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May 20, 2013, 10:38 AM

Why Simplicity is Important


Good Day Reader! 

Who wants one more thing to do this week?  Anyone?  (insert cricket noises here).  

Of course not! No one wants more things to add to an already busy schedule.  Even if your schedule is mercifully not packed to the brim, adding more and more responsibility until it is packed to the brim is not smart or healthy.  

Too many of us are living with schedules that have us moving, running, lifting, driving, sitting, learning, and watching non-stop.  Then you get to church and I have more challenges or programs to throw at you.  Or, I lay on the guilt for having too many other things going on that take you away from focusing on the important pieces of your life like following Jesus and all that goes along with that journey. 

Needless to say, it gets more and more overwhelming until something has to go.  Too often I'm afraid its the journey of faith that suffers in the due course of doing life.  After all, we can study late Saturday night for our Sunday morning class, or even fit it in on the way into church.  We can leave our Bibles in the car conventiently there for pickup on the way into the building.  

Where I'm going with this is here:  we must simplify.  I dont mean dumbing things down, I mean streamlining our thought processes and making our faith journey one of instinct and not a conscious decision we weigh against every other decision we try and make throughout the day.  How much easier would it be if making the Christ-like decisions were as natural as breathing and self preservation?!!!  How much freedom would come if we naturally directed our attention to the things that took us closer to God and not away (through distraction, temptation, or outright sin)!  

This is the premise to the upcoming sermons series on the book The 10 Second Rule.  We need to retrain ourselves to react instinctively to the things that we're sure Jesus would want us to do.  And do those things within 10 seconds of feeling that prompt.  We will have an area in the lobby that you can share your stories of what happened when you followed your prompts.  I shared a story of making a very difficult phone call I "had" to make this week based on my prompting that something needed to be done based on some information shared with me from a former youth group member.  I could have easily shook off the prompt and assured myself that someone else would take care of it....... but that only allows me to make more excuses why I dont want to follow Jesus fully. 

I'm sure the priest and the levite had excellent reasons why they didnt stop on their way into Jericho to help the man who was robbed, beaten, and left by the side of the road.  Their excuses would sound fully rational to us, as busy, rushed beings.  The problem is, those excuses are becoming louder and more convincing than the voice of Jesus crying for mercy, forgiveness, peace, and compassion!!!  

We must become an instinctually reactive people, reacting to this world and its opportunities through the characteristics and eyes of Jesus. 

You've got 10 seconds to make it happen.......... GO!!!

 

 

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May 13, 2013, 8:46 AM

Why the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well is so important...


 

Because Jesus likes you.  And if that doesnt give you a little hope on this Monday, I'm not sure what else I can say that will. 

 

Lets travel back to this story, and look at some of the finer points that prove just how much Jesus likes you.  Grab a Bible and turn to John 4.  
It starts with Jesus being hungry and thirsty.  He sent his guys out for take-out, and sat by the well to get some liquid relief.  You may notice though, we dont ever see Jesus get a drink, lunch, or rest.  In fact, when his guys get back to the well with lunch, he says he's already full!  

What had Jesus filled up on?  Loving You.  Despite the flaws, bad habits, neglected sinful nature, and poor attitudes, he is sustained by loving you.  This woman was a mess.  She couldnt sustain a relationship, and was very likely the talk of the knitting club.  Jesus didnt mind all that, nor did that stop him from reaching out to her and revealing a major piece of the mystery directly to her.  "I am the Messiah."  Doesnt get any clearer than that.  Seriously, who else had heard this from Jesus up to this point in the story???  And here he is confessing his true nature to an adulterer... a Samaritan... and a woman!!!  

Do not confuse Jesus' affection for you despite your flaws as an excuse to not address those flaws.  Jesus loves us beyond measure, just the way we are... and he refuses to let us remain just the way we are.  

When he offers us the hope of being the Way, the Truth, and the Life we must be growing into a Christ-like life.  If you're not growing......well, you're dying.  

Jesus likes you just the way you are, and he loves you enough to not leave you that way.  

Now THATS the good life!

 

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May 6, 2013, 9:56 AM

Whats the point if it isn't relevant?


Really, if it isnt relevant to you or I right now, whats the point?  

