AND IT JUST GETS UGLIER!

 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans chapter 15, verse 2; from the New Living Translation

You know, I thought I was through writing about the mess in the United Methodist Church. This was because I am no longer a United Methodist pastor. Yet, 48 years of service to the United Methodist Church compels me to pray for the United Methodist Church. But write about it? No way, Jose`! One would think that since the “divorce” is final for many former congregations and pastors, the words about us wanting to leave would be over. Apparently, some think differently than me. Even a friend and brother in Christ. Ron seems to think more needs to be said.

So, I am speaking only to United Methodists who are in the discernment phase and to those who think that as traditionalists they can stay in the United Methodist Church. And from the comments made on Ron’s post and similar posts, there is a prevalent mean and ugly spirit within those remaining United Methodists. He is Ron’s post. I am concealing his last name for obvious reasons.

Let me speak into this statement first: “How many Pastors drove this hatred of the UMC into their congregations?!” OK, Ron, tell us. What was that number of pastors who drove their hated of the United Methodist Church? Was it 1? 5? 25? 50? Of the 198 congregations that disaffiliated December 10, was it 100 pastors? I’m waiting, Ron. And before you give me a number, cite your research and sources.

Let’s look at the next statement: I’m not convinced that all those members had the desire to leave the UMC. OK, Ron. There was a 3 month clearly defined process and procedure. It included first and foremost, prayer. In fact, the entire process was to be covered in prayer. Are you saying those 198 congregations didn’t pray? Refused to pray? This process also required to hear from those who were staying in the United Methodist Church. And the last step was a Church Conference where all full members were allowed to be present and allowed to vote. The percentage required to approve disaffiliation was set at 67% in favor. Did the District Superintendent mislead the congregation on how they needed to vote? Was there collusion in counting the votes? Was there a conspiracy within the Conference Board of Trustees to just get rid of those 198 congregations? If their desire was to stay United Methodists, then why did the outcome of those 198 congregations say otherwise? Again, Ron. I’m waiting for your answer.

Now, let’s take on this next statement: “I blame their Pastors. I feel as if they indoctrinated their people.” So, Ron, it’s their pastor’s fault? Really? Are you saying that laypersons are incapable of forming their own opinions and making their own decisions? Hummmm. Interesting, Ron. I wonder how those laypersons feel about your statement? I wonder if they would agree with your personal assessment that they were incapable of making a factual decision. Or, perhaps, you have documentation to prove your allegation? Pastors have a difficult enough time to implement a simple change with just a simple majority. But a 67% majority? My experiences would find that hard to believe. I know your statement said “I feel as if”, but tell me, Ron, when did your feelings become facts? I’m still waiting for your answer.

Then you said, “It’s painful to let 198 congregations go in one day, not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders. It pains me to see so many of my colleagues just leave our Church.” To your credit, half of your statement is true. It is “painful to let 198 congregations go in one day”. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. But did you ever consider that it was painful for many of them, too? I have witnessed the pain of laypersons who made this decision. They are convinced it is where God is leading them–but it’s painful for them, too. Or is it that their pain doesn’t matter? Or is it your pain is larger and more important than their pain? Still waiting for your reply.

But the other half of your statement simply isn’t true: not to mention all those Pastors who just quit and gave up their orders! Just as congregations went through a discernment process, so have we pastors. I, and my fellow sisters and brothers have determined that God is leading us in another direction. And in an act of integrity, we must surrender our credentials. It’s what the current Book of Discipline mandates. We are not quitting, we are following! Following the requirements of the Book of Discipline. But more important–we are following Jesus to where He is leading us. If Jesus is leading you to stay in the United Methodist Church, then be faithful to Jesus, Ron. No one is accusing you of not following Jesus. I cannot tell you what Jesus wants you to do anymore than YOU can tell us what Jesus wants us to do when it comes to the United Methodist Church. I hate to think this, but you give the impression of arrogance. We haven’t given up. Just because you say we’ve given up doesn’t mean we have. In case you haven’t figured it out–sometimes it costs us dearly when following Jesus. At 66 years old, I could have simply retired, and kept my United Methodists orders. But God is leading me in a different direction. I’m not asking nor expecting you to like it–however it is reasonable to expect from you my friend and brother in Christ, to respect my decision.

And one last statement you made and I do not know if you thought about how it sounds: I say to those 198 congregations, “Go ahead and Leave, do whatever it is you need to do. We will continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom! This will not stop and Jesus will be our guide and Lord!” Ron, I hope and pray you will continue to stand in the light of God. Know what, Ron? We who left are going to continue to stand in the light of God and do our part to spread God’s Kingdom, too. Is that so hard for you to comprehend? Surely you are not so–what’s the word–presumptuous as to think we are incapable of making the same decision! Are you? That’s not the Ron I met and thought was my brother in Christ and friend.

You ended your post with these words: “May our tempers be calm, God’s grace prevail, and by the mercy of the Holy Spirit help us all to move forward.” By us all, do you mean US ALL–or just United Methodists? Ron, if you are just frustrated, I can relate to that. But the accusations you made against 198 congregations and us pastors–well it doesn’t sound like moving forward, it doesn’t sound calm, and it certainly isn’t grace-filled words. Contrary to your statements, I am capable of listening to God and following Him where He wants me to go. Your words, my friend, didn’t form my decision. However, they did confirm I made the right decision.

So, to current United Methodists who are traditionalists/conservatives that think there’s room for you in the United Methodist Church–I can’t tell you what to do. But know that the voice of my friend isn’t the only voice offering ugly words and a lack of grace. You are held in contempt until you agree with progressives. If you can live like that, then by all means, stay United Methodist. I am not abandoning the United Methodist Church. I’m not quitting the United Methodist Church. I am following Jesus, Ron. I’m follow Jesus–even if you think I’m not!

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WHAT DO YOU SEE NOW?

When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly.

Mark chapter 12, verses 22 thru 25; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Yesterday I wrote about the need to be unloosed from our grave-clothes. And this morning, my good buddy The Spirit, had me thinking about that. Then He asked me a question that caught me off-guard. He asked, “What do you see now?” And in typical fashion I replied, “Huh???” I just love the patience of The Father! And The Spirit said, “You know. . .there was that facecloth on Lazarus!” Then the lightbulb turned on! We can’t see if that facecloth is still there! And immediately I remember today’s passage.

People were wanting to see Jesus do another miracle. Now mind you, they were not really interested in becoming a follower of Jesus. They just wanted to “see” another miracle. Rather than try to satisfy “their need”, Jesus took this man outside of the town, spit on his eyes and asked, “Can you see anything now?” He could, but not very clearly. He described people like they were “walking trees”. He had vision, but what this man needed was CLARITY! And boy, oh boy, does our culture need clarity!

