Thursday, April 19, 2018

How do we love? God's wisdom delivered in advance.

Read Luke 6:31

Every culture in the world has some form of what we often call the Golden Rule.  Some cultures or religions might consider it a law of reciprocity.  In the positive form, the way that we treat others is the way that we hope they treat us.  The negative is that if we don’t want to be treated in a certain way, then neither do our neighbors.

This can also apply to the condition of our hearts and minds.  What we do or do not desire for ourselves, we should also desire or not desire for the rest of humankind.

The golden rule is a good universal maxim for good living.  If everyone actually lived that way, national defense budgets would drop by 90%.  Taxes would drop by 90%.  Crime would drop by 90%. 

Facebook posts would mostly be about birthdays and grandkids.  There wouldn’t be any real divisive issues to provoke the vitriol lurking within us.

Sounds like a good rule.  Let’s adopt it.

The problem is that somehow, we become exclusive.  I would love for you to invite me over for a feast—burgers and dogs will suffice—so I invite you over spaghetti and meatballs.  Why yes, with olive oil peppers. Sure, I will throw in some bruschetta.

It’s a pretty good gig.  You cook this week.  I cook the next.  Sounds like God’s love in action to me.  Count me in!

I’ve got a friend that loans me a hundred bucks every now and then.  I’ve done it for him.  We’re good.

Sometimes, I stop by a friend’s house and pull the blue dumpsters up from the road before they blow to Kansas.  Sure enough, they return the favor in a couple weeks.

This is a pretty good system.  This tit-for-tat stuff works well. 

My boss treats me with respect, so I do the same.  I’ve worked in other places where that wasn’t the case and I sure did whatever I wanted when the boss was away.

This golden rule is just simple reciprocity.  I give so that I will receive.  In many religions past and perhaps some present, this was man’s relationship with their gods.

I give in expectation that the gods will return the favor:  do ut des

But this is not the model by which we relate to our God.  Our God gives us grace.  Our God pours out his favor upon us and we didn’t really do anything to deserve it.  Jesus did everything for us, so why does Jesus use this golden rule that seems to be universal and quite secular?

Perhaps we need to understand society, especially society in the time when Jesus came in the flesh.  Imagine concentric circles.  In the center are the very self-righteous.  These are Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and others who believed themselves to be in good standing with the one true God.  There were probably some rich people in that circle as well. A healthy offering covers many sins, at least as far as society goes.

Then there were your law-abiding Jews.  They followed the Law of Moses and the administrative regulations tacked on by the Pharisees, paid their taxes and made their sacrifices and offerings.  They were good people but not quite inner circle material.  They bought general admission tickets to the Thunder Game.  They could only look at the skyboxes from the outside.

Then we get into the all others category.  Surely there are subcategories within this outer taxonomy.  I’m sure at the weekly Pharisee meeting during happy hour at the Phylactery Club, these nuances were discussed ad nauseum.  Nitpicking nuances was surely a favorite pastime of those in the inner circle.

What is it to nitpick nuances?  Read any Facebook post with a dozen or more comments that don’t involve grandchildren.

Would you rather be called before the Roman governor and have to enter his pagan palace or would you rather have to pass by the leper colony on your way to teaching Leviticus 19:18 at the Sadducee Seminar?  Which would be worse?

If you were part of the inner circle, life was generally good.  If you were on the outside, well, it was not so good.  Those in the middle, well every dog has his day, right?

I’m being purposely glib here to make the point that there were societal distinctions even among God’s Chosen People.  Elsewhere in the world, we see a caste system.  The ethnography of our own country is more complicated, but there are divisions and distinctions among people.

Money, celebrity, urban, rural, right and left seem to dissect us into groups that may or may not have much association with each other. 

What did Jesus say?  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

What did he not say?  There is nothing about the other person’s ability to reciprocate in his imperative statement to us.

There is nothing in this directive concerning the other person’s ability to pay us back or love us back or respond in any way.  The instruction is wisdom for our hearts.

We come once again to a couple dichotomies.

Inclusion or exclusion.

Transformational or transactional.

When we apply the Golden Rule in the context of the full biblical witness that we know, especially the teachings of Jesus, we find that he calls us to cross all societal boundaries with our love for others.  What we do for others is to have nothing to do with their ability to repay us.  It has nothing to do with whether they return love for love or not.