I could preach a million sermons about how great heaven will be, and how great it will be to live in the physical presence of God... and if it isnt relevant to you right now... they'd all be a waste of breath.  I dont care how crafted or powerful the words would be, if we dont look at heaven as relevant, if we dont have a firm grasp of our temporary citizenship here, then its all moot.  

I struggled putting together relevant thoughts on Jesus' statement of being the Resurrection and the Life for this week's sermon.  Why?  Because I'm not really considering dying any time soon.  The idea of resurrection sounds really nice, but I'm hoping that I dont have to experience death any time soon. (Unless Jesus comes back very soon, I'm all for that!!).  I guess thats why I ran to the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac in preparation and presentation of this statement of Jesus.  

I am just like Martha in John 11.  I have the head knowledge and belief that Jesus is who he says he is, but struggle with that making its way into my heart.  I'm living the "Yeah, but..." responses to Jesus' statement of being the Resurrection and the LIfe.  

When Jesus arrives in Bethany, days after Lazarus has died... the town is in mourning, the sisters are a mess, and everyone is pretty much wondering (maybe even a few out loud) why Jesus took his sweet time getting there if he loved Lazarus so much.  

Jesus is about to make Resurrection and Life relevant, and very much a factor in the present... despite everyone looking backwards to the past or way out into the future.  Here's how I see it playing out (note, I'm adding some emphasis and paraphrasing the responses).  

John 11: 21 - If you were here, my brother would not have died.  Where were you Jesus?  We gave you plenty of time to get here.  

vs. 23  "Your brother will rise again."  

vs 24 Sigh.  I know, I know.  We'll all rise and have a grand party in heaven... but my brother is still dead.  

Martha struggled with the power and presence of Jesus being relevant to her life, her circumstances, and her grief.  She pushed Jesus ahead, out of the "I AM" and into something gold and shiny that doesnt really have any value in the present.  

Naturally, Jesus exploded their world view, as well as their limited view of his power and relevance.  

 

So....  Readers... where are you in this scale of belief?  Pushing those characteristics and commands of Jesus off until a "better" time?  Still playing Martha and delaying the power of Jesus in your life by pushing him ahead into irrelevance?  I struggle with this... and all the ammunition we need to fight that temptation is right there in two powerful, little words:  "I AM"  

 

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April 29, 2013, 9:03 AM

Putting Psalm 23 back into perspective


Good Day Reader!

Early in yesterday's sermon (4/28) I read Psalm 23.  Now, like many of you, I've had this one memorized for most of my life.  Which was why I am surprised to say that it had a very real, and very different affect on me while reading it.  I didnt mention the line of thinking that came about in those fleeting moments because I wanted to stay on track with the sermon... but I dont have to worry about that here.  

For those few seconds I was thrown into the story of Much Afraid from Hinds Feet in High Places.  This book was published long ago and works as an allegory for a life spent seeking and following Christ.  I was pushed into the title character's place and it seemed that everything that scares me or is looming in front of me came to the forefront of my mind.  It reminded me of the characteristic of sheep, when they're following the shepherd and sense that the path they are on is a deadend, they stop.  It doesnt matter if its just a curve or a short hill that seems to block the path, if it looks like it ends... thats where they stop.  When this happens the shepherd has to take a firmer role in leading the sheep.  

What is blocking your path?  What has you stalling out in your pursuit of the Shepherd?  For me its uncertainty and lack of confidence in my abilities to lead and help grow a Church.  The path seems to drop out of sight just a few paces ahead, even when I know the circumstances and calling of Jesus is right over the ridge... I feel my footsteps faltering.  

I've seen and heard of financial problems grinding relationships to dust.  I've watched marriages dissolve, friendships shatter, and Christian walks trip up.  All because the path the Shepherd chose for us goes in a direction we cant see or understand.  Pride can keep us from following the Shepherd, maybe even more effectively than fear.  

Thats where Psalm 23 got me yesterday.  I need the Rod and Staff of the Shepherd to be more than comfort today.  On this path, I need their aid in the discipline to keep moving forward.  I need their aid in remaining sure-footed, guiding along the path that hasnt revealed itself yet. 

Psalm 23 is more than calm streams and green pastures.  It is just as much about walking through shadowy valleys and being in the presence of enemies.  The constant presence through it all though is the Shepherd.  He hasnt left us.  He hasnt abandoned us to the dwindling sustinance of the pasture... he is moving us forward.  Are we following?  