But this morning I want to speak into my fellow Wesleyan-hearted sisters and brothers who are in the process of discernment or have finished it and are now ready to leave the United Methodist Church. And if you aren’t one of us, there’s a lesson here for you, too. In the last few years, decades of the recalcitrance of our leaders and teachers in many seminaries is now a boiling cauldron of sedition and anger. And like Elisha, we have reached that point of either being faithful to God or to just go back to plowing with that team of oxen. And if, like Elisha, you have decided to be faithful to God, then we need to have a change in focus.

We can continue to complain. But tell me truthfully, What does all this complaining accomplish? I mean, other than keeping us angry or filled with angst, what does this complaining really do to advance the Kingdom Of God? Complaining is just like what that blind man first saw, seeing trees walking around. I want to encourage and challenge my fellow Wesleyan-hearted sisters and brothers to stop complaining and to seek clarity. Clarity reveals that God is on the move redeeming and restoring broken folks!

We are serving the God who makes everything new! We can either talk about The Mess, or we can talk about The Message! Once you can see clearly where God is leading, then we don’t have to or need to talk about “walking trees”! Our Message is profoundly and powerfully simple:

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 19 and 20; from the NLT

So, just what do you see now? The Mess or The Message? Let’s keep all our talk about The Message! And oh, what a Message we have!!!

WHERE ARE YOUR ROOTS?

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him.  Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Colossians chapter 2, verses 6 & 7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

What is your favorite place to “get away from it all”?  No, I’m not talking about that place where you have to save and save or max out a credit card to get there.  I’m talking about that place that is just a short walk or drive away.  My “fortress of solitude” (remember Superman?) is the woods.  It doesn’t have to be an enormous National Forest; just a place where there are enough trees to keep the view of the real world at bay for a moment.  It is there I take a deep breath to regain my composure, or seek insights into what I should preach (or write), or simply but powerfully reconnect with my Savior.  Perhaps I am drawn to the woods and trees because The Savior–my Savior, your Savior, and the world’s Savior–BECAME that Savior by dying on a rugged wood cross. 

Not long ago I went for a walk in a new stretch of woods.  I was not seeking to resolve any issues or find something to write about.  It was one of those mornings when I just wanted to take a walk with The Savior.  At the moment, I needed nothing from His hand; just to hold His hand was all I wanted.  I was walking up a slight hill and I came to a level place, so I stopped for a moment just to take it all in (which is another way of saying I needed a rest).  It was then I noticed it.

There was this tree I had stopped beside.  Oh, I know there were lots of others trees around, but this one caught my attention.  At eye level, it looked as if it were dead.  Its trunk that should have been straight was bent and twisted.  Obviously this tree, at some point, had encountered a severe storm and that storm had changed its shape.  I also noticed that about half of its trunk was missing from near its base upwards to about 4 feet.  Insects and perhaps disease had moved in after the storm that changed its shape.  From my viewpoint, looking straight ahead at eye level, this tree had died and would soon fall and eventually rot away.  And I also knew that process was a part of the cycle of life.  This dead, decaying tree would provide nutrients for new life.

It was at that precise moment that I looked upward.  I do not know what made me look up; perhaps it was The Savior who knew I was looking at the wrong part of that tree took his hands and made me look up.  And I am glad He did because it changed my perspective about this twisted, bent tree.  Right over my head, exactly over my head, there it was:  a limb growing upward with green leaves.  I am not a horticulturist by trade and I have never taken a botany class, but I knew enough to know that dead trees cannot produce green leaves.  That limb was growing upward toward the sun and this happened because the tree was still alive even though at eye level it looked dead. 

I took this experience as something the Savior was trying to teach me.  The very first thought that entered my mind was, “The roots of this tree are still alive, so this tree isn’t dead!  It’s alive!”  (I know, I know, it doesn’t take much to amuse me!)  At eye level there was not a single sign of life but below the surface life abounded, the roots were still working and there was still a connection in that bent and diseased tree to those roots, sending that life giving substance upward to that limb that was reaching up to the sun and producing leaves, that sign which said, “I am still alive!  I am bent and damaged, but I AM alive because I am still connected to my roots!”

And this casual “for no particular reason” stroll though the woods became a classroom where I discovered an important lesson straight from The Savior.  I reflected on the many storms that had happened in my own life; things which threatened to destroy me which were not my fault.  I also reflected on the things I had done which allowed the insects and diseases to come into my life and start to destroy me.  By the way, these “insects and diseases” are better known as “SIN”!  I looked back and I knew there had been times in my life when at “eye level” I must have looked dead, to myself and certainly to others.  But The Savior had another view, and that was at the roots of my life.  HE is where my roots grow that holds me tight and gives me nourishment.  He does this faithfully, even when I may not even be aware of His gracious work.  In that bent and damaged tree, I saw my life, and in that limb reaching up toward the sun, I remembered my roots.

Paul, in writing to the believers at Colosse, gives us words to live by and certainly words to give any and all of us hope.  The life of a tree is not in how straight its trunk is, but in how deep and how strong its roots are.  Paul told the Colossians, and us, to let our roots grow deep in The Savior.  We do this by being faithful to our private devotion times, by being faithful to worship and service as the Body of Christ, we do this by a daily persistent prayer life, and so many other ways.  Our roots grow deep in The Savior when we focus on Him, His love and grace for us.  And nothing makes our roots grow deeper than when we spend time at the foot of The Cross, The Cross made from a large straight growing tree.  The more time we spend kneeling at The Savior’s Cross allows our roots to be stronger and deeper.

Perhaps there have been times in your life when storms, by no fault of you, have come along and bent and twisted your life.  The dreams you held have now vanished like the early morning fog.  The urge to throw in the towel on those dreams may be strong.  If this is you right now, then I want to say to you the same thing The Savior said to me in that early morning stroll, “Remember the roots.”  The storms do not change God’s purposes for your life.  If anything, the storms you weather adds purpose to your life.  Just as that tree taught me a lesson, so your life can teach others life changing lessons about the power of relationship–the relationship with The Savior because your own roots are growing down in Him.

Perhaps the disease and insects of sin have invaded your tree.  You look eye level at yourself and may sincerely think that you are finished.  You may feel that you have lost your usefulness in the Kingdom.  If this is you this morning, then I want to say to you the same thing The Savior said to me in that early morning stroll, “Remember the roots.”  Allow your roots to grow down into The One who still speaks those same words to every broken sinner, “I will not condemn you.  I will release you to go and have a new start.”  Grace and mercy are always available when we admit our inability to save our self and we intentionally choose to grow the roots of our life in Him.