The first and foremost thing that we must do is include our neighbors in this family that we know and love so much.  We live as brothers and sisters in Christ and we call others to come into the fellowship.  Inclusion in the family of faith is how we know abundant life in this modern age.

There are plenty of people who have all the money they could ever spend and yet they have missed the boat on joy and peace and abundance.  There are plenty of people in poverty who have missed out on abundance. 

Whether or not you have money and stuff does not dictate abundant living.  Abundance comes with inclusion.  Knowing the fullness of God’s love in this time comes in family.

We are also people of transformation.  When we do unto others, we are not doing it in expectation of what they can do for us.  We do for others with the expectation that the One who commanded us to love them is ready to transform them.

We are sent into the world.  We meet people where they are, but we don’t want to leave them there.  We want them to come to know love.

We want them to come and know the God who is Love.

We want them to know what it is to live in love.

We want them to know how to face the troubles of the world knowing that Love has overcome the world.

We want them to know the abundant life that is here for us in this present time.

We want them to know the eternal life that is in store for us, and it comes with quite the benefit package.

These things are transformational.  They change who we once were into who we are now as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We want this for others.  We desire abundance and transformation for all.  Our hearts are being shaped—modeled after—the divine heart and we want this abundant and eternal life for others.

Transactional is that I will do for you, so you can do for me.  That’s not the Golden Rule that Jesus gave us.  Jesus tells us to image how we would like to be treated by our neighbors and do the same for them without expectation of getting anything in return.

Transformational is responding to that urging of the Spirit that lives within us and leading people into the family of faith.  Let’s put this leading of the Spirit into Golden Rule context.  If I was lost, I would want to be found.  If I was dying, I would want to be healed and live.  If I was at the end of my rope without any hope, I would want a miracle. 

We are blessed—so blessed—to lead people to the Author of miracles.

Doing unto others doesn’t always involve food or money or rides or material things.  It always must include love.  The Golden Rule that we have been taught crosses boundaries.  It breaks stigmas and stereotypes.  It must not be confined to those in our circle of comfort.  We must not be exclusionary.

The Golden Rule does not tell us what to do.  We know what to do—love one another.  We must ask God for wisdom and he gives it generously.  The Golden Rule is a dose of wisdom. 

What specifically or how should we do what we are called to do as God’s love in action?  We do the very thing that we would hope others would do for us.  We do it without expectation of return.

Last week we looked at love in action.  We looked at words and deeds being in harmony.  We said that we are people who take action.

We understand that God is Love.  We understand that we are God’s love in action.

The carnal man asks, “Should I help?”

The disciple asks, “How should I help?”  Wisdom and discernment follow—God grants wisdom generously—but action is automatic.  It is natural for us as a Christian.  We will do something to help with the real needs of people.

This is how we left things last week.  Welcome to God’s wisdom delivered in advance

“How should I help?”
Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Sometimes this is giving a ride.
Sometimes it is food.
Sometimes it is speaking the truth in love.  Wake up!
Sometimes it is prayer for a person or with a person.
Sometimes it is companionship through a time of hardship.
Sometimes it is just being a friend.
Sometimes it is showing someone how to make a grocery list, or a budget, or a daily schedule.
Sometimes it is reading the Bible with them.
Sometimes it is just being someone who will listen.

But all the time it is drawing them closer to the One who can transform them.  All the time it is bringing people into the family of faith.  All of the time it is making sure that no one is left as an outsider, for we would not want to be left alone when joy, peace, and hope abounded within this family that we know as the body of Christ.

“How should I help?”

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

It’s not tit-for-tat.  It’s not reciprocity.  It is wisdom from God on how to be his love.

It’s a model that we can apply in every circumstance.  How would I want to be treated?

We know the what.  It is to love one another.  Here is the how.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.


Friday, April 13, 2018

God is Love. We are God's Love in Action!

We have been proceeding through the topic of love.  In recent weeks we have looked at love and action and how we love God directly and how we love God by loving others.  Trusting in the Lord was surely one of the most direct ways in which we can love God.

I challenged you that trust leads to obedience.  Trying to obey God without trusting him is frustrating.  Trust is essential in loving God.  So too, faith comes into the picture when we talk about love and action.

Somewhere down the road, we will take on faith as its own topic.  Before then, we will make stops at peace and rest, but we need a dose of faith when we talk love and action.  So we come to a letter written by James to Hebrew believers scattered all over the known world.

