Archive for category Salvation

Hebrews 10:4-10 A Body of Offering

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.  Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God  (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law),  then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. [NRSV]

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Here the Good News:

While we were still sinning, God loved us. Sending Christ to make us whole.

The Core of this passage from Hebrews is found in two parts:

  • a. It is impossible for us to eradicate of sin
  • b. Jesus does what is impossible for us to do, on our behalf

Grace:  God loves us, God hopes we will complete the love, Offers us Faith, We trust, love complete.

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Sanctification:

God sanctifies us through the body of Jesus

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Sanctifying Grace

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Through the body

  • Before we were born God knows us. God is working prophylactically on our behalf.
  • Before we have any responsibility of sinning, we have God’s helping grace.
  • It is God choosing for us to have a body, born in a broken world, God joins us in the journey.
  • All different, unique both autonomous and interdependent

The Goal is Wholeness, Perfection, and completeness.

  • God is working before we are ready to work
  • God is making a way where there is no way
  • God is ultimately ready to complete our brokenness

WHAT IS OUR PART?

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This Sanctifying process of Maturing God’s work in our body, time, live, and even then God holds our hands through the muddy, mucky mire.

The Equation of Grace

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The maturity of faith is the growing in trust through practice.

Practice: This is the root of my suggestions of “homework”

We practice, stretch, test and mature our faith by taking steps toward God

  • Worship
  • Prayer
  • Study
  • Service
  • Christian Fellowship
  • Christian Accountability
  • Witnessing, Sharing, Teaching, opening our faith to others

God is not interested in our management of the rules as much as our practice of trusting God in each day.

  • Practice with our words
  • Practice with our bodies
  • Practice with our actions
  • Practice with our thoughts, songs, and stories of faith
  • Practice with our Hospitality, Worship, Intention Study, Service, and Generosity.

Our purpose is not the be right, correct and blameless, our goal is to be faithful.

  1. Our Confirmation Class has begun discussion of this journey
  2. Our SS Classes and Small Groups practice the community
  3. Our church is the struggle to be the body of Christ with our bodies.
  4. This is the practice of Lent and the life as an Easter People.

Let’s help one another practice.

 

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Matthew 4:1-11 Get Away from Sin

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Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But he answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. [NRSV]

There have been an unusually high number of skunks trying to cross the road on Long Hollow and Burning Bush Roads.

The ride smells horrible for days, just when the odor relents there are other carcasses on the road and the stench continues for a few more days.

Sin and Temptation to Sin are equally as persistent

Confession Time: What are you tempted. Gluttony, Pride, Greed, Lust, Fear, Laziness, Apathy, Arrogance start my list. Whats on your list?

Jesus’ temptation covers a wide, wide range.

  • Physical Hunger: strength. It takes more than satisfying the body to eternally satisfied
  • Physical Health: heart and mind. It takes more than a single act of healing or protect to have eternal salvation
  • Self will: mind, you can fool yourself all of time, and that can fool everyone except God.

Lk 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’

  • one does not live by bread alone
  • do not put your Lord God to the test
  • away with you, Worship God and serve only him.

Jesus was tempted and tested.

  • Jesus was tested by the devil in the wilderness.
  • Jesus was tested at the most vulnerable time. (at the end of the fast,
  • Jesus was tested with integrity (at issue is the why of sacrifice, cross, why not just skip the suffering and hard parts.
  • Jesus was tested when the whole world was at stake

Temptation and Testing are Real for us

Jesus responds with scripture, not for the devil’s benefit but for his own reference and strength.

Bear Encounters  [Direct from the National Parks Service website] Ref to Jesus to show similarities are not on the nps site.

Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.

Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal.[Jesus starts the conversation directly leading the situation] Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.

Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

Pick up small children immediately.

Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.

Make yourselves look as large as possible [Jesus started relying on scripture] (for example, move to higher ground).

Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.

Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.

If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.

Leave the area or take a detour. [Jesus ends the stand-off, and calls for the devil to leave.] If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.

Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

Ultimately, it is having the strength to say, no, and get away from me.