And I discovered another lesson that revealed something about me that I thought I had managed to conquer, and it just hit me.  (See, learning is not over just because you leave the classroom.)  You may be familiar with this expression:  “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Well, God taught me a new expression:  “Don’t judge a tree by its trunk at eye level.”  I hate to admit it, but I must, that from time to time (and even once is not acceptable to The Savior) I judge people at eye level.  I allow a bad experience, a moment of mistreatment, that eye level experience, to continue to shape my opinion of that person.  I cannot see their roots, so I have to look up toward the Son and remember that there is still hope when there is still a connection to the roots.  And by the way, if you have not figured it out yet, there is no way I or you or anyone can see the roots.  Father, forgive me for my judgments and thank you for reminding me (again) that you are the judge, not I.

Let us pray:  Father, above everything else, I want my roots to grow deep in you.  I need the life giving substance of Your Spirit.  Help me engage my life in those practices and disciplines that will keep me alive in You.  Thanks for keeping this bent and diseased tree alive with new growth.  And Lord, help me to stop making eye level judgments, not about trees, but about people.  Amen and Amen!

CLARITY!

22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”

Mark chapter 8, verses 22-26; from the New Living Translation

This morning I was thinking–and those of you who know me, know this isn’t always a good thing. Nonetheless, fasten your seatbelts because we are about to take off. President Biden just signed a check for our government to spend another $737 BILLION. Purportedly this is going to get us out of inflation and help solve our economic problems. One would think, or at least I do, that after spending gazillions of dollars over the past several decades all the problems would have been solved. And then I was thinking about this mess in the United Methodist Institution. After saying gazillions of words our problems should have been solved by now. But in both cases, it ain’t happened and it ain’t gonna happen!

Yet, the dollars flow freely, and words flow even more freely! Politically, some are looking to Trump; and some are looking to Biden. They are looking for political salvation in parties that have neither the ability nor the skills to provide such a hope. And it appears at times that neither party wants to solve the problems; it seems that they just want to add fuel to the fire. Yet, people are tenaciously running down the path that leads us nowhere. And in our Tribe (the United Methodist Institution) it’s not any different. Some says it’s all about progressive theology and some say it’s all about orthodox theology. The view and perspective that both issues (in both the political and spiritual problems) have created is what I term perspective astigmatism!

Now, for those unfamiliar with astigmatism or do not live with this malady like I and so many others, here’s the medical definition: “a refractive error of the eye in which parallel rays of light from an external source do not converge on a single focal point on the retina.” And here’s the down-to-earth definition: “everything looks blurry!” And then I also started thinking (thank you, Holy Spirit) about this morning’s passage. A man was brought to Jesus for Him to heal. The villagers were just looking for a show; some entertainment and fodder for the dinner table conversations. But Jesus took this man outside the village and. . .well, you can read the rest of the story.

Here’s the point! After Jesus spit on this man’s eyes, he could see–but there was no clarity. He described people as, They look like trees walking around.” I understand that, and so do you who have astigmatism. And be it in the political arena or the spiritual arena, the dominant views are creating and spreading perspective astigmatism. Neither side seems interested in getting to that focal point where everything comes clearly into focus. And as long as were are focusing on the wrong point–be it political or spiritual–everything remains hazy and blurry.

The problems–both politically and spiritually–are deep and complicated; complicated by years of living in perspective astigmatism. So what is one to do??? Live each day with nothing seen with clarity??? Give up and become a stoic??? Well, that is an option; but it ain’t a good one. May I suggest something different, using the analogy of visual astigmatism? We ALL need to do 2 things: first we need to admit that what we’ve been trying and looking towards just ain’t working to bring us the Clarity that we need. Second, allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit give us the lenses we need to see life with Clarity! The “eye chart” that Jesus and the Holy Spirit uses is the Bible. They will never contradict what The Word says. They may (and usually will) contradict what WE say about The Word. But They will never contradict That Word.

THE FAMILIAR

Normally The Familiar isn’t a good thing because it keeps us from experiencing the Adventures God has for us. It denies us the wide open spaces where we uncover and discover the greatness and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. It hides and denies us the truth that we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us. The wide open spaces teaches us how to hold on to God in every situation and throughout all seasons.

But. . .but sometimes we need to go back to The Familiar–the good Familiar. I’m talking about those times and places where are reassured of God’s faithfulness to us–even when–especially when–we have been unfaithful. Or maybe it’s a season of doubt where we struggle to embrace our future. Even David, the mighty King and Warrior, needed to go back from time to time to The Familiar. Psalm 23 places were essential for David. Before he became a mighty warrior and long before he became the Mighty King, David was a shepherd. And when life as a Warrior or as a King became difficult, I can easily imagine David singing this Psalm to himself–maybe even out loud.

As a shepherd in the wide open spaces, David experienced the faithfulness and provisions of His Heavenly Father. Imagines of green pastures and still streams helped him remember the Faithfulness of God. I have my places where I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me. Sometimes all I can do is go there in my mind. And sometimes I can literally visit those places. Each time I find myself renewed and refreshed, and enabled to go forward into “my” unknown future, but a future that is known to God–and a future where I know He is right there with me. What are The Familiar places for you? Places where God’s amazing love and grace overwhelmed you? The Familiar isn’t a place made to live in–but it is the place to visit where we find the reassurance we need when the Journey becomes difficult.

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

And Today The Blame Falls On____–Monday Musings 3 March 2020

Who would deny that the current state of the church, politics and society as a whole is in a state of unabridged and unequivocal chaos. Even the most self-deluded would have to admit this is our current reality. And when it comes to placing the blame…its not any better. On any given day and all day long, the long finger of blame is pointing somewhere. It’s like the Wheel of Fortune or Price is Right–there are lots of options on where to place the blame.

Conservatives are to blame. Progressives are to blame. The Democrats are to blame. The Republicans are to blame. Guns are to blame. Wussy-minded folks are to blame. Millenials are to blame. Baby Boomers are to blame. Professors are to blame. Parents to blame. Spin the wheel and find who to blame. Oy, oy, oy! It’s giving me a headache and makes me want to puke. It’s all Mishigas and Shmegegge. (I love Yiddish!)

But what would happen if we would do what David tells us to do? What would happen if we stopped spinning the Wheel Of Blame and took a long, hard and serious look at our own life?

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

Are you willing to allow God to Search, Know, Test, Point Out what’s wrong in your own life? The Wheel Of Blame isn’t helping; so why not give this a full-on try. If we want things to change, then remember President Harry Truman’s personal mantra–THE BUCK STOPS HERE! Start and end each day with this Psalm. Allow God to Search, Know, Test, Point Out what’s going on with you. Don’t just do it to fill your heart and mind with guilt–but do it so that the last line in this Psalm becomes true in you: And Lead Me Along The Paths Of Everlasting Life. Just in case you’re so dense you haven’t figured out the Monday Musing Theme, allow me to put it succinctly–Focus on what God wants for your life, then allow HIM to lead you along The Path!