These are people who knew the law, once lived by the law, and now surely are wondering how they are to live considering the fact that Jesus took care of their salvation in a single sacrifice.  The short answer to how are we to live is we are to live in love.  But what does that mean?

James says if you see a brother or sister in severe need, he says without clothes or daily food, and you just walk on by saying, good luck with that; you missed the boat on loving your neighbor.  You are disconnected from your discipleship.

Our response to God’s great love that we saw poured out on the cross is discipleship. It should be rooted in love, governed by trust, and demonstrated by faith and obedience.

Salvation is all from God, but how we respond is our discipleship.  We can say that we have faith and live in love, but our actions say more than our words.  This is not to say that we should all be mute.  On the contrary, we should acknowledge God in everything that we do.  We should share the good news at every opportunity, but our words and our deeds must be in harmony.

You can’t say that you love God and have faith in God and ignore hardship among others who cross your path, especially fellow believers.  Love and faith will produce action if they are genuine. 

James is not talking about the lazy and foolish—the Proverbs have plenty of counsel for those cases.  He speaks of those with legitimate need.  If we encounter someone with real need, we help.  Love compels us to help.  Our faith compels us to help.  Our discipleship which couples love and faith leads us to obey the Spirit within us and we help.

Our love, faith, and deeds are in harmony. We may not be able to dissect what was love and what was faith, but our response was our discipleship.  We helped because we obeyed the Spirit that lives within us.  Faith and deeds, love and action were in harmony.

James inserts what he expects will be a conversation among his readers.  One says that I have faith.  Another says I have works.  He tells us that just saying your have faith doesn’t amount to much.  It’s much more tangible to validate that faith by what you do.

For the hard cases that say, I have faith that there is one true God, that might seem impressive if you compare yourself to a bunch of atheist that are espousing a cosmic accident; but it’s nothing to put on your resume.  Even the demons believe that.   That sort of faith held by the demons does not lead them to obedience to God.  They know enough to realize that their day is coming, and they are shaking in their boots about that, but they don’t have faith.  Their knowledge does not lead to love and obedience.

So, if your stance is that I have faith because I believe there is one true God, you haven’t separated yourself from a very ungodly crowd.  James goes so far as to say that faith that is not accompanied by action is a dead faith.

How would you feel if every morning you were greeted with,” Hey, you’re looking good, but your faith is dead?”

Nobody wants to hear that their faith is dead.  But, but, but, I believe in God. But you have no actions to show for it.

This ersatz conversation is not for the purpose of determining who has faith.  It is not a litmus test that screens out the wannabes.  It’s not a heaven or hell discriminator.

It puts in juxtaposition two incongruous conditions—faith and lack of deeds.  For if there is faith there will be deeds.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Think of it this way.  We talked about loving God by trusting him with all of our heart, even over our own understanding.  Our trust in the Lord becomes visible in the deeds of our faith.  Our works are the visible image of our invisible trust and faith.

Our works are the image of our invisible faith.  Love in action is the visible image of our faith.  I can’t see your faith but I can see the works that proceed from your faith.

James is telling us that the person who receives Jesus as Savior but not as Lord is a preposterous creature.  Receipt of the greatest gift ever should result in the response of love and discipleship, but some don’t want the discipleship.

Some do not want to receive Jesus as Lord.  Thanks God for the get out of hell ticket, but I’m not much at having a Lord in my life.  This following Jesus business is just a little much for me at the moment. 

James is telling us that this response is outrageous, perverse, and abnormal for the new creation that we have become. New creation is Paul’s term.  Let’s say for the disciple that we have been born again to be. 

Our faith is made complete in what we do.  Our love for God is visible in our love for others.  This is our natural state as a born-again believer.  This is who we are made to be when we belong to the Lord.

What do you call a person who belongs to the Christ?  He or she is a Christian. 

How do you know a person belongs to the Christ?  They will know us by our love.

Can we belong to the Christ and not see our love and faith manifested in deeds?  Such a condition is unnatural.  It’s like swimming upstream; yet, it seems so many are trying to do just that.

Our response to the love that we know in Christ Jesus is discipleship.  Discipleship manifests itself in love, faith, and trust.  These become visible in obedience and in deeds.

