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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

God, R U kidding me? (part 5)

Text: Jonah 1:2, Jonah 4:1-10
Okay, Jonah has preached, and he leaves the city. There are not a whole lot of trees in the area, so he stacks up some rocks and builds to make as much shade as he can. Here, he squats down to watch the city, and if he’s really lucky, they will not have repented. Perhaps God will still judge the city harshly, so he sits to watch the show.

But God has forgiven them, and as he is sitting there waiting for what might happen, he is hot. But then a plant grows and shades him and he says, "Okay this is good. Glad this has happened." But then overnight the plant disappears, it withers away and the next morning it is dried up and it's not of any further value to Jonah, and guess what, he gets really, really angry. God decides to make a little lesson out of this. He tells Jonah, he didn't tend this plant, so he couldn’t be concerned about it because of all of the effort that is gone into growing it. And, he couldn’t be concerned because he valued or and loved this plant. “The reason you are angry is because you are uncomfortable. The reason you are angry is because I have called you here. I have sent you through all of this. Here you are outside of this city where you don't want to be and to make matters worse, you are hot; it’s all just too much.” And so, God says, if you have all of this passionate concern about your own comfort, about all the things that surround your own life, your own concerns… shouldn't I be even more concerned about the hundred thousand plus people who will perish if they don't hear the news of my love and of my judgment?

You see, Jonah is acting out of a distorted theology. It is a theology which many of us adhere to. It says that God is nice to us because we are so important. And so when things don't work out just right, we start getting angry at God. Hey, I am not where I expected to be in life. Things aren't happening the way that I want them to right now. God, what's going on? And God is trying to get Jonah to see that there are concerns bigger than you in the world around you. I think we all struggle with this a lot more than we’d like to profess.

We talk, sing and pray about how important it is to know God's love and forgiveness. We do it all the time. And that's good. That pleases God. But at the same time that we are praying, praising and thanking God for the incredible mercy shown to us, it is very hard for us to sacrifice or do anything uncomfortable so that we can share that mercy same mercy with other people; so that we can serve other people that need to be served, in order to bring the compassion and help of God to people who need that compassion.

Like it or not, this is a hard thing for us to do!

[conclusion tomorrow...]

Saturday, May 28, 2011

God, R U kidding me? (Part 4)

Text: Jonah 1:2, 4:1-10

The whole book of Jonah sets us up for what is about to happen. Jonah disobeys God and through his own words says, I am deserving of judgment. God shows mercy to Jonah and he praises God for that mercy and re-commits himself to serve God. Jonah goes to a people who have been disobeying God and deserve judgment. God shows mercy on them and here is Jonah again, but instead of praising God, he is angry. The whole book sets this up to show us how absolutely inexcusable Jonah's attitude is at this point. And when we read this, we've got to look at Jonah and say "Where are we in Jonah?"”Is this really how I am?”

Jonah rejoiced in being forgiven, but he wasn't willing to forgive. Many people carry around hate like that. Rejoice at being forgiven, but just are not willing to forgive others. Sometimes it’s a specific person, or a particular incident that has hurt us deeply. We are not willing to forgive and we hope that God doesn't either. We don’t want them to be forgiven. Let's be honest, we want them to pay. We are like Jonah.

Sometimes it’s a group of people, maybe a nation. With all the unrest in the world, maybe it’s a whole nationality that we don't want to forgive. We don’t want to see God bless them.

There are all kinds of things that stick in our hearts that we struggle with. So here we have a prophet, sent by God who is having the similar issues. Jonah had this deep-seated prejudice and hatred for these people, but there is something more going on in Jonah's life. And, we can sense it even if we can't personally identify with this sort of hate; maybe we can identify with the other kind of problem that Jonah is dealing with.

Let's pick up at Verse 5: "Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live." But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do, he said. I am angry enough to die" But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

Jonah has been completely comfortable on the hillside waiting for the city to be consumed like Sodom and Gomorrah. Okay, the shade may be gone and its a little hot....but the people have repented. Praise God! Isn't this a good, if not a great thing? What is wrong with Jonah?


Friday, May 27, 2011

God, R U kidding me? (part 3)

Text: Jonah 1:2, 4:1-10

A review of what we've covered so far: In Chapter 1, we see Jonah running from God. In Chapter 2, God preserves Jonah as he's running and now Jonah is going to commit his life to God because salvation comes from God. He calls out to God for deliverance, God delivers him and so now he is going to pledge himself to the God who loves him this much, who has been this patient and compassionate with him. In Chapter 3, we come back to where we were in Chapter 1, exactly the same words. "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."

So we find ourselves back at square one, but this time Jonah is willing to obey the word of the Lord. So now Jonah goes off to Nineveh. Nineveh is a large city by the standards of the day. There was a wall around it that is eight miles in circumference. It was a power center for Assyria, Israel's sworn enemies. And so Jonah goes into this city and proclaims his message. Short, but to the point: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."

Now the greatest miracle in the Book of Jonah is that this city actually repents. This gigantic city of over 100,000 people, from the king on down, decide that this is a real word from God and they have got to listen to it and obey. This is wonderful! What more could a preacher or prophet hope for?

But then, we move on to Chapter 4, and things don't sound quite right:

"But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?"

Jonah is not just unhappy, he is angry. Why is he so angry? Because God is going to show mercy to the people he hates. The real reason Jonah didn't obey God wasn't because he thought it was too dangerous to go to Nineveh. Jonah did not run away because he didn't want to be the bearer of bad news; this good news, repent and be saved. Jonah did not go directly to Nineveh because he knew that God would be merciful. Jonah knew that God would give them this chance, and that if they turned things around, He would be compassionate and gracious. And, Jonah did NOT want that to happen. Look at what he says. “I know that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."

Does that sound familiar to you? These are the same words spoken to Moses in the infancy of the nation of Israel; that God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love, who doesn't want to send calamity. These words were said again and again in the life of Israel. These words were part of what they held on to. This is what they rejoiced in. This is what they went to praise God for. You, Lord are a compassionate and gracious God.

But here we find Jonah stating the fact that You are a compassionate and gracious God, and I am angry because you are being the same way with those other people that I don't like. This is what makes Jonah a hypocrite.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

God, R U Kidding me? (part 2)

TextJonah 1:2, 4:1-10

We pick up our story of Jonah after God has asked him to go and preach to his enemies, to people hi despises. He wants nothing to do with this. He's thinking, "God, are you serious, are you kidding me? These people have slain my countrymen. I'm not going!"

Again, this illustrates to us that, as servants of God, no matter what He asks, we have a choice. God has, after all given us the choice of free will. God can actually call us to do something, and we can refuse; or like Jonah, run away.

But there is a caveat separate from this current story. We must remain careful that we don't overplay our hand. God doesn't really have to wait for us. His will shall be done. If we find it too inconvenient, or we are too busy, or lazy, God can remove His blessing and His favor, and send another. God's plan will be advanced.