The Word In Our Feet! When The Times Are Dark!

This is the second and last of the series Getting The Word In Our Feet.  We need, more than anything else in these times of chaos and fear is Direction.  Not just any direction; but a New And Different Direction.  Choosing a direction is not enough.  Choices without action are worthless.

Last week we learned that Any Choice That Doesn’t Come With Action Is Just Wishing And Useless.  That’s what the Old Testament illustration of the Hebrews at the edge of the Promised Land teaches us.  All those over 20, except Caleb and Joshua, never got to live within God’s promise.  Their direction was cemeteries scattered throughout the wilderness.  Now we look at a New Testament story about a single cemetery that illustrates the need for Both Direction And Action.  Turn to John 20:1-9 (N.L.T.)

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.  She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb.  They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in.  Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.  Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.

Decades ago, before radar and computer flying, an airplane was somewhere over the Rockies in a fog that went from the ground to way above the clouds.  The pilot came over P.A. and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good new and some bad news.  First, the bad news: we’re lost!  But the good news is, we’re 2 hours ahead of schedule.”  This describes the culture we live it; it describes people all around us—2 hours ahead of schedule but lost.

When times seem to be the darkest, people struggle to find the right direction and the subsequent actions that will bring them out of the darkness.  And here is the One Thing you need to remember today and it’s a principle that will always work:  Actions, Not Intentions, Produce The Right Outcomes. The Good News Of God’s Kingdom isn’t about changing our intentions—it is about changing our actions.  It’s not all that complicated.  Intentions cannot produce faith.  Cannot manufacture hope nor deliver us from our fear and despair. 

I can intend to do something all day long and will accomplish nothing.  If you don’t believe this, just trust me on this because I’ve done it enough to be an expert.  Just suppose Debbie asks me to do something before the day is done, I’ll say, “OK, dear, I’ll do it.”  Well, I intend to get that done.  But come the evening, if I haven’t done that, she’s going to get upset at me.

But why?  I mean I intended to do what she asked.  I intended to do it better than she thought I could do it.  Why is she so upset?  I intended to do it.  It’s just unbelievable that she would get upset that I didn’t do that—even when I intended to do it.  Are you starting to get the picture here?

Let’s bring this down to this principle and the passage behind it.  Easter Morning. I don’t know what went through your minds then I read the text. Maybe you thought that Easter’s not here yet.  Lent doesn’t even start until Wednesday.  I still have a couple of days of indulgence left.  

When I read this, I focused on what was happening to the people.  Mary Magdalene RAN to tell the disciples.  The disciples RAN to the tomb.  These folks were RUNNING!  There was motion and movement by these people. The Resurrection got the disciples involved with direction, motion and movement.  They no longer stood still!  Christians are people who Run!  The question for us here and every church is this:  How Can We Get The Word In Our Feet So That We Can Get Motion And Movement On Our Part Into God’s Promises? 

Well you have to understand that there are Sitters and there are Runners.  One of the ways you can sort out people in church is to say they come in 2 types:  Sitters and Runners.  OK, let’s look at each.

1.  First, Let’s Look At The Sitters.

The best way to describe sitters is to image them in a rocking chair, rocking and watching the world go by.  Sitters Are Those Who Are Content With Motion Without Movement And Momentum.  They Have Been Deceived Into Thinking Motion Is Movement When It’s Clearly Not Producing Momentum.

Well, here, let me show you with this rocking chair.  There’s motion, but nothing is really changing.  If you’re not prone to motion sickness, rocking really is relaxing—if you’re into that sort of thing.  There’s activity and motion, but look—this rocking chair is still here.  Am I right?  I’m moving; I’m just not going anywhere. If I turn the rocking chair around, nothing’s really changed—I’m just looking in a different direction.  OK, I’ve changed direction, but I still in the same place.  The only thing that has changed is my view.  I’m not in a different place—I’m in the same place, just a different view.  And nothing has really changed. 

Sitters Are Those Who Are Deceived Into Believing That Because They Are Rocking—There’s Motion—That This Motion Is Enough.  While rocking in a chair may be relaxing and enjoyable it is not accomplishing anything—other than make us feel better about ourselves. 

2.  Now, Let’s Look At Runners.

Runners are different!  They don’t stay in the same place.  And their view is always changing.  Runners have direction and motion—just like the sitters—but runners add the all important element of forward movement.  It Is Movement Not Motion That Always Creates Momentum.  Movement and momentum described what was happening in that cemetery just outside of Jerusalem.  Transformation began when they started running.  Running Produced Movement And That Movement Starting Producing Momentum.

Churches Are Dying Today.  It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Direction.  Everyone is pointed in some direction.  It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Motion.  Ever heard the phrase “Going through the motions”?  It’s Because They Have Lost Movement And Without Movement There Is No Momentum.   Remember the rocking chair.  There is always motion—but no real movement or momentum.

There was a runner by the name of Saul of Tarsus, running as hard as anyone against Jesus.  But God grabbed him on the Damascus Road, turned him around, and he kept right on running, this time as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles!  Give me a church full of runners every time; even if like Saul, they are running in the wrong direction.  

Because when you get runners going in the right direction, things happen!  Communities change for the better.  Families become stronger.  People quit complaining and whining so much.  People meet and follow the real Jesus.  And The Very Foundations Of Hell Tremble And Shake In Fear!  God Wants Runners!

We need to get the Word in our feet and start running!  How?  Well, the Nike commercial says it best: Just Do It!  Don’t talk about it, plunge in with both feet.  The problem with a lot of congregations is that they want a pastor to be successful for them—to do the praying, serving, witnessing and get more members.  But this is not what God has called the pastor to do.  

The pastor is one called out of the life of the church, trained and approved to help you, the lay people do your ministry.  The pastor is not to be a busy body, his job is to get the body busy!  Now, I can back this up with scripture, Eph. 4:11-12—“These were his gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the building up of the body of Christ!”  