 

 

Jesus models how to deal with temptation, Go back to the Garden, the same remedy

Address it for what it is, head-on

Rely on the strength of scripture and God’s presence to speak, not our spin or the twisting ideas of others.

Jesus is in charge, calling for the devil/evil to leave and have no power over. [The devil can’t make you do anything]

Choose, this day whom you will serve and follow God and no one else.

Practice: Get away from me.

Name sin and temptation for what it is in your life

Rely on God’s word and strength to be your starting point

Finally, Get away!! You take responsibility for your own choice and choose not to eat from the tree at the center of the garden.

 

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Matthew 5:38-34 The New Commandment

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You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [NRSV]

Love your enemies

The prescription for healing our personal relationship, to our national and global relationships, requires love.

That makes this teaching one of the hardest.

The Big Ten Commandments are a list of “do and don’t,” Jesus raises the bar beyond following rules of “do or don’t.” Jesus is after our “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” [Luke 10:27]

To love our enemies requires more resource that we have.

God’s Love can do what nothing else can do.

In order for us to love with God’s love, we must rely on God’s love to shape our love.

  • STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
  • STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
  • STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.

Easy Love, does not require God’s help.

Find someone who likes you,

  • Find those who think and believe as you do like you,
  • Find those who will not challenge your actions or opinions, and
  • You can easily be successful in love that is self-affirming.
  • This might feel or seem to be loving others,
    • but love is actually not even noticed
    • and may not even be real.

What is the difference in Easy Love and Challenging Love

One we can do without God’s help and lasts as long as everyone is of like mind.

But when someone challenges the core, we desire “them” to return to the comfort and conformity of “us”

While we yet sinners.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]

  • Jesus didn’t wait for us to go first,
  • Jesus didn’t judge us first to see if we are worthy of forgiveness
  • Jesus didn’t make us prove any reason to receive love, grace and new life.
  • Jesus loves us. Period.

In our Steps toward loving our enemies:

  • STEP 1: Love God and know God Love you
  • STEP 2: Love God and know God loves your enemy
  • STEP 3: Model God’s love by loving first, without merit, rather because we are modeling God’s work in us.

God’s love is preemptive

  • God goes first.
  • God makes the first move toward forgiveness
  • God makes the way possible where there is division.

The model for our loving those who are difficult to love

  • Begins by opening the conversation
  • Begins by making a way for grace
  • Begins by reminding ourselves and our enemies that God loves us even though we are at odds, broken or divided.

BUT WHY? Why does God loves us first?

It is the fundamental core of the nature of God

The core of our relationship with God and one another

God intervenes because we have broken the trust, we have divided our hearts, we have sided with like-minded.

If one side is righteous and the other totally corrupt, we would expect God to ‘smote’, flood and drive out the sinner from the garden. All these leave us separated and divided.

Jesus Reveals God’s Love as THE way to the heart of God.

Why don’t we move a far apart from one another and don’t cross paths, don’t interact, just avoid each other?

Why not write off the relationship and the people that are enemies?

  1. It’s not what God does
  2. It’s not what God has called us to do
  3. It keep us both from knowing Love/God

 

You can Never make someone love you

But you and I, as God models for us, a love, respect, hope, and longing for good with our enemies.

  • They may never repent
  • They may never respond in love
  • They may never relent

But their response is

  • not our responsibility,
  • not our challenge, and
  • not our calling.

The Way God’s Love Works

  1. It goes first, overlooking sin, broken, past, etc, with the hope of restoring the relationship
  2. It waits, not condoning sin, but hoping that by being loved first, the door/conversation/way is opened.
  3. It is genuinely longing for good, peace, joy, reunion, and the like to follow.
  4. It remains even if rejected.

Dirty Work, but Most Rewarding

  • Loving our Enemies is more difficult than following any rule or commandment
  • It is the primary work that we are all called to share.
  • Our ability to love and reciprocate love is linked to our salvation and eternity.

This is where it matters.

The challenge is to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.  Yikes!!