The importance of the Book of Jonah lies in what happens to Jonah after he makes the decision to run away. God says, "Go to the northeast to Nineveh." Having already decided that he’s not going to do this thing, Jonah heads west to go to Tarshish. It’s hard to figure out his frame of mind. Jonah is after all a prophet, and we can assume that he had been undergoing teaching and training at the Temple. He knows Psalm 139. How far would you have to go to get away from God? Duh.

Perhaps he was thinking he could make this a problem for God. You know, if God calls me to a church in New York, I can’t serve if I move to Chicago. God will see that I've got with all these time zones and travel issues to deal with, and that this just isn’t going to work out. He will release me. But I digress...

Jonah is struggling with an issue that many of us struggle with. And that is, God asks us to do something and we really don't want to do it, and so we start looking for ways to squirm out of it. Have you ever had that experience? Well, I’ll be honest, I have. For a long time God asked me to move in a certain direction, but I was preoccupied with family and work. But, He kept pressing in on my heart, until I knew I couldn't run from it any more.

So Jonah is having an experience most of us can understand, even if we don't know exactly what his thought process is when he decides to run. The story gets more interesting, because what Jonah is actually famous for is his inability to get away from God. God does all sorts of things to make that totally impossible.

Jonah gets on a boat, still trying to get away. A storm slams into the boat. The people in the boat are afraid, and wondering what's going on. They start to throw things overboard trying to stay afloat. That doesn't work. As it starts to look like all hope is lost, and they are in danger of sinking, they finally try to figure out who is at fault, and why God is angry with them. So, they cast lots, and Jonah wins or loses, depending on how you look at it. And so they ask Jonah, "What's up?" And Jonah says, "Yes, I am the cause. I am running away from God." They ask, as their boat is starting to sink, "Well, how can we solve this?" He tells them, "Throw me out of the boat. Throw me overboard." This is an uncomfortable idea, but eventually they realize that this is the only option, so they do it.

Enter the whale. God then provides a giant fish to swallow Jonah and actually uses that fish to save him. The big fish comes and swallows him, but the fish is not there to judge him. The fish is there to keep him alive.

Quick review: In Chapter 1, we see Jonah running from God. In Chapter 2, God preserves Jonah as he's running and now Jonah is going to commit his life to God because salvation comes from God. He calls out to God for deliverance, God delivers him and so now he is going to pledge himself to the God who loves him this much, who has been this patient and compassionate with him. In Chapter 3, we come back to where we were in Chapter 1, exactly the same words. "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

God, R U kidding me? (Part 1)

I’m having one of those weeks. Things aren’t all going the way I’d like or the way I’d planned. And, no matter how many leadership articles I read, absorb and try to implement, some things are just beyond my control.

What is in my control is my response. We all get tested and upset. And, as much as anyone hates to say it aloud, we get angry with the people around us, and occasionally at God. There is no one alive who hasn’t wanted to ask God “Why,” “What am I doing here?”, “God, are you kidding me?”

But you’ll notice that these questions are not really about God at all, they are about me, and my feelings. They are questions essentially asking God, “Why don’t you think the way I do?” “Why can’t it be done my way?” “Just let me smote them just a little, and we can get this thing back on track.”

And, as much as I’d like to proclaim that it’s about God, it is about getting myself out of the way to do His will and His work. So… onto Jonah

What’s the basic problem with Jonah? Like many of us, he was a hypocrite. He thoroughly enjoyed the forgiveness of God, but deep down inside, didn't really want to share it with Nineveh. We talk and sing about how life changing the grace and forgiveness of God has been in our lives. Yet, far too often it seems we aren't willing to face any inconvenience to share this grace with others!

Text: Jonah 1:2, 4:1-10

Most of us know about the story of Jonah. Jonah was one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. Unlike many of the other prophets, Jonah is not noted so much for his prophecies and what he said, but instead he is noted for what happens in his life. In looking at Jonah’s story, we are witnesses to a conversation that he has with God over what’s happening around him. It is from his struggle with God that we in point of fact learn something.

Jonah's experience and journey begins in the first Chapter. It begins with the Lord saying, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it." In other words, the word of the Lord has come to the prophet and He tells the prophet to go and do something specific. What's unusual about this is that Jonah is called by God to go and speak to people who aren’t even from Israel. This is unusual.

It's also strange for another reason, and that's because Jonah is sent to preach to Israel's enemies. Well, Jonah wants nothing to do with this idea. We can all hear him say it, “Are you freaking kidding me, God? I am not going to do that.” What this demonstrated is that, as servants of God, no matter the call or calling in our lives, we have a choice. God has, after all given us free will. God can actually be calling us to do something, and we run away from doing it. And that's exactly what Jonah does. The Israelites, looked down on most groups, and the Ninehvites were no exception. They were sworn enemies of Israel. So he decides first, that he is not going to do it and second, that he will just run away from all this nonsense.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Let's NOT do life together!

Why worry about theology, service or "doing life together"? Try the Shallow Small Groups / Bible Study / Sunday School class Method and you won't have to worry about being uncomfortable again!

Sound familiar?

Sadly for many of us it does. What is demonstrated in most of these clips are classes that you don't even really have to show up for. If it's just a monologue, or "I" stories, and no one cares about what's happening in my life, then why am I getting dressed and leaving my house?

I can stay home and go to church online or watch "Law and Order" marathon. I can remain in my PJs and watch the TV evangelists. It's not really a conversation, but I can talk back, disagree, or if all else fails, shut them off. The best part is that I don't have to send any money.

This is sleepwalking through the motions, phoning in your praise, texting in your worship, punching your timecard to get credit toward your "get-out-of-Hell" free card. You are marking time, wasting life, and neglecting your soul

The whole point of going to church, Bible study, Sunday school, small groups is to connect. We must find a new paradigm. shift gears and move toward true connection, engagement and involvement. We must reach out to meet people where they are and offer them help, knowledge, guidance. We are to offer them life!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Right Faith, Sermon notes 5-22-11

A Right Faith

Text: Ephesians 1:18-22

The church at Ephesus is west of Galatia, referred to as Asia Minor; near where Greece meets Turkey.

As the second largest city in the Empire, it was a thriving metropolis, populated with a lot of intellectuals. At least a portion of Its importance lay in the fact that it was the intellectual capital of the known world.

This is a good place for Paul to be.

Our faith is based on a "solid rock." There are "espitalogical" principles that we can stand on that will stand the test of time.

We don't have to resort to hocus-pocus, scare tactics or mischief to bring people into the church or into the Kingdom of God.

"I'm not crazy, my faith is based on a solid foundation!" Christianity is not a fringe religion.

We hold on to our faith, not because of Doomsday, but because it is right.

In verse 18, our understanding is illuminated".

In Psalm 27, "The Lord is my light and my salvation..."

