Archive for category Jesus

1 John 5:1-6 Water and the Blood

wearethechurchEveryone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.  Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. [NRSV]

  1. When were you baptized? By whom? At what age were you baptized?
  2. What is the Spirit saying to the world through you as a baptized person in Christ?
  3. If you have not been baptized would you like to talk with John about Baptism?

Late summer in 1964, my parents handed me over to some old white-headed preacher in South Georgia, who I think was the District Superintendent at the time, who baptized me. The pastor asked my parents, my family, and the congregation gathered at the church to reaffirm their faith, to join in the promise to raise me in the faith. I believe I was less than three months old, but I don’t remember the details first hand. But I remember thirteen years later confirming that infant baptism. And in the past forty years have been lived on the roller coast of trust and doubt, obedience and sin, all grounded in life in Jesus Christ.

The water of salvation and the sacrificial blood of love have paved this ride. In the letter of first John there is in Chapter 5, the confirmation that belief in Jesus Christ is an ongoing choice of

  • Baptism as Incorporation into the Body of Christ.
  • Baptism as Forgiveness of Sin.
  • Baptism as New Life.
  • Baptism and Holy Living.
  • Baptism is the doorway to the sanctified life.
  • Baptism as God’s Gift to Persons of Any Age.
  • Baptism is appropriate for any day the community of faith is gathered.

 

Baptism by Water and the Holy Spirit.

Water is the cleansing from the fate of sin and death, the blood is that sacrifice in grace through Christ the we become part of the presence of Christ in the world, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit.

“I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together…

” The Church is the people of Christ.   [UM Book of Hymns #475]

  • Stories of the Believers:
  • Witness of the Believers”

 

From the UMC.org site below:

Who tells you who you are?

We receive our identity from others, from the expectations of friends and colleagues, from the labels society puts upon us, and from the influence of family.

To become Christian is to receive a new identity. You no longer allow others to tell you who you are. Christ now claims you and instructs you. A Christian is one who has “put on Christ.”

Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ.

God Initiates the Covenant

We also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.

God Has Chosen Us

Christians have also understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation to God as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent.

So the most important things about us, our true identity, is that we are now sons and daughters of God. That is why the introduction to the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant states, “We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.”

The introduction also says, “Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.”

Baptism Is the Door

From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to many that one could respond to God’s grace by reciting the renunciations, affirming one’s faith in Christ and loyalty to the Kingdom, without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.

Why Baptize Babies?

From the earliest times, children and infants were baptized and included in the church. As scriptural authority for this ancient tradition, some scholars cite Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). However, a more consistent argument is that baptism, as a means of grace, signifies God’s initiative in the process of salvation. John Wesley preached “prevenient grace,” the grace that works in our lives before we are aware of it, bringing us to faith. The baptism of children and their inclusion in the church before they can respond with their own confirmation of faith is a vivid and compelling witness to prevenient grace.

Baptism Is Forever

Because baptism is a sacrament of God’s grace and a covenant that God has initiated, it should not be repeated. However, God’s continuing and patient forgiveness, God’s prevenient grace, will prompt us to renew the commitment first made at our baptism. At such a time, instead of rebaptism, The United Methodist Church offers the ritual for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, which implies that, while God remains faithful to God’s half of the covenant, we are not always faithful to our promises. Our half of the covenant is to confess Christ as our Savior, trust in his grace, serve him as Lord in the church, and carry out his mission against evil, injustice, and oppression.

Baptism Is the Beginning, Not the End

You have heard people say, “I was baptized Methodist,” or “I was baptized Presbyterian,” which could mean that in baptism they got their identity papers and that was the end of it. But baptism is not the end. It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. It makes no difference whether you were baptized as an adult or as a child; we all start on that journey at baptism. For the child, the journey begins in the nurturing community of the church, where he or she learns what it means that God loves you. At the appropriate time, the child will make his or her first confession of faith in the ritual the church traditionally calls confirmation. Most often, this is at adolescence or at the time when the person begins to take responsibility for his or her own decisions.

