Archive for category #sermons

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

sharelove

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

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

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

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

LOVE Motivation

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

Invest/Trust/Living Sharing LOVE

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

Limited Opportunity

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

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

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

THE PROBLEM

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

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

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

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

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

How do we share our faith in these conditions?

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

Why not let someone else share their faith?

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

Examples of Loving

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

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

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

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

The Caveat

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

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

The Temptation is to leave the light shining on ourselves.

This is the daily, “home work”

love others, participate in community life

1. In response to God’s love, AND

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

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Matthew 15:10-28 Feed the ‘Dogs’

DogScrapsThen he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”  He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”  But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”  Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”  Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. [NRSV]
The story is about is clean and acceptable to God and what is not.

Clean and Neat

I once had a local barber who said his hairstyles were guaranteed to make one “clean and neat.” He also loved buzz-cuts and flat-tops and used his Georgia Tech degree to talk about subjects far above the heads of most customers who had never even dreamed about anti-matter, black holes, and general relativity.
The teaching moment from Jesus would say to my old barber that God is not concerned with our hairstyle or any physical or cultural context.
Rather, what is acceptable is measured by our words and actions.

A Timely Teaching

This passage is important to hear in our hypersensitivity to politics, racism, and contextual priorities.
The debate and argument, in these exchanges, contain (1) racial-cultural division,  (2) accusations of fundamentalist theologies, and (3) challenging questions about who is correct.

(1) Racism/Culture

The story is interrupted by a Canaanite woman (double challenge: the descendants of Cain and a woman) The division between the Jews and the Canaanites were a polorized as any today.
The role of women is transformed in the Gospel as God works through women as often as men to reveal, teach and serve.

(2) Accusation of Fundamentalism

This woman comes to Jesus requesting healing for her daughter and hears Jesus say she was not going to have her prayer granted and for her to leave his presence. He declares that his mission was more important than the people. His response is that he had not come to work with the Canaanites. His mission was to the Jews. Those who were connected to Cain were cursed from generations before. (Why so harsh? hang on we are getting there in a moment)

(3) Who is correct in the Context?

Wouldn’t it be great to get a clear judgment these days about who is right and who is wrong? Is it the conservatives or the progressives? Is it the rich or the poor? Is it the wise or foolish? Is it the needed or the greedy?
Jesus is clear on the counts of culture, mission, context, and purpose:
Some folks will not be healed,
some will not have prayers answered,
some will be rejected and some sent away.
(As hard as that is, feels or sounds: This message confirms that some are defiled.)

What Defiles, what makes us unacceptable?

  • evil intentions:
    • Wishing, work and hoping that evil will come to another. “I wish he were dead, gone, out.”
  • murder:
    • Willful taking of life, and the neglect of loving one’s enemy
  • adultery:
    • Disregard of marriage and family covenants
  • fornication:
    • Misplaced use of our sexuality
  • theft:
    • Taking what does not belong to us, taking advantage of the system
  • false witness
    • Speaking in ways that protect ourselves over what is true in the eyes of God.
  • slander
    • Discrediting our enemy and our neighbor instead of loving and encouraging them.

CONTEXT:

Jesus and the Disciples change their context, leaving the region of Tyre and Sidon and in Canaan, they are confronted with a woman who challenges the words of the teaching with faith and persistence.
Q: What has she done that defiled her that would warrant Jesus’ rejection of her request and her presence:
She comes asking for healing, for her child, recognizing the power and authority of Jesus, she comes from a different culture, gender, and no apparent charge by Jesus of her behavior being unacceptable. The rejection is on theological and missional grounds:
You’re not Jewish, You’re not in the plan, You are not the right gender, You are not at the right time.
The transforming moment comes when she expresses her faith and trust in God.
All I need is a crumb.
All I need is a mustard seed.
All I am is one lost sheep.
Lord have mercy on me a hungry sinner in need of a crumb of the bread of life.
Recognition: Even in our different back stories, Jesus’s measure is faith.
Recognition: Even in poverty, what we need is Jesus more than fairness.
Recognition: God’s plan changes on the side of including the faithful, not just the poor.
Recognition: Faith is measured by the persistence of staying in the conversation, at the table.

Here are the power questions to answer honestly:

Are the polarized messages you and I hear about what divide us questions about what someone deserves or acknowledgments of what God can do?
In the stories of what persons of different races, culture, gender or economics bring to the conversation about how wrong and evil the establishment is or how possible healing and transformation are for God?
In the story is the woman trying to receive justice or give witness to her trust in God?
In the example is the woman trying to demonize and prove how evil others are or is she calling on God to show up where faith is present?
In this passage, what defiles: the faith we hold in our hearts and minds or the persistence in which we voice it on behalf of those who are lost, dying, broken and alone?