Faith is rich, right, required and robust!

Illustration: Summer day, cold root beer poured over cold ice fizzed up and runs over, making it appear that you have more than you started with. Faith is like that.

Faith fills you up, helps you out and keeps you when the days are dark.

Life loses its meaning without the illumination of the transcendent God, who is fully aware of the ugliness of existence and the right-now-ness of need.

God who sits in eternity, knows where we are going, but gives us enough of what we need right now.

Jesus is coming back for the redeemed. Be ready when He comes!

Who are the redeemed? People who have come through the blood of Christ and believe in His name. But, we must be invited.

Illustration: During Prom season, you can't just show up to the dance. You must be invited and have a paid ticket to gain access.

Those of us who are going to the "Big Dance" can invite others to witness and make it in. We should send out as many invitations as we can. We should invite everyone we know to get to know Jesus.

In verse 18, it says, "part of your inheritance is the gospel message and the gospel promise that is to be promoted." You should not be ashamed to chime in when others are talking about Jesus. He is our rock in a weary land, the rock of our salvation; He is a mighty God.

We don't have to resort to scare tactics to get people into the Kingdom.

There are people out there waiting for the right invitation.

In Matthew 22,  we have the tale of the wedding feast. We need to go out into the highways, byways, streets, alleys.

Even though Ephesus was intellectually esteemed, they were soulfully -deprived. They had low spiritual esteem.

In comparing the two churches, Corinth and Ephesus-

1. The Corinthian church was spiritually gifted, and moving in grace according to the Spirit.

2. The church at Ephesus was not particularly spiritually gifted and don't feel that they could stand in the promises that God have given them.

Many of the people in the church find themselves in this same condition- low spiritual esteem. But we must remember in the words of that old song, "Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so."

You (we) are qualified to serve God if we have been redeemed. Paul is trying to lift them up so that they can labor for the Lord.

Ephesus is one of the seven churches that John addresses in The Book of Revelation [link}. He encourages them to continue to lift the Lord, and not buy into feeling less than qualified because that haven't been in "long enough."

Our salvation is rich, not bound to us, but bound to the life of Jesus.

He qualifies us to serve, edifies us, and sanctifies us- by the power that is in HIM!

Verse 19, says that the power is "us-ward". There is a sense direction here, inward, toward us.

Verse 19-20 talks about operation, using the power. Jesus was taken up by the power at resurrection. And, that same power can be sent back down by the Holy Spirit.

We see evidence of this in the Upper Room with the disciples and the birth of the New Testament church in the Book of Acts, as well as other places in the Bible.

Do you want the power that is available to you in God?

Right faith is from the Righteous One, right on time, right on point and right on the money. It is the right way, the bright way to the highway to heaven.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bonus: Francis Chan - Why We Can't Afford to Get Hell Wrong

A new video by Francis Chan about handling the debate on hell. 

There is a critical discussion going on about the existence of hell and what happens to us for eternity.

Mixed in with this discussion, sadly, is an arrogance about making God into something we can totally understand; putting God in a box, if you will.

This blog site is about teaching and applying the Word of God. Even though I am a teacher, I would be an absolute fool to claim that I understand all of God's ways. Something new and fresh and amazing is revealed to me almost daily. This is also why I like teaching "newbies." They bring fresh eyes to the scripture and challenge me to think and look with a new mind, and not just regurgitate or parrot what someone else has taught me.

I can only totally understand everything about God if I make Him something less that I am; something less than my puny imagination can conceive.

Sounds like an interesting book. I think that these are such important concept that I am posting it today, hot off the press. Download the Introduction here. The link seems safe, with nothing else to buy.

Check it out, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Just a thought or two: Spiritual narcissism, and other things...

Just had a conversation with Dan Rockwell, he writes one of the blogs that I follow regularly, called Leadership Freak. We have never met in person, but the beauty and the upside of social media is the ability to connect with people who are interested in the same things you are, people who are wiser or have more experience than you. Or, as in my case, connect with someone to talk about organizational issues who is  not mired down in it. I'd like to give him a shout-out and thank him for personally reaching out.

As seem to be the way God moves, this comes on the heels of stumbling across across a short blog by John Bishop about his new book, Dangerous Church (I haven't read the book, yet). Bishop's piece gives such a wonderful definition of what it means to be narcissistic, that I think you should read it context for yourself. Like reading the Bible, I think it is always important to read things I context. Anyway, the quote is this:
Entitlement in the simplest form is spiritual narcissism. A person who struggles with being narcissistic is someone who is essentially all about themselves. When leaders are all about themselves, they will eventually realize they are all by themselves.

I love this definition:
Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person.
What kind of churches have we made for ourselves? Yes, for ourselves, because we certainly have not made them to honor and worship God. When did what we do everyday become more important that what Jesus has done for us?

I am prayerful and anxious to see our churches alive with passion for fulfilling the "Great Commission" again. How do we accomplish our calling when we are being inundated with meeting after meeting, followed by power struggles between the powerful and the insignificant, pushing and pulling us down a path to nowhere? Aren't we supposed to be building up the body of Christ, searching for and saving the lost? Are we doing our job?

How do we overcome our spiritual narcissism?

So, what's a church to do? Change or die.

What's a member to do? The Apostle Paul might say, stay and fight the good fight....Or go?

Maybe it's just me. Thoughts, Comments, Suggestions?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Control yourself (Part 5 / conclusion)

We should not kid ourselves, God created us to love, but we cannot truly love God if we are in love with the world.

1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  

When we love Him as we ought to, there will be little room within our hearts for this world or what it has to offer. But, when our love for Him wanes, then something else will fill its place. When you and I choose a path through life that leads us gradually away from the Lord and steadily toward the world, we should not be surprised when we wake up one day and find ourselves miles away from the Lord, and a long way from where we thought we'd end up.

Think for a moment about the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-24. When he left the father’s house, he was just looking for a good time. He just wanted to live it up for a few days. But, before too many days had passed, he found himself in a place he could never have imagined. He learned the lesson that we all need to remember, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go; keep you longer than you want to stay; and cost you more than you want to pay.”

When you and I choose to walk in the “broad way ” of sin and not in the “narrow way” of righteousness, we should not be surprised when our path leads us far away from the Lord, chills our heart and moves us deep into sin!

When we feed the flesh what it wants, we will find that its appetite continues to grow beyond our control. It will demand more than we can ever give it! Be careful what you allow into your life. It might be your pleasure today, but it may become your master tomorrow! Sunday's sermon notes spoke of being careful about who and what you yoke yourself to.

Conclusion: Demas was a man who could not govern or control himself. As a result, he found himself far away from the Lord in a backslidden condition. Did Demas ever make things right with the Lord? We are not told, so we do not know for certain. But, if he did, then he had to make a total change in his life and mind. He would have had to turn away from the world and renew his love relationship with God. He would have had to repent, meaning to turn completely away from the world.

Where did you find yourself today? Has this week's message resonated with your heart? Are the cold tendrils of sin trying to wrap themselves around your heart? If you can see yourself beginning to go down the slippery slope toward sin, it is never too late to turn back to the Lord. He will receive you and forgive you.

Perhaps, as you have been reading this week, you have realized that you are not even saved today. If that is the case, He will forgive you and receive you into His family, if you will come to Him. Perhaps you have someone in your life and you love them, but you can see them beginning to take the wrong path in life. I challenge you to go before the Lord and lift their name up to God in prayer.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Talk to me...

One of the issues we have with the onslaught of social media, is that it becomes easy and almost rote to look through our collected list of sites, reading bits and pieces of what's written, and never truly engaging it. The onus for making the reading interesting and keeping the information fresh, is primarily the responsibility of the writer, or blogger.

But there is another side that of the issue we need to concern ourselves with. For those of us who aren't trying to sell you the newest shiny gadget...what we want is to stimulate reading, thinking and most of all, conversation. This is not meant to be a monologue, but a two-way conversation.

YOU help me make this a success or failure!

Whether you agree with what's written, disagree or have a different take on an issue, we strongly encourage you to leave comments, thoughts, and questions. Interact with us. In case you're new to this, here's how to make a comment:

1. Click on "comment" for the section you want. There's a comment at the end of each section.

2. A new page will appear, and you will see "leave your comment" box. Tap in this box to get a cursor, and type away. You may leave your name, initials, email address or nothing at the end.

3. There may be a "word verification" near the end. If it is there, simply type this word into the box provided. This is designed to keep bots (robots, automated systems) out.

4. Choosing an identity. Most of you will choose "anonymous", that's the easiest way to go.

5. When you are done click on "publish comment."

Since I posted this the first time, I have added a "share this" button in the right-hand column.

Grace and Peace,

See you next post...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

No Sermon notes, BUT....a thought or two

I missed service this morning, but oddly this afforded me an opportunity to slow down and think a little. Although I didn't put my notes up from our Easter service, I did do a short sermon about Good Friday.

The takeaway lesson from working on that sermon has remained with me, has continued to churn away in my mind, and has even convicted me.

Whether we are believers or not, if we understand nothing else in the drama surrounding Calvary, we can see that Jesus gave everything. He laid everything on the line, trusting that no matter what else might happen to Him, God would see His work to completion.

We live in a quick fix society, something beyond instant gratification, and our attention spans have all but evaporated. We don't know how to wait. We don't know how to trust. We are rapidly losing our capacity to see things through to the end.

Again, this is not really about belief in Christ, or rather not just about belief in Christ, but belief in what you're doing, belief in where you're going, belief in what you feel you are here to accomplish. It's about going all-in, taking the leap, leaving little or nothing in reserve.

Do we dare risk? Can we lay it all on the line? Are we willing to take the chance that we may lose everything? What if we look foolish?

Jesus' life and sojourn to Calvary reminds us that the cross comes before the crown.

We must answer the call. Do you know what you're here for? Are you committed to getting it done? Will you stay in the race?

Control yourself (Part 4)

What's the point of all of this?

Text: Philemon 1:24

As believers, we need to learn the lessons that are given to us throughout the pages of the Bible. David fell into sin when he entertained temptation in his life. See 2 Samuel, chapter 11. Samson fell while he was sleeping. We need to work hard to keep our relationship with Jesus in good order! Perhaps Demas became guilty of trying to do the work of the Lord in the power of the flesh, in his own strength and not relying on the Lord. Whatever happened in his life, whatever has gone wrong, or hasn't gone the way he had hoped, and maybe even prayed...whatever it is, he began a slow, steady turn away from the Lord.

We must be on our guard constantly to not let this happen in our lives!

Illustration: Acts 20:9 tells us about a young man by the name of Eutychus who fell asleep while listening to Paul preach. The Bible says that he fell out of a third floor window and died. Paul went down to him and by the power of God raised him back to life again. But, I want to let you in on a little known theological truth. Here it is: Do you know why Eutychus fell out of the window? You don’t want to miss this point. He fell because there was more of Eutychus hanging out of that window than there was of Eutychus hanging in! It was a gradual process, but it cost Eutychus his life. Don’t let the same thing happen to you.

Backsliding starts subtly. You begin to miss a Wednesday Bible study here and there, you skip a few meetings, you start skipping Sunday school and before you know it, you are out of church. You miss a day or two praying and studying your Bible and before you know it, your mind isn’t on the Lord, but on the things of the world. You start to pay more attention to what the worldly people are doing, start to feel like you might be missing out on some of the fun, and before you know it, you are in trouble.

The devil never lays all of his cards on the table, but he comes slyly by enticing the heart and the mind, and before you realize it, you are in serious trouble! Just ask David. Just ask Samson. Just ask some of the people who used to come to church, or have returned after being away.


Illustration: If I wanted to leave here (Indiana) and travel to California, I can take I-80/90 West. That road will take me in the right direction to get to California. However, I cannot take I-80/90 and go to Florida. I cannot take I-80/90 and get to Philadelphia. The road I take will always determines where I will end up!

The same is true in the spiritual realm and that truth is illustrated by the life of Demas.

The last reference to Demas in the New Testament tells us that he abandoned Paul and went back to the world. Evidently, the temptations and pull of the world proved greater than his commitment to the Lord and he eventually fell away. No doubt this started in the life of Demas in a very subtle manner. Maybe he just allowed his heart to grow colder and colder until his love for the world eclipsed his love for God. Whatever happened, Demas chose the wrong path somewhere along the way and ended up in a place that he never intended to be.

[conclusion, Tuesday...]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Control Yourself (Part 3)


Text: Philemon 1:24

Illustration: There is a story about a man who fell to his death from the face of Stone Mountain in Georgia. It seems that this man had climbed to the top of the mountain on one of the hiking trails. When he got to the top, he wanted to peer over the edge, so he began to move slowly in that direction. Since the top of the mountain was rounded, he was too far down the face of the steep mountain before he realized it. When he tried to go back up, he found the face too steep to climb. He clung to the side of the mountain unable to go either up or down until all of his strength ran out and he fell to his death.

When we first met Demas, he was serving alongside Paul and he was commended for his service. When he is mentioned here, he is still with Paul, but something seems to be wrong now. There are no glowing words of commendation. The Bible simply says “…and Demas.” It seems that Demas was still reporting for duty, still putting a good face on things, but his heart was not in it like it used to be. This change in his heart will soon show up in the rest of his life. The day will soon come when Demas will walk away from the work of the Lord.

I am sure this was a slow process in the life of Demas. I do not believe that he woke up one morning and said, “I think I’ll become a backslider today.” No, it was far more subtle. Perhaps Demas allowed himself a little leeway here and then a little there and before he realized it, he was under the control of his passions and not under the control of the Spirit of God. He learned the harsh lesson that “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” Galatians 5:9.

One of our first problems is that we listen to the temptation of the flesh. Then, the next three steps follow shortly thereafter, and they are "easy."

B – We believe the deception of the flesh. In our spiritual world something has happened. Deception and belief have joined together, and sin is conceived.

A – We act out the sin. Now, it moves beyond contemplation to implementation.

D – We discover death, which is the consequence of our sin. It’s the same for Demas as it is for you and me. It is not physical death, but death of a much more subtle kind. Death to a tender conscience. Death to sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Death to usefulness in the kingdom of God.

Isn't this how it is for most of us? Sin does not become full blown in an instant of time. It is something that grows insidiously until it consumes our very lives. This is the lesson of James 1:14-15. When you start down the pathway of playing around with sin and temptation, you will find that it is a slippery slope with a very hard stop at the bottom!

[more tomorrow...]

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger has been down...

Sorry for any inconvenience, but the blogger site has not been working the last few days. I may have to consider uprgrading.

But in the interim, on we go...

Control Yourself (Part2)

How we finish is just as important as how we begin.

Text: Philemon 1:24

How many times have we seen this truth at work in our churches? A person will come to the altar, pray a prayer, stand up tell the church they have been saved, and they take off like a shot from a cannon. But, a few months later, or a couple of years later, they are nowhere to be found! What happened? They have forgotten, or perhaps were never taught that how we finish is just as important as how we begin!

Recently we have heard Jesus talk about this kind of person in the Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:13, “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” He is talking about that person who hears the Word gets all excited about it and starts out to go with the Lord, but when trials, temptations and troubles come, they fall away. They are kind of like a bottle rocket. A lot of sizzle, a lot of flash, a lot of noise, and then they are gone! We might call them a flash in the pan.

Jesus even had this kind of person among His Disciples. I am certain that all of the other disciples thought Judas Iscariot was a saved man. They must have trusted him; after all, they let him carry the money for the group. But, Jesus knew something about Judas that the rest of them did not know. Here is what Jesus said about him, “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve,” John 6:70-71.

So, what can we learn from this part of the life of Demas? Here are a couple of things you can take to the bank.

1. Be absolutely sure you come to Jesus the right way in the beginning. That is, be sure you are saved. How do we accomplish this?

Acts 16:31- They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

John 6:37-40 - All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Rom. 10:9 - If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Rom. 10:13 - for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

You can’t meet Jesus just by joining the church or by being baptized. You don’t come to know Him only by doing good things or by becoming a better person. You must be born again, John 3:3, 7.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 2. Understand that the Christian race is a marathon and not a sprint. God did not save us for a life of ease, or so that we can lazily float off to heaven after a few days. There will be some trials and troubles along the way. What I am trying to say is that we need to settle in for the long haul and run this race with patient endurance,

Heb. 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Heb. 3:12 - See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

3. Take the time to encourage others in their own race. There are some people around us today that are struggling. How do I know? Well, their church attendance isn’t what it should be. If they aren't coming to worship, then they probably aren't praying or studying their Bibles like used to. They are y likely having a difficult time making it. Those who are running the race well should be taking the time to be an encouragement to them, Gal. 6:1-2.  " Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill thew of Christ."

Others may be young in the Lord. They too need an encouraging word. Listen to Hebrews 3:13 and do it!
"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness."

4. Remember that even if you did start out right, you can always fall along the way!

1 Cor. 10:12 -  "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!"

Pro. 16:18 -  "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

Matt. 26:40-41 -  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

It can happen to any of us, and has probably already happened in all of our lives....

[more tomorrow...]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Control Yourself (Part 1)

Text: Philemon 1:24

Today, I want to introduce you to a man named Demas. He is a man mentioned only three times in the whole New Testament, but the three short verses that mention his name reveal a man who wandered far away from the Lord he once loved and served. It is interesting to note that the name Demas means “The governor of the people.” He is one among many in the Bible, who did not live up to their name, for he was a man who could not even govern, or control, himself.

As we get to know Demas a little better, we will see ourselves as well. That is a good thing, because there are many of us who have wandered away from that place of closeness and intimacy with God. Through exploration of Demas' life, I would like to share three simple principles that will help us keep from ending up like him. Why do we need to review this? We need to be reminded because we are human, and it is all too easy to slip back into our baser nature. We are all prone to wander away from God. The principles gleaned from the life of Demas can help us to keep from doing that!


Illustration: In 1936, the Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany. Hitler thought that this would be the perfect showcase for his “Aryan Race.” However, Hitler was surprised by the performance of Jesse Owens, an African-American athlete, along with several and others. Among the true surprises of that Olympics was the defeat of the heavily favored German Women’s 400 meter relay team by the underdog Americans. When the starting gun sounded, the Germans quickly went ahead of the Americans and held first place until the baton was passed to the last runner. The Germans had a seven yard lead, but the anchor runner dropped the baton and the Germans were disqualified. The German team had executed a perfect start and had run a good race, but, in the end, they learned the terrible truth that a perfect start does not always promise a perfect ending.

When we first meet Demas, he is called a “fellowlabourer” by the Apostle Paul. This phrase literally means, “A companion in the work.” We find Demas mentioned along with Luke, Mark and Aristarchus. All three of these men were well know in the early church. Mark wrote a Gospel that bears his name, as did Luke. Luke also is the author of the book of Acts. Aristarchus served time in prison with Paul (Col. 4:10). All of them were traveling companions of the great Apostle. From this it would appear that Demas was well known, well respected and well liked during this portion of his life and work. But, as close as Demas was to Paul and as much as he grew in the Lord, apparently it did not last. For in 2 Timothy we read these words, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world,” 2 Tim. 4:10.

This happens to many of us, and it happens all the time. We are caught up in the zeal and enthusiasm of the moment. As we encounter frustrations and setbacks, we lose some of that enthusiasm, some of that shine gets knocked off the "perfect" plan we had at the beginning. We begin to question ourselves, our faith, and God...

We have no record of how Demas came to know the Lord Jesus as his Savior. But, it would appear that all those around him thought he was the real deal as well. But, the time came when Demas fizzled out as a servant of the Lord. He was going along well, but he burned out and fell out. His life illustrates a principle that many of us would rather not have to live by: How we finish is just as important as how we begin.

[ more tomorrow...]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sermon Notes 5-8-11

Text: 2 Corinthians 6:14

Paul is trying to right the “ship,” get the church at Corinth back on course.

He wants them to reclaim what they previously had.

The Corinthian church had fallen from grace.

This same church had flourished while Paul was their presence, but faded when he was away.

The church which had been growing and vibrant, was falling into disrepair during Paul’s absence.

They had been a wealthy and warn church, moving in the Spirit in the midst of a bustling hub of commerce.

Plutarch says that Corinth was one of three economic centers in the Hellenic world.

The congregation was made up of well-off people.

So, in the midst of a thriving community, we see a hurting church; a church that is failing.

Several weeks ago, we spoke about favor,

Favor falls on the folk that God wants to partner with.

Favor means you have the focused attention of God in your life because He wants to use you.

Favor is focused on a few.

The church in Rome had been walking in favor because they became willing workers for God.

The Corinthians, we are told in the text have yoked themselves to unbelievers. This is the reason they had fallen from favor.

Church work is not hard work, it is right work.

The church should be a place of joy, happiness, moving in one accord; but too often the work is hard, stressful and frustrating.

It should be a place of faith, not frustration.

Paul is trying to help them get back to right work ethic- ethos.

Yoking with unbelievers will cause favor to leave your life.

Paul's metaphor is usually attributed to marriage, but that is not what he is talking about.

Paul is referring to church relationship, community relations.

The Corinthian church had allowed their worldly workers to mix with the holy workers.

They had yoked with people of affluence and influence; people who had agendas other than to glorify God. They worked for other things.

Be careful who you align yourself with.

The Corinthian church had become a faith-sick church.

Paul was explaining to the church, and us, that we must allow Jesus to be yoked with us. He is the one person who must be yoked with us, so that He can lead us "all the way."

Stop trying to worship and work with the weight of the world on us.

A yoke is a harness which is attached to a plow for the purpose of doing work.

When you're trying to get your work done, you need to be hooked up with someone who is moving forward.

Plow the good ground that God has laid before you in your life.

Get out of those rocking chairs and loungers and do something for the Lord.

A yoke is not built for one person, but for two.

Who have you yoked yourself up with today?

Separate from those who are dragging you down.

Matthew 11:29 "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
Yoke with someone who will walk with you, work with you.

Jesus will be in the yoke with you, so you can work, walk and move together.

When you fall, He will lift you up.

He will lead you along the path.

"Yoke of life is not made for one, it is made for Jesus and you."

We, as the church in Corinth need to get back to faith of trusting in Jesus.

Many of us have too many rocks in our wagon. We drag these rocks with us as we try to do the work of the Lord. Jesus (yoked to you) came to lift and lead.

Personal commentary: Unlike the church at Corinth, we don't have the Apostle Paul to come rushing in to help us right our ship, the church. We need to take a step back and see who and what we have yoked ourselves to. We must continually remind ourselves about Who our ship truly belongs to, and get back to the work we have been sent to do. Ultimately what happens is in God's hands, but we need to be serious about doing our part to get back on the path.

The fact that we are to be yoked to the Lord does not mean that He is going to drag us along.

So...stand up, speak up, take your responsibility, and help right the ship!

[This week's lesson starts tomorrow]

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The G.O.S.P.E.L.

In this five-minute video rap artist Propoganda unpacks the gospel in a simple six letter acrostic that spells out the word "GOSPEL."


Sermon notes tomorrow...probably

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lessons From A Storm (part 3 / conclusion)

Principle number five, verse 29: We Succeed When We Move Toward Jesus.

Text: Matthew 14:22-31

I have seen a lot of people go through storms and I have had an abundance of them myself. One common factor is that in most cases people believe that they are doing what is right when the storms comes. Peter moved toward Jesus in the midst of contrary winds and waves and things seemed fine.

Observe carefully, there are two things here, while in the presence of the storm, that do not keep Peter from moving toward Jesus. It’s all about what direction we move in when the storm comes. Look closely, there are eleven (11) others who did nothing, and that is what most of us do. Some of us pull away, while some others will move toward Jesus. What do you do when the storms come? Run and hide, blame and shout ! What is your response to your storm?

2011 seems like a good time to begin to discipline ourselves to draw nigh to God. Relationships and fellowship are lifelines in any storm. We are not designed to go it alone. No man or woman is island, and all that church-speak about "I have Jesus and that is enough" is inadequate. We shortchange ourselves and others. We need others to talk with, cry with and share our pain with. Peter was on the water, but Jesus was with him. We need others that have Jesus in them to be with us.

Principle number six, verse 30: Lapses of Focus (faith) are Recipes for Spiritual Failure.

Peter is torn by the forces around him, now his focus and his faith are distracted. he is paying attention to the wind and the waves rather than the great "I AM". This lesson highlights the importance of focused faith. Lapses are too expensive. Lapses happen when we take our focus off of Jesus. It happens when we get preoccupied with the wind and waves, and it is a set up for disaster. Some of the people, problems and events of our lives are just our wind are waves, designed to get our focus-faith off of Jesus.

Peter provides us with a great example of what to do when we have our lapses. Peter cried out. Wait, he didn’t just cry; no, the text said he cried out to Jesus. Our problem is that we cry. We cry in the problem, and we cry about the problem, but we don’t cry out of the problem to Jesus. "Lord, save me," is the right response to lapses of faith and sinking situations. Can you think of some things caused you to lose your focus?

Principle number seven, verse 31: Storms are Measuring Devices that Reveal our Faith Level.

The final verse of our text is quite revealing, Jesus, in the nick of time reaches out and saves Peter the same way HE does so many times with us. It is about the closeness of Jesus. Yes, we will contend with wind and water forces, but Jesus is always available and accessible for those of us whom call on him. What a glorious fact, that no matter how strong the forces push against me, Jesus is available and accessible. Additionally HE educates us as HE eradicates us from our predicament. Jesus tells Peter that the core of the problem is an faith problem. Jesus tells Peter that this storm has revealed his faith level. It is not how much we shout, or how loud we sing, or how eloquent we preach or pray that speaks about our faith level, but rather what we do when the storm comes. We are encouraged to review our responses each time we come through a storm and strive to do better with our focus-faith.

There is a song that says "the storm is passing over, and that there is a blessing in the storm." We must remember that no matter how dark the night, and no matter how rough the way may seem, we need to be encouraged to keep on keeping-on. When the storms of life are raging and we find ourselves struggling and straining with the winds and waves of life, will we be willing to get out of our boats? The boat of tradition. The boat of low expectations. Whatever your boat is, I want to encourage you get out of the boat. Not only do I want to encourage you to get out of the boat, but also want you to remember that whatever happens move toward Jesus. When you have problems in your home, and problems on your job, go to Jesus. We must keep our focus on Jesus and not allow ourselves to lapse and collapse. We must remember that storms that the reveal our faith level.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just a thought: Bible study

I am considering trying to facilitate a Bible study. I would like to find a way to do live (in or at church) as well as blog, if anyone is interested. For those who are physically close, we can meet-up, probably at my church or some other "neutral" ground. For those further away, questions and comments can be posted.

One of my concerns about Bible studies in general is that sometimes we focus too much on a particular characteristic (like pride) or "3 ways to ...," or a particular book. All of these methods are fine and have their place. But, I am not certain that enough of us have actually read the all, or even most of Bible for ourselves.

This does not preclude using any of these methods, but I have just been thinking...

What I am proposing is setting up a schedule to work our way through the Bible itself. This will likely entail some daily reading and questions to consider and answer. That means that it will require additional work and commitment for me and for you.

I do not know if anyone is interested in this concept, so I need some feedback from my readers. This may prove to be to difficult a task for me to handle, but we won't know unless we try. This is just a pressing thought right now. So, let me know what you think.

Keeping in mind that I don't usually hear from anyone when I ask for comments, if I don't get any feedback, I will be forced to conclude it a bad idea, at least for the moment.

National Day of Prayer....

Today is our National Day of Prayer...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lessons From A Storm (part 2)

Our first principle is that storms will come even when we are obedient to the commands of Jesus.

Text: Matthew 14:22-31

The second principle is in verse 25: Our Blessings are Found at the Darkest Part of our Storms.
While the scenery of the text is rough and tough, it is comforting to know that there are some positive things happening even in the worst part of the storm. Our text informs us that it was the 4th watch of the night. The Romans divided the night into four watches. The fourth watch was between 3:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M, which is believed to be the darkest part of the night.

This text reveals to us that it is during the darkest hour of our storm that Jesus draws nigh. We should find it encouraging that Jesus in the hour of desperation and frustration is drawing near. This verse also reveals to us one of the purposes of storms. I think that storms are allowed by God to show us what is within us.

Look at the text, Jesus is moving toward the disciples but they suffer from a case of mis-identification. Fears, runs wild in the disciples. They mistake Jesus for a Ghost, their fears and phobias surface like the rising of the tide.

This gets us to the third principle in verse 27: Storms Reveal the True Source of Our Strength (Courage).

When things were at the worst point for the disciples, when they were overwhelmed by the wind and the waves, Jesus shows up. The disciples had been rowing for a long time, and yet they were unable to get trough the storm. Storms reveal our own inability and the ability of God. We try to live large and in charge, but as great as our press clipping may be, when storms come they reveal all of our inadequacies. Yet Paul declares that when we are weak, we are strong. When Jesus shows up in our storm, we find that we gain strength. We gain strength to do the possible. When Jesus shows up He can help us make something useful out of our mistakes. When Jesus shows up he invigorates, restores and empowers us to reach the unreachable, to cross the uncrossable. Storms let us know that without Him, we can do nothing and without Him we are doomed to fail. Yet, when Jesus shows up, we gain the strength to join in with Paul and say in Christ I can do all things.

The storms of life are liken unto a grain sifters, it matters not what you start with it but rather it is all about what is left when the shaking stops. Many of us are going through a lot of stormy patches, and some of the people we thought would be left when the shaking ended, were gone. Some of the things we were counting on as stabilizing elements of our lives have disappeared. I want to share with you that what matters most is what is left when the shaking stops. We have to learn to thank God for what is left and stop complaining about what is lost.

Question: What do you do when the storms of life are raging? Pray, keep busy, isolation, evaluation, hesitation, rationalization, or just blame everyone else for your current circumstance?

Storms are designed to hinder our progress, impede our development, distract our focus, and halt our spiritual development. Think about it for a moment, when storms come don’t they keep us from going where we were trying to go, in fact a severe storms will sometimes cause us to forget what we were doing before the storm came.

But, I don't want you to misunderstand what I mean by the word "storm." A storm is any situation that hinders, halts, distracts, and attempts to destroy your peace, joy and the providential and plan God has for your life. Sometimes our storms are places of employment, sometimes they are people in our lives; our finances, friends and even family members can be storms.

Let's press on...

Principle number four, from verse 28: We Must Be Willing To Get Out of The Boat.

Boats is being used a s a metaphor for our old patterns or life. Those predictable behaviors and tragic flaws that we have a tendency to repeat over and over again. We keep rowing, but we are not making any progress in our little, old boats. This boat represents the status-quo, the same-old same-old. Too often we are trapped by the status-quo. We get trapped in the expectations and fears of others who are more than happy to share with us what they would and would not do.

It is time to get out of that tired old boat and experience something new. If you don’t like what is happening, if you're tired of the way things are going, get out of the boat. If you don’t like the way people treat you, change boats or if you don’t like the way things are going in your relationship get out of the boat.

But wait, get out does not mean leave, it also means try something different. Change the formula and the end result will also change. 2011 is an great time to get out of the old boats of failure and frustration. Can you think of some boats that are sinking (not working real well for you) that you need to get out of.

I also think that this lesson demonstrates how we shortchange God by staying in our crummy little going-nowhere boats. The point is it better on the water with Jesus that in the boat with others who are not going anywhere or doing anything.

[conclusion Friday...]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

One Woman's Opinion: OBL (5-3-11)

Many of the commentaries I have read applaud the efforts of the U.S. as serving or dispensing justice. I have found this disturbing. I do not think justice has been served. I cannot imagine Christians or any other religious group celebrating anyone’s death. I do not see how this will resolve terrorism. What I foresee is retaliation, more death and more hate-mongering. I do not think this act will advance our efforts in bringing this war to an end. I do not think this will bring Christians and Muslims any closer than the Crusades did.

I am deeply disturbed by Christians wanting to celebrate another’s death. This does not bring closure or resolution; the wound is still present, and our loved ones cannot be returned. What happened at Ground-Zero was horrific, but there is no getting even. There is no getting back at them.

In all likelihood another "mastermind," or two, or three will rise up. Will al-Qaeda be more disorganized? Perhaps for a time. But I do not think the Americans who “manage” our wars and direct our fighting young men and women understand the mentality of religious fundamentalists or fanatics any more than they understood how to fight war in the jungles of Vietnam.

As people of faith ourselves, we should not be surprised by their passion and zeal for what they believe in. Can we regard it as wrong, and not something we’d buy into? Of course we can, but we can never truly understand it.

Sadly, for most of us Americans, Christianity is a hobby. We work hard at not letting our religion and spirituality affect or interfere with the other areas of our lives. If we want to put it aside for a while, then we can walk away from it and pick it up at a later date…no harm, no foul. If we want to visit some other form of spirituality, we can bring the parts we like back into our worship because it makes us feel better.

I wish to take nothing away from the Navy Seals who did a great job in their espionage efforts and stealthy activities. It was their job; like the executioners we pay at state prisons. But it is not a time of celebration or joy. It is a time of fear and prayer.

How can it be that each side can claim to have God on their side? Is this what we have learned after thousands of years of religious teaching and scholarship? That God has nothing better to do than sit around and choose sides! That we do not have free will to choose what we do and how we respond? That if God is on “our side” that anything and everything we do is right and just and fair? That somehow we can subjugate God’s will to our own?

I am at a loss. And although I shed no tears for Osama, my hearts breaks for our religious community.

[As an active blogger, I felt I would be remiss if I did not make a personal comment about the most reported event in the current events.]

