Who’s the Greatest?-June 18, 2014

Who’s the Greatest?-June 18, 2014

Matthew 18:1-6

This is a familiar, but haunting story follows not long after the account of the transfiguration of Jesus. When we take it in that context it may be that some of the disciples through they were more important than the others, the text in Matthew doesn’t say. It does say that the disciples had questions, and at that moment their questions seemed to concern their own glory and not God’s. The question they wanted to know (or thought they wanted to know) the answer to was, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” I am not sure they received the answer they were looking for but it was the truth God was trying to communicate to them through their question, so then who is the greatest?

Rather than answering the question with a direct response Jesus usually offers one of three teaching methods, telling a story or parable, confronting with a returned question, and using an illustration. Often Jesus uses more than one method in each teachable moment with His disciples but rarely will He answer the question directly. In this instance Jesus calls a little child to stand among them. They might at this point be a little confused and then Jesus begins to share.

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” To become like a child…moldable, impressionable, enjoying the benefits of the place where they live even if they do not fully understand the whys and hows. It requires trusting beyond where we are at, what we know, and what we can have control of. Trusting in the one who does know, and who is in control.

“Therefore,” is a word that basically mean pay attention to what is coming next, because it is important. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” The greatest are not the ones who are seeking personal glory or accolades, yet it is the ones who practice humility and are willing to humble themselves putting God’s way, God’s will, and God’s glory above their own. My friends, this is easier said than done.

Deep inside many of us would prefer to say “no thanks.” “I like where I am at in my world.” “I don’t want to give up my place, my position, or my pride to humble myself before anyone.” Those who are willing to humble themselves God will exalt in due time. Who is the greatest? The greatest is the one who humbles themselves to follow the will of God.

The framework of this passage goes back to the basics of our faith that we, love, honor, cherish, and obey God. Jesus also includes how we are to interact with one another. The ones who welcome this child are demonstrating their hospitality toward God.

There is also a warning here as well. We should be welcoming to those who are His children and coming to Him in childlike faith. We should be careful not to distract, distort, or destroy their faith. We should not do anything that would cause them to stumble or fall into sin. The penalty can be far worse than death. God protects and lives His little ones and those who love, honor, and obey Him should love His children also. Love God and Love Others.

 

Created for More Than This-June 15, 2014

Created for More Than This-June 15, 2014-Father’s Day

Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7, 18, 20b-25; 3:7-9

We were created in God’s image, then God blessed them, told them to be fruitful and multiply and then gave them stewardship of the earth.  Man was formed from the dust of the earth, but was filled with the breath of life.  The Lord said it was not good for man to be alone, so there was made a suitable helper for him.  It seems men that God knew would need a little help.  Adam then fell into a deep sleep and the first surgery occurred when God took one of Adam’s ribs closed up the space and used that rib to create Adam’s wife Eve.  She would be bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh, and it is for this relationship that a man pulls away from his family of orientation (birth) to begin his family of procreation.  The man leaves the one family to begin one of his own, becoming one flesh with his wife.  They were naked but not ashamed to be around each other.  After sin they became ashamed to be around one another, and also ashamed to be around God.  They because ashamed and hid their bodies from one another and then they hid from fellowship with God.  The Lord then called to them with a haunting question to the man, “Where are you?’

We were created for more than just existing in time and space, we were created for more than just being a provider for the physical things in life but the roles of husband and father are two roles that the Lord expects us to take seriously.  Many men like to say that they are the head of the family.  The scripture says that they are the spiritual head of the family which comes with it a responsibility to care for, guide, and lead our families to have the best opportunity for them to discover and grow into Christ.

They were created and blessed and told to be fruitful and they were given stewardship and responsibility.  In this larger narrative we discover that God directly tells Adam not to eat from the tree, and a least one of those times, was before Eve was around.  It was his responsibility to look out for his wife, and by extension his family.  They were together and not ashamed.  There  was no distance between them nothing to keep them apart and sin separated them, and put distance between them and between them and God.  The way Paul describes these relationships is in terms of service, and responsibility.

A whole lot of talking on Father’s Day to get back around to what perhaps this sermon should have been called, two lessons.  When we were created, as men we are responsible for our families walk of faith.  We should protect them, where we can, help them to grow where we can, but it is the work that God has given us.  Today’s view of manhood and fatherhood is very skewed.  Many today think that a man should be a provider and although I don’t disagree, we are created for more than that.  It seems that we teach our kids so many things, like manners, how to throw a baseball, kick a soccer ball, or shoot a basketball.  Maybe it is fishing or any number of other activities, but in God’s eyes our primary responsibility is to help our wives and children to grow closer to Christ.