If you experienced God’s grace and were baptized as an adult or received baptism as a child and desire to reaffirm your baptismal vows, baptism still marks the beginning of a journey in the nurturing fellowship of the caring, learning, worshipping, serving congregation.

What Is a Sacrament?

The word sacrament is the Latin translation of the Greek word mysterion. From the early days of the church, baptism was associated with the mystery that surrounds God’s action in our lives. That means that at best our words can only circumscribe what happens, but not define it. We cannot rationally explain why God would love us “while we were yet sinners” and give his only begotten Son that we should not perish but have eternal life. That is the most sacred and unfathomable mystery of all. We can experience God’s grace at any time and in any place, but in the sacrament of baptism we routinely experience that amazing grace.

 

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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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Ephesians 2:1-10 “Love: I can’t do it.”

JesusLoveEvenMe

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 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. [NRSV] 

  • What is it that someone who is feeling as though they don’t matter need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is feeling unworthy because of poor choices they have made need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who feels helpless and vulnerable need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who feels broken and worn out from not achieving or completely their work need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is feeling distant from God, with unanswered prayers need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is searching but not finding faith need to hear?

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God [NRSV]

What do I tell someone who is alone, empty, guilty, broken, weary, failing, lost and afraid?

By grace, you are saved through faith, not for what you have done, not done, failed doing or never tried, but by God’s love, God is saving you to be in relationship with God.

What is it that you and I are called to share with a broken and hurting world?

God’s gift for us

God so loves the world that he gave us himself, in Jesus Christ, that we might believe and trust him as the way to find God’s love.

How many people are afraid where you live and work?

All they talk about is how worried, afraid, alone, unworthy, or unhappy they are… all symptoms and signs of not knowing God’s love.

99.9% of those who say that don’t believe in God are also saying they don’t feel or sense God loves them. “How could a God, if there is one, love? And more miraculously, how could God love me?

Look into your own mirror, your own spiritual self: Do you know God loves you?

The correct answer is Yes, because Jesus Christ saves me to prove God’s love for me.

But the question is not what is the correct answer, the question is: “Do you believe this is true for you?”

I know that God loves me and yet I struggle trusting it at times?

It is most clear when I look back at God’s presence in grand mothers, a grand father, a father, teachers, neighbors, church members, authors, theologians, and friends who have revealed God’s love to me, because they have shown me what God’s love is.

Rather than boast in my or your failures, it is essential to focus on the prize, the gift.

God’s love is awesome: For all the reason God should not love me, my behavior, my selfishness, my greed, my pride, my self determination, my hard work, my correct answers, my untruths, my fears, my failures, none of these are the reason that God loves me.

God loves me because I am created of God. Formed of the stuff and creatures of God’s creation. God has never forsaken us and will never forget us. God love is with us.

  • This is what the world needs to hear.
  • This is what people are dying to know.
  • This is why people are fighting and they don’t even realize how far off base they have become.

So what do we do?

Look to verse 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” [NRSV]

Our purpose is to be loved and to show love.

Our purpose is to be in Christ Jesus for the world, that is hurting, afraid, clueless and against us.

Our purpose is determined before we decided, our purpose to learn to love God and God’s people in response.

  • God loves us when we were enemies.
    • God’s hope, dream and desire is for us to find our belonging and once we are whole our works become the signs for others.
  • We love the poor, not to prove our worthiness, but because, before we had Christ, we were totally poor, no matter how rich or poor the world might label us.
  • We feed the hungry, not to earn our way, but because our hunger is satisfied in Christ. When we think and are driven my/our worldly worries and fears, we remain malnourished.
  • Once we have feasted in the love and power of God’s table our spirits are filled. But we see, hear and know word full of those who hunger for what is right, who trade their own understanding or perspective for what is good in the moment or good in principles, but far from Good in God’s love.

The greatest way to find assurance of our own faith and trust, is to share the gift with others.

I offer that it is not just feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, comforting the sick, healing the broken, forgiving the debt and trespasses, it is when we learn to love our enemies that God’s love and lesson comes full circle and complete.

You can surely find someone in this fellowship this morning who will love you, yet while we are not perfect, I doubt that our enemies are fellow church members.