Lessons From A Storm (part 1)

"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It’s a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid." "Lord, if it’s you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:22-31

Have you ever wondered why contrary winds seem to continually blow in our lives, I have. Why are there problems on the job and problems at home? Why do we seem to have problems in every aspect of our lives, all at once. I would like to suggest that perhaps the storms are not really about our jobs or homes or family or anyone else; maybe… these storms are all about us…me and you. We have all heard and said that we shouldn't think everything is about us....but sometimes it is.

Let us consider what God might be saying to us in our current situations. Yes we work really hard to look good on the outside, but on inside we are about to lose our natural minds.

We have gators on our feet’s, furs on our backs, pearls around our necks and diamonds on our fingers but yet we are at a loss to understand why the lions, bears and tigers (oh my) are on our trails. We swim with sharks, we dance like Kevin Costner with wolves, we sleep with the enemy and we are constantly subjected to the indecent proposals of the enemy and the prince of this world. Steaks in fridge, but no solutions to our storms. We have full pockets, but empty hearts. We are just poor pawns of an unjust world. Yes, the contrary winds and waves of the world leave us at a loss.

Yet, the scripture offers us several (actually seven) practical but powerful principles embedded within this passage that I believe can help with our own stormy situations.

Our text is recorded in each of the synoptic gospels.(Sorry, "churchspeak." It is in all four of the Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All of these Gospels tell the same or similar stories, primarily about Jesus, but from different perspectives, or different points of views, different eyes...hence, syn-optic.) This is of great benefit to us, because it gives us a panoramic view of the events.

The framework of our text is that Jesus has just fed the five thousand. The disciples have just witnessed the marvel of the mighty, and miraculous manifestation and demonstration of the power of God incarnate on display.

There is a disconnection and a departure in our story. Our disconnections always precede our departures. If you want to get somewhere else, there are some things you must let go of that are keeping you where you are.

Jesus dismisses the crowd and commands the disciples to go to the other side. Observe the atmosphere, the weather is normal or should I say ordinary. The background of this textual episode is just an ordinary day.

The thing about storms in our lives is that they tend to happen when we have disconnected, made our departures and are on way. Additionally storms often show up during what believe to be ordinary days.

Let's look at the scripture. We have Jesus commanding devoted and dedicated followers to depart from their current location to another destination on what appears to be an ordinary day. Our text informs us that the principle parties, the disciples, are far away from land, in a boat. The other synoptic writers tell us that the boat was about half way across and then the weather changed. Such is the nature of storms. They come unannounced, and during a time when we are too far out to turn back and too far out it seems to make it over. It is during these times that God is able to develop and deliver us.

So, on to the principles involved:

1st Principle, found in verse 22, Storms come even when we are obedient to the Commands of Jesus. This text teaches us that a right relationship with Jesus is not a recipe for a storm-proof life. If we look at the text, it was Jesus who told the disciples to get on the boat. And it was Jesus who told the disciples to depart and go to the other side. So the text reminds us that even when we do the best we can, even when we are striving and straining to be the best for God that we can that storms will come. No matter who we are storms are going to come into our lives.

See how the weather changes and the calm waters become waters of restlessness. Sometimes we are sailing through life, working, providing for our families and going about our ordinary and habitual routines and the weather changes. The phone rings and we have lost a love one (weather has changed), sometimes it a lay off from your job (weather has changed), sometimes it is a love one saying I don’t love you any more and I want out of the relationship (weather has changed), sometimes it is your child sharing a moment of making a choice that will change everyone's life (weather has changed). You were striving to do what the word said, but the weather changed.

So, our first lesson is that storms will come even when we are obedient to the commands of Jesus.

What else can we find…

[more tomorrow...]

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden (5-2-2011)

A lot has been said about Osama since his death. I thought this was an article worth reading and considering, as we continue to try to live our lives with intention and with purpose. Everything we say and do matters...

7 Lessons To Teach Your Kids About Osama Bin Laden's Death:

The Favor of a Few / Sermon Notes 5-1-11

Text: Romans 11:1-12

If you are in, or of the Father, or a follower of Jesus, you must wrestle with the question of faith.

We must get a fresh focus on what favor means.

We must learn how to apply favor in and around our lives.

"How many of you need favor?"

Paul is making a provocative proposal to God's people.

The Book of Romans represents the theological lynchpin to the New Testament.

The 10th and 11th chapters, Paul asks, "Is it worth anything to still allow the Jews to be in 'it'?"

The Gentiles have started gaining in prominence in the church, and are looking down on the Jews.

Paul is telling the Gentiles to be patient, prayerful and peaceful with the stubbornness of the Jews.

The Jews have been having some difficulty with the shift in the church.

The past recipients of God's favor are having difficulty with the new "flavor" of God's favor.

The Gentiles ask, "Why should we pray for the past recipients of God's grace?"

Favor, like flavor, can get stale.

Romans 10:2 - the Jews have a zeal of God, but none of God's righteousness. They have fallen out of favor by trying to establish their own righteousness (following the Law)

Favor is not perpetual, it is positional. Favor is based on your position in God, and the willingness to walk with God.

Favor must be re-appropriated on a seasonal basis

Verse 1 asks, has God cast away His people? Has He separated Himself from them? If this is the case, Paul himself would be forced out, as he is a Jew as well.

Favor is fresh and will fall where He wills it.

Favor is not an individual commodity, but a bundled product, a community commodity.

It's not about me, but about "us"

We have examples of people who received favor, but did not use it only for themselves. They shared it, or used it to benefit others.

Abraham- used it to get Lot out of trouble.

Jacob- used favor to allow Laban to get increase in the land.

Joseph- some of his favor fell on the Egyptians, as they prepared for the upcoming famine.

Favor is a community "thing."

What do we do to become qualified? We must be willing to receive God's favor and walk in it.

Favor is a supernatural commodity of God's.

Verse 5- You don't have to receive favor to be in favor.

Just because you are a "good Christian" does not mean that you will always get favor.

We should pray to be near people with favor.

We should stop the "hat-eration"

When someone else goes up, I can go up with them.

I can get next to them, help them, encourage them...

In order to have favor, you need to be bundled with the people receiving favor.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Grace- Skit Guys

This seemed an appropriate follow-up to our journey to Calvary and on to Resurrection Sunday last week.

If you missed the line, what Jesus said to Mary was, "Tell the Disciples and Peter..." Wow.

And, just in case you don't remember the back-drop for this: Peter has denied even knowing who Christ was three times, and has been in hiding with the rest of the Disciples. Meanwhile, the women go to the Tomb to finish preparing Jesus' body for burial. Jesus appears to Mary and says, "Tell the Disciples and Peter..."

We are so busy talking and doing and asking and complaining, we don't often take the time to listen. Jesus speaks to us and demonstrates His grace to us constantly. It's always about Him. Listen...

Sermon notes tomorrow...