Psalm 23 (NLT)
A psalm of David.
1The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.



April 22, 2013, 10:23 AM

I much prefer the "I WAS"...


Good Day Reader, 

As I contemplate further and further the character of Jesus painted in the "I AM" statements in the book of John I have to offer that it is becoming more and more invasive to my peace of mind.  There is a relevancy to these statements that puts Jesus front and center in places I never expected (or maybe even wanted) him to show up.  It is a true testament to the level of God's understanding of us today that these statements walk all over my consciousness on a typical Monday morning in the office.  When he speaks of being the "I AM" he brings his character into today.  When I spoke of preferring the "I WAS" I meant that it is much simpler to speak of Jesus in the past.  I like telling the stories of the things he DID as opposed to the things he wants to DO through me.  I like telling about how Abraham proved his faith so completely, and not trying to echo that faith with my choices on a daily basis.  Yes, the "I WAS" is much more comfortable to write about in the blog.  But, seeing as how I cant get away with that, lets refresh our memories about where we've gone so far:

Lets walk through the three that have been covered in the series so far: bread, light, and the door.  You see, when I type them like that I'm already seeing where Jesus' character has driven itself into my day so far, and its only 10:01 am.  I officially started my day with breakfast while perusing the newswire online.  I wish I could say I had a wonderful sampling of fine toast with a delectable peanut spread on top.......alas, I had a low-calorie protein shake.  As much as I want to lament the lack of cinnamon roles or french toast in my morning diet, I am drawn to Jesus' statement of being "the Bread of Life" to his followers.  The concept of the sustainability of a loaf of bread is relevant and fitting I think to all of us.  Its a universal staple to the diet on a global scale. If you have bread, you have the means to live one more day.  I have a great friend currently serving as a missionary in AZ to the San Carlos Apache Nation.  He recalled a time in his youth ministry internships in St. James, MO where all he had was a loaf of white bread and ketchup packets from a local fast food joint.  Yes, he filled himself with ketchup sandwiches......and he was grateful.  He speaks of God's sustinance in his life at that time.  Was he hungry?  Yes, but not to the point of despair.  Was he wishing for something more?  Yes, but not to the point of walking away from the outstanding ministry in front of him.  He was fed.  He was sustained.  There was a satisfaction outside of the physical meal that kept him following......it was the understanding that Jesus provides beyond our physical needs.    What have you had for breakfast?  Are you being sustained beyond the grumbling of your stomach? 

The Light.  Whats the first thing I did when I stepped into my office?  Turned on the light.  I'm at the point where even the slightest of shadows affects my ability to see clearly.  This frustrates me.  I want to be like my girls who apparently dont need any light whatsoever to see clearly.  I've taken to repeating the nagging messages spoken to me long ago: "How can you read without the light on?"  Light provides clarity, light breaks through the shadows and allows us to see the dirt, grime, and muck that needs swept away.  If I left the light off, I could ignore the dust bunnies and water marks on my desk.  Just like if I avoid the "I AM" and stick with the "I WAS", I can avoid addressing those habits that expose a hard heart and sinful creature.  Yes, lets leave the lights off... I think we'll all be more comfortable with that.  

And finally for this entry, the Door.  I wish Jesus had used the idea of a Window instead of a door, if I can continue to speak honestly.  Windows are much easier to deal with because for most of the year I leave them "as is."  When the weather gets nice in the spring I open one or two around the house to let the breeze in.  When it gets too hot, or is too cold, I close them up and ignore for a few months.  AND, I can throw some blinds and curtains over the windows... that gives me the freedom to ignore them further!  Doors on the other hand, well, there's no ignoring the doors.  We have doors on every room.  We have to walk through doorways to get anywhere!  Want to go out to get the mail?  Yep, there's at least one door you need to traverse.  Using the bathroom?  Yep, the door takes on a huge significance there doesnt it?!  
Its either In or Out today.  Are you on the inside, or outside of the door? 

He is the "I AM", and that matters today, tomorrow, and forever.  Find Jesus today, in those times that seem as insignificant as turning on the light or turning a door knob.  No more "I WAS" living. 


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