When we understand and experience love for someone that is not based on what they can do for us, but what we do for God that we understand love.

This is the simple task that is the most difficult of our lives. Loving without expecting reciprocal love.

 

Typically we say, if I show them love, they will love me back. What if love says, if I show them live, they will know how to love me back, but they might never do that.

 

This is what makes our task difficult, even with God as our example and our salvation.

What it proves is that that we actually cannot complete this without God’s work.

When we reach the breaking point of our own limitation, we see/know where God’s salvation and love makes us whole.

 

  • So the answer to the question, “Do I love God?” is never enough, I need God’s help.
  • So the answer to the question, “Do I love my enemy?” never enough without God’s love.
  • So the answer to the question, “Do I need God help?” the answer is Always, even to the end.

Eph 2.1-10

God’s joy is to love us.

Christ is the proof and our eternal hope.

Our purpose is to trust God to love and help love the world, including our enemies.

Let’s get to trusting God, because we love God, not just need to be saved. We are saved to love, that ‘s gift.

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Mark 1:21-28 Living with Authority

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They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. [NRSV]

Capernaum was home to the alternate to the Jerusalem temple for the people in the Galilean region to come and worship. It was also the home of Peter and near where the Jordan River emptiness into the sea of Galilee and also need the area where the Sermon on the Mountain was delivered to the gathers of ten thousand.

In some ways, Capernaum was the home to Contemporary worship and Jerusalem home to traditional worship. Jerusalem was a small big urban centre and Capernaum was a big little town for fishers and farmers. Jerusalem was an urban hub of politics and religion.

Mark’s newspaper-like account of the story of Jesus connects Jesus spiritual cleansing as a new teaching:

Everywhere from Jerusalem to Galilee and all places between folks had folks filled with spiritual dysfunction, possession, strange physical illness, mentally ill, all sorts of manifestation that get lumped into ‘filled with evil spirits. The typical remedy was for people to live outside the city wall as “UNCLEAN” and people separated themselves from what they could not change and could not mend.

Jesus silenced the evil, removed the evil and restored the man to health and into the community. It reminds me of the character, Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women:

Julia: “I’m saying this is the South, and we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them up in the attic. We bring ’em right down to the living room and show ’em off. See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they’re on.”

Phyllis: Oh? And which side are yours on Mrs Sugarbaker?

Julia: Both. (Southern Living article: 13 of Julia Sugarbaker’s Best Takedowns on Designing Women, https://www.southernliving.com/culture/julia-sugarbaker-designing-women-quotes)

The perspective of the community was that Jesus was teaching something new, drew on a different authority and was something worth sharing with other people.

  • New will only get us so far before we need “new and improved”
  • We will share all kinds of news with other people, good and bad
  • The different piece is authority

Authority: is approved use of power.

The Good News is that Jesus entrusted to disciples and now to us through the Spirit, the authority of God as the church.

  • As the chur, h we have allowed politics to steal our authority.
  • We have let historical misuse of the power defame our authority.
  • We have allowed others who use God’s power for evil to speak for us unchallenged.
  • With so many speaking evil in the name of truth…

These other voices say: you don’t even need to talk about your faith because you don’t have anything to do with us.” Have you come to destroy us?

Jesus was about silencing evil and allowing the people of God to speak.

A restoring of authority.

  • Remind your neighbor, you have the AUTHORITY, the power: to prayer, love, forgive, heal, bless, teach, restore, trust, lead, witness, and many more things.
  • Is this the week you remain quiet and blame evil or is this the time you speak grace, love and truth and healing and all the other witnesses of God’s power through you?
  • Living as one with authority, don’t just possess a spiritual carry-permit, speak the word that restore the kingdom of God. This is our work, this is our mission.

God in the power and authority of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit: Make disciples, speak truth to evil, transform instead of blame, heal instead of complain, love instead of divide. show of the power of God, Evil does not have the authority it claims in outlives, speak God’s healing word.

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Matthew 16:21-28 “Worth the Journey”

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

Making Disciples: What is a life worth?

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

What is your life worth to God?

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

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

Discipleship: It Ain’t Easy

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

Remembering we are Spiritual People in a Physical Incubator.