God’s love in action is the visible manifestation of our faith.  Action completes our faith.  Action by itself is not pleasing to God. Faith without deeds is dead, so faith and action must be companions. 

Here are three unnatural conditions for those who claim to be Christians.  These conditions should not exist in the believer.

·      Faith without deeds.
·      A Savior who is not also Lord.
·      Salvation without discipleship.

Now here are three conditions that we might not think go together but God says that they do.

·      Peace granted to us without understanding.
·      Trusting God over our own understanding.
·      Forgiveness that comes without merit (grace).

There are things in the carnal world that don’t seem to go together but they do.  There are conditions that for the Christian should not coexist.

·      Faith without deeds.
·      A Savior who is not also Lord.
·      Salvation without discipleship.

We have been talking about love and action.  This discussion has taken us to trust, obedience, faith, and deeds.  It all comes under this umbrella of discipleship.  So the question to us is, do we want to be his disciples?

Jesus tells us to take his yoke and learn from him.  He says that his burden is easy.  The load is light.  He does not say that we won’t have trouble in the world.  We know the answer to that.  We will, but we can learn from our Lord.  His commands are not a burden to us.

He tells us that people will know we belong to him by our love.  Don’t we want to not only be his disciple but look different from those who are not?

His invitation is to follow him.  Are we up to this?

The answer for one who has received unmerited forgiveness from God—grace—salvation through grace—must be yes.  The answer must be yes.

Words like Christian tourist, Christian spectator, and Christian consultant, Christian commentator are oxymorons.  These are words that don’t go together.  Where there are disciples there is action.

Grace compels us to action. 

Many of you know this.  I see so much love in action every week.  What I hope that you understand is that action is now your natural response as a follower of Christ.  Action is your natural condition.  You are God’s love in action.

We understand that God is Love.  Now understand that we are God’s love in action.

The carnal man asks, “Should I help?”

The disciple asks, “How should I help?”  Wisdom and discernment follow—God grants wisdom generously—but action is automatic.  It is natural for us as a Christian.  We will do something to help with the real needs of people.
Our faith is made complete in our action.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Trust is Action

We have returned to the topic of love and action

The side of our building says, God’s Love in Action.  It has been the motto of this body for all of this new century.  We have grown into it to the point that there is much fidelity between what our motto says and who we are. 

We get this love in action stuff.  We like to do things that show our love.  Jesus said this is how people will know that you are my disciples.

We want to love God and love others.  There are some things that are just about taking care of a fellow believer and others that are for everyone.  We have dived head first into both.

How do we love God?  We worship him in spirit and in truth.  We come before almighty God with no pretense. That means even if we can quite catch the melody for the song, we sing anyway knowing our heart is hitting the perfect notes.  We love God by worshiping him.

We tithe.  We may not make much, but the first ten percent is the Lord’s and we give it joyfully.  We make offerings that go beyond the tithe. We love God in our faithful giving.

We read God’s word aloud and write much of it on our hearts. 

We come into the assembly seeking to please God and not to see what we can get out of it.  We realize that it’s not all about me.

We love God by loving others in so many ways.  We give rides, loan vehicles, give out food all year long.

We help with bills.  We get people coats when it’s cold.  We help reconstitute lives when a house burns to the ground.

We pray with people, console people, and feed a lot of hungry people.  We deliver love in a sack lunch during the summer.

We teach kids at VBS and then throw them a pool party.  We walk the town telling people that God loves them.

We give out gospels galore.  That’s our form of measurement—gospels galore.

We hold funeral services for people who are very much disconnected from the church.  We are very much God’s love in action.  We surely have some blind spots but we act on them when we find them.

But there is another kind of love in action.  It’s almost invisible.  You can’t keep it on the shelf.  You can’t deliver it or have someone come pick it up.  You can’t buy it or sell it.  But it is love and action and love in action as much as giving a box of food or helping someone with their water bill or holding a love ambush for the kids—Easter Egg Hunts and Trunk or Treat events.

What is it?

It is trust.  It is plain and simple trust in the Lord.
That sounds like a warm and fuzzy thing more than action.  And that’s why we don’t always recognize it as action. 

Now, this sort of trust doesn’t mean that when we find another believer in need and have the means to help him or help her, we just walk on by and say, “I trust that someone else will help them.”

It doesn’t mean that when we know we are supposed to share the gospel that we say, “I trust God to take care of this with someone more qualified.”

