The Why Factor-March 26, 2014

The Why Factor-March 26, 2014
Philippians 2:1-18

This lesson is not intended to explain or explore the question of why me? Rather the question of why is to discover the intentionality and reasoning behind what we do. We are comfortable a lot of the times with what questions because they typically examine a problem in front us (that may only be a symptom) and seek to take action to resolve the problem before us. What are we going to do about all these people who need to be fed? This is the question the disciples asked Jesus before the feeding of the five thousand. The better question may be why? Why are we going to feed these people? Because I am the bread of life, I am God, I am able, just as manna fell from heaven, so too can the Son of God provide an abundance, and in the later days will provide His body (bread) to be broken for us. Why? It would do no good to tell someone that God loves them and to be warm and well fed, and then not do anything to provide for the need. It would betray the love we speak so much about. This line of reasoning too can leave us doing things that sometimes have little meaning or purpose in and of themselves or lack passion from those involved because they do not know the why.

Although pursuing the “what” question is not bad in and of itself they why brings us back to evaluate the effectiveness, viability, and purpose for the action. Purposeful living is a committed and passionate living. The why factor leads us to discovering the purpose for action. We look at some of our why questions, they are from church structure and programs, to the whys we find in this particular passage of scripture. It is good to do good things, but without the why they are but the works of man and too often lead us toward protecting our religious practice over the propagation of the gospel.

Why are you a Christian?
Why do you come to Church?
Why is it important?
Why do we have this program or that?
Why should we share our faith?
Why do so few do it?

The questions of why can change a lot. I try to resist the temptation as a parent to give the answer because I said so (not perfect at this part either) but to answer a mind that wants to engage.

The scripture begins with “if you have any encouragement from being united in Christ…? It is the why question to what comes next then be like-minded having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Then continues because our attitude should be the same as that of Christ, and then explains what that attitude is.
Obey God and continue in the work of salvation, why…because God work in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, why…that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.

Continue to look for in the scripture what we are asked to do and then the why. Do you think the Why Factor makes a difference?

Sweet Day

Sweet Day

Oh, sweet day, when will you come? Come that I may once again dance in laughter and in love. When can I hear my heart pound again with purpose? Until that day, my heart and dancing feet merely mark the time.

Elusive love I have danced your sweet tune before, and drank of you cup for nourishment. Escape me not in the future, yet return again in bar and rhyme. Move again my feet, stir my soul to reality. Allow me to know again the joy of the moment. The hours it will consume and the years I will invest.

Go beyond, and connect me to your eternal presence, oh love. Eternal in relation to God and others, the essence of love is not individualistic, rather discovered in communion with God and in relation to others. Return again in communion to you and community with others.

Let my life take shape in that reality, and draw me again to my identity. Allow me not to forget that all-encompassing presence. Provide me the eyes to see, the heart to feel, the soul to long, and the feet to dance. Life demands as much, all else is mere existence.

TIME SQUATS

TIME SQUATS

Time squats in the blue-spurred grass
Marking that place just as every other
Invented to remember the past
Help in planning the future
Marking the present, that is becoming past,
Pushing constantly to the future
Time can only squat in the blue-spurred grass
Marking that place
The past has shape in memory
The future in dreams
The present is the struggle

The Rocky Road…Goes Through-March 23, 2014

Sermon: The Rocky Road…Goes Through
Scripture: John 4:1-26, 39-42

The scripture highlights a couple of things that are not so much evident to modern readers at first. One of which is the relationship of the Jews and Samaritans. Some of the bad blood went back to 721 B.C.E. with the Assyrian occupation. The most intense rivalry began about 200 B.C.E. The source of the enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans was a dispute over where the center of worship was supposed to be. The Samaritans built a shrine on Mt. Gerizim during the Persian period and claimed that this shrine, not the Jerusalem Temple was the proper place to worship. The shire at Mt. Gerizim was destroyed by troops in 128 B.C.E., but the schism between Jews and Samaritans continued.
During the time of Jesus the rift had become so bad that even if the most efficient way to get from one place to another was through Samaria most Jews would not go through Samaria. In fact it had been so bad for so long that even a road had been worn around the land. It is as if the dirt itself in Samaria was dirtier than dirt found anywhere else. The backdrop of the scripture makes what Jesus does all the more surprising. The scripture says that Jesus “had” to go through Samaria. Why would Jesus “have” to do this? He had to go through to get through to one lady that needed to hear the good news.

In the previous chapter and sermon Nicodemus is a named person, who comes seeking Jesus, and knows at least in part who Jesus is. This encounter is very different. The disciples have gone away to get food, and Jesus remains by the well at the heat of the day around noon. While He waits a woman comes to the well to draw water. Jesus begins the conversation with asking her for a drink of water. She responds with what would appear to be obvious, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” She is aware of the disdain between the two groups and the social standards as well with men and women. She seems surprised He would speak to her at all being a Samaritan woman, much less ask for a kindness or willing to receive a drink from her. Do we sometimes wonder how Jesus can want to be around us or love us?

The conversation begins, Jesus said to her, If you knew the gift of God and who it was that asks, you would have asked him instead and been given living water. Jesus knows that she does not know His real identity. How could she they just met. However, does it not seem that after this first comment that she might have thought to ask well who are you? She is building up to that but has not done so yet. She again states the obvious visible things…the well is deep and you don’t have a bucket, where will you get this living water. She goes on to presume that Jacob who gave the well is greater than Jesus.