There are times that we make following Jesus even harder,

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

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

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

Sometimes things get in the way of our best plans:

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

Jesus calls Peter a stumbling block

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

Pray right now!

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

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

Choose God’s self over the self you choose

To follow God is to find:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     you know what is best for yourself,

     we don’t want to see you suffer

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

The Heart of the passage: Losing and Finding

finding ourselves in following Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

How many people do you know today who have:

evil rules in their lives?

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get to the journey today

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1 Corinthians 12:3-13 Use Your Giftcards

useyourgiftcardsTherefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another, the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. [NRSV]

Unused Gift Cards:

We’ve all experienced the unbridled joy of finding a $10 bill in the dryer after a washing load or $5 on the sidewalk. But nearly all Americans could have untapped cash just sitting in the back of our wallets or the bottom of our purses.

The most requested gift by far

Gift cards may get a bad rap for being impersonal. However, they are the most requested holiday gift for 10 years running. In 2016 more than 60% of people surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they wanted a gift card this holiday season.

So how many gift cards actually get bought — and how many go unused?

Over $970 million in gift card cash went unused in 2015 alone. Meanwhile, total gift card spending in 2015 clocked in at $130 billion, up 6% from the year before. Despite the billions of dollars that go unused, it’s estimated that gift card sales will make another 9% jump this year up to $143B.

Since 2005, some $45.7 billion has been floating around in unused gift card balances. For cards that are lost or accidentally thrown away, that money may never be used.

Why this isn’t free money for companies

Sounds like free money for businesses, right? It’s all in the accounting.

When gift cards are sold, they are counted as a liability until spent. Only when they are spent does that money count as revenue. This means that US businesses carried $970 million in liabilities on unused cards last year.

Further, closed-loop gift cards — or gift cards that can be used at a single store or chain only — are generally bought through card vendors. These vendors can charge for everything from setup to stocking the card inventory. When you’re not using, they’re losing.

The state of gift cards in 2016

Despite all the unused gift cards out there, 2016 is slated to bring on even more gift card purchases. It’s estimated that $140 billion will be spent on gift cards in the US alone.

To give you an idea of just how much money that is, with $140 billion you could buy the Chicago Cubs 140 times over. (Given their recent World Series win, that might not be a bad idea.) Of that $140 billion, it’s projected that over $1 billion will go unspent. Still enough to buy the Chicago Cubs once.

So Put your Gifts to Work

If you don’t want to use them, donate in addition to your regular gifts and we will find ways to make them meaningful in ministry.

  • We will buy bibles and small group study materials from Barns and Nobles,
  • we will feed hungry folks with food cards,
  • and clothes for homeless.
  • If you have generic cards we can use them in limitless ways,
  • If they are not doing you any good, re-gift them.

Our Spiritual Gift Cards

To each of us is given gifts of the Spirit. Different outlets and different amounts for different work and witness. God is ready to fill us with limitless possibilities if we will

  • identify and recognize these gifts
  • not attemp to save, ignore or store them for some other day
  • trust the verse in Phillipians that we can do all things in Christ who gives us Spiritual strength

What Spiritual Gift Cards are in your purse, billfold or dresser drawer?

  1. What would you do if you had an unlimited gift card to sing, praise?
  2. What would you do with an unlimited gift card to share stories of your faith?
  3. If your unlimited gift card could teach, inform, inspire?
  4. If your gift card could multiply in value for others to use in a variety of ways
  5. If your gift card were kept safely, privately, quietly for a special occasion that may never come by, all the while folks are hungry, thirsting and passing by empty.

Holy Communion is our re-fill station

We come to this holy meal and God fills us with grace, purpose, love and makes us whole, read for:

  • spiritual living,
  • spiritual giving,
  • spiritual loving,
  • Spiritual growing,
  • Spiritual sharing,
  • Spiritual Praising..

Don’t come to the table and go home that same as you came. Don’t keep your Spiritual gift cards hidden in your wallet or purse,

Come to the Table and Get busying living growing, love, sharing the Spirit.

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John 10:1-10 “Entrance Gate”

gate_lock“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.[NRSV]

I am the gate.