It is crucial that we define perfection as wholeness, completeness and not correctness, or a test score.

To be able to love those who have sinned, who are our enemies, is God’s work

And God gives us the same task to find wholeness by loving sinners.

To your Neighbor:

I’m a sinner, love me, forgive me and love me more

Back to your Neighbor: I’m a sinner too, I love you, I forgive you and need you to love me more,

God says: repeat daily.

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Hebrews 2:14-18 “For Folks Like Us.”

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Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [NRSV]

Christ Came to for sinners like us.

One of the Core faith questions is: Why did Jesus have to die for our sins? If God created the world in the first place, why not just speak the word, MULIGUN or DO-OVER and “so be it!”?

How many backyard ball games have been remedied by the power of the “do over”?

The relationship God creates humanity for is one of mutual trust, respect, and love. When we trust our own will, when we disrespect God’s rules, and when we turn “love of God” into “love of self,” we give up the innocence, wholeness, and life. We have no more than our own life to offer, and if we give it up, then we have no relationship with God.

In the Garden of Eden, once sin broke the relationship, Adman and Eve were out of the God-relationship and had to work on their relationship with God rather than only enjoy a relationship with God.

In the Flood and Noah, God tries the do-over, but sin continues to show up as quick as the remedy cleans the way, sin returns and the same as before the cleansing.

God offers to keep the relationship for us, even if we break it, if we will trust God to provide, lead and love us. But the offer is short lived and God’s will is questioned and rejected.

In the “Shark Tank” deal, God offers 100% of the profits, gives 100% of the resources, for us to choose life instead of death, knowing we will throw the whole deal away again and again. To seal the deal: God gives us the life we cannot restore, at God’s full cost, because the one thing God desires most is that you be freed from death, freed from the power of sin and free to ‘be’ with God, all of us.

Still, we listen to voices of talking snakes, tempting devils, and convincing logic within our own minds and we throw the gift away.

For us, Sin: That which distances us from a relationship of trust and love with God and the People of God.

Traditional, the Cardinal Sins our favorite, go-to list that usually needs our attention:

  • Pride,
  • Greed,
  • Lust,
  • Envy,
  • Gluttony,
  • Wrath, and
  • Sloth

Virtue: That which helps build a relationship of trust and love with God and the People of God.

  • The Old Testament virtues are to Love God with all your
    • heart
    • mind and
    • spirit.
  • The New Testament virtues are
    • Faith,
    • Hope, and
    • Love.

We can spend all day a church, feed five hundred people and sing praises till the cows come home and with one little word, we fail God.

Look at the short list

  • Pride, misplaced achievement
  • Greed, the assumption that things and money are our peace and hope and joy.
  • Lust, Self-gratification of power or the absence of love in our relationships, satisfying only the body or mind.
  • Envy, Not being content or satisfied, but alway wanting.
  • Gluttony, satisfying the body, thinking that daily bread will bring us wholeness.
  • Wrath lost in Anger, anger is, at times a healthy response, but when anger seeks revenge and dominance we come to the dark side.
  • Sloth. Apathy and Laziness, the waiting for what we deserve to be given to us.

The remedy and our salvation:

The Gospel Remain, Jesus Christ who dies for our sins and his resurrection for our eternal life.

Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested

  1. We come to communion as it is our reaffirming Christ’s life has been given for our life
  2. We come confession our sins and trusting God’s promise to save
  3. We come to the table to eat, not of gluttony, but of grace
  4. We come giving praise for God’s mighty acts and not our own
  5. We come because we see the wealth in a life of giving ourselves to God
  6. We trust God’s power is greater than our own.
  7. We come knowing that we are empty without God’s mercy
  8. We come knowing God would be justified in being angry with us, but instead God set’s a place for us at the table.