It is not handing someone a gospel tract or a Bible and saying, “I trust that you will figure this out and be a better person.”

This is trusting in the Lord when I want something now and even think that I must have it now but I wait on the Lord to provide in his time and from his glorious riches.

This is not being anxious or worried about something because my trust is in the Lord.  Maybe it’s a car payment or getting a promotion or whether or not your child gets to start in the baseball game.

Understand that sometimes the direction that you receive from the Lord tells you that you have more car and accessories than you need at this time.  You need less car and smaller payments. Sometimes the Lord wants you to know that you are not getting promoted because you are not doing as great a job as you are telling everyone that you are.  And sometimes the Lord wants you to just let the coach do his job and let the kids play ball.

And sometimes, God has something beyond your wildest imagination that just not here yet.

Trusting the Lord, waiting on the Lord, and not giving in to anxiousness is not our natural human condition.  We want what we want and most of the time we want it now.

Sometimes trusting in the Lord is waiting.  Waiting is action when it is done in trust.  If you have ever done the Disneyworld or Universal Studios vacation, then you know what trust is.  You stand in a line and trust that sometime in the near future, you will get to the ride.  After you have been in line for an hour, you might get an affirmation that the line in fact does lead to a ride when you make it to the one and one-half hours from this point sign. 

If I can trust Disney and wait on my chance to get on this three-minute ride, then I hope that I can trust in the Lord and wait on what he has in store for me.

Sometimes trusting in the Lord is doing what you know that he wants you to do for one more day.  This whole eating healthy thing doesn’t seem to be producing the results that I want.  This drinking more water and fewer soft drinks doesn’t seem to be doing anything.  This whole getting up 30 minutes early to pray and read my Bible hadn’t made my life any easier.

Sometimes trusting is just staying the course, even if for just one more day.  As it turns out, we can only live one day at a time.

Isn’t that what addicts and alcoholics say—one day at a time?  It’s not just for them.  There really are no other options.  That’s the way that life unfolds—one day at a time.

That’s also the way we trust.  In this moment, in this hour, in this day we trust the Lord.  Trust is action.

It is not action like swinging at a fastball or tackling the quarterback or draining a three-point shot, but it is still action. 

Trust often involves waiting, not immediate gratification.  So many times, we help people who come to us with a problem that they have ignored for a few months and suddenly the bill is due today, or the power gets shut off.  One of the first things that I usually tell people is that if we decide to help, it probably won’t be today.  Go call the company and see if they will give you a longer grace period.

So many people are looking for answers but not willing to invest in trust.  I just want my immediate problem fixed so I can get back to my life that hasn’t been working out so well, but I am comfortable with it. 

Some many go from urgent problem to urgent problem to urgent problem with no sanity in sight.  So many do not want to trust the Lord.  So many don’t see peace anywhere on their horizon.

I am not talking just about people who need help with a bill.  Many people won’t trust the Lord in family troubles or during times of loss.  Some stop trusting the Lord when something bad happens.  Trusting the Lord is loving the Lord. 

God, why would you let this happen?  I don’t know if I can trust you anymore.    I don’t know where to turn.  I need something tangible.

What people say they need and what the Lord has prescribed are often miles apart.  What people need is trust.  Trust in the Lord is the prescription.

But this is only a partial strength prescription for we are counseled to trust in the Lord with all of our heart.  There is no hedging your bet.  There is no Plan B.  It is what I like to call, All In

It’s not, I will try this the Lord’s way for three days or a week or even a month.  It’s I will trust in the Lord with everything that I am.  I will trust in the Lord with all of my heart.

Let’s briefly consider another proverb embodied in a discussion of rich hosts and foolsProverbs 23:7 tells us that “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

What’s going on in our heart is really who we are.  Our minds might be able to quote two dozen Bible verses but if our heart does not value these words, we don’t value them. 
Our mind might tell us that it sure would be easier this way, but if our heart tells us that a different way would please God, then we must bring our minds into agreement with our hearts.

This is the battle between trusting in the Lord and choosing our own understanding.  Our own understanding seems more tangible.  Surely it makes more sense. Why?  It’s our own understanding.  Of course, it makes sense to us.  We can wrap our minds around our own ideas and conclusions.

What is it to trust in the Lord with all of your heart?  How do we trust the Lord with all of our heart? Here are some things that you will see in yourself and perhaps in others if you trust in the Lord with all of your heart. 