Church may not sound macho to some men.  It confuses me that most men would do anything for their children to provide for them and to provide opportunities for them to grow in so many other areas, but are not willing to make Christ a priority.  Those who die without Christ will spend eternity separated from God.  The best most loving thing we can do for our families is point them to Christ.

Looking back I realize that I did not have a perfect father but where I think he succeed was in teaching me to love Jesus by demonstrating his love for Jesus in his daily life, and second he demonstrated his love for Christ’s Bride, the church, by being faithful to her.  He did not send us to church with others, he took us and stayed, even when my mother had to work and could not be there.  It is a scary thing to think that as fathers and husbands we are succeeding in areas that are not the most important.  In the end it really will not matter how our kids earned a living, or whether they were good at sports, but whether or not they know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

We are created to love, support, and lead our families to grow in faith and love of Jesus Christ.  It is the sin of this world that tries to distract us from what God desires for us to be as husbands and fathers.  When God came looking for Adam and Eve, they scripture records that he calls out to man, “Where are you?”  I pray that God will not have to ask that haunting question of Christian men around the world, “Where are you?’  I pray that we would be diligent to help our families grow into closer relationship to Christ, but our example.  We would teach them to love Christ because we love Christ, and that they will remain faithful to His Bride, the church, because they have seen our faithfulness to her.  This is what we were created for!

 

Change! Is it good or bad?-June 11, 2014

Change! Is it good or bad?-June 11, 2014

Matthew 7:24-28; James 1:16-18

What do think of when you hear the word change?

Does the word change have a positive or negative connotation when you first hear it?

What makes change so difficult?

What would it take for any of us to make a change even if we know that change to be a good change?

In a recent article by Bill Wilson he describes the Burning Platform Syndrome.  It is so named Wilson explains because of a tragic event where men were trapped on the platform of a burning platform in the North Atlantic.  Most of the men choose to remain on the platform rather than to jump into the frigid water.  A few did choose to jump and they were the only survivors.  One was interviewed later and asked him why he jumped, he could have likely only survived 20 to 30 minutes due to the frigid temperatures?”  The man’s responded, “After looking a the situation we were in I chose to jump because I felt like I was choosing uncertain possibility of death over what I felt like was certain death on the platform.  Wilson goes on to explain, change is usually pushed by discomfort with the status quo or unease about what is predicted if change is not made. We only jump/change when the pain or danger of staying where we are exceeds the pain or danger of making a change.

Is there a danger in doing business as usual?

Certainly change can be bad and at times the circumstances of life can come upon us so fast that we are only certain of one thing, we wish that things had remained the same. What if, in the courage to change that we find and experience growth, maturity, and fulfillment?

What if the one calling you to change is unchangeable? What if it is His will that is calling you from the life you have to something more, something better for you, better for His Kingdom? What would hold us back?

In our stories there is a comparison of one to builder to another. To build our lives up around ourselves, our wills, and our desires is similar to building on the sand. We are not eternal. We change and we change often whether we really want to admit it or not.

What if? What if our foundation was on solid rock and would not change when battered by life? What if we looked to this foundation to shape the direction of our lives and move us then change would not be so bad. Growth is also change in a positive direction. So what if the thing that we place our foundation is also our root system, keeping us grounded in Christ, and producing His first fruits?

The change that seems to cause so much pain and death gives way to new life in Him.

One Cup-June 8, 2014

One Cup-June 8, 2014

1 Corinthians 12:12-13; John 7:37-39

Body = many parts and yet we still call those many parts a body. There is an identity as a body part and as the collective body. When we think about the individual parts of the body can be identified as such their purpose, meaning, and life come from being connected to the body. An arm will always be an arm, but does it have meaning, purpose, and life apart from the body? It is this way with Christ, we are many members but one body and my friends we are made for one another because we were made by Him. The scripture says, “and it is so with Christ.”

We are one! Baptized by one Spirit into one body, not because life is perfect but because there is only one Spirit and one Lord and therefore by definition to be in Christ through the power of the Spirit defines that relationship, not us. So it does matter who you are because it is not who we are but whose we are. It doesn’t matter Jews or Greeks, slave or free, black or white, rich or poor, sick or healthy, young or older, widowed, orphaned, whoever you are and whatever you are and whatever your condition, we are all given the same source, of life, purpose, identity, and power for daily living, for the source is the same-we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

I overheard a conversation between two men, one was telling the other how busy he was at work and how he was doing so much and everyone else was doing so little. Then he started in about church, saying things were no different at church, he does all this work and takes care of all these things at church and nobody understands. To this the man he was talking to responded with three questions, have you told someone you need help, have you communicated the needs, and have you allowed others to help you? I thought those were great questions the other man went away without saying a word. I then walked up to the second man and thanked him for that reminder, but he still looked sad or perhaps thoughtful, I could not really tell. So I asked him if something was bothering him? He said, I also could not help but think of the other side of what this man was saying and ask myself this question, “what if everyone in my workplace or church gave as much or worked as hard as me, would my workplace or church be better off or worse?”