Comedian, Jim Gaffagin, reflects on heaven having a pearly gate and wonders why Heaven is a gated community. He suggests that they probably had to go to hell to find a contractor to build it.
A gate implies a fence, a wall or some image of division, and the doorway is the expected and intended place of entrance.
Jesus is our gateway to grace, to eternity and most importantly, our gateway to God.
This reference connects to the sacrificial lamb that was roasted and eaten by the Israelites the night before the journey toward the promised land. The blood of the lamb as a sign over the doorway, marked who would be saved and who would die.

Jesus said, he was that gate.

There are walls and boundaries, physical and perceived, that divide us and separates.
There are times, in the name of safety, that we are thankful for fences and particians:
Between the road the playground
The privacy door in the restroom
A understanding of mutual respect and the unintentional wandering of a stranger
There is a place for gates and fences.

The metaphor of a gate.

A gate is a path of access
A gate is an openning, in what is a barrier
A gate is permission
A gate is not always open and not always closed
A gate is grace and judgement
A gate is freedom and restriction
A gate is point of passage.
Jesus said, “I am the gate.”
We come to a holy meal, communion, where Jesus offers himself, still today and eternally, as a gateway to grace
a gateway to forgiveness
a gateway to starting over
a gateway to trusting God
a gateway to life
a gateway to trust
a gateway to, or back to, God.
Jesus joins us at the table, that opens the gate, that has the sacrifice of the lamb as our entry, and himself as the tangible door to enter into a life of sacrificial living for God.
Here is the powerful part of the story: through Christ, through his body and blood, opens us into the life of being gate-keepers. Those who open the door for others or those who close the door.

Is the gate open or closed?

Do we stay huddled in the comfort of what pleases us, makes us feel in control, OR
Do we open it wide and offer all that is good and evil come in under our watch
Do we open hearts or close hearts
Do we close minds or open minds
Do we open the scriptures and trust them
Do we close them and replace them with our own choosing
Do we slip into becoming the door
Christ invites us to be those who place the hand of someone else on the latch,
and allow Christ to welcome them in.
It is not our place to be the door,
rather we are to lead others to the door.
If we remain inside the fence there is no way to go out to welcome others
If we remain outside the fence, there is no need for a way to God, we choose to serve another.
We cross the threshold, back and forth, knowing our place is at the table and in the world.

In or Out: What side of the gate?

What doors, gates, minds and hearts are you and I personally directing toward God?
Our denomination is racing toward a crossroads and we have lost sight of the gate.
Rather than finding the true Christ, we make our own door way in and are committed that our way is the better way.
Lord have mercy on me a sinner
I come to your table and confess I have brought no one to your heart and hand today.
I come as a bandit, and a thief, taking and claiming what is not mine, comfortable in what my mind tells me without concern for your word and comforted in your word without understanding what it means.
This passage calls us to stop looking for a door the left or the right, but to search for the gate that IS Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the gate, we trust the gate.

It is my calling to proclaim to the church that our Jesus, who welcomes us to the table also sends us our into a would that rejects and would persecute us for opening grace and power to them in Jesus name.
Our calling is not to make people believe, but lead people to Christ, lead people to the gateway that has given us hope, transformation, and salvation.

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Assurance 1 Peter 1:3-9 Benefits of Faith

assurance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,  so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. [NRSV]

SALVATION

  • Kept in heaven,
  • protected by the power of God
  • an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading

SUFFERING and SUFFERING for our faith

  • You will know trials for a little time, but God’s salvation forever.
  • This is one of the most difficult to accept parts: God doesn’t make it any easier on us than the next person.
  • God doesn’t make it any easier on us than the next person.
  • Living as a person of faith means:
  • Knowing you are ultimately love and valuable to God who gives us breath, lives, love and hope.
  • Choosing God’s ways AS our ways
  • Choosing God’s way as our ways when the world says, begs, models challenges us otherwise.
  • EXAMPLES

FAITH TESTED BY FIRE

  • Faith is more precious than gold
  • Love without Seeing
  • Genuiness of faith rather than Successfulness of FAITH
  • Faith is expressed in Praise, Glory, and Honor

ASSURANCE of REWARD

  • Rather than cut each other down, be challenged to live one another up.
  • Rather than focus on the loss in the moment, look to the hope in eternity
  • Rather than be devastated in the current disappointments, know Jesus is readily available to restore and renew us living as a commitment.