Our society has it all backward:

  1. It is not about having the correct ideas in our heads, it is about having trust in God in our requests.
  2. It is not about putting down the establishments, leaders, and systems, it is about telling the world how to trust God to show up.
  3. It is neither about being made whole,
  • fair nor equal, it is about the power of God at work in the crumbs, in the small things,
  • in the daily bread, in the hourly actions, in moments of our real actions.
  • in the hourly actions, in moments of our real actions.
  • in the every moment of our real actions.

Take Away:

We are defiled when our actions and words DO NOT reflect God’s power and presence.
Even if it is only daily crumbs, let God be our persistent trust.
When the woman asks for a mustard seed of what God can do, Jesus celebrates her faithfulness.
All the slander, divisions, false witness, evil intentions, murder, theft, disregard for covenants and responsibilities and the passionate preoccupations with vilifying our enemies: leaves us mistaking passionate lip service instead of actions of trusting God.
  • When you hear evil, divisions, and fear: This is our call to trust God.
  • When you are tempted to join in the tradition divisive agenda: Trade that for a crumb of faithful trust.
  • When you see, read words of hate and separation: Persistently remind yourself and all others what God can do.
And Jesus will praise our faithfulness, heal our brokenness and make us whole in grace.

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Matthew 13:1-9 They Withered

witheringbeansThat same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”  [NRSV]

Our generation lives on a minimum amount of resources while consuming more stuff than the majority of the world.

  • This passage is not about the injustice of poverty.

Our generation prefers being served over serving others.

  • This passage is not about feeding those who are hungry.

Our generation assumes rights and access to information, energy, and wealth it has not labored nor earned.

  • This passage is not about clothing the naked.

Those who have never planted seeds for food have only second-hand appreciation for harvesting pepperoni’s for their pizza or nuggets for dipping, or sugar cane for their soda.

We are a consumer society and the idea that disciples, followers of Jesus, as those who plant, invest, tend, nurture, nourish and prepare others a life as disciple.

Typically we are more interested in our own self and/or our own family, and sometimes our friends.

The challenge Jesus gives to disciples and followers like us is a charge to be extravagant in sharing our faith.

But what if we are weary of sharing our faith? What if we are tired, scared, hesitant?

  • Might be because we only have a heard and experiences a few seeds along the way that have been held in reserved instead of planted and harvested.
  • Might be because we only see different pieces and have to put the parts together in a way that brings meaning, power and purpose to our daily lives.
  • Might be because we have tried and fail, or tried and did not find what we thought or hoped and we have given up on God’s seeds of love, good, hope, grace and power.
  • Might be because we have the seeds but expected them to work like Jack’s magic beans rather than a way for God to grow and reach us.
  • Might be we have not trusted God’s seeds to taste as good as other seeds. Other words, teachings, ideas, philosophies, agendas and platforms have hold of our hearts.
  • It might be a hundred more reasons..

The reality of God’s work of love and grace for us, is this:

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

You’ve probably heard this before, but it has become a profound corner stone of my understanding.

  • While you are I were dying
  • While you and I were starving
  • While you and I were fooling ourselves and others
  • While you and I were lying
  • While you and I were thirsting
  • While you and I were withering

Christ gave himself as a way to the heart of God that no other path could accomplish.

We are people of God’s working.

We receive the gift of God’s work through Christ, but we are called to labor instead of comfortable consumers:

We are called to be laboring, working, sharing, preparing, challenging, encouraging, activating the process of building relationship where the love of Christ can thrive and make us spiritually mature and whole.

Christ died for us, not because we had it all figured out correctly

Christ died for us, because we have a tendency either:

  1. Hope someone will do our work for us, or we
  2. Hope that our work will be rewarded for our faithful duty.
  3. Neither of these is correct

Christ died giving us the benefit of love and salvation before we have done anything good, true or right.

The message of how God works is preemptive:

God does the sow.

This is experienced first

  • through Christ and the Holy Spirit,
  • through people, worship, songs, service, and study.

The process continues with each generation.. but along the way some folks

miss the seeds

  • some get interested at first but tire or give up
  • some compete with thorny ideas and competing promises
  • some make room for growth and fruit follows.

Today we gather not as those who have never heard and not as those who have gone on to glory, we live in the middle having heard enough for faith, knowing there are those who are bitter, hurting, afraid, lonely, angry, confused, abused, neglected, ignored, selfish, mis-informed, or just plain wrong: and God has entrusted us with making relationships with one another, While we are still sinners.

