

Opinion vs Completing the Circut

Somewhere in the past generation of 15-20 years, we have upgraded the value of opinions over the value of facts. One of the dangerous tools that we have come to accept is public opinion polls.

My undergrad major is in sociology. When I changed from Chemistry as a pre-pharmacy student, I jumped 180 degrees into contextual perspectives of the human experience. As a social science, this discipline tries to make observations and predictions about human behavior. A random selection of people targeted for their similarities or differences is given questions to ask about perceptions and opinions. The bottom line on all opinion polls is that the collected information gives feedback for strategic planning, marketing, and predictive observations. The dangerous part is when we use feedback to validate rather than inform.

Example: If sixty percent of you sitting here said the wall appeared to be painted beige and 40 percent say white, what color is the wall? We have shifted from caring that Sherman Williams calls it bisque 106 to say that the 60% have a better perspective in the context of this room.

Jesus is not concerned with opinions. Jesus asks the disciples about what the people are saying and what the disciples are saying not to be validated, but to read the measure of progress or failure in informing and preparing people for their Messiah.

Listening to Feeback

The word on the street was divided about Jesus’s role and identity. Most data suggested Jesus was a prophet. Someone who taught and spoke for God, but not in the Messiah category.

Jesus asks the same question and asks the disciples about themselves. Who do you say Jesus is? So as a congregation of disciples the question is posed to each of us. When you are asked about Jesus, how do you first describe Jesus?

  • As a historical figure?
  • As a teacher
  • as healer
  • as the son of God
  • as God in human form
  • As a friend
  • As Savior
  • As a liar, a lunatic, or as Lord? (CS Lewis, Rabbi  John Duncan, Bono, W)
  • I suggest that most of us have some answer in our head, but hope it doesn’t come up in conversation and if it does we just as likely to say nothing.

“A Reality Check with the Truth”

  • Jesus Want to know where things stand,
  • Jesus wants to hear what the world says
  • Jesus wants to hear what the disciples say

The World is most likely to have a general idea but lacks the relationship to know for sure

You and I have the advance of some form of relationship, but our answer might be either a desire to be correct and give the ‘right’ answer so as to be rewarded for our knowledge, OR we speak from the heart and declare who Jesus is in our heart and faith.

Ask you neighbor today: Who is Jesus to you?

I challenge every member to begin preparing an answer to the question. “Who do I say Jesus is?”

  1. This is not to be answered swiftly with the goal of having the accurate answer.
  2. This IS a question to help us gauge where we are in a relationship with Jesus and each other.
  3. This IS a question that we need to be ready to share with:
    1. Those who ask
    2. Those who need to know but don’t ask
    3. As an affirmation of our faith to Jesus himself.

The Need to Know, then Tell

  • Pre-resurrection the charge is to NOT tell.Post-resurrection until his return, we have to tell everyone.
  • Post-resurrection until his return, we have to tell everyone.
  • We are people of the resurrection and world needs to hear, we need to be ready to tell, share, shape, instruct, inform, encourage and enrich the spiritual life of others.

Our missions to feed, clothe and visit those in prison FALL short if we don’t use these opportunities to make disciples.

We need more than daily bread, we need the bread of eternal life, and so does our neighbor and our enemies.

The time to prepare ourselves to share the Good News is at hand.

A Four Month Goal

One of the 5 Practices of an effective church is based on our commitment to be spiritually informed, spiritually maturing, growing in understanding, Bible study to feed our spiritual self.

In the next four months, in preparation for Christmas, I expect every member to find themselves part of a Sunday school class, a small group or a Bible study.

That might mean you have to start one of these yourself.

The CASE: If we are to be prepared to answer who Jesus is in each day, it takes real effort and practice.

 

Making Disciples is an all member responsibility. Job number #1 is making disciples. Helping introduce, equip and support others to know who Jesus is in their life, in my life, in your life.

What does this mean? What does this look like to me?

Starting in September we will be learning the process of sharing our faith. Starting this fall are classes and small groups and studies that some of you will be leading and facilitating to encourage others.

Starting in October we will begin preparing our leaders for 2018. Every ministry and service area of the church will share the goal of making disciples. We will make sure every leader in the church is modeling our discipleship goals.

By November will begin asking every member to report how they are connecting for study and spiritual growth, for those who have not connected or begun we will help find at least one connecting point for each member.

In December we will celebrate the season of Advent with a church-wide emphasis on faith-sharing as a Christmas gift.

Rock Spring is our foundation in Christ. It is our nearest access to living water. We want to prepare for a near year of Sharing Jesus Christ as a congregation.

  • Are you ready?
  • Are you scared or doubtful?
  • Are you willing to invest your time?
  • Are you with me?

First commitment: I want to know from every member which is the very best way to personally contact you?  Contact me: Give me your Name and number or email or cell.

  1. a phone call         404-DAD-JOHN
  2. an email                john@brantley.net
  3. a text                      404-323-5646

This will be the best way for you to stay informed about what is going on and how we are doing.

 

 

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Trust the Old Story for New Life

Matthew 13:31-33; 44-52

He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. [NRSV]

Jesus the parable painter

  • Mustard seed
  • Yeast
  • Treasure hidden
  • Pearl
  • Net

Every story is a out the same thing. The kingdom of Heaven. Billy Graham preached for all his years and always the same sermon: Jesus Christ and him crucified fir our sins.

Parables train us for what is new and old.
Scripture through the eyes of
tradition AND
reason and
experience.
Not any one or two of the other.

The Old is the scripture the new is the contemporary context. Jesus is giving the new as examples of the old

Jesus is establishing building blocks: look at the pieces.

Mustard seed
The kingdom of heaven is larger and with more purpose then we can imagine

Yeast
The kingdom of heaven spreads and transforms whatever it comes in contact with

Treasure hidden
The kingdom of heaven is worth security and investing in pursuing

Pearl
The kingdom of heaven is something to be searched for and pursued and is worth more than what we have

Net
The invitation to the kingdom of heaven is open to a home but not everyone will find it is their home for eternity.

The kingdom of heaven:
1. TKoH is more than we expect
2. TKoH is to be shared
3. TKoH is worth the journey
4. TKoH cost everything
5. TKoH is open to all but all will not find it home

TKoH

  • begins here and now
  • Is found when we share it
  • Is the labor of our life
  • Is priceless
  • Some will give it up

Is Gods Heavenly Kingdom

  1. Something you are experiencing
  2. Are you Sharing it
  3. Is your life devoted to loving God completely more than thinking God correctly
  4. Are you at home in God, with the People of God now?

Bottom line: get to

  • living
  • giving & sharing
  • loving & trusting
  • Building & doing and
  • worshiping & growing

Or else (Parables can kick us in the butt)

  1. You just have a seed stuck in you shoe
  2. You just have the ingredients but no cake
  3. You just have treasure but never use it
  4. You just stay busy without joy
  5. You talk and think but are like the grass that withers when it dies.

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