Athletes: commit to

Scouts: Getting it done and completing the task

Work: Doing what no one wants to do builds character and strengthen the team bond

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Colossians 3:1-4 Easter: Hidden with Christ

Lemonade
Colossians 3:1-4
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,  for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. [NRSV]

Revealed in Christ

To be Raised with Christ
The story of Jesus’ death and crucifixion occurs during the celebration of Passover. At a time the Hebrew community is celebrating and reclaiming what it meant to be chosen people, a saved people, a protected people, and a chosen people. Jesus, the Son of God, is revealing the truth and heart of God, and becomes the Passover lamb, without the approval of those threatened by Jesus in the first place.
The power of the Passover celebration was confirmed and experienced when the family of faith, 1) gathered under the sign of the blood on the door of the lamb that was slain, The lamb was to be quickly roasted because they were to leave quickly out of Egypt. The bones of the lamb were not to be broken and when ready to be eaten, the whole family was to eat of the flesh.
The covenant is sealed in the eating of the flesh and drinking of the cup. God provided a salvation but not until the people gathered under the sign of God’s grace and eat the sacrificed meal, did they confirm to God and one another they this gift of grace is something they wanted personally.
The people could have ignored God’s grace and found the consequences of not eating, drinking and sharing in God’s table of promise.

The Big Change in the Meal

Jesus offers himself, through the bread, as the flesh to be consumed for the salvation  and he offers offer the cup of wine, as the cup of blood.
God is more interested in living sacrifices, than festivals of barbecue and rivers of animal blood.
There are times that a parent might say, “I would offer myself in the place of my child so that they would not have to endure suffering of an illness or a poor decision.  Such a transference is neither possible nor effective.” But the love behind the offer is like that of God’s. The difference is, God can do what we cannot. God who loves us, do so not because we first loved, but the reverse.
Easter Sunday Morning
This is the morning we celebrate that God continues to stand in the place of brokenness and takes the judgement for us. Even though Jesus is willing to stand in our place in judgements, relationships and every day-to-day events, we don’t always
The Easter Sunday Morning is to look at what is empty and see the Christ has made us full.

Who am I in Christ Jesus

Look at me without Christ I am broken lost and filled with emptiness, fear, greed, and void of hope.
In Christ I’m clothed with Grace, hope and love.

Easter People Celebrate

We are those who have set our minds, and hearts and souls in Christ Jesus to give us light, hope, joy and grace.
At a birthday party we celebrate we have endured another years and want to celebrate that days that are to come.
Easter is the day that we affirm that we can not only endure, but do thrive in the wholeness of God and that our days are as eternal as God’s.
The hitch is when our minds become set on other ways and other things.

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Romans 8:6-11

HSpritTo set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. [NRSV]

You Are In the Spirit

Mind Set on the Spirit

1. Our Part is to set our mind, attitude, focus, intenion on things of the Spirit
The intention of rules, law, and personal piety.
Blueprints

Life Set on Righteousness

2. Spirit’s part is to make us complete, whole, God’s

Rules, Laws, and Piety help get us in the right direction, but we can never finish the race
Permits and Building Codes

Dwelling in God

3. We have what we need for ourselves and others who are focused on the flesh, fear and sin. Completeing the circle.
Move in Ready
Methodist Moment: What seperates us from others is finishing the race.
  • Not just following the rules, “Grace beyond Belief
  • Not just accepting Christ, “the uttering of the prayer or confesstion
  • It is the “carrying the cloke as well,”completeing the Spiritual Circuit,
  • Devotion to Serve in the Spriit. IT MORE THAN ‘MY’ SALVATION, Our Salvation
    • fulfilling our purpose, of being light in the darkness for others.
    • living in the promised land, as a model/lighthouse for others
never too early and never retiring from living in God to reach out to others in the dark.

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