 The kernel of this parable is about recognizing the withering and the thorns.

Look around here today: Are their those who are tired, hesitant, weary, afraid to share a life of faith?

Look around: Are there those who are thorny obstacles other here or those outside the church?

I am challenged and challenge you to strengthen you spiritual roots.

  • connect a new with bible study, Sunday school,
  • pray with your family, small group, friend groups
  • take the steps to know more of God’s word, do more of God good and be ready to lead others in Christ, more than follower/consumer.

Galatians 6:9 (NRSA) So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

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Psalm 100 Enter Ready to Praise

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. [NRSV]

Fill my cup Lord

  • If we are coming to church to be served, pumped up or filled we have not prepared for worship 
  • Come to worship
  • Come to church
  • Come in the holy gathering of the holy people ready for praise

Survey says

  • People come to church because of tradition, habit or hurting 
  • We owe it to God to encourage, prepare and teach each other to come ready to find God

Why?

  • God made us
  • We belong to God
  • We are Gods holy people 
  • We are sheep needing to a shepherd. 

How to Prepare

  • Joyful noise
  • Glad hearts
  • Start with Singing
  • Shouts of Thanksgiving g 
  • Proclaiming God’s goodness
  • Anticipating God’s faithfulness 

Are we Ready to worship?

Or start over

Bottom line today is a day of praise 

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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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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]

08_Grace_Equation

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.

03_LoveHopeFaith

Sanctification:

God sanctifies us through the body of Jesus

01_Grace_Def01

02_Faith_Def01

Sanctifying Grace

04_Grace_Equation_Text0

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?

05_Grace_Equation_Text1.png

 

06_Grace_Equation_Text2

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

08_Grace_Equation

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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John 3:1-17 Spirit Born, Spirit Living

bornanewNow there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”  Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”  Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.  If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [NRSV]

1.   Ticket to Ride

  • Nicodemus is having a rabbi-to-rabbi
  • Talking about faith is not having faith
  • Talking about eternal life is accessing spiritual birth
  • Birth comes as a process of conception, maturity, and birth
  • Spiritual Birth is God’s process of bringing Spirit to become alive in us.

2.   Being Born of the Spirit in No Physical Accomplishment

  • Spiritual Birth is God’s Work, not our work
  • We can’t explain salvation into being, The Jesus’s work
  • We can’t scientifically prove salvation, That is Jesus’s work
  • We can’t hold the Spirit, but it can move us like the wind moves the trees.

3.   Spiritual Awakening vs. Spiritual Birth

  • Jesus makes Spiritual birth possible before our awareness
  • Our waking up the Spirit within us is our awakening
  • Philosophers, poets, musicians, lawyers, teachers and scholars have lead people to spiritual awakening but they cannot create the Spirit of God within us.

4.   Wind Blown, Spirit Lead

  • Jesus helps find Jesus in his being and not just in his head and in the words.
  • More than being people of God or followers of Jesus, you and I are people of the Spirit.
  • We are spiritual beings in a physical body.
  • Awakening comes to us when we realize there is more to us than the sum of our parts.

5.   Jesus brings Us to Spiritual Life

  • The many physical and mental things that divide us in society are not of the Spirit.
  • Racism is a spiritual problem: The misuse of power over people based on the color physical parts
  • Sexism is a spiritual problem: The misuse of power over a gender.
  • Political polarization is a spiritual problem that is not solved by converting the enemy, it is solved by spiritual awakening to follow God.
  • Division in the church is a spiritual problem. The answer is not getting the colors right or the money right nor is it getting the theology right.
  • The answer is being in right relationship with the Spirit

 

6.   God is doing whatever it takes to save us.

  • Hear the Good News: God is working to save us, not condemn us.
  • When you hear someone talk about church, God or the Bible as judgmental, know their perspective is out of right relationship.
  • God’s work in Jesus is to save us.
  • God’s work in Jesus requires that we see what separates are physical things.

 

Nicodemus is holding on to his own way of thinking, and Jesus is saying the gift of salvation is already available, ONE has to let go of SIN, let go of PRIDE, let go of being CORRECT, Let go of

 

SO WHAT does all that have to do with my life?

  1. Know God is working to love, save and claim us.
  2. Know Jesus makes new birth possible
  3. Know that following Jesus is following the Spirit
  4. Know that following your heart is not the target.
  5. Following the Spirit will let go of selfishness, sin, brokenness, control

 

 

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Matthew 4:1-11 Get Away from Sin

skunkgetaway

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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Micah 6:1-8 A New People, Yes or No?

protestculture2017
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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