So come, You life is waiting at the table

  • Gilligan’ s Island
    pride, The Professor
  • greed, Mr. Howell
  • lust, Ginger
  • envy, Mary Ann
  • gluttony, Mrs. Howell
  • wrath, The Skipper
  • sloth, Gilligan
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Lion Witch and Wardrobe: Gluttony
  • Prince Caspian: Envy
  • Dawn Treader: Greed
  • Horse and His Boy: Lust
  • Silver Chair: Sloth
  • Magician’s Nephew: Anger
  • Last Battle: Pride
  • STAR WARS
  • Pride, Luke
  • Greed, Boba Fett
  • Lust, Han Solo
  • Envy, Obi Won Kenobi
  • Gluttony, Jabba the Hut
  • Wrath, Darth Vader
  • Sloth. StormTroopers?

Harry Potter

  • Pride, professor Gilderoy Lockhart
  • Greed, Dumbledore of knowledge
  • Lust, Snape for power
  • Envy, Wormtail
  • Gluttony, Duddley Dursley
  • Wrath, Voldemort
  • Sloth. Horace Slug-Hornn

Show Time Series

  • Gwen as Wrath.
  • Bridgette as Sloth.
  • Lindsay as Lust.
  • Beth as Envy.
  • Courtney as Pride.
  • Izzy as Gluttony.
  • Heather as Greed.

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Micah 6:1-8 A New People, Yes or No?

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Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of [Dodge] rams, with ten thousands of [pipelines] rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [NRSV]

Living in a World of Protests

The Presidential Election was a protest voice giving upheaval to our political system.

The various marches and movements are protest voices. Have any of us here and everywhere not heard the voice of those drawing attention to racism, class-ism, sexism, socialism, communism, ism-ism.  The Voices have been heard!!

It is time for active transformation, healing an Atonement

  • We are living in a time when people are talking and not thinking.
  • We are witnessing a period where people are acting and not grounded.
  • We are experiencing a rending of our national fabric stumbling over our righteousness in the name of God’s righteousness.
  • We have woven identities of like-minded factions using the threads of grace and gifts of our collective spiritual journey.

Atonement: At-One-Ment

When we deserve entombment God intervenes in human experience to save, claim and restart our lives.

  • We call this grace.
  • God created Atonement,
  • We think we need extra credit home work, God just starts us fresh.

God’s Good News has something to say about our collective sins AND God offers a solution for healing.

Two Roads Diverge in a Nations Path

  • God has doubled-down our on innocence.
  • The world is being driven by blame, guilt, shame, fear, and failures.

God is all-forgiving. He does not seek to judge and punish us, but to correct and heal us. He is not invested in our guilt but in our innocence. The spiritual principle by which He helps us return to love when we have strayed from its ways is the principle of Atonement. The Atonement was introduced into human consciousness by God Himself, as a response to our capacity for fear. It is our eternal opportunity to choose again. That is what makes the Atonement a miracle: it is something introduced into the laws of time and space, by a power beyond them both. Grace supersedes the law of karma. To atone is to admit our errors, praying that God free us from what would otherwise be their inevitable consequences. It is a humble return of our minds to God’s love. It is to recognize where we ourselves have taken a path away from God’s will, and ask to be corrected and forgiven and healed. The story of the Prodigal Son makes clear how delighted God is when the son who strayed returns. By willingly and consciously unburdening ourselves of the weight of our mistakes, we are given the chance to begin again, to go forward in life from a healed perspective. Could America not use a miracle? The command to atone is a universal spiritual theme. In the Jewish religion, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, where Jews admit our errors of the past year, asking God’s forgiveness and for His willingness to inscribe us in the Book of Life for another year. (Healing the Soul of America, Marianne Williams p.92)

The Lord Requires a relationship

[1 Cor. 18-31] For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

  • The First Action for Healing: Confession

  • The Second Step of Action is GOD’s work of Atonement. God Forgives and restores FIRST.

  • The Third is to model God’s Atonement and make whole to the extent that we can.  We Follow God’s lead.

  • Note: Law can give leverage to Atonement, but only God can make us new, whole, complete.

  • The Final Step is to continue walking with God, until such time that we wander again.

 

Frustrating Game of Jenga: by Hasbro. The fun of the game is tearing the tower apart, God’s game is about building a people together.