Who is the body of Christ? Those outside waiting to be saved?  NO!  You are!  How do we become Runners rather than Sitters?  Allow me to give you a few principles:

  1.  Begin By Being Still. We can’t be running in just any and every direction.  We need focus.  Being still before God gives us the direction to begin running.  Think about Elijah in that cave at Mt. Horeb.  He was running in the wrong direction.  But when he stood still before God, and listened, he found that new direction—and that new direction created Movement And Momentum.
  2.  Don’t Question Or Think About The Direction, Just Run. Try to do a cost or risk analysis on the direction—and Satan will convince you it won’t work.  Think about that day Jesus told the disciples to find something to feed that crowd.  They found a boy’s small sack lunch.  They should have been ready to run—but they did the cost/risk analysis and concluded it wasn’t enough.  If Jesus sends you to do something, then He knows what’s out there and He knows it will be more than enough.
  3. Build Upon Even Small Successes.  Your running doesn’t have to produce things worthy of a page in Guide Posts.  Think about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  After discussing buckets and wells, Jesus led her to thinking about the Messiah.  In the world’s economy it was a small success.  When He had her thinking about the Messiah He was able to get her thinking about herself.  And when He got her thinking about herself and The Messiah, she went and told her whole village about Jesus.
  4. Sustain Momentum.  Keep on praying.  Keep on studying The Word.  Keep up the pace.  Keep on living this Life In Grace.  Don’t ever settle in one place of success.  Think about those Disciples after Pentecost.  About 3,000 people were saved.  Hey, that’s a lot.  Time to rest, right?  Wrong!  They kept it up—sharing life together in meals, Holy Communion, praying and growing in maturity.

And since you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:

Decide Right Now If You Are Going To Be A Sitter Or A Runner!  

Years ago, someone gave me this poem, called “Sitting By The Fire” and it’s on the back of your sermon notes page:

Sitting By The Fire

He wasn’t much for moving about, it wasn’t his desire,
No matter how hard the others work, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE!
This went on from day to day, he never seemed to tire,
when others were working so hard in the church, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE!
He died one day as all must do, and some say he went up higher,
but if he’s doing what he’s always done, HE IS SITTING BY THE FIRE

Are you a Sitter?  Or will you become a Runner?

One Resolution: One Spirit!

New Year’s offers for many the opportunity for more than a different life, but stirs in us the longing for a better life.  The human heart is made for something that is better—and that something better is Contentment.  So we make resolutions that we hope will make life better by improving the quality of our experiences.  I thought it would be interesting to see what the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 are.  I surfed the web and here is what I found:

  1. Exercise more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Get organized
  4. Learn a new skill or hobby
  5. Live life to the fullest
  6. Save more money / spend less money
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Spend more time with family and friends
  9. Travel more
  10. Read More

Here’s what else I found:  It was pretty much the same for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and you get the point.  Now we can download apps that promise ways to help you keep your resolutions.  And we would all agree that it’s easier to make resolutions than to keep them.    Wouldn’t it be great if we could slip on a pair of shoes, take a supplement, join a gym and at the end of the year discover that we kept all our resolutions?  I believe that New Year Resolutions are The Cry Of The Heart For Deep, Abiding Contentment.  When it comes to the issue of contentment, there are 3 things about people and our culture that are true:

  1. Most People are not content with their lives.  In spite of all the promises of hope from the latest trends, advertisements and self-help gurus, most people realize that something is still missing in their life.
  2. Most people feel powerless when it comes to developing lasting and significant change in their lives.  According to a couple of surveys, only 40-45% of Americans even take the effort to make one or more New Year’s Resolutions.  This is down from last century’s high mark of 80%. 
  3. Every human heart longs for contentment.  Even among that 55-60% who make no Resolutions, and among those who say they have given up hope, The Longing Of The Heart For Contentment Never Goes Away.

But what if there was a way to bring that Deep, Abiding Contentment to your life?  And what if there was a way that you could model contentment in a way that would inspire those closest to you to experience that same Sense Of Contentment in their life?  Does that sound good to you?   But wait!  There’s more. 

What if I could show you that to achieve this life that is more than different, more than better, but fills anyone with Contentment, can be achieved with One Resolution, would you be interested?    Not 10, not 5, no, not 3 resolutions, there is only One Resolution that all of us need to make.  Want to know what it is?  Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-30

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies.  This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together.  You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

According to Paul, the 1 Resolution is this:  Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel!  “Oh, is that all it is preacher?  Why didn’t you tell me to paint the Golden Gate Bridge; or—Find the cure for cancer; or—Get every nation to sign a peace accord and end all wars; or—Put an end to world hunger; or—Get Democrats and Republicans to put the American citizen first and forget party politics?  I could do that long before my life is worthy of the Gospel!  Thanks for nothing!” 

And if the Gospel was about what we could do and accomplish, then that’s the way we all ought to feel.  We try to do our very best, but then we lose our temper, we lust, we envy, feel jealousy, say a dirty word, become greedy, act harshly, become resentful and are unforgiving.  And we realize that is just not worthy of the Gospel.  But The Gospel Is Not About What We Can Do

The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His heart for us.  It’s Not The “Gospel Of Our Best Efforts” But The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us.  It’s all about God’s Grace; it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ.  We Are To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection!  We often lock in on that word found in the KJV Conduct.  But remember Paul didn’t write in English.  He wrote in Greek and in Greek, the NLT gives us the best understanding of that word:  Live As Citizens of Heaven. 

This means we live according to God’s ways, plans and purposes that are rooted in His Grace.  And at the heart of Grace is that we allow Him into our hearts and We Rely On His Strength Rather Than Our Own Strength.  And Paul’s letter to the Philippians doesn’t end with that verse.  For the rest of this letter, Paul shows us how to live a life worthy of the gospel by allowing Christ to live in us and through us!  Contentment Is Found By Surrendering Moment By Moment To The Process Of Grace, And Not Giving Up On That Process, Especially When We Mess Up.

And this process is found in ONEOne Spirit, One Mind, One Purpose, One Goal, One Hope And One Secret.  And this process is what we will begin looking at in this New Year.  So, how can we live this Life Worthy Of The Gospel By Allowing Christ To Live In And Thru Us?

It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day.  The Process Begins By Living In One Spirit.  And here’s The 1 Thing you need to remember from today’s message:  Contentment Begins When We Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions Based On One Spirit. 

Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit here, but our spirit.  What Is Your Spirit?  The first response is to say, “That’s the part of me that lives on after death.”  And it is, but I want you to go deeper.  Think Of Your Spirit As That Part Of You That Makes You Think, Speak, Act, React And Helps In Your Decision Making Process.  And this is the real problem.  Without a deep and committed relationship to Christ, we live with A Divided Spirit.  Living life with One Spirit does not happen automatically nor is it easily attained.  Allow me to define for you what I mean by One Spirit:  One Spirit means living each day with an Undivided Heart!  So think of One Spirit as that heart that gives its loyalty to God.

And to help us live with One Spirit, God offers us transformation—A New Spirit—A New Way To Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions.  He offers to help us live with One Spirit that is worthy of the Gospel Of Grace through The Desire To Have That Undivided Spirit.  Here is how to develop this One Spirit. 