Jesus redirects, if you drink from this well you will get thirsty again, but if whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. The water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. All it seems like she heard of this was “I give you the water, it springs up in you and you won’t thirst again.” Because she wants it so she won’t have to return to the well and draw more water. She wants the gift but has not understood yet who Jesus is.

Then the game changer moment…he told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” She responds quickly with “I have no husband.” Jesus then reveals Himself to her by revealing her past. Essential Jesus says to her, you are right, you do not have a husband, but you have had 5 and the man you are living with now is not your husband. Now she is a little concerned how could Jesus have known these things about her? She acknowledges Jesus as a prophet, and then begins to ask which place is the correct place to worship. Jesus said it is not about the place but the person. True worshipers, will worship in spirit and truth, for they are the kind the Father seeks. Her head is spinning what could all this mean. That God would not be so concerned about the place but whom they worship and that they worship in spirit and truth. That these are they that God seeks.

At this point she is she says, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” The Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” Jesus finally reveals the fullness of His identity to this woman. She now knows He is Messiah, and He confronted her past with grace so that she could know that there is nothing in her past that is too bad for Jesus, the one who loved her and was willing to die in her place. Jesus had to go through Samaria to get through to this woman. She too had to go through some things for Jesus to get through to her. At first she seems to hope that this conversation will not be too unpleasant because she assumes He knows nothing about her past. The later revealing of her past and Jesus’ identity as the Messiah helped her to understand the grace that is given through Jesus Christ.

Her testimony around town brought people to Jesus and the longer they spent time with Him they too believed. When Jesus had to go through Samaria, we might guess because it was a faster more direct route, but it was not about an urgency of getting to the next place but the urgency of heart. Think of what Jesus had to go through to get through to us…the cross. Think of what all we have gone through that we would be in a good place for Jesus to get through to us.

What is Our Return on Investment?-March 19, 2014

What is Our Return on Investment?-March 19, 2014
Philippians 3:7-16
• Do we look to Christ as our highest investment and our highest gift?
• What are we willing to lose for Christ?
• What have we gained in Christ?
• Do we want to really know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, and even death?
• Do we reach out to Him who is reaching out to us?
• What are we willing to look away from to look toward Christ? Is our focus singular?
• Maturity in Christ does not make us perfect but puts or on the path and motivates us to continue on it for what has already been done in Him?

A Long Walk in the Night-March 16, 2014

A Long Walk in the Night-March 16, 2014
Scripture: John 3:1-17

Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night, because he had questions. What is so significant about the night? I think a few things he came in the night to avoid being seen by others that he was going to inquire of Jesus. Another possibility is that something was keeping him awake at night that he just couldn’t let go of. Yet another possibility is that God uses this opportunity to demonstrate that light that can and will shine even in the darkest of nights. What questions do we have that we are afraid that others might know that we have? What keeps us awake at night? Where do we need the light of Christ to shine the brightest in our lives?

Nicodemus knows that he is missing something so he begins his conversation with Jesus by what it is he thinks he knows. He first calls Jesus Rabbi, then interestingly says we know that you are a teacher from God because only God could do what we have seen you do. Jesus touches on the issue of how well either Nicodemus or us can see in the dark. Jesus’ response is, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In other words you have seen only a part and you do not understand because you have not seen nor understood my kingdom.
Too often we want to look for things the way of the world never seeing the kingdom of God. We do not know why Nicodemus has come in the middle of the night? But in the darkness of the night Jesus is trying to illuminate him and help him to see the light. Many times we look only at what we see with our eyes and do not see to the heart of things. What seems to be bothering Nicodemus is that Jesus in front of him is doing things that only God could do and bless while at the same time, Jesus does not fit what his tradition says a Messiah would do and be? What do we do when Jesus doesn’t fit our mold?

On our side of things what keeps us awake at night? For some it may be that taco you ate, but for others the need may run much deeper. The lists of possibilities could be endless. I will attempt to name a few…money, family members, marital relationship, relationships with children, fear of losing health, fear of losing control, fear of getting older, fear of dying, trouble at work, at home, at school, feeling alone, feeling lonely, and the list could go on and on. The question for us is what do we do about what is keeping us up at night? Will we continue to take a long walk through the night, or will we walk toward the light. Are we taking our concerns and our sleepless nights to the only one who can do something about them? Perhaps we would rather just continue to do the same things hoping for a different result. It is my prayer that you sleep well and that the restlessness of your heart will be settled by Christ.

Lessons for Living as the Body of Christ-March 12, 2014

Lessons for Living as the Body of Christ

Scripture:  Titus 2-3:9

  •  We all have something to contribute regardless of age
  •  What we do and how we live matters to God and others
  •  The responsibility of the more mature believers is to encourage and be an example for younger believers
  •  We live this way that no one will malign the word of God, so that those that oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us, and in every way we make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
  •  Why should we live this way, because of the example and grace demonstrated to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
  • Be respectful of those in authority, do go things, don’t slander, be peaceable and considerate, showing humility.
  •  At one time we too were unbelievers and without the grace of Christ.
  •  Christ saved out of His mercy
  •  We need to stress these things from time to time, so that as we have trusted Him for Salvation we will also live for Him now.
  •  Avoid foolish things; controversies, family status, and fighting about who is right under the law because none are righteous but through faith in Jesus Christ.