John’s gospel records that, on the last and greatest day of the feast Jesus says to those gathered, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” The question we may need to ask ourselves, “What are we thirsty for?” Most of what we think we are thirsty for usually has a deeper thirst behind that, a root cause. Some of those greater things are things that we are parched for are things like loneliness, health, fear of the future, etc. There are many thirsts but one fountain and source of life. To believe in Christ and to come to Him in our thirst and need and know that there is nothing beyond the power of Christ to meet that need. Whoever believes in Christ will have streams of living water that will flow from within him. This is great news we won’t have to be without, but will have Christ to meet those needs, comfort those anxieties, provide for our daily living, and also made the way to conquer the last great enemy, death.

Our source of life is the same, it is Christ. He gives the Spirit for daily living. We were born of that same Spirit meaning we are His, and we are brothers and sisters because we are of the same DNA through the blood of Christ. Also as His children we not only have the same identity but the same provisions and source for daily living through the Spirit. We drink from one cup, one source, one hope, one baptism, one Lord, one Spirit, we are one. We are the church, the body of Christ and we were made for each other, because we are His.

The Pledges

The Flag of the United States of America

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

 

The Christian Flag

I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands, one brotherhood uniting all Christians in service and in love.

 

The Bible

I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word.  I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.

How do we please God?-June 4, 2014

How do we please God?-June 4, 2014

Hebrews 11:6

What things make us happy?

Is pleasing ourselves the highest goal of life?

Is pleasing God more important than pleasing ourselves?

What do you think would please God?

How do we please God?

Depending on how we answer those questions we will hopefully be saying that pleasing God is more important than pleasing ourselves. It is hard to process. Are some of the things we want to do that would be pleasing ourselves bad? Not necessarily, in fact many of the things we may desire and seek to do would not be bad or detrimental to the gospel, but are we pleasing God?

My fear is that many of the things that we do are not bad but perhaps they are done with the wrong motivation. Scripture also says that not everyone who Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom. Lord, didn’t we prophecy in your name, preach and teach in your name? The Lord reminds them that whatever is done with the least of these they have done for the Lord. Too often we think of the grand (churchy) type things and forget that it is in the common things that we are to make the biggest impact on the least of these and therefore touch the heart of God.

Taking that a step further Hebrews cautions us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Meaning that there is a whole lot of people out in the world that are doing things like community service and social activism causes that may be things that God would approve of, but these should not be the starting point but the fruit of a mature life in Christ. Faith says we start with God and His glory for motivation for everything that we do, if not even the good things we do can be for all the wrong reasons. This produces a skewed view of theology that says I can do these good things and I think I am pleasing God. This type of logic becomes a strange form of works-righteousness that leads us to believe that the work itself is more important than the faith that inspired it.

Hebrews reminds us that it is faith that is the starting point and then we allow the work of the Holy Spirit to move and shape our lives. It is from faith that we go on to produce fruit and actions. It is faith that is the starting point, because without faith it is impossible to please God. Do what you will, but if it doesn’t start with faith in God then although it may be good is done in vain, for our glory not His.

Brothers All Over the World-June 1, 2014

Brothers All Over the World-A Memorial Remembrance

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

This past Monday we celebrated Memorial Day we will today honor those who gave their lives in service to both King Jesus and our country.

Our scripture reminds us:

Do not be surprised…trial is a part of life.

In participating in these sufferings…we ensure something greater for this country or His Kingdom.

To serve God or Country…requires humility

Resist and stand firm…because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings and you are not alone.

We need days and symbols to help us to remember because unfortunately if this cost hasn’t effected you directly then it may seem easier to forget the cost.

Are we willing to suffer or even die because we know that there are others who do not have our same freedom either in governance or Christ.

The freedom we have in Christ or Country is never free, it comes with a price and a responsibility that those of us who remain should live for the very things these brave men and women died to ensure.  We will not forget if we dedicate ourselves to live for what they so willing gave their lives, and in that we honor them by honoring the things they sacrificed for.