They read the Bible.  How does this say trust?  They look for the answers before life gives them the questions, and they know where to find them.  They are so convinced that God has shown us the way they are not going to wait for problems before they start looking for answers.

They make daily appointments with God.  This isn’t just a quick prayer in the morning and one with each meal.  This is real time with the One who knows the way.  In fact, he is the Way.  It is a deliberate thing.  It is something worth pushing daily demands aside to do.  People who trust God make significant time for him.

They understand and accept that it’s a broken world.  But I believe in Jesus and everything should go without a hitch from now on.  That’s not exactly what the Bible says.  In fact, Jesus is very clear.  You will have trouble in the world.  We accept that, but we don’t permit ourselves despair for Jesus has overcome the world.  For now, though, it’s broken.  In a broken world, bad things do happen to good people but trust is not contingent upon circumstances.

In prayer, they listen much more than they talk.  If you can’t sit silently waiting on the Lord to answer, maybe you don’t value his answer or don’t really want his answer.  If you pray asking God to bless what you want because it makes sense to you, there might be a trust issue.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t offer up to the Lord what we think we ought to do.  It means that we don’t try to limit what God has to say to us just to those things we want to hear.

They are not distracted by false urgency.  Their eyes are fixed on Jesus.  They are willing to wait upon the Lord.  They are not hedging their bets.  It is all in with trusting the Lord.  You may be falling to pieces trying to keep up with the world’s priorities, but the man or woman who trusts in the Lord with all their heart is not cut off in his race.  They never want to hear the words, “You were running a good race.  Who cut you off?”

They obey the Lord.  When the answer that God provides is not the one they had worked out in their own understanding, they still do it God’s way.  Trust leads to obedience. 

They believe that the Spirit that lives within us is greater than any spirit in the world.  They believe that they are playing for the winning team and are fully equipped for what God calls them to do.  Obedience is not difficult, it’s not burdensome; it’s the only viable choice.

There is a lot of action in trust.  This is not an all-encompassing list, but it hits some points where we can do some self-assessment or accountability partner assessment.  You will find your own indicators of trust. 

There is one more thing that you might notice among those who trust the Lord, including yourself.  In everything you do, you acknowledge the Lord.

It’s not, Ooooooh.  I guess that I will do this God’s way.  I hope it works out ok.  Man, this could be my undoing.  What am I doing?

It’s I’m all in.  I trust the Lord.  I might not be able to explain exactly how everything is going to work or work out, but I trust the Lord.  I’m yours.  I am your servant.  You have called me friend.  I am your disciple.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

Here is the thing that is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  When you trust the Lord over your own understanding and acknowledge him every step of the way, he shows you the way—he directs your path or makes your way straight. 

Trust is action.  In fact, the other things that we call action and are easy to see must be done in trust to produce fruit.  Trust is action.

It is officially baseball season so by Major League rules I am required to include at least one thing pertaining to baseball.  Did you ever see a batter swing at a pitch that he really didn’t want to swing at?  It is a pitiful looking thing.  Mind and body are not in agreement.  The bat just somehow comes forward but there is no commitment in the swing.  I would rather swing hard at a pitch and miss it by a foot than have one of those uncommitted swings.

Trust involves consonance between heart and mind.  We must trust the Lord enough that our heart convinces our mind that his way is better than our way.  God’s way is better.  Even when our own understanding tells us differently, we trust that God’s way is better.

You might think, I understand the philosophy of all this, but give me some specifics.  Beware, I might get under some people’s skin as we look at trusting God instead of our own understanding.

God’s way is marriage.  In our own understanding, we think shacking up is just as good.

God’s way is living within our means.  In our own understanding, we think everyone has a bunch of debt it must be ok.

God’s way is that we show respect for our leaders and pray for them.  In our own understanding, we think contempt of those in authority is a daily staple. 

God’s way is that we do not forsake the gathering together of believers.  Too many Christians think, I’m saved I don’t need to hang out with all those hypocrites.

God’s way is that the man is the spiritual leader of the family.  The world says everyone or no one is the leader.  That thought of the husband being the spiritual leader is archaic. 

God says take a Sabbath day of rest and honoring him.  The world says—and the world has done a very thorough brainwashing job on so many—the world says that you don’t have time for that.