1. Have That Unbridled Desire For God’s Grace

Remember that this Process of One, this resolution to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel does not depend on your abilities; just God’s grace!  And is there anything better or more reliable that God’s Grace?  Jesus uses 2 powerful human experiences to describe what it means to desire God’s grace:  hungering and thirsting.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:6—Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness, For They Will Be Filled. 

It’s About An Unquenchable Appetite For God.  It’s not about a Sam’s Club sample taste, or a small Hors d’oeuvre tray.  It is about all that God offers.  And trust that God will provide His grace.  When you get up in the morning have that unquenchable appetite for God.  When you go to bed at night have that unquenchable appetite for God.  And every moment between getting up and going to sleep, have that unquenchable appetite for God.

2. Give Him Your Unrestrained Devotion

Use the word “Devotion” and many think about The Upper Room, Guideposts, Daily Bread or some other devotional material.  Reading these devotional materials are great acts that we need to engage in daily.  But that’s not Devotion.  The Dictionary Defines Devotion As:  Profound Dedication.  It is moving your life in the direction of God.  This movement in the direction of God is best described in Philippians 3:13-14—I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 

Whatever it is that you talk the most about, that is your greatest passion, and that is what you are giving your devotion to.  Your Greatest Passion Reveals Your Devotion.  If your greatest passion is football, then your devotion is to football.  If your greatest passion is to be recognized and praised by others, then your devotion is to self.  Devotion to God is choosing to focus on God’s presence.  It means we look for and find God’s presence every day and everywhere.  Make God your greatest passion.

3. Live With Total Determination

It’s easy to give up on dreams when life gets tight.  It’s easy to turn around when life gets tough.  Our world, your culture, is filled with those who would rather quit than fight on—surrender rather than overcome.  To Live In One Spirit Requires Resolve And Determination Because It Is On The Other Side Of The Struggle And Conflict That We Understand What The Life In Grace Is All About. 

It is by going through the tight, tough and difficult places that we really discover just how much God does for us.  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 

Without Grace, without the Christ of the Cross, our own spirit becomes divided and it’s all because of the problem of sin.  But Jesus has defeated the sin-problem for us by carrying our sins to the Cross.  Contentment begins when we take our relationship with God seriously—By Making This Relationship The MOST Important Priority In Our Life.  Jesus lived with One Spirit—to honor God by allowing God’s heart, the Father’s Presence to live in Him and through Him. 

Remember: You Can’t Follow Jesus And Stay Where You Are.  So here’s your Next Steps:

  1. Do something to show your hunger for God’s Grace
    • Join a Bible study group, maybe 2 groups
    • Begin to read the Bible, just the Bible.  Begin with Philippians
  2. Get directly involved helping people know that God loves them
    • Find a person who has a need, and meet that need
    • Find something happening locally
    • Talk with me about starting something new
  3. Dream of something that only God can do

THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE!

(Final message in the series “YAHWEH–The I Am Sayings Of Jesus”

The Eternal Name—The Name for all generations to remember—The Name that God has chosen to reveal to us all is YAHWEH—I Am!  His Name says that He exists as Himself.  He isn’t shaped or twisted by our own ideas and conceptions.  Whatever it is that we may think about HIM, doesn’t change who He really is.  Whatever you say about God doesn’t change Him.  Whatever you may believe about God, does not change the identity and nature of our God.

He is who HE says He is; not necessarily who we think He is and not necessarily who others say He is.  He exists as He truly is

  • In Indescribable Glory,
  • Immeasurable Power,
  • Overwhelming Holiness,
  • Pure, Uncontaminated Beauty
  • And All This In Awesome And Breathtaking Majesty. 

He has never been weaker nor stronger than He is right now in eternity, nor will He ever be.  Think about the changes that have happened in the history of humanity.  We have gone from walking everywhere to riding a horse to an automobile, to flying across the skies, even made the journey to the moon and back.

Think about all the changes that have happened just in your lifetime.  Yet, God has never ever changed—not even a fraction.  He Is Constant And Consistent To The Point We Really Cannot Describe All That He Is.  This Is The Eternal Name For All Generations To Remember. 

As we have been looking through John’s Gospel, Jesus has been publicly using His Eternal Name.  And it has caused a lot of discomfort and anger with the Pharisees because we are not supposed to say that name—even though God wants His Eternal Name remembered by all generations. 

They felt like, “We can’t have this guy going around calling himself God.  We’ve got to put a stop to it.  We’ve tried to be reasonable.  We’ve tried to show that He’s a phony, but many don’t believe us.  We must put an end to Jesus!”  So they begin to formulate their plans, but what they don’t understand is that God already has a plan.  They want to wait until AFTER Passover, but God has ordained that this Passover is THE time for THE perfect sacrifice that will end all sacrifices. And now, it is time for THE Passover.  Jesus has gathered His inner circle in that upper room.  Everything is in place and they think it’s just another Passover.  They know the ritual; after all, they grew up with it.  But Jesus now changes everything.  In public He had been using the Eternal Name, and now in a very private moment, He uses it once more.  Let’s turn to John 14:1-7 (NLT)

 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said.  “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”   Jesus told him, “I am The Way, The Truth, And The Life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

All that Jesus said He is–The Great I Am—The Living Bread, The Light Of The World, The Door, The Good Shepherd—is so true—truer than you may even realize.  But here, in a private and intimate moment, Jesus reveals the Deepest Part Of The Heart Of God.  He Doesn’t Say This In Public, But Rather To Those Hearts That Are Longing For God’s Heart. 

This leads me to The one thing you need to remember:   You Do Not Follow Jesus In Order To Love Him.  You Love Him In Order To Follow Him.  

Love comes first—before the following.  But—If you follow Jesus in order to love Him, it becomes a list of rules and things to do. This way becomes legalistic.  And after a while, you either love the rules more than you love Him; or you will give up. 

But…if you love Jesus first—it gives you the desire to follow Him.  Here is how it works:  You see His beauty and that Beauty pulls you in deeper.  Then You Begin Seeking His Beauty, And His Heart So That You May Be Transformed BY His Beauty INTO His Beauty.  In Other Words, You Follow Him!

In this very sacred moment, Jesus says something to every heart.  For inside every heart is that deep, deep longing to be near to and close to God’s very heart.  The heart knows what the heart needs but the problem is we don’t always listen to it.  Many try to ignore it, but the longing is still there.  Others try to fill it with everything else, but the heart is still empty.  Jesus Knows What Their Hearts Long For, Thirst For, Hunger For—So He Reveals What Every Heart Around That Table Longs To Know.  And it is true in your heart.  Listen with your heart what Jesus is saying to it.

1.  He Is The Way!

When Jesus said He is The Way He means He is the ONLY way to find release from the guilt and shame of our sin.  And we have to get rid of all that sin because it’s standing in the way of us entering God’s heart and God entering our heart.  He Is That Entrance Into Freedom From All That Holds Us Back, All That Puts Us In Bondage, And All That Chains Us To Fear And Condemnation. Jesus is the only entrance to God’s heart.  Contrary to the view of many, there are not many ways to discover God.

There is only ONE way and that way is Jesus.  And The Way is a Journey, and The Journey is first to fall in love with God.  Not what He does.  And not by falling in love with His ways.  Falling in love with God—with HIM!  Being captivated by His Glory—which is His love for you.  Until you see HIS Glory—you cannot love Him the way He deserves to be love Once we are in love with HIM, then He is The Way that leads us into that Holy Journey with God.  The Way means that God invites us into this Journey with Him.

  • It Is A Journey Filled With Adventure And Excitement Where God Uses Us To Reveal Jesus To Our World.
  • It’s A Journey That Can Be Difficult At Times, Especially When Things Don’t Work Out Like We Hoped, And Even When We Can’t See Where This Journey Will Lead Us. 
  • It’s The Journey That Requires We Surrender Control To Him.  It’s The Journey Where We Will Be Stretched At Times. 
  • It’s That Journey Where At Times The Only Thing We Can Hold On To Is God Himself.  It May Even Be Frightening To Some. 
  • But It’s Not A Journey We Make Alone.  Jesus Is Right Here With Us Every Step Of The Way.

Jesus didn’t say “I am the pew.”  But many treat Jesus that way; confident and comfortable in the pew.  But Jesus didn’t say that, He said, “I Am The Way!”  He invites us to travel this road called Grace, and it’s a road that is meant to be a life time journey.  Along the journey we will see, do and experience so many things.  The journey at the end will be different than at the beginning.  But one thing will remain throughout this lifetime journey:  Jesus walks every step with us.  It’s the journey with Jesus where He leads us to wherever and whatever He wants for us.

2.  He Is The Truth

Since it is The Journey that Jesus invites us into, we need some guideposts, road signs that help us keep us on the right path for The Journey.  And here is what it looks like to call Jesus The Truth.

  • The Truth Is He Loves Us Unconditionally And Completely. 
  • The Truth Is He Has Saved Us And Forgiven Us Completely And Not A Single Sin Brought Under His Blood Exists In His Heart Or Memory.
  • The Truth Is He Lives In Us To Empower Us. 
  • The Truth Is He Gives Us A Holy Calling And Task That He Wants And Expects Us To Do. 
  • The Truth Is He Holds Us Accountable To Share The Grace He Has So Extravagantly Given To Each Of Us.
  • Truth Is We Live Each Moment Of Each Day By And IN The Truth. 
  • The Truth Is That People Are More Important Than Things—Jesus Did Things For People Even If It Violated The Way Things Had Always Been Because People Are More Important Than Things. 
  • The Truth That We Must Grow In This Grace—Grow More Confident—Grow Wiser About The Truth—Applying The Truth In Real Life Situations.  “What Would Jesus Do?” is more than a cute saying for shirts, bracelets and bumper stickers, it’s the way we live and respond to every situation life throws at us. 
  • The Truth Is Persistent And Consistent For All Times, Places And People.  It Doesn’t Change Or Fluctuate With The Times, Nor The Culture.
  • The Truth Is That Service And Sacrifice Are Part Of The Way. Service And Sacrifice Are What Truly Marks Us As Disciples Of Jesus And Members Of The Body Of Christ.
  • This Truth—Lived By Jesus Every Day He Walked This Earth As One Of Us—Is The Anchor For Every Age, Every Generation, And Every Moment Of Every Day We Walk This Earth. 
  • Jesus As The Truth Is More Than A Creed Or Belief.  It is the convictions that hold us, hold us closely when we need assurance of God’s love—and that challenges us to follow Jesus in The Way!  The Truth Is That Jesus Is The Alpha And Omega, The First And The Last, The Beginning And The End. And whatever it is we do as believers in Christ, makes each day all about him and not anything about us!

Truth isn’t a weapon we use against others.  It’s the discipline that reminds us that we are in love with God—and that God is in love with us.

3.  He Is The Life!

The Life gives the journey meaning.  It is The Life that should be the force that makes our feet hit the floor every morning.  Jesus is The Life that brings us to life with a passion and excitement to be a part of what God is doing in our world. 

Some people are waiting to die.  They have given up on the excitement and adventure of life.  If Jesus is really in your heart, you don’t have to wait to die to experience life, but you can start living, really living with that sense of joy, purpose and anticipation of all that God wants to show you every day.  Jesus didn’t suffer and die on that Cross for you to be sad and miserable; cranky and whiney; to grumble and complain.    

His Life Is About Life That Has An Eternal Meaning In The Here And Now.  Jesus wants you to live and breathe, not exist.  And The Life is offered to you through The Gift—the Gift of Perfect Love when Jesus went to the Cross to die for you.  But He didn’t just die for you—He conquered death for you, too. 

And the Resurrection Life isn’t just for that day when the body dies.  The Resurrection Life Is For Here And Now. It begins with the Journey.  And the Journey begins with falling love with God.  God is in love with YOU.  Not with what you can do or ought to do.  He is in love with YOU right now!  Jesus is The Way into that love.  Truth reminds us of this—that God is in love with us.  Truth isn’t a set of creeds—it is more—Truth is a Person—Jesus Christ—And this makes Truth a Love Relationship.  This Is The Life!

Life is knowing we are loved by God—being in love with God—in the way that causes us to be His Agents, Agents of Redemption for the world.

Next Steps

  1. Are you simply waiting to die?  Do you feel that life has become too hard to do anything significant?  Do you think it was easy for Jesus to forgive the crowd while hanging on that cross?  Stop waiting to die—decide today to begin living.
  2. What are you doing that is life-giving to others?  Have you heard of that TV series The Walking Dead?  It’s about the Zombie Apocalypse.  Some call it science fiction.  It’s truer than you may realize.  The Walking Dead are all around us.  The thing is they don’t look like those zombies on TV—they look like us.  But they are dead on the inside.

STOP WASTING TIME!

Slide2

(This is the last of the series about the Hard Sayings of Jesus.  Thanks for all the comments and likes!)

 Disclaimer

We do not have the time to get into all the Hard Sayings Of Jesus, so this will be our last in this series.  I hope by now you have the tools and the courage to tackle on your own the hard, even harsh things Jesus had to say.  Simply because we don’t like them or do not want to deal with them doesn’t mean we have the luxury of simply ignoring them.  Frankly, I do not want to face Him on the day of judgment and have Him ask me why I chose to ignore them.  So let’s get to today’s passage found in Matthew 10:5-15 (NIV)

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 

13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.  15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

What exactly is Jesus saying here?  There is a principle and a Truth that is guiding all the other messages we see and hear.  And it is in Verses 14-15—If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.  It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.  2 things about this image:

  1. It was a sign of an unclean place. It’s what devout Jews would do if they ever had to go into a Gentile city or home.
  2. It was a sign that you were finished with that person or place, and you were not responsible for their decisions and actions. It was a sign of letting them know that God’s judgment was now upon them—no more excuses.

It seems that Jesus is saying that when people reject Him and His Kingdom, His disciples are to shake the dust off their shoes and move on, and that Sodom and Gomorrah will do better at judgment than them.  But Where is the Grace and Mercy and patience of God?  Well, let’s apply the process of the 2 questions:

  1. Is It Possible?

Jesus was in His hometown of Nazareth and in Mark 3:6 we read—“He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith.  Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.” Obviously Jesus moved on.  Now look at the second question:

  1. Is It Consistent With The Principles And Message Of The Kingdom?

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas go to Pisidian where the people began listening to them.  But the religious leaders stirred up trouble and expelled them.  And we read in Verse 51—So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.

So the answer to both questions is clearly yes.  If you can remember only 1 thing from Slide15this message, this is it:  Nothing Is More Important Than The Mission Of God’s Kingdom.  I am not more important than The Mission.  You are not more important than The Mission.  Our families are not more important than The Mission.  This nation and its politics are not more important than The Mission.  Your wants and wishes are not more important than The Mission.    The church is not more important than The Mission.  Nothing Is More Important Than The Mission Of God’s Kingdom.

So, how do we apply this authoritative word?  Does it mean that we go up to someone and ask them, “Do you want to be a Christian?” and if they say “No”, we forget about them and ask the next person and the next and the next?  Absolutely not.  Putting this hard saying of Jesus into the right context is the key to the application of His Truth.  This is The Pattern for how The Kingdom works and moves:  Jesus SENDS!  Jesus sends the First 12 Disciples, and He continues to send His Disciples.

This isn’t an Apostolic Age thing.  The word apostle means one who is sent.  Everyone is sent somewhere for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  It may not be to a pulpit or foreign country, but you are sent nonetheless.  Jesus is sending Disciples.  They aren’t apostles (lowercase a) until they are sent.  And notice where He sends them:  Not to the Gentiles, not to the Samaritans—but to those He calls “the lost sheep of Israel”.  Why?

Because The Kingdom Of God Should Begin Here!  Before we can take the Kingdom of God into the world, it must be firmly rooted in our hearts.  God has a Mission for Real Disciples.  Those who attended the Small Group Training learned that it’s wrong to say Slide16the church has a mission.  Truth is that God’s Mission has a church.  We call it Missio Dei—the sending of God.  God’s mission needs a church that will embrace and follow His Mission.  I see at least 3, let’s call them Kingdom Principles, that Jesus demands from us if we are going to be more than Christian in name, but in heart and life.

1] The Mission Needs To Be Focused.

“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

God sends Disciples to the places that needs what only God provides.  This passage, these words of Jesus, is where we need to focus.  First focus on ourselves, then on others.  Here’s where the focus needs to be rather than on all the external trimmings that we think give us our identity:

  • Heal the sickthe word “heal”, means to serve. The word “sick” means those who are weak, powerless, without the strength to change their life
  • Raise the dead—it means to wake up and cause people to stand in life, not the death that sin produces in us. The Walking Dead TV series isn’t original.  There are the Walking Dead all around us.  Not zombies, but broken and lifeless people.
  • Cleanse those with leprosy—that word leprosy includes the disease of leprosy but was also applied to a variety of skin diseases. Spiritually it’s about those who are carrying around external labels that crush and destroy the human heart.
  • Drive out demons—the devil is having a heyday and causing mayhem because the church has stopped fighting them and starting fighting people. The phrase here means with force and strength.  This is the warfare that God calls us into.

Freely have you received, freely give—It’s about sharing the extravagant grace and mercy that God has shown you with others.

2] We Need To Give A Clear Message.

And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

The church can be really good at sending mixed messages.  For example:  Jesus can set you free—but to be with us, there are certain ways you need to act and a certain way of doing things.  Here’s another:  God has an unlimited supply of grace for you—but don’t be surprised if my supply of grace is limited.  Oh, this is a good one:  Christ makes all things new—just like they were 40 years ago.

The Greek word for “at hand” is eggizō (en-gē’-zō).  It means: to join one thing to another.  The Message of the Kingdom is to connect people to the Kingdom of God!  The gospel message is not difficult. The Message Is Clear:

  • Let’s be clear that brokenness persists in all of us. We are all broken somewhere. We are sinners in need of the Savior.
  • Let’s be clear that Only by faith in Jesus can we be forgiven and set free from sin’s dominion over us.
  • Let’s be clear that when we are forgiven we join in with what God is doing in the world.

Some people place the stained glass windows of tradition and liturgy in front of Christ and hide Him. Some are destroying the Good News of the Kingdom by replacing the authority of Scripture with the authority of how we feel and what WE want to believe.  The apostles were to “go and preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  It’s about the Kingdom, not the local church.  We are to keep the message of God clear—it’s all about Jesus and His Authority to rule us.

3] Do The Mission With Urgency.

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.  It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (vs. 14-15)

What I see missing in so many lives is The Passion for the Mission.  Until we see and know how Urgent the Mission is, we will never have the Passion.  Urgency Creates Passion.  And that Passion motivates us to become apostles—people who are sent!

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The Greek word for apostle is apostolos and it means a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.  It comes from the word apostellō—to order one to go to a place appointed.  Real Christians Are Sent People.  You Have Stopped Being A Sent People When You Become A Settled People.  Me?  I’m not going to be a settled person.  I’m moving with God and with those moving with God and I’m shaking the dust off my shoes for those who have settled.

Without that sense of Urgency with Passion, then there is coming a time when those who are supposed to know—know the Truth and Live it in Urgency and with Passion—but have ignored and rejected The Kingdom—that God is going to shake the dust and judgement is going to be upon those people and churches.  The judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah will not be as severe as those people and churches that reject God’s Kingdom for their own Kingdom.

Until you know how urgent the message and mission of the Kingdom is, you will never be a real Disciple of Jesus.  People are hurting deeply all around us.  Every day people are going into eternity without Jesus.  Every day people are being deceived and believing the lies.  Our work is urgent.  Join in now before someone shakes the dust off the shoes towards you.