Something to try this week: If you hear/see/experience someone protesting, tell/email/notify them this:

  • “I hear your voice,
  • Your Voice is Heard.”
  • Now let’s ask God to heal us,
  • make us new (God is not about revenge or back-pay, God simply starts us over.)

Let us find God’s foolishness our new way together and walk together in grace, humility and seeing the justice God has shown us all.

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Christmas Sunday Luke 2:1-21 20161225

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

The Appropriate Response

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

Shock and Awe

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

The Shepherds Go

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

Who is Christmas Intended?

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

Christmas on Sunday

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

Our Responses?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAMILY

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

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

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

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

Carry the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finish what we Start

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

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

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

Give up Posessions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cut it out because it  too hard!

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

The Hard life of Discipleship is Costly living.

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

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

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

SO WHAT?

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

What does it cost to not be a disciple?

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

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Hebrews 13:10-8 “Rules of Grace” 20160828 RSUMC

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.[NRSV]

Book to the Hebrews – A Summary

Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.
Hebrews 2:18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Hebrews 3:1-2 Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also “was faithful in all God’s house.”
Hebrews 4:12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God,
Hebrews 7:1-2  This, [Son,] “King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him”; and to him Abraham apportioned “one-tenth of everything.” His name, in the first place, means “king of righteousness”; next he is also king of Salem, that is, “king of peace.”
Hebrews 8:1-2 Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up.
Hebrews 9:15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.
Hebrews 10:1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

There for Chapter 13 — The How-To’s of a Life of Grace

Mutual Love: Following the witness of Jesus
Bottom line: Jesus is Jesus and Jesus is with us, still.
Hebrews13:8 Prisonors Meal before the same old prison food:
Heb:13:8 “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Relationships
Love Jesus as Jesus has loved your. Let mutual love continue.
Love as you would want to be loved, even your enemy. Let mutual love continue.
Unknown Relationships
Show hospitality to strangers, the way you would want to be welcomed when you are a stranger. Let mutual love continue.
Broken Relationships
Remember those who are in prison, as if  with them. How would you want to be loved if in prison? Let your love be mutual
Remember those who are being tortured, as you are tortured.How would you want to be loved if you were being tortured? Let mutual love continue.
Marriage Relationships
For those who marry, Let mutual love continue.
  Marriage is not a requirement for salvation or identity. But for those who enter, be faithful to God and mutual love will continue.
Let marriage be held in honor by all, God will judge those who defile it.
Relationship with Things and Money
Do money, wealth, posessions love you?
Keep your lives free from the love of money,
Know the power and responsibility of money, but it does not mutually love you back.
Relationship with Jesus
Trust Jesus to save you and not our wealth nor debts. Jesus offers mutual love
Be Confident that Jesus can make a way. Jesus loves us mutually
Ask for Help in prayer and don’t assume. Jesus loves us mutually
Give our fears to Jesus. Jesus loves us mutually
Know Jesus is with you no matter what others do or say to you. Jesus loves us mutually.
Relationship as Mentors and Mentorees
       Rolemodels — Trust yours, Be one for others
       Remember the Wordo God your leaders taught and showed you.
       Imitate the lives of those who have kept the faith.
As in the beginning: Jesus is Jesus and Jesus is with us, still.
Hebrews13:8 Prisonors Meal before the same old prison food:
Heb:13:8 “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Since Jesus is with us,

Continuing to love, claim, guide, bless, forgive and guide us…
We can trust Him to return the love, faith, service, giving and following.
This is our foundation and the story we have to share..
Hebrews 13: 15-16
Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

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Galatians 3.23-29 The MOST Troubling Text 20160619 RSUMC

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

Who knew Gene Roddenberry was as a fan of Galatians?

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

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

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

Known by the clothes of Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Time Use for Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John 13:31-35 Love Command. 20160424 RSUMC

loveoneanotherlikeJesus

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. [NRSV]

It has become rather trite to ask: “What Would Jesus Do?” But it is the obvious response to the new commandment given in John 13:34 (Just as I have loved your, you also should love one another.)

The new commandment is a “super commandment.” When we are faithful with this one commandment, we are faithful in all the others.

  • Love welcomes the sinner, and sends them to go and sin no more.
    • Multiple people forgiven and healed, and charged to change their living.
  • Love welcomes the curious, and goes home with them,
  • Love welcomes those who need healing
    • And loves them even if they don’t say thank you or show appreciation. Loving for appreciation is the heart of co-dependency.
    • The Ten lepers, only one returns.
  • Love feeds, clothes and befriends
    • As in the great commission text, MT
  • Love welcomes those who seek forgiveness
    • Forgive me Lord,
    • Thief, today you will be with me in paradise
  • Love cares enough to help the fool not rebuilt on the sand
    • Parable of the house on the rock / sand
  • Love cares enough to:
    • Cry with the grieving
    • Drink with those who marry
    • Guide who work and fail trying
      • Disciples fishing
    • To be humble hear good news
      • Shepherds
    • The wise bring gifts
      • The Magi
    • The proud seek mercy
      • Sermon on the Mount
    • The outcast are made clean
      • Those possessed with evil
    • The busy and distracted are made still
      • Martha
    • The eager to listen and learn are taught and encouraged
      • Mary
    • Those who love as Christ love are sent out to love the neighbor, stranger and enemy
      • The Disciples and the 70
    • Jesus loving listens to fools and childish children, and finds a Love story of God’s heart to reach us.
  • Finally, Jesus shows us the highest gift of love by giving his life and demonstrates that in some occasions we do the same.
    • The Cross
  • And, Jesus shows us that loving God is trusting that our eternal living is God love us, eternally.
    • The Resurrection

Our text: Commands: Therefore, for us to love, as Jesus loves.

I listened to two different clergy friends ask me the same heartfelt question:

How could someone be a conservative and call themselves a Christian.”

The other asked:

How could so someone be a progressive and call themselves a Christian?

As I listen to the news of senseless shootings, political propagandas, and fears in the country and the church. I have been praying for God’s words to respond and lead!

Here is the ‘fruit’ I offer to both and to you. The singular answer is found in Christ’s command to love as we see and hear Jesus love.

Ask God to point to your core,

Your first thought and action,

Q: I’m I loving God, even if it means something different from the world understanding of love?

Q: Is my motivation love God, when I speak out or hide under the rock of in-action?

Q: Is my heart following what pleases the world or what pleases God’s heart?

Q: Am I praying and studying and challenging to know what God’s heart and love looks, sound, taste, feel and are all about?

A: When our love looks like Christ’s love, we will know when to speak out and when to keep quiet.

A: When our love is like Christ’s love we will see when the world or we, ourselves, twist love to be about our agenda instead of God’s.

A: The answer to the questions: Who’s love is most Christ like..

Answer: When Christ’s love leads, there can be different ways of showing love, but God is revealed as the purpose.

Is God Revealed? If God is not revealed

  • then we are either closed to seeing God in only our way or
  • the love of Christ is not present.

The Test: Ask of what you say, think and hear: Show me God’s love. The world is hungry and thirsty for God’s love. Show the world the love Jesus has shown the world, and we cannot go wrong.

If we only have ideologies, theologies and policies, and don’t have love of God at the heart, then they are noisy gongs of distraction.

Wherever you hear noise, is a time to share the love of Jesus Christ. Try it and see the Kingdom of God wherever you go.

Example: Politicians, Wars, Taxes, Shooting, Immigration, Budgets, etc. If you don’t explain how God is working through these to reveal God’s love, the love of Christ, then start our conversations over.

Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.

If you are not talking about these topics to avoid the drama and noise, then you are withholding vital opportunities to help yourself and others find God’s love where we are hurting most.

Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.

If you only seem to get angry and polarized in these conversations, then you are lost in the noise and need to turn to Christ and start over.

Love is the lens, if the lens is not clear, clean it and start over in love.

If others are seeing and hearing and experiencing the Love of Jesus Christ through you, then, BAM! you living in the life of Love! Love on in Jesus Christ.

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