God’s way is to trust him completely.  The world says trust anyone but the one true God.  Make your own god if you need to, it’s easier.  Rely upon your own understanding.  Be your own god.

The list could go on.  You might want to spend some time in which you examine parts of your life in which you trust God completely and those in which the world has you convinced you of something else.

What I hope to convince you of this morning is that trust is action.  It’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling.  Trust is action and trusting in the Lord with all of your heart leads to obedience.

The sign on the side of the building is validated.  We know how to love God by loving others, but how we love God directly?

Let’s start by trusting him with all of our hearts.  Let’s start with trust.


Friday, March 30, 2018

It was for this very reason...

What a bummer for the Greeks who missed Jesus—let me go Maxwell Smart on you—missed him by that much.  People had come to see Jesus for about 3 years.  Not all were Jews.  In fact, many who were not Jews actually had better eyes to see than those from God’s Chosen people.

But these Greek men wanted to see Jesus and when Phillip and Andrew told Jesus that even the Greeks want to see you, Jesus told them they had bad timing.  What bad timing.

For earlier in John’s gospel we see Jesus say that his time had not yet come.  My hour has not yet come.  One of these instances involves Jesus talking with his mother at a wedding where the wine had run out.

But in this 12th chapter, Jesus said that his hour had come.  It’s time. Things of cosmic consequence would happen in a few square miles of our own planet.  The most important thing in all of creation since creation was about to unfold its final steps.

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  That did not mean that there would be a coronation ceremony in the temple.  Red carpets would not be rolled out.  Musicians would not be assembled as when Solomon dedicated the original temple.  People were not digging in their closets looking for their tux or best dress and hoping they still fit.

This was something different.  Jesus said that a seed is only a single seed until it falls to the ground.  It’s life as a seed is over.  It is more.  It becomes a plant and grows and produces many seeds.  Jesus spoke in figurative language.  In just a few more chapters, he would tell his disciples that he wouldn’t do that anymore.

He told his disciples that if they loved this life so much that it was everything to them, they would miss out on real life.  They were not ready for eternal life. 

But if they really were his followers, they were about to go to the show.  They were being called up to the major league.  Things were about to change for the glory that would come at this time did not involve a royal crown but a crown of thorns.

The glory that Jesus spoke of would lead him to a brutal death on a Roman cross.  The glory that was about to unfold would be the reconciliation of creation with the Creator and it would come in the blood of Jesus.

OBTW—it was totally undeserved on our part.  The glory that was about to unfold was the unfathomable love of God that would put sinners in right standing with him through the blood of he who had no sin.

And if you think that Jesus had a God Switch that he could just flip and forego the pain, think again.  He could have called the whole thing off and legions of angels would have come to his rescue.  But to be the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world, he would die a real, very human, very painful—even agonizing death.

And Jesus knew it. 

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”

This was going to be the real deal.  Whips and thorny crowns and hateful cries from the very people he came to save.  “Crucify him!

Not only would Jesus endure the pain—the physical pain—of being nailed to the cross and then lifted up so that every breath was labored; he would carry the sin of the world upon his shoulders.  He who had no sin became sin for us. 

The death sentence that was rightly ours was carried out on him.  The wrath that accompanied the justice required to account for the sin of the world was poured out on that place called The Skull, Golgotha.  We call it Calvary.  That’s got a nice, friendly sound to it.

But what took place in those finals hours was anything but nice and friendly.  As Jesus looked ahead to this death that awaited him, he said:  It was for this very reason that I came.  Father, glorify your name.

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

Jesus would be glorified in his death and resurrection and so too would his Father. 

There are several chapters between these words and the cross.  Jesus had much to teach his disciples in these few hours, but the hour had come.  His hour had come.

This morning we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord.  There would have been no resurrection without a crucifixion.  And there would have been no crucifixion without Jesus acceptance that he had come into this world for this very reason. 

His blood would do for us what we could never do ourselves.  No amount of sacrifices would ever get us to where we are now.  We are right with God. 

We can be the people that he created us to be now and forever.  Sin and death have no say in our eternity.  We celebrate the resurrection of the Lord today and every day.

We say, “He is risen.”
We reply, “He is risen, indeed!”

We celebrate the resurrection.   I charge us this day and every day to also bring glory to God whom we know so well through his Son.  Let us affirm these words: