Archive for December, 2018

Phil 2:1-13 Share Faith in the Absence

Posted by myoikos in #2017 on December 29, 2018

man and woman divorce drawing torn apart

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  [NRSV]

Sharing a Hymn of Faith

Paul draws on the words of a song of praise in the newly started Church in his letter. Just as we bring together the emotions, memories, and relationships through which we have shared when we sing, (copyright notation assumed)

  • Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like, me I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
  • I come to the garden alone, while the due is still on the roses and voice I hear falling on my ear The Son of God discloses, and he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
  • Shackled by a heaven burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same. He touched me, oh he touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul, something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.
  • Lord I life your name on high, lord, I love to sing your praises, you came from heaven to earth to show the way, from the cross to the grave, my debts to pay, from the grave to the sky, Lord I lift your name on high.
  • and {This is the day, tune} let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross

We have no idea of the tune of the hymn/song Paul includes, but he brings a tradition of worship to help strengthen the disciple’s faith.

The Power of Singing our Faith

https://takelessons.com/blog/health-benefits-of-singing

Physical Benefits

  • Singing strengthens the immune system: According to research conducted at the University of Frankfurt, singing boosts the immune system. The study included testing professional choir members’ blood before and after an hour-long rehearsal singing Mozart’s “Requiem”. The researchers noticed that in most cases, a number of proteins in the immune system that functions as antibodies, known as Immunoglobulin A, were significantly higher immediately after the rehearsal. The same increases were not observed after the choir members passively listened to music.
  • Singing is a workout: For the elderly, disabled, and injured, singing can be an excellent form of exercise. Even if you’re healthy, your lungs will get a workout as you employ proper singing techniques and vocal projections. Other related health benefits of singing include a stronger diaphragm and stimulated overall circulation. Since you pull in a greater amount of oxygen while singing than when doing many other types of exercise, some even believe that singing can increase your aerobic capacity and stamina.
  • Singing improves your posture: Standing up straight is part of correct technique as you’re singing, so with time, good posture will become a habit! As your chest cavity expands and your shoulders and back align, you’re improving your posture overall.
  • Singing helps with sleep: According to a health article in Daily Mail Online, experts believe singing can help strengthen throat and palate muscles, which helps stop snoring and sleep apnea. If you’re familiar with these ailments, you know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep!

Mental and Emotional Benefits

  • Singing is a natural anti-depressant: Singing is known to release endorphins, the feel-good brain chemical that makes you feel uplifted and happy. In addition, scientists have identified a tiny organ in the ear called the sacculus, which response to the frequencies created by singing. The response creates an immediate sense of pleasure, regardless of what the singing sounds like. Not only that, but singing can simply take your mind off the day’s troubles to boost your mood.
  • Singing lowers stress levels: Making music in any form is relaxing. Singing releases stored muscle tension and decrease the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in your bloodstream.
  • Singing improves mental alertness: Improved blood circulation and an oxygenated bloodstream allow more oxygen to reach the brain. This improves mental alertness, concentration, and memory. The Alzheimer’s Society has even established a “Singing for the Brain” service to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s maintain their memories.

Social Benefits

  • Singing can widen your circle of friends: Whether you’re in a choir or simply enjoy singing karaoke with your friends, one of the unexpected health benefits of singing is that it can improve your social life. The bonds you form singing with others can be profound since there’s a level of intimacy naturally involved.
  • Singing boosts your confidence: Stage fright is a common feeling for new singers. However, performing well and receiving praise from your friends and family may be the key to eventually overcoming your fears and boosting your self-confidence. With time, you may even find it easier to present any type of material in front of a group with poise and good presentation skills.
  • Singing broadens communication skills: According to an article in The Guardian, singing to babies helps prepare their brains for language. Music is just as important as teaching reading and writing at a young age to prevent language problems later in life. If you enjoy writing your own lyrics, honing this talent can improve your ability to communicate in different ways!
  • Singing increases your ability to appreciate accomplished singers: Sometimes, you don’t realize how difficult something is until you try it yourself. As you grow from an amateur to an intermediate student and beyond, you’ll be looking to the masters for inspiration. You might even find a new style of music to appreciate that you wouldn’t normally listen to!

Spiritual Benefits  

https://www.businessballs.com/health-and-wellbeing/singing-for-personal-and-group-development-1725/

  • Singing is actually a form of meditation, praise, and faith-sharing.
  • When we sing, we shift focus and thinking away from our selves/usual life happenings and concerns, towards something ‘other-worldly’.
  • Singing is a way of bypassing your ego to acknowledge your soul.
  • Singing helps us to ‘let go’, just as in other forms of meditation.
  • Sally Garozzo says, “When you surrender to your voice within, you transcend your physical self.”
  • A peculiar and powerful effect happens when you stop singing. There is a moment when you ‘come back into your body’? Singing is a very spiritual activity. It touches and stimulates some very basic instincts – primeval feelings – the effects of singing are at a deeply unconscious level, which in normal day-to-day work-type activities are impossible to reach.
  • Singing is also wonderful for relationships and connecting people spiritually and naturally:
  • Singing brings people together. People ‘feel the love‘ that singing generates.
  • Singing unites factions, religions, and races.
  • Singing creates positive energy and a happy mood and that’s infectious and transparently good for everyone.
  • The delights of singing go beyond merely enjoying the beauty of your own vocal talent. All of these health benefits of singing may make you want to join a choir or start taking voice lessons right away! It doesn’t matter whether you become a world-class singer or not; have fun with it, and do you what you enjoy!

Hymns/ Praise Songs, / Psalms and other /Translation of secular songs toward God

  • Use the message of our salvation is the core message,

But in the context of a song, use worship and songs of the faith to keep you on task and in tune with God and the work we share.

The Specific instruction in this text in what to do in the times of absence: I know what we do when we gather for worship on Sundays, but what about when we alone. at work school or in the face of temptation?

The instruction and encouragement are for us to sing the faith story.  Faith sharing through singing songs of faith in Christ.

Divide in groups of four and five, pick a first, second and third choice of your favorite song/hymn of faith… write them down and pick a spokesperson to represent your group.

Each spokesperson to come of front and lead us in a verse or chorus until we have sun all 10-15 or more songs.

WHAT DO WE DO IN THE ABSENCE of the fellowship?

  • Sing the songs of faith we sing when we are in fellowship/worship
  • As encouragement to ourselves
  • As a witness to others
  • as a praise to God

DO IT UNTIL

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

Home Work: So get out there and start singing your faith, sing out loud, sing out strong, don’t worry if its not good enough for anyone else to hear, sing for God. [Carpenters, Perry Como]Advertisements

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Healing Not Division Mark 3:20-35

Posted by myoikos in #2017 on December 29, 2018

HouseDivided

..and the crowd came together again so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” [NRSV]

It is worth noting that if you ‘Google’ the phrase, “a house divided” first reports quotations of President Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech and only as a second or third listing does the search report the words of Jesus found in Mark 3:20-35. (Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17)

But keep in mind is President Lincoln, drawing on the passage from Jesus that his audience would have instantly recognized as such. Thus crossing the lines of faith and government calling on a divided people to look ahead, beyond the chasm of disagreement to the hope he expresses later in the same speech:

“The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever might be.” (*)

He called for the people to have hope in finding unity whatever would be decided, North or South, slavery or no slavery, Left or Right.  Indeed this passage from Mark’s Gospel likewise calls us to focus much less on what divides us and cling to that which binds us.

This is an Interesting discussion and teaching on the division of the family.

Many things divide families: Money, Politics, Selfishness, Debt, Apathy, and Addictions

Many things threaten families: The things, ideas, beliefs and enemies that do not have the best interest of the who ‘whole’ family will always offer solutions that attempt to satisfy themselves over the family.

  • Half of all families end in divorce is confirmation that neither the church nor the society model a strong family model.
  • Drugs and Alcohol addictions and the lifestyles that follow never build up the family, except for those who band together to take advantage of one another.
  • The quest to have the things, the house, the toys, the style, the technologies and have us place our dreams and hopes in objects that rust, wear, fade, decay and must be continually replaced, repaired and remade.
  • The family is a threatened and undermined with the more individualistic our society and world becomes.

One lie we about technology is that it brings families together. While it is true that distance for the moments we choose to connect, there are more moments that family members are in close proximity to one another, yet each watch different screens, devices, and distractions. The lure is that these ‘things’ can help connect us, but they also isolate us.

Many things entice families:

Also, there are other relationships, temptations, desires and goals that entice both individuals and families to seek love, happiness, joy, and peace in things that are temporary, unattainable and evil, even in the name and intent of being good for the family.

Mark reminds us Jesus’ words that evil, satan, and all persons consumed by evil, will work divide the people of God.

  • This passage is about Jesus’ own family worried that Jesus was not getting enough to eat, (Mary must have been stereotypical mother… you need to eat Jesus)
  • Second the religious leaders threatened by the crowds and the teaching and healing Jesus was negatively affecting their crowds, teachings, and support, so they called him names and try to demonize Jesus, saying he was bad, he could do nothing good, he will be filled with evil, even, in fact, THEY were the ones doing this to Jesus.

What do you do when your own family, your community and your faith leaders are divided against one another and you as well? The tendency is more isolation and withdrawal. Wrong answer.

Here we finally get to Jesus’s teaching about how to overcome the division:

FORGIVENESS:

God is graciously ready to forgive the strongest of people who have done the most unthinkable things with two things occur: 1) They remember the powerful and wonderful gives of God’s grace is real and actually available for us all. 2) When the most self-righteous, the most self-reliant, the most selfishly focused person recognized they have not been doing what is faithful to God, to God’s people nor to themselves. We take God up on the grace, confess our brokenness and turn back toward a life in God.

God doesn’t force this on us, but stands ready and hoping we choose to reconcile to God, to return to the heart of God, to stop the divisive talk, the hurtful behavior, the attacking thoughts and untwist our hearts and minds and words toward God’s word and God’s love.

THE EXCEPTION: What is the unforgivable sin?

The sin we will not acknowledge as sin. The evil we re-name, re-frame, dress up to look and sound good and righteous but are not found in God. Thus we are saying God can’t make me whole, God can’t save me. God can’t be in my life. God doesn’t care. God is made up an idea to satisfy weak and illogical fearful masses. God is not with us.

When we think, believe, act and say these things God will not force us to believe, God will not make us believe or trust or repent. God is willing to allow us to move so far that we no longer recognize that God is still with us.

Here is the test? As long as I am offering my thoughts, actions, future, self to God all sin is forgivable, but if we don’t want it, God’s not going to force.

The gift is MEANING. It means something when e choose to let God love and claim us, even when we have rebelled and divided and demeaned and harmed ourselves and others by leading each other away from God.

The example follows that Jesus’s flesh and blood family come to take him home, to save him from the ridicule and threat and he REDEFINES family. The family is about being blood-kin in the saving blood of the lamb that was slain. The family is those who acknowledge we have sinned, been completely self-focused, self-identified, self-determined, self-made, self-righteous, self-absorbed, self-funded, self-driven, self-saving, STRONG but with the wrong strength.

  • The strong family is the family trusting God with our problems.
  • The strong family is the family that is revealing God’s story and hope to a divided world.
  • The strong family is the family uniting in following God’s call, word, and love.
  • The way out of the division in our family is to NOT write one another off but to reach out to one another offering Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we don’t know what divided or divides us, but we clearly experience the consequence. It is actually unimportant to blame and get back to the original cause. Our hope is in what we are becoming, together, in Christ.

  • Where there is division: We have the opportune time to confess our sins and seek God’s leading.
  • Where we separate” We have but to turn to Christ and invite our neighbor to join us in Christ.
  • When you hear someone say: She or He is nothing but evil, then join them on a journey to share the Heart and Word of God.
    • This is our calling.
    • This is our gift of grace
    • This is our family

Be filled with God’s word AND heart, be forgiven in Christ, Be strong in the word and Holy Spirit.

#wayforward #GC2019UMC #UnitedinChrist #allsinnersmatter

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Luke 2:41-52 Lost in Three Days

Posted by myoikos in #2018 on December 29, 2018

Christmas20181230_Search_

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.

Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.

Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. [NRSV]

Jesus’s Childhood: Normal yet Extraordinary

This text is the only text where Jesus’ life between infancy and adulthood is recorded. Although a very brief description of these years, it gives us enough to think about him as a normal boy, trained well in the traditions of Judaism.

This is one of the most human and divine stories in the life of Jesus. On one hand, what parent has not a moment of experiencing a lost child story. Susanna lost in Belk department store, happily watching Barney in the children’s section. Or Luke at Turner field without his seat tickets and all the entrances began to look alike after a trip the men’s room. Or Frances…

On the occasion of Passover, Jesus’ parents, along with many other faithful Jews, took the journey to the city of Jerusalem. At some point on the return trip back to their home, they noticed Jesus was missing. They thought twelve-year-old Jesus was among the travelers. After a three-day search, to their surprise, they found Jesus in the temple in the middle of a conversation with religious teachers.

Typical of a concerned parent, Mary questions Jesus about his disappearance. She must have been very worried and upset because he had stayed in Jerusalem. Mary says, we’ve been “searching for you in great anxiety” (v.48). To which, Jesus replies, “Why were you searching for me?” Any parent would have responded with a, “What do you mean, ‘Why?’ We are your parents.” Every child know the drill. But this is the fascinating thing about this text: it enhances Jesus’ humanity, and it gives us a small, but significant entry into his family, “the holy family.”

The word for this week is “Search.” Mary and Joseph search for their lost child, Jesus. Jesus is on a search for answers; he is developing into adulthood, and—above all— discovering his mission as Son of God. I know this presents serious questions for some people regarding Jesus’ nature as both human and divine. For some, the question is, “Didn’t he understand his own divinity?” For others, the question is, “If he understands his divinity, how authentic was his experience as a human being?” The text reads, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” ( v.52).

The epistle to Hebrews affirms Jesus’ experience as common to all other human beings, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (5:7-9). Thus, like any other human being, Jesus learned to obey his Heavenly Father. And so, we find him learning the ropes of his faith, and perhaps deepening his understanding of who is and what he is called to do as the Messiah.

The presence of the parents and the dynamic of family interactions make this text very accessible. Concerns about family life, child rearing, spiritual formation, faith discoveries, family rules, and communication between parents and youth are places where the theme of “search” can surface. Even Jesus was under the tutelage of a family; he had questions and was thirsting for truth and meaning. Jesus shows depth and maturity as a young twelve-year-old boy.

We are not privy to the content of his interaction in the temple, but he is both “listening to them and asking them questions.” Additionally, he had a grasp of the faith and tradition as “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (v. 47).

This passage brings back memories of my visit to Israel. I had a chance to approach the Western Wall (or wailing wall). We carried in our pockets a list of petitions from our group to be inserted between the stones that make up the wall. We began our journey toward the wall in the middle of a huge crowd made up of hundreds of men praying. Many of them stood in circles sharing questions and answers, under the tutelage of either a rabbi or an elder Jew.

In the text, we see a very Jewish moment, with Jesus and his parents caught in between Jesus’ search for answers and Mary and Joseph’s search for their son. For us Christian listeners in the twenty-first century on this first Sunday after Christmas Day, we have an invitation to continue our search for depth and greater maturity in our faith journey.

Like Jesus, we want to have the freedom to raise questions and to share our view on things spiritual. It would be wonderful if every faith community could be that place where people would feel they could go on their own to find answers. We will always be surrounded by self-appointed leaders who like fathers and mothers will question our whereabouts, our independent thinking, or our going in the opposite direction.

There is a juggling act in this text: The important of family life and the and the uncontainable and inevitable coming of age of all human beings, and the reminder that like Jesus, we also must be about our heavenly parent’s business.

As a mother and a father, God wants us to give an account of our whereabouts, but at the same time wants us to explore, discern, ask questions, and search for answers.

In practical terms, Scripture, prayer, worship, small-group Bible studies, hymns, praise songs, serves of others, meditation, and all kinds of spiritual discipline are important tools to help us continue our search.

From different angles, this text in the Christmas season can lay a foundation for what is yet to come in the next several weeks as we see Jesus becoming an adult and fully engaged in his messianic mission.

Weekly Sermon are a chore and a Joy

I offer to you there is a weekly joy and chore about preparing sermons. Sermon preparation is a spiritual discipline in itself. The exercise of immersing in the text week in and week out can be a tedious task. It can also become monotonous and a matter of doing the job as opposed to an adventure in learning new things about ourselves, about God, and about the applications of our faith in the real world.

I have confidence that not every sermon is a homerun and not everyone listens to my words. But I truly hope that the text of Jesus being an ordinary person, with ordinary parents, finds himself not with his birth-family but with his spiritual family.

This text can motivate us to give ourselves permission to explore biblical, theological, and church matters.

Consider a presentation on the reality of family life, coming of age, and independent thinking in our children. By the same token, also consider a homiletical lesson on subjects such as: sensitivity on the part of spiritual elders toward young inquiring minds and the importance of providing spaces for in-depth discussions on faith matters.

Urgency of being Lost

The questions for us has the urgency of knowing that what we teach the next generation can be lost in a matter of days up assuming someone else has them covered or that someone else is responsible or that someone else with watching after the children while we do our own thing.

What are you and I doing to be assured that no one is left out, left behind in their spiritual journey?

Where better for us to be but in the fellowship of witnesses, teachers and co-learners at the church/temple to be about our heavenly father’s call upon our lives.

Look at the next three days. Give three step, three steps mister…

  • What can you do to be more informed about your faith in the next three days
  • What can you do to be clear that those in your family/ circle of influence are growing in faith
  • What strength, joy, hope and love will come if we do nothing and just go about our regular routines.

As the new year approaches: Look at your Spiritual Growth in three day periods:

  1. What can I do today
  2. What will I do tomorrow
  3. Who will God place in my path the day after and will I be ready to listen, teach, serve or share my faith?

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Isaiah 9:2-7  Luke 2:1-20 Christmas Eve—Arrive

Posted by myoikos in #2018#advent#nowwhat#receivethegift on December 24, 2018

Arrives_ChristmsEVE_2018_RSUMC

For Christians, Christmas Eve is a moment of open arms— as a midwife who extends her arms to receive the newly born child. As the church, we also extend our arms to receive Jesus once again, with all that he has to offer: an incomparable love, a huge smile, the smile of God over humanity and directed individually at every human being.

My left-handed catcher’s mitt is a bit of an oddity to most. Being left-handed in baseball, except in rare cases, means exclusion from the position of catcher. This is due in large part to the game’s counterclockwise flow. There have only been 30 left-handed throwing players who caught in at least 1 defensive inning. If you exclude the seven men who only caught in a single game, then you’re talking about just 23 players. If you count only those guys who caught 100 or more games in a career, you’re down to exactly five left-handed throwing catchers. However, if you’re only counting career catchers (minimum of 800 games caught), then you have exactly one and that is Jack Clements. To have a youth sized left handed catchers mitt is an invitation for someone to take on something miraculous.

Christmas Eve is a time of wonder, anticipation and glowing hopeful faces. Unfortunately, even on the night of Christmas Eve, there are thousands of people who cannot or will not smile back. In the first place, they don’t seem to see Jesus in all the festivities.

  • Maybe what they truly capture is Jesus crying, as any other baby does throughout the world.
  • In pain and in sorrow, throughout the world, there are precious little babies, precious elderly men, and woman, young people who are lacking food, shelter, jobs, loved ones; therefore, they are not smiling on Christmas Eve.
  • Some carry the full emptiness of loss and grief that allow for now room in the inn.
  • Still, in many of those places, because of deep faith, they also extend their arms to the arriving Jesus.

Both Scriptures for this day have the element of receiving. A baby has been born, and it has made an extraordinary difference. A variety of activities take place at church and home: Christmas plays, concerts, family dinners—all celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

43 The text from Isaiah 9:2-7 is a short poem full of hope, in spite of whatever days of suffering may have preceded. Christians see this promise fulfilled in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (Lk. 2:1-20). The Israelites themselves went through harsh divisions between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. There are many other historical events behind this text that the preacher will most likely not have to time to address. Perhaps the most important aspect that needs to be underlined on Christmas Eve is the inauguration of a new day that is the centerpiece of the occasion. The Israelites heard from Isaiah of a new day after experiences of war, division, and captivity. Christians will hear a message of the birth of a baby that makes a difference in the world. Paradoxically, we still hear about wars; a great segment of humanity experiences hunger, strife, squalor, and poverty. But still, the message of Christ’s birth has resulted in schools, hospitals, orphanages, agricultural work, public demonstrations against injustice, corruption, and discrimination. Baby Jesus has been in the hearts of the innocent, the elderly, the terminally ill, and those who have just his followers.

There is much to celebrate on Christmas Eve. I can still savor the special foods shared by family and friends. I can picture a night of worship that included the choir and the drama team. Afterward, people went home to meet with more family members. In certain places, gifts will be opened on Christmas Day; but in others, right at midnight or before, while the children are still awake.

What an extraordinary event. And what a formidable opportunity for evangelization, the sharing of the good news. In both Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20, we are given the foundation for a message of hope through the coming of a very special baby. With the arrival of Jesus, there is the promise of freedom for those in bondage, justice on behalf of those who have been wronged, light in a world of darkness, deliverance from the rod of the oppressor. No one could stop God’s sovereign will, “While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child” (v. 6).

God is in charge of history; no one can stop God from bringing redemption to the world. Galatians 4:4-5 has the same tone of an unstoppable moment, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”

That we are adopted and made part of God’s covenant people, that we have become sisters and brothers of Jesus, that we have the blessing to open our arms to the One who has arrived, is a fascinating message. Amid the powers that be to proclaim that the One who has come is at the same time, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting

44 Father, Prince of Peace, with an ever-increasing authority, with the promise of peace, and an agenda of justice and righteousness is at the same time good news and bad news —good news for those who long for deliverance; bad news for those who have placed the chains of oppression and violence on others.

In the gospel text, the newborn child disrupted— in a good way —the lives of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and even the angels. The whole universe is engaged in offering praises to the One who is God’s best gift to the world. The angels sing, “glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (v.14).

For the Sports fans: What has been a favorite play to watch? A quarterback has the game-winning ball and passes or throws it into someone else’s hands, they receive it and run with it. That is where Christmas Eve begins.

For those who run to mailbox: and find the long-awaited check, acceptance or notice of the final zero balance, that news confirms the efforts of the past and pave the way for a new beginning.

For those who have heard Good News this year: The beginning of

For those have received God’s Word in their hearts:

For those who feel that they have seen nothing God, or lost the hope, or were somehow left on the island of misfit toys: Christmas Eve is where the Good News Begins for us all!

God the Lord of all Creation has come to be born into our history, into our hearts, into our futures. Tonight we stand ready to receive Christ:

Now is the time to receive the package, receive the gift, Receive new life, renewed hope, new healing, new possibilities, renewed promises, renews covenants.

In Receiving Christ we take on the responsibility of caring for Christ throughout our lives and the places we go.

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Advent 4—Welcome Micah 5:2-5a Keywords: joy, hospitality, encouragement

Posted by myoikos in #2018Advent AAdvent BAdvent Cencouragementhospitality on December 23, 2018

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But you, O [Rock Spring] of [Walker County], who are one of the little [communities] of [Georgia], from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in [My People], whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.  Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 and he shall be the one of peace[Micah 5:2-5a modified for RSUMC]

What if this were the word given to us, instead of the little town of Bethlehem? Prophetic words I have heard in 34 years of ministry:

There are about to build a second regional airport in Northwest Georgia and it will transform the state and every little town around it. (First DS shared the news: Still no airport, for good or bad).

Stand, Refine, Do, Now, Welcome: on the edge and eve of Arrived!

Our Advent Adventure has started by with the first steps of

  1. taking a stand, responding to the call to get up and get moving.
  2. We have refined our faith and tools and claimed God’s call upon us to continue the momentum and DO what is good and right,
  3. We have been encouraged with hope and called to share hope and
  4. Today we remember to welcome those we meet to help them find Christ through together.

One of the annual tradition that I grew up with at Christmas was my mother’s annual open house party. I believe that it is for this reason that I have struggled to see the joy in the parties because I know all the work and preparation that goes on before, during and after a big event.

Mom started with the decoration over Thanksgiving and by mid-December, the menus and Christmas card/Invitations would be sent out. The ten to fourteen days before Christmas would include a long checklist of grocery shopping, baking and cleaning around the house. The Sunday afternoon before Christmas was the target party date. I preferred the years where Christmas Day fell on Saturday or Sunday as the party would be far behind come Christmas morning.

A dozen varieties of cookies would need to be baked, iced and decorated. Cakes, pies and hor doves would be prepared and ready for baking and heating. Serving plates and cups would be washed and dried. We had little time for playing in anticipation of the open house!

My brother, being younger, had the job of playing with all the children who came to the party so they would not be “trampled under foot” momma would say. But the truth was she didn’t want them to play with the two hundred nativity / manger scenes that decorated every shelf, side table and flat service in the house. My job was to make sure the table was full of food and that the dirty dishes and cups would get washed and returned to the big table. (I didn’t mind the chocolate covered peanut butter balls and the cheese biscuits, but I didn’t want to be washing dishes when the others were playing in the yard) I made a promise that year, “I would not make my future children wash dishes at any open house parties I might have down the road. Christmas was a time to welcome not wash.”

The work made it hard for me to see the joy. I know my mother’s intention was that the collective labors we give to neighbors, friends, members, and strangers in an effort to welcome in Jesus’s name.

What does it take to welcome someone in Christ?

One year while we were living in Eatonton, Georgia, mom had decorated the hall bathroom downstairs with fancy soaps and special towels and hermetically sealed the door closed with a large note on the outside of the door, which read: “Keep your nasty hands off the towels!!”

We were afraid to go in and she forgot to take the sign down. I don’t think anyone at the party went inside. But the did go upstairs to our bathrooms!

How will you and I continue to welcome others in Christ?

It is a life lesson that making others feel welcome is a self-less gift at times. Some people are difficult to include. Some people share little in common. Some people work as hard to avoid as we do to invite.

The world is hungry and doesn’t think it is for dinners and snacks.

The world is hungering for three things:

Being on the Correct side of things: Greatness in the sense of truth

Meaning – Strength and Majesty
Peace – Security and Peace

These are actually the things that are promised by the prophet Micah that the Messiah would be God’s People.

The prophetic call to look for Greatness even when it comes through a small town, God is working GREATNESS in small ways, not larger than life folks, but ordinary folks like us are where the GREATNESS is where we are to look for God to show up.

The Messiah we share is one who welcomes in strength and majesty. Jesus is the very one who welcomes us while we are yet sinners. Jesus is stronger than any of us. And he greats us as sons and daughters, co-heirs

Micah foretells that God is Great, Majestic and Strong, brings security and, offers peace.

The three things that world longs for can be found in the Messiah, in Jesus.

The trillion dollar question is: How do people find what they are looking for in the Christ we are sharing?

.. We need to be taking that STAND for Christ ourselves

.. We need to be refined our understanding and trust to in Christ

.. We need to be doing the things of Christ that reveal his strength, majesty, peace, and greatness.

So what does that look like for us?

The passage from Micah serves as a preview of the nativity story. Bethlehem and Mary are the recipients of coming Lord, and as the people of Israel and Elizabeth, we are to open the door and welcome the God who has decided to set up tent in the midst of our neighborhood and who is more fascinated with each one of us than with a throne surrounded with angels and archangels (Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:6-8), facing all the risks and passions of all human beings.

Most likely a Judean prophet during the eighth-century before Christ, Micah was responsible for delivering the divine oracle to God’s covenant people. We are told that “the prophecy about a new ruler to come from the town of Bethlehem (5:2), and the response to the question of what the Lord requires of them, signal Micah’s importance.”[1]

By December 23, our nation will have experienced midterm elections. Hopefully, the people newly elected or reelected will have the integrity to follow through on their promises. Hopefully, their promises will be in harmony with God’s concern for the “least of these.” The sermon for this entire Advent season and in particular for this fourth Sunday of Advent serves as a way to acknowledge and warmly welcome those who visit our church, those we meet in our paths, those who are thirsting for love, fellowship, help, and counsel.

The text can encourage people to serve as volunteers serving hot meals, visiting nursing homes, setting up a caroling church group. The sermon can raise open questions that invite people to find their answers after the worship service is over, or posit a list of possibilities by which people can incarnate the message of welcoming. This may mean hospitality among their own circle of friends and acquaintances, but especially beyond.

A part of our Wesleyan DNA is the ministry for and with the poor. Just as Advent leads us toward encountering the infant Christ in a stable and with the announcement of the Good News being first shared with lowly shepherds, so we are invited to become more mindful and aware of ministries with and for the excluded.

For personal reflection and sermon preparation:

  1. How do I and my congregation welcome Jesus into our area of greatest weakness, brokenness, or loss?
  2. 2. Do I leap for joy when I spend time in Scripture, worship, and fellowship with God’s covenant people?
  3. 3. How can I inspire parishioners to make the poor and the oppressed the center of their Christian concern and witness?
  4. 4. At some point in the sermon, pose an inductive question, such as “Who am I in this text? Am I Micah, the carrier of good news? Am I Mary who is welcomed by her family? Am I the leaping child in Elizabeth’s womb, excited about the presence and coming of Christ?”
  5. 5. Is this congregation a fellowship of excitement, an Advent community with a contagious faith and neighborhood involvement?
  6. 6. How can I set the tone through preaching for a greater passion for justice?

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Adv3: Do Zephaniah 3:14-20 Luke 3:7-18

Posted by myoikos in #2018#2mileneighbors#advent#do#donotbeafraid#goodness#holyspirit#jesus#lovelikejesus#service#sharingfaith on December 15, 2018

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Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord. [NRSV:OT]

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”  In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”  He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV:NT]

Actions have consequences

  • When we do what God asks of us to do God is revealed and order and justice follows.
  • When we do not do what God asks of us we make God look bad, and chaos follows.
  • And inaction neither reflects God nor ourselves.
  • Key words: repentance, rejoice, festivity 

JOY Interrupts!

This week in the Advent season is known as the Sunday of joy. The Pink candle is the interruption of “Joy” to remind us of why we prepare for Christmas.  

Don’t rush ahead to the end of the story though, the Joy begins with God’s desire to love us, bless us, and to restore us from the chaos.  Rather than only finding meaning at the end of the journey, it is important for us to cherish the joy found along the way.

Did you ever know someone named, Zephaniah? The prophet’s text promises that the people’s fortune and future have been changed from judgment to hope, from destruction to restoration, from oppression to liberation and from dread to praise (Zeph. 3:14-20). 

This message comes in the process. Too often we are discontent and give up hope when the struggle is long, chronic and weary. Advent is our intentional infusion of joy into the journey toward Christ.

As those who know this hope in a 21st century world who is rushing toward winning, success and ‘profit’, little if any attention is give to the prophetic words of hope and joy before we arrive.

In the gospel text, John the Baptizer opens the curtains before those who seek to stop and thwart goodness and godliness of the coming of the One, the Messiah, who will bring a new act of salvation, (Lk. 3:7-18). 

The festivity right now center on the “Doing.” God has promised to change the people’s plight from a world of corruption, misplaced faith, failed authority, captivity under an oppressive powers, and inequities and injustices severely affecting the whole community. 

In the Old Testament passage we see the trouble when the spiritual folks, those concerned for holiness, worship, love for the poor, respect for God’s laws were all abandoned, and the prophet was sent to call the covenant people on it!

Eventually, God’s mercy is granted, and the promise expressed in the final chapter of Zephaniah’s divine oracle brings a new beginning. There is a song of joy in the air and a call to Do! This tiny word has a message of assurance and comfort.

“Do” implies that some action can help turn things around. In 3:16-17, we hear the prophet’s message: “On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: DO NOT FEAR, O ZION; DO NOT LET YOUR HANDS GROW WEAK. THE LORD, YOUR GOD IS IN YOUR MIDST.” 

The DO is to a call to worship, to praise, to celebrate, to recall the words of promise, the remember God is for us, to remind one another we are called to love even though we have not always been loving. The results: “Loud singing, a day of festival, disaster removed, renewal in God’s love and much more” (Zeph. vv. 17-18). 

In the gospel, What is the good news? 

  1. God loves us even though some consequences we bring upon ourselves, and some are the ripe or rotten fruit of others. (My bee hive) (National politics) (trusting others to ‘do’ for us – user/consumer mentality) God still loves us, longs for our trust,
  2. The “DO” that we are beginning is in our 2Mile Ministry. [INTRO TO PREPARE FOR 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS] the work we “DO” now is in anticipation of the joy we will share.
  3. We need Folks to share gifts to our neighbors through 2mile to show love without cost, hospitality of grace and the welcome of Christian community.

SIGN UPS: 2mile and 12 Days of Christmas for our neighbors…. anticipation of the hope to share!

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Advent 1 Stand Jer. 33:14-16 Luke 21:25-36

Posted by myoikos in #2018#advent#hopeinchrist#jesus#stand on December 1, 2018

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Key words: hope, redemption, alert

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” [NRSV: Jr 33.14-16]

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  [NRSV Lk 21:25-36]

Today we begin the four-week journey toward meeting Jesus, born anew in our lives, at Christmas. We call this time of preparing our ADVENT of Christmas. This is not Christmas, it is the anticipation and journey toward Christmas.

Advice: Don’t be in a hurry for Christmas, we might miss Christ when Christmas Day arrives.

Our first call is to Seek God’s Righteousness/Goodness

The Prophet Jeremiah pronounces that there is a coming of the Lord’s Righteousness and the world will see Justice and God’s understanding of what is Right and Wrong.

Frances has a wonderful opportunity through school to be an exchange student. She will be living in South Africa this summer and her new friend Amy will come to live with us this fall.  So as any family would, we have been learning a great deal about that country. For all the faults that every nation has, 80% of the country is Christian and of that significant portion, 80% attend church regularly. Why is church more popular in that part of the world? They have issues of justice that the nation continues to struggle through. I am interested to learn how God is showing up to help bring peace and safety, which we all seek.

The prophetic work in our weeks prior to Christmas come as an opportunity to study and practice what it means to live in AND show the world God’s righteous way of thinking, behaving and believing.

Jeremiah speaks of the work of a singular, tender branch keeping the family tree’s promise alive. God is not measuring us by volume, rather by faithfulness. POINT: Have Hope that God will use us, even in our weakest moments, by directing ourselves toward God.

Turn and Stand Up

Jeremiah invites us to TURN our minds to God in Advent. The Gospel reading from Luke challenges us to STAND UP.  Don’t be a “pew potato”. Don’t think it is someone else’s responsibility. Don’t wait for wind to blow your sails, move yourself into the blowing of the Holy Spirit.

This season is a time to begin the journey by Standing Up. The work of witnessing Righteousness and caring out Justice are the journey.

The first action of every journey is to get up and prepare to move, prepare to take action, prepare to face the apparent overwhelming odds that nothing will change for God if we sit here and wait until we die. Stand up! is the call.

It is in Luke’s gospel that we hear Jesus tender sprouts of the fig tree that will bear fruit even though it has been dormant and lifeless. This is much like the prophet Ezekiel call to preach and prophesy to the valley of dry bones calling for them to prepare to form and army, prepare to have the breath of God in your lungs and hearts.

Jesus tells the disciples that terrible signs and calamities will surround us, but this will be the best time to see Jesus showing up. When you know Jesus is near, STAND UP, life up your heads and follow.

The crisis times in our lives and in the life of the church are the very times that we prepare to TAKE A STAND, prepare to lift up our heads and affirm JESUS’s presence and hope for the world.

In a world divided by fear and ideologies, take action, and take action in the strength of Christ.

Thank goodness Advent is a time of preparing because we are not collectively ready to advance. But we are at the moment of standing up.

The opportunity of showing up! C. S. Lewis is quoted saying:

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis

  • TURN TOWARD GOD
  • PREPARE TO STAND UP
  • LIFT UP YOUR HEADS

Third: starting this Advent Journey requires HOPE.

The challenge given to us by the world, by our denomination, by our community is to be the presence of God’s HOPE for those who are in our circles of influence.

SIDE NOTE: Our circle of influence is not only those that we come in contact in our daily living, but also those whom we could be in contact with in each day. 

Simply summaries,

We begin Advent as a quest to find Christ in our own lives, but committing/recommitting our attention toward God, Begin my taking the first step toward God, and carrying the flag of Hope for a world that is looking to ideological approval, material feed happiness and lost in raging waters of despair, grief, doubt and fear. Yuck!

Pray with me:

Lord Turn my heart and mind and soul toward you.

Give me your strength to move from this stationary place into living that is fueled by your power.

Keep your hope in me that I might shine that life and light for someone else.

Archive for October, 2018

Mark 10:46-52 “What would you ask of Jesus?”

Posted by myoikos in #2018#service#whatcanChristdoforyou#whatcanIdoforyou on October 28, 2018

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They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. [NRSV]

Key Question #2

At the core of our 2 Mile Neighborhood Ministry is asking on Jesus’s behalf: “What can I do for you?”

In preparation of hearing our neighbor’s requests it is a good idea to answer the question for ourselves.

If you could ask Jesus to do one thing for you…

  • one thing for our nation what would it be?
  • one thing for each county of central and South American?
  • one thing for the people of the gulf coast and North Carolina?
  • one thing for the people of Pittsburg?
  • one thing for our church?
  • one thing for our school or work?
  • one thing about your marriage what would it be?
  • one thing for you yourself?

Playing the Free Lottery Game

With the billion and a half lottery prize millions of people played both the free and paid version of the game. Over three billion paid to play, but many others played the free option. It’s the game you play in your head and occasionally share with others: “what would I do if I won the money?

The question is to ask ourselves is that if these are things that we have as goals and dreams, then work toward them and don’t waste our money in the mean time. [3+ BILLION tickets lost in the investment for the single winner.]

The helpful part of the process can be our goal setting. People tell me, their pastor, “if I win you know I will give a big part to the church as a thank you.”

That is a good place to start, for every dollar we waste it could be a dollar invested in sharing the love God. So be informed.

The invitation to ask Jesus for what we want?  (Wants / Needs)

In our Bible reading, Ol’ Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus pleading for Jesus to heal his blindness. Through persistent Bart gains Jesus’s attention and audience. What do you want of me? It is one of the most obvious questions in scripture.

Keeping our Sights on our Blindness

In answering the question for ourselves we offer Jesus the very thing that we cannot do for ourselves.

The obvious thing for Bart is the ability to see. As those who see many options and opportunities we are invited to reflect on the invitation before we ask.

  • We can work and earn wealth but we cannot become whole without Grace
  • We can build and trade for things but we cannot offer what we do not have
  • There is a moment when the blind outcast comes uncloaked, vulnerable and empty and asks a Jesus to fill him with healing and wholeness

We pray for persons to be healed every Sunday and every day…

What does our nation need?, it has nothing to do with who we elect or send to Washington DC or the State capital– if we are trust people who have no respect for what God can do through their leadership, we will waste our vote. Blindly following any political agenda causes us to be limited and cloaked.

It is time to be uncloaked and vulnerable.

And from that place of empty nakedness be filled and clothed in righteousness, trust, respect and love. The history separation of church and state was to protect the CHURCH from becoming a tool of the state, but our society has swung the pendulum away from morality and people of faith are mistrusted. We have allowed our moral witness to remain hidden and cloaked. For those who worship power, greed, anger, fear, and correctness will never be satisfied.

We have it bass-ackwards.
We wonder why people can get along in DC and we don’t get along with our neighbors.

  • We need to pray for leaders who are willing to learn to swim in deep waters relying on each other’s best to keep us afloat.
  • We can see clearly that attacking and holding grudges and carrying blame and a quest for credit and honor do NOT serve us well at all.
  • As a nation we saw our continental congress willing to died for the nation rather than praying for they opponents to be killed.

I pray that our nation and the nation of the whole world see the blindness of power, greed anger, rage and fear are not our best lords and master. For if these are our prize we shall certainly died bitter, divided and alone.

Our Role in the Parade

It is time that we cease to be advocates of politicians and armchair news re-casters rather we become the voice of invitation? The raiders of questions rather than the defender of answers.

  • Trust reveals truth
  • Persistence reveals opportunity
  • Uncloaking opens us to faith

Lord put me to all things and to no things brought high or made low having all things or have none. Make us on earth to be as it is in heaven we’re your Will is respected, loved and proclaimed.

The world is hungry for God and instead we are outraged over fabricated chaos that we have no ability to answer.

We are called to pray for one another and pray for God to heal and lead us.

We are called to serve and not to be served. “Ask not what you want from government,  rather ask what Christ can do for you.”

ANSWERS: What do I want from Jesus…

Before I answer, may I step in faith asking for what I cannot fix/solve/resolve/heal

Stand vulnerable before Christ and ask the for the obvious:

Make me whole, make me yours.Advertisements

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Mark 10:35-45

Posted by myoikos in #20185 PracticesService on October 20, 2018

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James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;  but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.  So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” [NRSV]One of the greatest threats to the church is the perception of belonging. The church does not belong to us, it belongs to God. We are the church, in Christ Jesus.Without Jesus we are only a community organization of people attempting to show kindness for some self-serving reasons. That is not the church. Jesus came to serve us. In living, dying, rising Christ serves us as example for living, gracious salvation and eternal life: All this done as witness of God’s love for us.A dangerous position is for us to think of how the church serve us. We ask is the church meeting my needs? Is it doing my job of parenting? Is it entertaining my attention? Am I getting a good return on my investment of tithes and offerings? Do I get enough attention, power and support?If we ever ask ourselves any of these questions above, we are not serving Christ.Jame and John have been following Jesus, going where Jesus sends them, attending worship and study with Jesus, they have been doing whatever he needed. They felt they had earned a “point-of-privilege.”The powerful relevance of the church is lost when we IN the church switch places from serving to being served.This comes at every age and level of participation. For life-time members, we feel we have earned a place for others to serve — its time for to receive the fruit of our labors. For visitors and our newest members we are just getting connected and others should make a way for us. As children and youth, our parents and grand parents and other ‘grown-ups’ should do for us. If you have ever thought, the minister/preacher/pastor should do this or that.. most likely it is a place God is calling you to serve.Tommye McCoy, a forty-four year Christian Education Minister taught me the secret of the ordain ministry: You should do 100% of what God calls you to do and 90% of what the church expects you to do.So here we are. We introduced our new “2 Mile” ministry goal. We are claiming the responsibility to reach out to the over 1000 people who live within 2 miles of our address.Our ministry will ultimately be to serve Jesus Christ with these persons in two primary ways: 1) Prayer, and 2) Service.We are going to model an introductory conversation this morning  (call on leaders to help)1. Member: Knock/Ring “Hello my name is “John” I am a member of Rock Spring UMC and we would like to pray for you today. Is there something you would like for us to pray with you about something? some need? some concern?Neighbor: Yes. My husband is having surgery  /  No. I have a churchMember: We would love to pray for him. What is his name and when is the surgery?  /            We are glad you have a church, we are only wanting to pray today, if you likeNeighbor: His name is Henry, it’s next Tuesday.  /  No thank you,Member:   Let’s pray right now. “Jesus, we lift Henry to you today and pray for his surgery. We pray for the doctors and nurses and all will give him care. Fill him with your Holy Spirit as we pray for his healing and wholeness today. Amen  /  I will share this with our prayer team right away.2. Member: Is there something we can do to serve you today?Neighbor:  No, thank you  / Yes,  Can you bring my mail in from the mail box, pick up a paper, rake my leaves, Can you give my husband and I a ride to the hospital on Tuesday.Member:  I’d love to help.  /  I’m not available Tuesday but I will find someone at the church, may I call you this afternoon when I find a ride? What is the best number to call?Neighbor: Great, here is my number   /   No, get off my porch and don’t come back!Member: Bless you!Member –> update the office with the prayer, and find some people to help serve, x 1000 neighbors.  [200 members each contacting 5 neighbor in the next 12 months.]In this process we are SHOWING Christ to our neighborsIn this ministry we are reminding each other that our work as Christians is to serveIn this reaching out, we show the world around us GOD at work.In this service, we trust the Holy Spirit to lead, protect and empower us.We are going to practice today and for the next several weeks.Some of you will reach out to people door to doorSome of you can call on the phoneSome of you will talk with people wherever to are or travelSome of you will be ready to prayerSome of you will be ready to drive, rake, clean, feed, shop, visit, sit, paint or moreSome of you will help up stay organized in this processSome of you will help us follow up with our neighbors.ALL OF US need to SHARE this ministry.We all know that our Denomination and all our churches are headed for some rocky and rough weather, rather than sit here and wait for trouble…WE ARE GOING TO BE THE CHURCHWe are going to witness being the body of ChristWe are going to serve and prayWe are going to depend on EVERY member to help in this ministryWe are going to hold each other in prayer and accountability.And when we are done with this ministry. We are going to celebrate how God has used us to multiply loaves and fishes.We are going to share stories of how people’s lives are set free in ChristWe are going to look forward to all that God has in store for us in the years ahead.We are going to SHOW Rock Spring and the world that Jesus Christ lives in us!Are you with me.

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Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018 Matthew 2:7-12

Posted by myoikos in #2018#connectthedots#creation#homecoming#jesus#resurrecitonChristian LIvingCovenantFamilyHoly SpiritMarriagePreparationRelationshipResurrection PeopleSpiritual GrowthTrust on October 13, 2018

Homecoming, by another way Oak Grove 2018

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. [NRSV]

I have such wonderful memories of racing out from Emerson to Euharlee and trying to beat the long coal train heading to-and-from the Bowen. It is so good to be back. I have been here on a cold and snowing morning when it was only two, and no more and we had Good Preaching. So I hope that is the case today. I am proud to see the growth of the ministries and good work at Oak Grove and am honored to be with you today.

I began to think back about the years I was pastor, student and neighbor. The years would have been between 1985 and 1989. Some remarkable things happened while we were in ministry together:

• The infamous “New Coke” was released, The Titanic found, The first report of Mad Cow disease

• and Madonna was holding the place Taylor Swift holds today. Michael Jackson released his “Bad” album and MTV actually played music videos.

• The Kroger in Cartersville and Town Center Mall opened. The news of the Atlanta Olympics was

• The movies out during that time included: Back to the Future, Top Gun and Dirty Dancing

• Some notable songs were: Walk like an Egyptian, The theme from Phantom of the Opera, and We are the World.

• Imagine back to the time of the start of the Internet, the first Game Boy and Nintendo, The first intel processor and MS Office and Windows debuted.

• We were witnesses of Haley’s comet, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and removal of the Berlin Wall with Mr Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

• People were watching: “The Cosby Show”, “Cheers”, “Hill Street Blues”, Johnny Carson, Magnum PI and the start of the Simpsons.

We are not the same people today. The world has changed and is changing in a whirlwind of transformation. As our denomination looks ahead to the Winter of 2019 we know that more change is to be expected.

As important it is to look back and remember from where we have come, it is the witness of the magi that call us to look to the present and prepare for the future.

I have always found it remarkable that the Bible contains the story of people of faith who look for God in the movement of the starts, in a distant country with a different culture and perspectives and yet God is self-revealing in all creation.

I had a conversation with young man in his mid-twenties who was convinced that there was no need for God. The wonders and marvels of creation were but the finely tuned change of random variables that brought him more peace and “common sense” to his perspective. I asked him from where did the forces of gravity, fission, fusion, physics, mathematic and love evolve. He uncomfortably had no clear answer except to say they were only explained as observations that followed rather than formed the universe. He left the conversation and went home the same person. I hope that some of the conversation helped change his fears and desire to control rather than to follow and trust.

We live in a divided culture that is more segregated than at any moment in our lifetimes. The struggles leading through Civil Rights Era and the Civil War are not our finest moments. Now more than ever are we needing to make a life-giving, hope-sharing, love-trusting impact on the world around us.

When I was at Oak Grove I was married to Sarah Jane, who search the Cassville Church for a couple of the years. We enjoyed covered dish dinners, singings, and being with you in worship and in your homes. That is no longer the relationship that shapes my life. She loved the idea of being married much more than being married to me. I didn’t share that at the time, as I was immature and unwilling to share what it mean to fully share what it means to be a community of faith. I finally learned that 1) clergy are people who struggle with marriage too, 2) I’d be happier unmarried or married for a few years than to be miserable for 50 pretending a marriage. 3) I have learned that God’s path for us is only as straight and narrow as our willingness to trust. But grace goes before, with and behind us.

Now I have three children: Susanna at Stanford, Luke at 1st Leu in the AF, and Frances a sophomore studying AP Chinese and my wife Wendy is beginning her second career in Insurance. (If you ever seen the Hot-ones sign, a Hardees star, a Georgia Tourism commercial or a magazine in a plastic bag you have seen her work.) The past ten years we have cared for her parents in our home, her mom having Dementia and her father having Kidney failure, was not the road that we had planned, but God has carried us through a different way that blessed and shaped us profoundly.

Why the Wise-men passage on Home Coming?

During my years at Emerson and Oak Grove, Singer, James Taylor, released a song by David Bailey called, Home By Another Way. David Bailey was the son of a Presbyterian minister. As a fellow preacher’s kid the song resonated with me: Here was a famous hippy trippy ballad rocker singing about a bible verse: Not the paths that typically cross. Listen to the lyrics of his song:

Those magic men the Magi, Some people call them wise, Or Oriental, even kings, Well anyway, those guys

They visited with Jesus, They sure enjoyed their stay, Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme

They went home by another way

Steer clear of royal welcomes, Avoid a big to-do, A king who would slaughter the innocents, Will not cut a deal for you, He really, really wants those presents, He’ll comb your camel’s fur

Until his boys announce they’ve found trace amounts, Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh

Time to go home by another way

Home is where they want you now, You can more or less assume that you’ll be welcome in the end

Mustn’t let King Herod haunt you so, Or fantasize his features when you’re looking at a friend

Well it pleasures me to be here, And to sing this song tonight, They tell me that life is a miracle, And I figured that they’re right, But Herod’s always out there, He’s got our cards on file

It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch, Old Herod likes to take a mile

It’s best to go home by another way

Home by another way

What does it mean to Go Home, by another way?

To God home is hopefully a place of security, grounding and belonging.

Hear the Good News: God’s home, “Oikos”, is with us! With us!

It starts in a garden, it travels in a wilderness, it crosses paths in the crucifixion, it opens through an empty tomb, it blow as the wind around us, and surrounds us.

We are not who were once were:

In Christ we are those who make straight the paths for others

In grasp of the Holy Spirit we are those who open hearts and conversations

In the love of God we are those who God is creating new life and ways of living.

I regret that I must leave without a longer visit but I am leading a class for the district to build our skills in sharing Difficult Conversations as churches and church folks. As I look back on the Roads and Paths that God has lead, carried, and immersed me, I see at:

• Oak Grove taught me that God can take a mustard seed an make something grand and purposeful beyond our dreams.

• Grant Park I learned from one of the most diverse congregations in the Southeast what it means to share love

• In some other congregations I learned what looks like when we live in fear, pride, greed and worship of self.

• At Candler and Gammon I learned how to prepare for God to use me in changing ministry conditions.

• At Rock Spring I am ready to see how God will lead us into being a relevant part of the body of Christ in the 21st century.

The message I have received from much prayer, much prayer, much study, much conversation, much reflection, writing and reading is this:

1. Change is to be assuredly expected. (It is ok to embrace change, WHEN God leads us.)

2. What will be has not yet been revealed.

3. But when it is revealed: Count on seeing Jesus or not seeing at all.

• Therefore it is all important to make our home in God who does not change.

• Therefore it is essential that we find our way through what has been revealed.

• Therefore it is our purpose, passion and path to stick with Jesus, not for our sake but for Christ.

God Lord, we give thanks for these and all other blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

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Hebrews 4:12-16 Grace in times of Need

Posted by myoikos in #2018#approachthethrone on October 6, 2018

throneofgod (2)

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. [NRSV]

A large part of what is dividing our church is summed up in this passage from Hebrews.

  • The Word of God is living and active. (Not an idol that is worshiped.)
  • The Word of God is not always comforting.
  • The Word of God divides the soul from the spirit, joints from the marrow.
  • The Word judges thoughts of our minds and intentions of our hearts.
  • We have more than a written word, Jesus Christ, our high priest,
  • exposes all that is good and all that is evil,
  • all that is fired up and that which lukewarm and that this is cold and empty.

Our response to place our whole self in Jesus’s program, team and alumni program.

Approach the Throne of Grace with BOLDNESS So that we by RECEIVE Mercy and find God and Grace in our time of need.

  • When do we Need God’s grace?
  • When we have sinned and fallen short
  • When we have faithfully followed, praise and serve.
  • When we forget that we are naked before God.
  • How does a team take the field in college football?
    • Assuming they will lose or
    • Confident they will win?
    • Somewhere in between?

Go onto the field of your daily life with BOLDNESS seeking MERCY and GRACE

Run passionately toward the goal in Christ,

  1. Scripture is alive, meaningful and powerful
  2. Jesus Christ is our High Priest, our Worship Leader, our present Guide
  3. Live BOLDLY trusting you are naked without being clothed in Christ.
  4. knowing you will be renewed, refreshed and whole in Christ with Mercy and Grace.

Simply Sermon: Taking God seriously only when we

Archive for August, 2018

Luke 12:15 “Cultivating Contentment”

Posted by myoikos in #2018#enough#simplicityaccountability#stewardship on August 25, 2018

Hebrews 13:5-6, Ecclesiastes 2:20-11, Luke 12:15

Sermon Aug 26, 2018 RSUMC   “Cultivating Contentment” Adam Hamilton’s “Enough”

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Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

[Jesus] said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure. . . . Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind.   (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

In recent years we have witnessed a number of devastating natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires. Natural disasters remind us that everything in this world is temporary. Most recently in the Hawaiian islands, we see the power and the loss. This is why we can say with Jesus, “[My] life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Yet the culture is shouting that it’s not true. The result is a wrestling match in our hearts.

Despite the fact that we say we believe Jesus’ words, we still find ourselves devoting a great deal of our time, talents, and resources to the acquisition of more stuff. We say that our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions, but we live as if they do.

Restless Heart Syndrome: Struggling with Discontent

Perhaps you’ve heard of restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition in which one has twitches and contractions in the legs. Something we might call Restless Heart Syndrome (RHS) works in a similar way, but in the heart—or soul. Its primary symptom is discontent. We find that we are never satisfied with anything. The moment we acquire something, we scarcely take time to enjoy it before we want something else. We are perennially discontent.

When discontent is a virtue

There is a certain discontent that God intended us to have. God actually wired our hearts so that we would not be content with certain things, causing us to seek the only One who can fully satisfy us. We are meant to yearn for a relationship with God, to cultivate a deeper prayer life, to pursue justice and holiness with increasing fervor, to love others more, and to grow in grace and character and wisdom with each passing day.

When discontent destroys

The problem is that those things we should be content with are the very things we find ourselves hopelessly discontented with. For example, we find ourselves discontented with our stuff, our jobs, our churches, our children, and our spouses. God must look down on us and feel the way we feel when we give someone a special gift and the person asks for the gift receipt. It’s as if we’re saying to God, “I don’t like what you have given me, God. I want to trade it in and get something better.”

Four Keys to Cultivating Contentment

The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of contentment. In his letter to the Philippians, he wrote about the “secret” of his contentment (Philippians 4:11-12). Like Paul, we can learn to be content in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves. Four keys, which include the “secret” Paul referred to in his letter, can help us to do that.

  1. 1.Four words to repeat: It could be worse.

John Ortberg, pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, says there are four words we should say whenever we find ourselves discontented with something or someone: “It could be worse.” This is essentially the practice of looking on the bright side or finding the silver lining. It is recognizing that no matter what we may not like about a thing or person or circumstance, we can always find something good to focus on if only we will choose to do so.

  1. 2.One question to ask: How long will this make me happy?

So often we buy something, thinking it will make us happy, only to find that the happiness lasts about as long as it takes to open the box. There is a moment of satisfaction when we make the purchase, but the item does not continue to bring satisfaction over a period of time. Many of the things we buy are simply not worth the expense. This is why it is a good idea to try before you buy.

  1. 3.Develop a grateful heart.

Gratitude is essential if we are to be content. The Apostle Paul said that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). A grateful heart recognizes that all of life is a gift. Contentment comes when we spend more time giving thanks for what we have than thinking about what’s missing or wrong in our lives.

  1. 4.Where does your soul find true satisfaction?

The world tells us that we find satisfaction in ease and luxury and comfort and money. The Bible, however, answers this question very differently. From Genesis to Revelation, it tells us that we find our satisfaction in God alone.

  • “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” (Saint Augustine)
  • “O God, you are my God, I seek you, / my soul thirsts for you. . . . / My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, / and my mouth praises you with joyful lips / when I think of you on my bed, / and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” (Psalm 63:1, 5-6)
  • “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure. . . . Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)
  • Jesus said the two most important things we must do are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). If we keep our focus on these two things, we will find satisfaction for our souls and lasting contentment.

Five Steps for Simplifying Our Lives – Contentment through Simplicity:

The road to cultivating contentment in our lives, is finding the most simple path. Contentment and simplicity go hand in hand.

  1. 1.Set a goal of reducing your consumption, and live below your means.

Set a tangible goal to reduce your own personal consumption and the production of waste in your life. For example, use canvas bags when you go grocery shopping and refuse any extra packaging. Whenever you are making purchases, look at the mid-grade instead of the top-of-the-line product. When buying a new car, aim to improve fuel economy over your existing car by at least 10 percent. Reduce your utilities 10 percent by setting the thermostat back a couple of degrees when you are away during the day and asleep at night. Find other ways to reduce your consumption and live below your means. To find other ways of reducing consumption, do some research, share ideas with others, or have a brainstorming session with your family.

  1. 2.Before making a purchase, ask yourself: Do I really need this? Why do I want this?

These questions will help you determine the true motivation for your desired purchase. Is it a need, a self-esteem issue, or something else? You may find yourself wrestling with your true motive and decide that your reason for purchasing the item is not a good one.

  1. 3.Use something up before buying something new.

Take good care of the things you buy and use them until they are empty, broken, or worn out. Buy things that are made to last, and when buying things that have a short lifespan, spend your money wisely.

  1. 4.Plan low-cost entertainment that enriches.

When it comes to choosing entertainment for your family or friends, plan things that are simple and cheap. You’ll be amazed at how much more pleasure you derive from low-cost, simple activities.

  1. 5.Ask yourself: Are there major changes that would allow me to simplify my life?

Consider downsizing your home, canceling a club membership you don’t use, or selling a car to buy one you can pay for in full. Ask yourself questions related to your home, possessions, job, and activities to identify some significant changes that will simplify your life. Remember, if you cannot do all the things God is calling you to do and you’re unable to find joy in your life, perhaps it’s time to simplify in some major ways.

The Power & Responsibility of Self-Control

Simplifying your life requires the practice of self-control. Solomon wrote, “Like a city whose walls are broken through / is a person who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28 NIV). When a city’s walls are broken through, the enemy can march right in and destroy it; there is no longer any protection. Likewise, self-control is a wall around your heart and life that protects you from yourself, from temptation, and from sins that are deadly and ultimately can destroy you. Self-control often comes down to making a choice between instant gratification and delayed gratification for some greater cause. The choice can be examined using three questions:

  • What are the long-term consequences of this action?
  • Is there a higher good or a better outcome if I use this resource of time, money, or energy in another way?
  • Will this action honor God?

Conclusion: Which tent will you live in?

Will you live in “discon-tent” or “con-tent-ment”? You and you alone determine which “tent” will be yours. You choose it in large part by deciding what life is about. If you decide that “life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15), then you are choosing contentment. Choosing contentment means we look to God as our Source, giving thanks for what we have; we ask God to give us the right perspective on money and possessions and to change our hearts each day; we decide to live simpler lives, wasting less and conserving more; and we choose to give more generously.

Closing Prayer

Lord, we pray that you might cure us of Restless Heart Syndrome. We are truly sorry for the times when we received the gifts you give us and asked for the gift receipt: when we were dissatisfied with a person you entrusted to our care, with our children or parents, with our home or our car, with our healthcare or our jobs. God forgive us for the times we’ve offended you by our discontent. Forgive us for being content with the things we should not be content with. Give us a hunger to pursue righteousness and holiness and justice and love, to long for you and for your will in our lives. Help us to simplify, to get off the treadmill, and to find our peace in you. We ask these mercies in your holy name. Amen.Advertisements

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Sermon “Wisdom and Finance”  ENOuGH

Posted by myoikos in #2018#accountability#encouragement#simplicityaccountability#stewardship#titheExtravagant Generosity on August 18, 2018

(Drawn on Adam hamMilton’s Resources for Enough)

moneydrain

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want. (Prvb 21:5)

Precious treasure remains in the house of the wise,  but the fool devours it. (Proverbs 21:20)

Where Did All Our Money Go?

FROM LAST WEEK: We must allow Christ to work in us.

Christ works in us as we first seek his kingdom and strive to do his will. As we do, we begin to sense a higher calling—a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to look at ways we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources. By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. A key part of finding financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising restraint. With the help of God, we can

  • simplify our lives and silence the voices constantly telling us we need more.
  • live counter-culturally by living below, not above, our means.
  • build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit.
  • build into our budgets what we need to live generously and faithfully.

Living as prodigals

From Jesus’ description in Luke 15:11-16, we see that the prodigal son had the habits of squandering and spending. The word prodigal does not mean someone who wanders away or is lost. It literally means “one who wastes money.” Many of us struggle with that habit. We’re not worried about tomorrow; we want it today. The problem with that kind of thinking is that, for most of us, the “famine” eventually comes. It comes when we have spent everything we have and even a little bit of next year’s income. So we use the credit card and charge it, and we go a little further into debt. Finally, we come to a place where we have nothing left, not even credit, and we can’t figure out how we are we going to get by.

The more we make, the more we waste.

It seems that the more financially secure we become, the less we worry about spending money here and there. We waste a dollar on this or that, and we forget where it went. Money just seems to flow through our fingers. We’re not as careful with our money as we should be. There are many ways we waste money, but there are two primary money-wasters that many of us struggle with. It is not necessary to eliminate these two things altogether, but we should think more carefully about how we spend our money.

How to avoid impulse buying

  • Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.
  • Shop only for what you need.
  • Don’t wander down every isle, only go where you need to go. Make a list and stick to it; buy what you need and get out of the store!
  • Consult a trusted person and wait twenty-four hours before following through on an impulse buy.

Number One Area of impulse spending is Eating out

  • The issue is frequency. The average American eats out an average of four times a week.
  • By eating out less frequently, we will have more money to save, to spend on more important things, and to give away.

If you were to simply prepare all meals at home, you’d move 4.2 meals from restaurants to your home. At an average cost of $12.75 per meal, you’d save yourself $8.75 for each of those meals. In other words, the average American would save $36.75 per person per week by moving all of their meals from restaurants to home-prepared meals. If we are eating out more than 4 times a week, we need to evaluate our lifestyle.

Clarifying Our Relationship with Money and Possessions

We do not exist simply to consume as much as we can and get as much pleasure as we can while we are here on this earth. We have a higher purpose. We need to know and understand our life purpose—our vision or mission or calling—and then spend our money in ways that are consistent with this purpose or calling.

Be clear about your purpose and calling.

Our society tells us that our life purpose is to consume—to make as much money as possible and then to spend it. The Bible tells us that we were created to care for God’s creation. We were created to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We were created to care for our families and those in need. We were created to glorify God, to seek justice, and to do mercy. Our money and possessions should be devoted to helping us fulfill this calling. We are to use our resources to help care for our families and others—to serve Christ and the world through the church, missions, and everyday opportunities. We have a life purpose that is greater than our own self-interest, and how we spend our God-given resources reflects our understanding and commitment to this life purpose or mission.

Set worthy goals.

Being able to accomplish the greater purposes God has for our lives requires some measure of planning. Taking the time to set goals related to our lives and our finances is crucial if we are to become wise stewards of our God-given resources. Each of us should think about our life purpose and goals and then identify two short-term financial goals, two mid-range financial goals, and two long-term financial goals that are aimed at helping us accomplish our broader life goals. At least one goal in each category should relate specifically to our faith. (Suggestion: Use the bulletin insert “My Life and Financial Goals Worksheet” in 3. Communication Resources.)

The Discipline of Managing Your Money

Adopt/Review your budget and spending plan.

Once we’ve set some financial goals, we need to develop a plan to meet those goals. A budget is a spending plan that enables us to accomplish our goals. Some people use an envelope system to help them manage their saving and spending and stay on budget. Others use a variety of different approaches. Many people find it helpful to seek the advice of a financial advisor. For those who find themselves in the midst of a financial crisis, a financial counselor can help arrange terms with creditors and develop a workable financial plan. Whatever approach you choose, the important thing is simply to have a plan.

Follow six financial planning principles.  (Ramsey Model or others)

The following financial planning principles can help us manage our money with wisdom and faith:

  1. Pay your tithe and offering first.
  2. Create a budget and track your expenses.
  3. Simplify your lifestyle (live below your means).
  4. Establish an emergency fund.
  5. Pay off your credit cards, use debit cards for purchases, and use credit wisely.
  6. Practice long-term savings and investing habits.

What can we do?       Simple Truths:

  • Seek God’s wisdom,
  • Listen to the wisdom of those who are trustworthy,
  • hold one another accountable* (See Goal Setting Worksheet)
  • Remember we are created out of generous love and
  • We are called to live generously

Closing Prayer

God, you know all about us, even when we don’t. We don’t know where every dime went, but somehow you know what we did with all that we had, last year and every other year. You don’t forbid us from having joy in our possessions; in fact, you delight in our having joy. But what you know is that simply acquiring more stuff isn’t where we find joy. Lord, forgive us for being wasteful, for being prodigal. Forgive us for leveraging our future in order to have pleasure in the present. And help us to be good managers of the talents that you’ve given us. Help us to be generous and willing to share, kingdom-minded and focused on accomplishing your purposes for our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

*Worksheet Questions

My Life and Financial Goals

How would you define or describe your life purpose?

_______________________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________

What are some goals that can help you achieve this life purpose?

_______________________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________

What are some financial goals that can help support your life goals and purpose?

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

Short-term financial goals (next 12 months):

1. _______________________________________________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________________________________________________

Mid-range financial goals (2–5 years):

1. _______________________________________________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________________________________________________

Long-term financial goals (5 years to retirement):

1. ______________________________________________________________________________________

2. ______________________________________________________________________________________

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1 Timothy 6:10 When Dreams Become Nightmares

Posted by myoikos in #2018moneySpiritualStewardshipTime on August 9, 2018

nighmares

When Dreams Become Nightmares

(from Enough: Stewardship, Adam Hamilton)

Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10b NIV)

The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16:26)

The American Dream

What characterizes the greatest hopes, desires, and dreams of most Americans?

For most people, the American dream has to do with the desire for achieving success and satisfying the desire for material possessions. It is the opportunity to pursue more than what we have, to gain more than what we have, and to meet success. We tend to measure our success by the stuff that we possess.

The pursuit of immediate material pleasure

The love of money and the things money can buy is s primary or secondary motive behind most of what we American’s do. We want to consume, acquire, and buy our way to happiness – and we want it now.

The American Nightmare

The American Dream has become an American Nightmare owing to two distinct yet related “illnesses” that affect us both socially and spiritually.

“Affluenza”

“Affluenza is the constant need for more and bigger and better stuff – as well as the effect that this ‘need’ has on us. It is the desire to acquire, and most of us have been infected by this virus to some degree.

  • The average American home went from 1,660 sq ft in 1973 to 2,700 in 2016.
  • Today there are estimated to be 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space in America.

“Credit-itis

“Credititis” is an illness that is brought on by the opportunity to buy now and pay later, and it feeds on our desire for instant gratification. Our economy today is built on the concept of credit-itis. Unfortunately, it has exploited out lack of self= discipline and has allowed us to feed our affluenza, wreaking havoc with our personal and national finances.

  • Average credit card debt in American in 1990 was around $3000. Today its nearly $17,000.
  • The average sale is around 125 percent higher if we use a credit care than if we pay cash because it doesn’t feel real when we use plastic instead of cash.

Credit-itis is not limited to purchases made with credit cards; it extends to car loans, mortgages, and other loans. The life of the average car loan and home mortgage continues to increase while the average American’ savings rate continues to decline.

The Deeper Problem Within

There is a spiritual issue behind both affluenza and credit-itis.

Our souls were created in the image of God, but they have been distorted. We were meant to desire God, but have turned that desire toward possessions. We were meant to find out security in God, but find it in amassing wealth. We were meant to love people, but instead, we compete with them. We were meant to enjoy the simple pleasure of life, but we busy ourselves still pursuing money and things. We were meant to be generous and to share with those in need, but we selfishly hoard our resources for ourselves. All of us have an inclination toward this sin.

The devil plays upon this inclination toward sin

Jesus said, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In order to destroy us, the devil doesn’t need to tempt us to do drugs or to steal or to have an extramarital affair. All he needs to do is convince us to keep pursuing the American Dream – to keep up with the Jones’s, borrow against our futures, enjoy more than we can afford, and indulge ourselves. By doing that, the devil will rob us of joy, makes us slaves, and keep us from doing God’s will.

  • MT 4:8-10
  • LK 8:14
  • MK 8:36
  • 1Tm 6:10

The Bible’s Solution

We need a heart change.

Although we received a changed heart when we accept Christ, in a sense we need a heart change every morning Each morning we should get down on our knees and say, “ Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be today. Take away the desires that shouldn’t be there, and help me to be single-minded in my focus and pursuit of you.” As we say this prayer and act on it, God comes and cleanses us from the inside out, purifying and changing our hearts.

We must all Christ to work in us.

Christ works in us as we first seek his kingdom and strive to do his will. As we do, we begin to sense a higher calling – a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to look at ways we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources. By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. A key part of finding financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising r4estraint. With the help of God, we can:

simplify our lives and silence the voice constantly telling us we need more.

  • Live counterculture-ly, by living below, not above, our means
  • build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit.
  • Build into our budgets what we need to live generously and faithfully.

Activity: Place your hands in your lap, extend palms upright. Pray quietly with me: Change my heart, O God. Clean me out inside. Make me new. Heal my desires. Help me hold my possessions loosely. Help me to love you. Teach me simplicity, Teach me generosity. Give me joy. I offer my life in Jesus. A

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Colossians 3:1-11 “Never too Soon for Spring Cleaning”

Posted by myoikos in #2018#holiness#repentance on August 4, 2018

sexualsin

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! [NRSV]

The Greatest Park of a Yard Sale

The greatest part of a yard sale is the opportunity to let go of the old clutter, stuff and garbage. It is amazing how we allow stuff to accumulate. Grace and repentance are how we keep from living as a self-centered person vs a God-centered person.The way the world compartmentalizes people is not God’s way of seeing us. God calls us to live counter to the world’s culture. Our earthly heritage is based on genealogy, customs, geography, social and economic divisions. God call’s us to be different based on being spiritually clothed.

Live Like you are a child of God

  • Set your mind on the things of God
  • Clothe your spiritual self with Christ’s glory

Live as a Citizen of Heaven

Live, behave and operate based on your spiritual citizenship and not your worldly citizenship.

Don’t live like God is busy up in heaven:

  • fornication,  impurity, passion,  (Fulfilling the desires of the body are not eternal.)
  • evil desire – Invested and claiming what we declare as good but God does not.
  • greed (idolatry). (what we control and how the world values & measures.) 
  • get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive talk.

Archive for September, 2018

Psalm 19 “Finding God’s Story”

Posted by myoikos in #2018#creation#evil#fear#godisstrong, #godisable#kingdomofheaven#sermonscreationFaithglory on September 22, 2018

heavens

The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard, yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens, he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hidden from its heat. The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is a great reward. But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. [NRSV]

Begin with the ending:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Some preachers quote this verse as a little insurance policy. “I hope what I say is acceptable to you because I’m standing up here in front of everyone speaking in your name.” At best, we quote this verse as a declaration: that what comes out of our mouths should reflect God that is revealed in the world around us; God who is our foundation and salvation.

This passage is not just for preachers: All who are in Christ speak of God’s work, love, plan, and law, even if we never say a word. We need God to live and share the life that is joyful, full and true.

Seeing God in the Heavens

Look to the heavens to see the presence and power of God.

The heavens are telling the glory of God’s purpose and abilities.

The earth reveals the evidence of God’s work and plans.

  • God is with us, “Day by Day”
  • One image of God is that of an engine who designs a grand machine, starts the motor and sits back to see what the creation will do.
  • The Psalmist is proclaiming that God is with us every day and every night.
  • Speaking without words and sounds: The witness of design and process.
  • The stars, planets, comets, asteroids, light, dark matter, energy, and gravity are evident even though we have no words to create them, nor order them, nor change them.
  • There is beauty in the heavens, as a groom and bride look at one another and see with love and joy.

Seeing God in the Workings of the Earth

The earth is working like a strong laborer that takes no break and strives with joy that is unending.

  • The seasons and calendars to measure and plan,
  • the way seeds and soil work together,
  • the way water and clouds work,
  • the way populations are reproduced, t
  • the way air and nutrients sustain all that is living.

Together All things work together to witness God is present and working with us.

The Sun, stars, and planets are the beginning and the ends, they are interdependently operating in a connected system. The light and heat of the sun is greater than anything we can create

2. The Law of the Lord is perfect [enough for all things, people, and times.]

The purpose of the Law of the Lord is to revive the soul.

  • Decrees are sure, both simple and wise
  • Precepts are right, to give joy to the heart and soul.
  • Commandments are clear, informative, pure, enduring,
  • Ordinances are true and righteous

Together these are of more value that much-refined gold and sweeter than fresh, raw honey from the hive.

3. We See and Know, but so what?

The purpose of the Law is to be a warning.

Our reward is found in keeping the Law…

4. Why bother and Where to Start?

Problem: Who can determine who, when, why, how we have not kept them all truly?

Solution: God clears me from my faults, failures, sins and all evil…

  • Protect me from those who tempt and lure, entice, me from your power and law..
  • Protect me from me. Don’t’ let others have dominion, rule, power or control of my life, purpose, work, and joy.
  • If you protect me,  I will be blameless, if I am left alone will be lost in my transgressions.
  • THEREFORE. Protect me from what I say, think, do and believe.

I need you to save me and be the one who I trust

  • in all things,
  • at all times,
  • in all ways.

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Numbers 21:4b-9 Snake bitten, the reality of evil.

Posted by myoikos in #2018#evil#snakebittenResurrection PeopleSalvationSin on September 16, 2018

..but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. [NRSV]

The snakes remind us that Moses and the Hebrews were in the wilderness. They were not in their regular place of what now seems like comfort and ease. (Even though the we slaves and had no freedom, they were given food and had regular shelter and a general sense of privacy and home.) In the Wilderness there were no comforts, no food lines, no house, no bed, and snakes. Remembering the scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, he and heroin, Marion, they are lowed into the Well of Souls where there were countless asps, lethal vipers in every direction.

“Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?” *Getty Image

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford): “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”Indiana Jones: (Passing a torch) “Take this. Wave it at anything that slithers.” Marion: “Thanks. Oh, my God! This whole place is slithering!”

Whether your comfort level is high or low, snakes are the villain from Adam and Eve, to Ka and Mogli, to Harry Potter and Nagini, to the numerous Snakes on an airplane. So it is, they remain a symbol of threat, danger, fear and evil.

One of the most common complaints about God from those who are outside the faith, is that if God is so loving and knowledgable when would God allow evil to harm God’s chosen people? Why do bad things happen to God’s people? Why would a loving God send snakes out to punish grumbling people? Thing how faithfully the Hebrews had done following Moses out of Egypt and traveled in the Wilderness, shouldn’t they at least be allowed some room to complain when the conditions are less than usual and a good bit uncomfortable?

Think about the Wilderness of the world today, don’t we deserve some special protection if not some comforts… The catch is Moses promised them a land of freedom. But that does not mean a freedom from struggle. Even God shows God’s desire and willingness to work six of seven days.

God charges Moses with the task of “Making a poisonous snake” and place it on a pole. I don’t suppose Moses was suppose to make a live poisonous snake? He makes one of bronze and puts it on a pole, and it become a restorative tool of resurrection and resuscitation from those who are bitten by the servants in the wilderness.

God does not stop the snakes from bitting. God does not scare off the snakes and prohibit them from threatening the people. People are still painfully bitten and suffer the affects of poison, but there are offered a remedy… resurrection, as their healing salvation.

Evil is a real power and it causes us pain and suffering. But we have a remedy, we hav a cure, we have Salvation in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

The lesson is that we face the painful bite of fear, struggle, pain and death as people of God, but God has a sign that is our salvation: It is found in the resurrection of Christ, raised up on the cross for the world to see, that death no longer is the end. But never everyone is forced to look to God for the salvation.

So what do we do with this passage in our wilderness?

Where is evil biting us?

What is it that threatens our lives?

What brings fear into our sleepless nights?

What worry do we carry to school and work and home each day?

We have a sign::

We have more than a sign, we have a living SAVIOR

not made of bronze, not written in words, not limited to our minds and calculations

Where there is evil in our hearts and the world there will w user and know loss and pain, but there is a hope God will save us, restore us and make us new.

May that day come soon and may we trust God every day until that da comes.

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Our Very Present Help Psalm 46:1-7

Posted by myoikos in #2018#authority#benotafraid#donotbeafraid#encouragement#ourverypresenthelpPatriotismPolitics on September 8, 2018

Psalm 46:1-7

“1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. (Selah) 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. 6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.  [NRSV]

  • God is our safe-place, is our rest, is our retreat. Is our home.
  • God is our very present help in trouble.
  • Therefore, we have a way through the fear,
  • Even if the earth [and climate] should change
  • Even if the mountain quake and erupt and crumble into the sea

Stand by Me

Ben E. King

When the night has come, And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we'll see
No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
So darlin', darlin', stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry, no I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darlin', darlin', stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now by me, stand by me, stand by me-e, yeah
And darlin', darlin', stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh, stand now by me, stand by me, stand by me-e, yeah

Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me, oh now now stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me

Songwriters: Ben King / Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller

Stand by Me lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Belinda Aberbach Stevenson Agar Revocable Trust

Hear the Good News of what it means to know God is with us:

  • God is our safe-place, is our rest, is our retreat. Is our home.
  • God is our very present help in trouble.
  • Therefore, we have a way through the fear,
  • Even if the earth [and climate] should change
  • Even if the mountain quake and erupt and crumble into the sea

The Psalmist prays and pleads for God to show up: The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; [GOD] utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

We have no time to waste blaming and attacking one another about the troubles in the world!

  • There are Children in our community are in homes filled with violence, fear, poverty, and want.
  • There are Youth in our neighborhoods are bullying and picking each other apart stoved for approval
  • There are Young adults in our community are at best frustrated with the church if not giving up on God and us
  • There are young adults lost in drugs and living day to day.
  • There are middle-aged and older age folks lost in drugs and poverty
  • There are families working every hour to give the best for their kids living no time and energy
  • There are older neighbors who want to be on the receiving end of the labor they have invested
  • There are people who are alone even on the busiest day at Walmart or a football game.
  • There are people losing their jobs and homes and cars, some their own doing and some no fault of their own.
  • There are some who are simply tired of hearing about the troubles of others and the world and want to ignore or escape.

Somewhere in the mix you and know what it is to have times in our lives that are “in an uproar”

Folks turn to the government as the lowest common denominator asking our rules of law to show grace and love for everyone. That is not the role and function of government.

Stop blaming leaders and laws and courts and judges and media, and know that

  • NONE of these are as strong as God
  • none are as compassionate as God
  • none are as dependable as God
  • none provide our PRESENT help when all the world is turned upside down and shaken.
  • The next time you hear someone say: The President… The Media… The Congress… someone on FB said… stop them right there and ask them:

Where is your strength with your government fails you?

Where is your “Good News” when the media fails you?

Where is your safety net when systems fail you?

Where are your relationships renewed and made whole?

God, who, even when the earth is unrecognizable, God is where we need to stand. Stand by God. Darlin, won’t you please stand my God.

We don’t have time to solve the world’s problems by making those things that will always be corruptible and shakable and will crumble under press ion, we need God who is with us

VERYPRESENTHELP

God is very present when we stand up with him, and for him. For when we call on God’s name and call the shaken world to seek God, we are on the most solid of ground.

When we place God in charge of poverty and corruption then our pride and fears no longer lead us.

When we place God in charge of our bodies then no drug will every satisfy

When we place ourselves in the word of God, in the people of God, in the songs of God, in the service of God, in the witness of God, right in those moments GOD IS VERY PRESENT

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Enough: Week 4 “Defined by Generosity” 1 Tim 6:17-19

Posted by myoikos in #2018#enough#giving on September 1, 2018

titheapple

<outline based on Adam Hamilton’s lesson of Generosity from ‘Enough’>

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.    (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.    (Proverbs 11:24-25)

Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)

A Theological Foundation for a Generous Life

Created to be generous, tempted to hoard

God created us with the willingness to give—to God and to others. This design is part of our makeup; we actually have the need to be generous. Yet there are two voices that work against our God-given impulse toward generosity and that tempt us to keep or hoard what we have. The charge is to multiply: God graciously gives us life, breath, brain, purpose, and passion: What stops us?

  • The voice of fear

Fear of what might happen to us, along with a misplaced idea about the true source of our security, keeps us from being generous and leads us to hoard what we have. The truth is that hoarding offers us no real security in this world.

  • The voice of self-gratification

Our culture tells us that our lives consist in the abundance of our possessions and pleasurable experiences. So we find ourselves thinking, If I give, there won’t be enough left for me.

Defeating the voices

When we give our lives to Christ, invite him to be Lord, and allow the Holy Spirit to begin changing us from the inside out, we find that our fears begin to dissipate and our aim in life shifts from seeking personal pleasure to pleasing God and caring for others. Although we still may wrestle with the voices from time to time, we are able to silence them more readily and effectively the more we grow in Christ. And the more we grow in Christ, realizing that our lives belong to him, the more generous we become. Generosity is a fruit of spiritual growth.

Biblical reasons to give to God and others

  • “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
  • “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
  • “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1).

Biblical guidelines for giving

From the early days of the Old Testament, God’s people observed the practice of giving some portion of the best they had to God. A gift offered to God was called the first fruits or the tithe, and it equaled one-tenth of one’s flocks or crops or income. Abraham was the first to give a tithe or tenth.

  • Genesis 14:20b and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.
  • Genesis 28:18-22 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.”
  • Leviticus 27:30-33 All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord. 31 If persons wish to redeem any of their tithes, they must add one-fifth to them. 32 All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.33 Let no one inquire whether it is good or bad, or make substitution for it; if one makes substitution for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy and cannot be redeemed. 

Giving a tithe

As Christians who live under the new covenant, we are not bound by the law of Moses; we look to it as a guide. Yet most Christians agree that the tithe is a good guideline for our lives and one that is pleasing to God. Though tithing can be a struggle, it is possible at virtually every income level. If you cannot tithe right away, take a step in that direction. Perhaps you can give 2 percent or 5 percent or 7 percent. God understands where you are and will help you make the adjustments necessary to become more generous.

Giving beyond the tithe

Tithing is a floor, not a ceiling. God calls us to grow beyond the tithe. We should strive to set aside an additional percentage of our income as offerings for other things that are important to us, such as mission projects, schools, church building funds, and nonprofit organizations.

What Our Giving Means to God

How does our giving affect God?

From the earliest biblical times, the primary way people worshiped God was by building an altar and offering the fruit of one’s labors upon it to God. They would burn the sacrifice of an animal or grain as a way of expressing their gratitude, devotion, and desire to honor God. The scent of the offering was said to be pleasing to God. It wasn’t that God loved the smell of burnt meat and grain. Rather, God saw that people were giving a gift that expressed love, faith, and the desire to please and honor God, and this moved God’s heart. When given in this spirit, our offerings bless the Lord.

What is God’s response to our giving?

  • Luke 6:38   give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
  • Matthew 25:14-30  “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

What Our Giving Means to Us

Through it, our hearts are changed.

When we are generous—to God and to our families, friends, neighbors, and others who are in need—our hearts are filled with joy. They are enlarged by the very act of giving. When we give generously, we become more generous.

In it, we find the blessings of God.

Many Christians have it wrong. They say that if you give, then God will give more back to you. But that is not how it works. We do not give to God so that we can get something in return. The amazing thing is that when we give to God and to others, the blessings just seem to come back to us. Of course, there is no guarantee that if we tithe, we will never lose our job or never have other bad things happen to us. Nevertheless, when we give generously, the unmistakable blessings of God flow into our lives.

Closing Prayer

O God, we thank you that you have given us life, that you sustain us by the power of your Holy Spirit, and that you gave Jesus Christ as an offering for us and for our sins. We thank you for the abundance that we have in our lives. And we pray, O Lord, that you would help us. Help us to honor you with our tithes. Help us to care for the poor and those who are in need. Help us to recognize that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We offer ourselves to you. Guide us now as we prepare to fill out our commitment cards. Help us, O Lord, to do your will. Lead us, we pray. In your holy name. Amen.

Archive for March, 2018

Mark 16:1-8 As You Go and Tell

Posted by myoikos in #2018#easter#findingJesus#gotell#relationship#rsumcEasterMeaningRelationshipSinTruthWorship on March 31, 2018Garden Tomb of Jesus

The stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Go Tell his Disciples, “There” you will see him.

A confirmation that the Church is the Body of Christ and a sure and dependable place and moment to share our living Savior.

My crazy grandfather used to tell me that I could not go swimming until I learned to swim. I would reply, “How can I learn to swim without getting in the water.” His reply, “Go ask your grandmother.”

It is in the act of doing that we come to experience Jesus as our Savior.

If I only think about Jesus, then my faith would be a theory that could exist just fine within my own understanding, and you could have your understanding and I could have mine and we’d be fine as long as we didn’t share where we had a conflicting understanding. (skip the opportunity for sarcasm.)

The specific instruction on the first Easter Sunday was to find Jesus, where and when you are telling the other disciples about the resurrection.

Our worship, fellowship, music, visuals, conversations, scripture, and are ways we gather to experience Jesus, living with us.

How do I experience Jesus?

  • I see Jesus: in the scriptures
  • I hear Jesus: in the music
  • I smell Jesus: in your questions
  • I feel Jesus: in your singing and responding
  • I taste Jesus: in the bread and cup and fellowship dinners, why I cook.

How do I prevent people from experiencing Jesus?

  • When I’m not sharing, the world sees the wines of complaining, division, fear, anger, selfishness, and pride.
  • When I’m not telling about Jesus, people hear whatever news, movies, celebrities, squeaky wheels will tell, print or post.
  • When I’m not telling about Jesus, people smell doubt, insincerity, and shallow words that don’t relate to people’s hunger and thirst for what is good and right.
  • When I’m not telling about Jesus, people continue to feel alone, confused and divided
  • When I’m not telling about Jesus, people taste the bitterness of a sin-filled worldview.

Q: So What do I tell people?

  • Jesus lives for a sinner like me
  • Jesus speaks through scripture and the church
  • Jesus smells fresh and hopeful if what I’m saying is mean-spirited, nope, not Jesus.
  • Jesus feels present and relevant to people.
  • Jesus tastes satisfying and whole.

So When and How Often do I have to tell about Jesus?

NOW!

Easter is the best day to tell about Jesus

  • Who will you tell see
  • Who will hear
  • Who will feel
  • Who will smell
  • Who will taste

Easter is the reminder of our real urgency that someone is

  • bound and
  • blind and
  • afraid and
  • confused and
  • misinformed and
  • betrayed and
  • some clouded by religion
  • alone making up something they call the truth
  • any of these, but they DO NOT have to be

Some have smelled the difference between the joy of our worship and the judging, barking, and silence

Some have tasted the world and are left hungry

A Word to Disciples

Back to the instruction, with the urgency: Easter is a day to come and experience Jesus as our Risen Savior so that every day that follows we are ready to be the living Jesus until he returns.

Use every way that we experience life to lead the world to experience Jesus in us.

When we are cady, controlling, fussing, griping, condescending, bothered with others around us we are in a danger zone of NOT allowing others to experience Jesus. We get in the way. 

The invitation is for this day, for Disciples to regroup in Jesus, as ‘THE’ way and be ready to live to experience Jesus with othersAdvertisements

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John 12:12-16 Jesus is Coming to Town

Posted by myoikos in #2018#cross#easter#faithsharing#gotell#palmsunday#passionsundayHoly WeekJesusResurrection PeopleSpiritual on March 24, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 4.02.12 PM.png

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!”  Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. [NRSV]

Why Hosanna?

The words of praise. Hurray! Glory! Wonderful! come to mind, but this is a more unique word that Hebrew and recorded in Jesus’s native Aramaic. It is a phrase word. Just as the folks from Athens, GA might say: “How ‘bout them Jackets” (haha, twist intended) it would be a celebratory “Glory, Glory to ole Georgia.” If these phrases were encapsulated into a word we would the idea of ‘Hosannah”

Hosanna began as Lord, God Save us! and through the Gospel’s has come to mean, Highest Praise, who has saved us. So their use of the original context is twisted with the early church’s use of the old testament word.

So we have Palm Sunday as a pre-celebration that Jesus coming into the world, and in our hearts and lives, is the celebration of our salvation.

Which means if Jesus does not come to the world, to our heart, and to our town, then we are NOT saved. Here in is theological of preparing for a life as Easter People.

We usually only read this passage as an observer of a historical event, but it is shared in the Gospels as Good News and not just historical newspaper clippings.

Hosannah: Jesus has saved me, even though we celebrate the death on Good Friday and the Resurrection of next Sunday as Easter, we look at this story of entry into the city as a necessary part of the process.

We prepare for Easter knowing it is our victory march! The ASSURANCE of what WILL be and not just hope of what MIGHT be.

Why Palms?

The disciples did not gather to get Creighton’s Florist to order dozens of palms to be ordered, the palms were a response from the people who are making a traditional sign of welcoming the king.

This is a difficult time for us to respond in unison with any unifying act of praise and celebration because we have become a culture of suspicion, rebellion and divided support.

Some might hope, in our country that the “Stars and Stripes” would be an obvious rally flag. For some, it an illicit political protest.

I hope that you will do the spiritual work to see that the people might have divided reasons for welcoming Jesus as King.

Some who were in the crowd that day had experienced Jesus teaching, healing or miracles, while others knew only the oppressive Roman rule, and still, others were supporting glorious days of kings of the past hoping for the revival of political greatness.

Bottom line the palms are unifying symbols of many different individual reasons, some helpful and some dangerous.

Why a donkey’s colt?

Jesus came to town with is Colt? Would mean have met the expectation of many who were hoping for a new sheriff to clean house and restore order. When in fact, Jesus comes in humility to spiritually reorder the whole world and all time.

Think of the Jesus riding in a church parade. If this were a political parade there would have been legions of soldiers, a banner of the empire and emblems of Cesear. This is a church parade. Not everyone entered a float, but the people respond as if it is a political, flag-waving event.

Jesus rides in, not in a BEAST of an armored car, not on the back of a convertible, not even proud Clydesdale stallion. It’s more like he rides in on a pickup truck, not a four-door, HEMI, but a simple work truck.

But the symbol for some would be as if the self-proclaimed president was riding in ‘on’ a smart car.  You know that Consumer Reports does not the rate the “Smart Car” in their rating in a polite way of saying: “If you can’t say something good and helpful, don’t say anything at all.”

The palms and praises are the people’s response, Jesus message is the spiritual work that is being completed through the events of the week at hand. We call it Holy Week, but it is the week when everything we hold dear is lost and hope is out of our grasp… Oh, how we long for Easter, Salvation, Life, and Christ!

Wave OUR palms because we need to lead others out of hopelessness, fear, and sin into the joy that aways through the journey at hand.

This is what we share, this is why we praise, this is why we are the church, we are Christian, not for ourselves, but for OUR collective hope in the ONE who does save us. This week of Journey is the toughest part. Reach out to one who is in the hardest part o that spiritual and physical journey sharing the hope and joy that we KNOW is coming soon!

Again the call is to share the journey with those who cannot see this week is holy.

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John 12:20-33 Lost In a Life of Love

Posted by myoikos in #2017 on March 18, 2018

percentloved

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—”Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Attractive line from Gnostism: Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Antithesis from the world’s message: Those who love their life seize it, and those who hate their life in this world will give it away, now is the moment.

John’s Gospel is written for the stated purpose of helping us come to believe and once believing to have a greater faith to stand and share.

Those who love are about to live eternally, don’t trade it for the world of comfort, fame, control.

Approaching Easter is the ongoing journey we travel in following Jesus.

  • What percent of me does God love?
  • What percent of me does God forgive?
  • What percent of me does God save?
  • What percent of my time does God ask of me?
  • What percent of my possessions does God ask of me?
  • What percent of my thoughts and actions does God want to use for his glory?

This is where we been to see the hard ache of this passage

Has it become one you would like to edit out? Swap the yellow highlighter for the black sharpie, right?

Our journey is not about distance in miles, it is about millimeters in our hearts and

mind.

How much more of my self am I entrusting and devotion to a god this trip to Jerusalem?

The difference in our calling and That of Jesus is that his live was given up for us and

Our calling is to give our living to Jesus that other folks find the journey toward Christ

Winning by Loosing

As an adult we learn that “winning” is not always the reason to play a game.

There are some folks who work most every Sunday and miss church but they give more heart and time on other days and nights, so don’t judge one another. We are on the journey together

I read about an educator this week who was admonished by their supervisor for holding an adult student accountable for their ability to write. “Someone else passed them along, it’s not our place to stop the wheels of higher education.  We don’t need problems, blame, distractions, just let it slide and don’t single out this purpose that. Ugh the be offended

And so it is on the journey of faith, just let misinformed people believe what they will because I’m just a wrong as the next person and just as correct as the other. Then why bother?

God not only bothered, but gave his only child for us, God gives himself for us.

God loose, so that we win.

The warning in this passage is to not loose God, but settling for part, when God offers whole life.

Don’t share your faith because I encouraged you to do so,

Keep the context of what God has done for us – and ask what part of my love do you want me to share?

What part of the gospel do you want me to tell?

What part of the song do I sing?

What part of the fellowship to I offer?

What part of the gift do I give?

What part of the day is mine, alone?

The Way Home

Confession: Lord, Jesus I have not loved you with my whole self. I have not loved my neighbor. I have not loved my enemies. I have not always made room for you in my day and night. Forgive me and continue to offer your grace. Make me yours and put me to living for you, in love others and loving my life with you. Amen.

Remind your neighbor

Love your neighbor, welcome the stranger, forgive your enemy and add to the percent of your living and give for God.

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Luke 2:15-19   Acts 1: 7-11 , Matthew 23:32-39 Matthew 14:25-30, Mark 15: 18-23 (Lynyrd Skynyrd at Church?)

Posted by myoikos in #2018#lentenskynyrdMusic, Anthems on March 18, 2018

skynners

(FULL Video link from worship on YouTube)

My story with Lynyrd Skynyrd is not too different from many young boys who lived in the south as a child of the sixties and seventies. I received my first guitar at the age of 12 and would listen to the anthems of the southern rock. Trying to listen to the radio and pick out the notes to the intro to “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Freebird”. Knowing all along that I could step in to play if they needed a back up, at least in my own mind. Flash forward to a couple of years ago I was going through my mother’s piano song books of church music, classical, show tunes and a few others like the collection of Bet Midler, Barbra Streisand, and the Carpenters, some she played in my youth. But as I went through the stacks of song books I found the classic collection of Lynyrd Skynyrd. What? Why did mom hide this contraband collection from my youth?

As I thumbed through the pages the idea of these songs being known as Southern Rock Anthems set the tone for me reinterpreting titles and lyrics as songs of God and faith. In fact some of the stories within the lyrics and the music speak for a generation and a culture within that generation, just as music does with every generation and every culture. (We are getting to the faith and God part, in a moment, hang in there.)

These Skynyd “anthems” of southern rock and roll are such because they speak the words of pride in once community, once way of life, for God and Country, The music speaks to the hearts of a people. Sometimes in rebellion of war and politics, other times lifting up the value of community and patriotism.

Which got me to thinking! (This is a the dangerous part.)

I clergy pier and friend, Bob Winsted, share some stories about his experience with Skynyrd band members. Bob and I had the privilege of experiencing the Holy Land pilgrimage and various small groups.

The piano player with Skynyrd band was Billy Powell. Billie was my friend Bob’s backyard neighbor in Jacksonville, Florida. He was also a friend with Leon Wilkensen and Ronnie Van Zant. They all went to Robert E Lee High school where Coach Skinner annoyed them about having long hair. Bob relays how they would collect Coke bottles and cash them in for the refund for the glass bottles and go give to coins to the old black blues player who sang out front of the local grocery story with his Dobro guitar. (They knew Curtis Loew personally, and were moved by his ballads. They wanted to heart the music, which wanted to feel the blues. They wanted to experiences the words and songs that moved them. Bob wanting to avoid going to Vietnam, joined the Navy and sign up to play in the Navy Band. This took him out of being the Skynyrd band, but it opened his music to play drums for Lou Rolls. Which prepared him for ministry playing USO tours around the world. Bob later had the honor of conducting the funerals of his high school buddies Ronnie and Billy.

So when I was holding this hymnbook of Skynyrd classics, the words jumped off the page into my eyes and ears of faith: The Skynyrd discography: “That Smell”: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. “I’m not the One, “ John the Baptist tells his disciples the same that he is not worthy to tie Jesus sandals. Peter stepping out onto the water with Jesus and only making it “Three Steps”

I share these stories to highlight how music and songs have an important part in shaping who we are and it is vital for us as people of faith to know what music shapes, defines, moves and inspires us.

The reason it’s okay to play Lynyrd Skynyrd in Church is because a) we changes some of the lyrics and b) there reflect something that has defined generations of people. Most important is to recognize that as we embrace each other’s music, we are also learning to understand, listen/hear, and appreciate each other.

To ride in the car, with my whole family, on a long, long, car trip to the beach, with Wendy, Frances, Mikey, Susanna, Luke and myself means that listen to Benny Goodman, The Weather Girls/Mother’s Finest, Dion Warwick, Ed Shereen, Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Taylor Swift, Judah and the Lion, the Head and the Heart, Mumford and Sons, and I would add in some Randy Travis, Eagles and Skynyrd. If we voted, who liked each other’s music best, we would have to leave the radio turned off.

So I ask you what are your anthems?

Hymns, Songs, Chorus, Praise songs, Classical hymns, Traditional Hymns, Contemporary Hymns, Praise songs, Praise choruses, anthems, special, arrangements, compilations, indie-contemporary, modern Praise and worship, post-modern praise, what’s on the radio, what’s being written and is not even popular yet?

Just as important it was for Bob, Billy, Ronnie and the Jacksonville FL friends to listen to the blues to shape their own anthems that touch and hold meaning for generations… So it is necessary for us to hear each other’s anthems and songs and music to touch and hold meaning for the generations that are coming.

So, to the homework,

  1. What are your anthems that shape your heart and view of this world?
  2. Who needs to hear that song that moves and shapes your heart and life.
  3. Musician do what they do because they get to share that experience every time they play and we might not have their talent, but we can share the words and notes that move us to love, to live and to salvation.

May we always be known as the singing Methodist. (Not that John Wesley was expecting Skynyrd)

Singing all the songs the world needs to hear because they have lead us through and guide us where we are headed.

Worship Song List for March 18, 2018

Luke 2:15-19 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this they made known what had been told to them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.[NRSV]

Song 1 “Simple Man”
 (Lyrics tweaked very little)

Mama told me when I was young

“Come sit beside me, my only son

And listen closely to what I say

And if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day”

“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast

Troubles will come and they will pass

You’ll find a path and you’ll find love

And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above”

“And be a simple kind of man

Oh, be something you love and understand

Baby be a simple kind of man

Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold

All that you need is in your soul

And you can do this, oh baby, if you try

All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man

Oh, be something you love and understand

Baby be a simple kind of man

Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Oh yes, I will

“Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself

Follow your heart and nothing else

And you can do this, oh child, if you try

All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man

Oh, be something you love and understand

Baby be a simple kind of man

Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Man, be a simple, be a simple man

Oh, be something you love and understand

Man, be a simple kind of man

Matthew 14:25-30 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Mark 15: 18-23 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it.

Give and Three Steps (Lyrics tweaked a lot, a whole lot)

We were out sail’n that day

The sea was storm’n away.

And the water was filling the boat.

And he’s tell’n me son,

Well, that He is the one

As I’m staring down at the floor.

he turned and called me Peter who

That was the rock I was looking for.

Stepped out on the water that day

Headed out towards my Lord.

“Oh, won’t you give me three steps,

Gimme three steps a-mister,

Gimme three steps towards my Lord?

Gimme three steps

Gimme three steps a-mister,

And you will see me forever more.”

Show me the Lord.

I was climbing the hill

Near at a place called The Skull

With a man name Simon, who

Stuck out his hand

And he was looking to help me through

He said, “Hey there fellow,

you not look’n so well

What you tryin’ to prove?

Cause the crowd over there

and a solider don’t care

And this might be all for you.”

“Oh, won’t you give me three steps,

Gimme three steps a-mister,

Gimme three steps towards my Lord?

Gimme three steps

Gimme three steps a-mister,

And you will see me forever more.”

Matthew 23:32-39 O Jerusalem

Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?  Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.  Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you, desolate.  For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

Sweet Home O Jerusalem

Big wheels keep on turning

Carry me home to see my kin

Singing songs about the promised-land

I miss the ole’ garden once again, all cause of a sin

Well I heard prophets sing about her

Well I heard ole Caesar put her down

Well, I hope God’s people will remember

A Godly man do need him around anyhow

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Where the skies are so blue

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Lord, I’m coming home to you

In Jerusalem they love the Gov’nor, boo-hoo-hoo

Now we all did what we could do

Now Caiaphas does not bother me

Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Where the skies are so blue

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Lord, I’m coming home to you, here I come

Now Galilee has got some Disciples

And they’ve been known to feed one or two (yes they do)

Lord they get me going so much

They pick me up when I’m feeling blue, now how bout you?

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Where the skies are so blue

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Lord, I’m coming home to you

Sweet home O Jerusalem, oh sweet home

Where the skies are so blue and the praises too

Sweet home O Jerusalem

Lord, I’m coming home to you

Acts 1: 7-11 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Freebird (Words slightly tweaked)

If I leave here tomorrow

For I must be traveling on, now

Cause there’s too many places I’ve prepared to see

But, if I stayed here with you, now

Things just couldn’t be the same

Cause I’m as free as a bird now

And this bird you can not change

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And this bird you can not change

And this bird you can not change

Lord knows, I won’t change

Bye, bye, baby, it’s still a sweet love

Though this feeling I can’t change

But please don’t take it so badly

Cause Lord knows I’m the same

But, if I stayed here with you, now

Things just wouldn’t be the same

Cause I’m as free as a bird now

And this bird you’ll see again.

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

And this bird you will meet again.

And this bird you will meet again.

Lord knows, I will come again.

Lord help me, I’ll come again.

Lord, I will come again.

Won’t you fly high, free bird, yeah

Would you still remember me?

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Ephesians 2:1-10 “Love: I can’t do it.”

Posted by myoikos in #2018#jesuslovesme#loveyourenemy3GodJesusLove on March 10, 2018

JesusLoveEvenMe

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. [NRSV] 

  • What is it that someone who is feeling as though they don’t matter need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is feeling unworthy because of poor choices they have made need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who feels helpless and vulnerable need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who feels broken and worn out from not achieving or completely their work need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is feeling distant from God, with unanswered prayers need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is searching but not finding faith need to hear?

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God [NRSV]

What do I tell someone who is alone, empty, guilty, broken, weary, failing, lost and afraid?

By grace, you are saved through faith, not for what you have done, not done, failed doing or never tried, but by God’s love, God is saving you to be in relationship with God.

What is it that you and I are called to share with a broken and hurting world?

God’s gift for us

God so loves the world that he gave us himself, in Jesus Christ, that we might believe and trust him as the way to find God’s love.

How many people are afraid where you live and work?

All they talk about is how worried, afraid, alone, unworthy, or unhappy they are… all symptoms and signs of not knowing God’s love.

99.9% of those who say that don’t believe in God are also saying they don’t feel or sense God loves them. “How could a God, if there is one, love? And more miraculously, how could God love me?

Look into your own mirror, your own spiritual self: Do you know God loves you?

The correct answer is Yes, because Jesus Christ saves me to prove God’s love for me.

But the question is not what is the correct answer, the question is: “Do you believe this is true for you?”

I know that God loves me and yet I struggle trusting it at times?

It is most clear when I look back at God’s presence in grand mothers, a grand father, a father, teachers, neighbors, church members, authors, theologians, and friends who have revealed God’s love to me, because they have shown me what God’s love is.

Rather than boast in my or your failures, it is essential to focus on the prize, the gift.

God’s love is awesome: For all the reason God should not love me, my behavior, my selfishness, my greed, my pride, my self determination, my hard work, my correct answers, my untruths, my fears, my failures, none of these are the reason that God loves me.

God loves me because I am created of God. Formed of the stuff and creatures of God’s creation. God has never forsaken us and will never forget us. God love is with us.

  • This is what the world needs to hear.
  • This is what people are dying to know.
  • This is why people are fighting and they don’t even realize how far off base they have become.

So what do we do?

Look to verse 10 “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” [NRSV]

Our purpose is to be loved and to show love.

Our purpose is to be in Christ Jesus for the world, that is hurting, afraid, clueless and against us.

Our purpose is determined before we decided, our purpose to learn to love God and God’s people in response.

  • God loves us when we were enemies.
    • God’s hope, dream and desire is for us to find our belonging and once we are whole our works become the signs for others.
  • We love the poor, not to prove our worthiness, but because, before we had Christ, we were totally poor, no matter how rich or poor the world might label us.
  • We feed the hungry, not to earn our way, but because our hunger is satisfied in Christ. When we think and are driven my/our worldly worries and fears, we remain malnourished.
  • Once we have feasted in the love and power of God’s table our spirits are filled. But we see, hear and know word full of those who hunger for what is right, who trade their own understanding or perspective for what is good in the moment or good in principles, but far from Good in God’s love.

The greatest way to find assurance of our own faith and trust, is to share the gift with others.

I offer that it is not just feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, comforting the sick, healing the broken, forgiving the debt and trespasses, it is when we learn to love our enemies that God’s love and lesson comes full circle and complete.

You can surely find someone in this fellowship this morning who will love you, yet while we are not perfect, I doubt that our enemies are fellow church members.

When we understand and experience love for someone that is not based on what they can do for us, but what we do for God that we understand love.

This is the simple task that is the most difficult of our lives. Loving without expecting reciprocal love.

Typically we say, if I show them love, they will love me back. What if love says, if I show them live, they will know how to love me back, but they might never do that.

This is what makes our task difficult, even with God as our example and our salvation.

What it proves is that that we actually cannot complete this without God’s work.

When we reach the breaking point of our own limitation, we see/know where God’s salvation and love makes us whole.

  • So the answer to the question, “Do I love God?” is never enough, I need God’s help.
  • So the answer to the question, “Do I love my enemy?” never enough without God’s love.
  • So the answer to the question, “Do I need God help?” the answer is Always, even to the end.

Eph 2.1-10

God’s joy is to love us.

Christ is the proof and our eternal hope.

Our purpose is to trust God to love and help love the world, including our enemies.

Let’s get to trusting God, because we love God, not just need to be saved. We are saved to love, that ‘s gift.

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John 2:13-22 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Signs and Fools

Posted by myoikos in #encouragement#faithsharingWitness on March 3, 2018

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. [John 2:13-22 NRSV]

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. [1 Corinthians 1:18-25 NRSV]

Foolish Signs

Think of the foolish things that Jesus did in his ministry:

  • Cut ties with his family
  • Entrusted 12 ordinary men to lead the church
    • He does not include a body guard
    • He does not find a promoter
  • He does not build building
  • He does not receive people at their very best, usually in their brokenness
  • He does not stay in one place for very long
  • He does not get a college education
  • He preached to the least, the last and lost.
  • He taught using simple stories

I recall one summer at the grandparents farm, my grandfather wanted my eldest cousin to cut his shoulder-length hair to be “clean and neat”. My cousin reminded my grandfather that even Jesus had long hair, (not something we know one way or the other, but tradition would suggest, but my 5th grade educated grandfather replied, “and Jesus walked everywhere he went.”

  • Only once in all the travels of Jesus do we find him traveling other than by foot and he rides a donkey.
  • Just when the crowds start gathering critical mass he leaves the spot light to be alone in prayer.
  • Most every action and example, Jesus lives out what the world and other leaders would identify as foolish.

Foolishresulting from or showing a lack of sense; ill-considered; unwise:a foolish action, a foolish speech; lacking forethought or caution; trifling, insignificant, or paltry. ]

It was foolishness to think that one person could rebuild the temple in three days when teams of workers had been working straight for forty-six years

For all the world’s foolishness, God is working signs of power

Everyone of the sign of the world’s foolishness for Jesus is a sign of God at work, in the world, through people like you and me and the characters we see in scripture.

Think for a moment how the author of love and architect of the universe is reaching out to us through people, through struggles, through impossibilities, through life and death to connect with us and the whole world.

Awesomely foolish. Wonderfully divine!

The words of Jesus from John’s Gospel and Paul’s letter the church in Corinth call our attention toward God and not our own thoughts, success, triumphs and plans.

God is working through our brokenness, through our sin, through our failures.

When we focus on our labors, what we have earned, what we deserve, how we have figured and achieved we loose sight of God in exchange for our best.

In a very practical and plain fashion

Which is more powerful? Words of wisdom from our thinkers, theologians and politicians? Or words spoken by God, Jesus the Holy Spirit?

God continues to trust fools in the most important task for all humanity.

  • You and I are the witnesses.
  • We are the messengers.
  • We are the ones who hold the keys,
  • You and I have the first line of kingdom of God.

Why do we settle for the world’s foolishness, when God is all-in, relying on us?

One of the legs of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour is Mr Bill Engvall. His catch phrase is, “here’s your sign.”  When people say things that reveal they are not at their brightest moments.

  • Honey our plane hit a deer? Were you still in the air?
  • Dad, I’m going to play you the theme song from Harry Potter on the piano. From the movie? No Dad, from the book.
  • Covered in camouflage clothes head to toe, painted face and smelling of the woods, the Walmart Greeter asked, have you been hunting? No, I’ve been hugging trees.

Rather than worrying about signs of weather and rumors of wars and portents of end times, let’s be about sharing the signs of God’s power at work in our lives.

Signs of Foolishness

  • Taking Cleaning supplies to folks who have none in Jesus Name
  • Taking thread and material and covering people in prayer
  • Singing songs and breaking bread for kids who are hungry for Good News at home and at camp.
  • Taking the Good News we find when we gather in this place and sharing hope with the people we see at work, school, shopping and everywhere we go.
  • Hearing the worry, fear, division in the world’s conversation, and reminding each other that God shows up in our greatest failures and fears to teach us grace, love and power.

These are our signs, show the world!

Archive for February, 2018

Romans 4:13-25 Trusting Christ with Our Lives

Posted by myoikos in #2017#almostchristianbeliefFaithTrust on February 24, 2018

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,

being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. [NRSV]

Apostle Paul drawing on God’s promise and covenant with Abraham to teach about faith

This is one of those passages that helps iron out wrinkles between the Old and New Testaments. Abraham, father of the Hebrews, makes covenant with God. Paul is bridging communities around the topic of faith. As we know people can be divided over our understandings concerning faith.

The deal was Abraham was to trust God to be God and keep God’s promises and God would make Abraham and Sarah the great-great-great grand parents a thousand times over.

First this passage reminds us of God’s timing. God works through generations of time and relationships.

Second God works through individuals, Abram and Sari

Third God works through grace and faith rather than right thinking or right acting.

The central message and lesson is about faith

I suggest that we live in a time that is empty of faith, we would rather have proof.

We live in a time where people are dividing and dying over be correct instead of living in relationship with God and one another.

The world hungers and thirst for The wholeness, strength, peace and loving power God has for us, but on our terms and in our time.

The absence of faith is seen in the covenant breaking

The criticisms of Billy Graham for his focus and perspective of theology, remyinds us that being faithful is seldom the popular thing.

Family friends and denominations splitting over words and ideas reveals an absence of faith and trust in God.

So what does it mean to trust God to be God?

Covenant living is God promising to love, provide, guide, empower, and comp,eye what is broken and missing from our best efforts.

Trusting God vs Trusting our Insurance policy

Trusting God vs Trustig our contracts

Trusting God vs Trsuting our value

Trusting God vs Trusting

God.s promises

Promises to love us

Promises to guide and lead us

Promises to journey with Us

Promises to save us from sin and self

The me I am is who I design or am I the me God sees in me?

By my choices I am becoming my actual self

By my failures, ignorance and self interest I become someone other than the Self God hopes I will become

By God’s love and grace God judges my brokenness and fills in the games and makes me into my whole self.

So ingrained in our freedom to choose that we at our highest self when we have no need for God, but only be being true them myself as decided by myself than my self is valued, whole and this good.

Millions of nasty brutish folk doing the good they desire neglecting those who are different, or less or greater or other

Secondarily is the tendency that if I’m Ok, your ok. That is if I workout my own salvation and identity that you are left to do your own thing and I have no opbligatio. Or responsibility to you or any other. I’ve got my hands full working on my own stuff that I have little to nOtho get left to give for the other.

From John Wesley’s sermon on ““almost Christian”

An Almost Christian

1. May Act justly and kindly and do good

May Speak the Truth

May Give as one is able to help

May Have the look and sound of godliness

May Behave well and follows all the rules

May Speaks well of others

2. May avoid Wine lies gluttony doing no willful wrong

May do all the good one can, friend or enemy

May take part in all the church has to offer, whenever the doors are open

May pray and ask for Prayer that others would think more highly of them

May be the role model of serious and respectful intentions

May ask that God “have mercy on me”

3. Daily prayers out warmly

One missing thing:  Sincerity of Faith

How to tell the difference?

Wicked follow to avoid punishment or to be approved

Sinner follows to be save because he/she knows they are not hug without God

Wesley’s words we “altogether christsin vs almost Christisn”

All together is

1. to love God. Who I’m I without you of lord

2. love of neighbor. Corinth 13

3. To trust that we are saved and made whole being spiritually born of god. (This the our victory, fulfillment. [Wholeness]}

Even devils believe, vs faith

Sure trust  that God saves us and without Christ we are nothing, this is faith

The test is given we with sincerely ask before God, ourselves and the church;

: ““am I all together Christian or an almost Christian?”

What is the truth, and what do you intend to do about it?Advertisements

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2-Corinthians 4:1-9 (3-6) Shine the Light of Christ

Posted by myoikos in #2017#crossRadical HospitalityWitness on February 11, 2018

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. [NRSV]

Give light to the glory of God in the face of Jesus

Shining light OUT of darkness

The power of Darkness is real

• There is darkness in the oppression of the people of North Korea.

• There is darkness in the cycles of human trafficking

• There is darkness in the evil of terrorism

• There is darkness in the homes of those abused and batters

• There is darkness in the rollercoaster of addictions

• There is darkness that divides us into opposing camps

• There is darkness in the face of cancer and other diseases

• There is darkness in the loneliness and grief of loss

• There is darkness in broad daylight

• There is darkness in middle of some crowded places

• There is darkness in churches, homes and hearts among us.

And when we stand alone and even if we stand together, we are over whelmed as the ocean waves crash upon the best castle of our design and labors.

It seems like retreat and apathy rule the day and the hour and the years..

But that is when we look at darkness without the light of Christ

God is the Power Company

God so loved this broken work that he sent the only light strong and bright enough to overcome the darkness.

Our task is not to stop evil,

Our task it is cling to Christ upon the stormy sea, and from THAT place of strength and assurance: that Jesus Christ has been unveiled and revealed through us!

We step into the raging seas because

1. That is the reality of where we are

2. This is where we might best see Christ

3. This is when we and the world need hope and salvation more nearly.

We clothe, feed, comfort, and befriend because it is Christ at work in us..

We pray for healing and wholeness in Jesus’s name because God is the source

We stand with Christ because these bodies we carry suffer, and eventuality die.

We ride the rollercoaster of struggle because life fluid and always testing

We trust Christ when to step in to stop others from harm

We trust Christ when to step back and no longer remain oppressed and abused

We trust that we are powerless over evil, fear, terror, and all sin without Christ

Jesus Christ came to save sinners..

We are those who have seen light light

Jake and Elwood Blues go to James Brown’s ole Landmark Church and after hearing the good news Jake proclaims that he has seen the light of how to save the soon to be closed orphanage that was his childhood home… I can’t say that what follows is Gods work but they end up saving the children’s home even though they go back to jail.

This cult classic movie tells two truths

1. God can work through every situation for God purpose

2. When we put our name on God’s home work we are going to fail.

3. Our mission is to tell of God’s work.

Encourage one another in shining the light of Christ

What are you going to say when politics fuel start to burn you up?

Say this: “Instead of debating, fighting or disagreeing with you, I need you to pray for me to love my enemies”

• If someone is hurting, struggling, complaining, as them “how long are you going to keep working on that alone when Jesus is ready to be your strength?” E ready to be strong with that person.

• If someone is grieving or afraid, or alone, “ how long do you want to feel lost?” Offer to be Christ’s presence.

• You make ready your own conversations that lead and encourage one another to lean into, trust, stand-with Jesus.

Be the flash light, candle. lantern, headlights, spotlight, laser,… you don’t have to be the light, be the one who directs and reflects the light of Jesus Christ

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1 Corinthians 9:16-23 By all means for the Gospel, really?

Posted by myoikos in #2017#conversation#costofdiscipleship#cross#findingJesus5 Practicesexcess on February 3, 2018

allthings

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. [NRSV]

Learn this phrase: I’m ready to Share Christ wherever, with whomever, however, because of God’s love is forever.

We order a sandwich or burger — “All the Way” and the waiter/tress or specialist asks, do want than with cheddar or swiss cheese? What does all mean?

We pay one price and go to the Chinese buffet and have the opportunity to eat “All you can eat”. My favorite is the Shrimp special at Red Lobster. After you eat the first fried shrimp they ask you would like to “put in another order” for more, they bring you six more. That’s all they hope you will eat. The same is true at IHOP on all you can eat pancake days, Here are two and we will bring you two more, again, hoping that is all you order. Somewhere in the formula of ‘value’, we have some magic number of shrimp, pancakes, crab legs or egg rolls that equate to “All”.

The solution is to avoid the buffet in the first place, but we are surrounded and enticed by the invitation to find it all, have it all, and eat it all.

Others are not tempted by food but are well acquainted with completing a collection. All the tools in the set, all the pieces in the puzzle, all the cards, glasses, figures, dishes or designs in the series. There is a driving force to amass ‘all’ things..

Paul is again offering his example as direction for us all. But this model of “All things” is a slippery slope.

  • All things fits with our culture and lifestyle
  • All things fits with the Walmart, Lowes, Bass Pro, model
  • All things fits with Amazon and the internet of all things.

Paul offers his example of reaching out to all people in ways that relate and are meaningful to them, and in that place of connection, he finds ways to share the life and power of Jesus Christ. But in this hermeneutical junctions, it is easy to lose our way.

  • Have all things
  • Be all things
  • Do all things

Instead of “All things..for Christ”  (Stay in on the good path of all things / all means that lead us to Christ.

  • Vs use all I have for Christ
  • Vs be available to all persons for Christ
  • Vs do not let things keep me from sharing Christ
  • Social pressures
  • Scientific pressures
  • Selfish pressures

So be warned that we don’t go so far out the door that we forget the way that leads back to Christ, but we go far enough to meet people where they are.

Jew or Greek, slave or free, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, tall or short, young or old, deserving and undeserving — Jesus Christ died for sinners like us all.

The challenge is to answer this:

With whom am I being called to share Jesus Christ today?

How far will I go to share Christ with them in a way that is meaningful and genuine to THEM?

  • If I am playing it safe,
  • saving for a raining day,
  • relying on the faithful and successful hard work I’ve done in the past.

Who will reach this person/s if not me, who and if today, when?

The power of Paul’s model is that every day, everywhere I look or go, is a day to share Christ with someone.

So with whom and how will I do this at home? at work? at school? in travels? in my recreation? in my hobbies? in my sufferings? in my study? in my service?

Be prepared to Share Christ wherever, with whomever, however, because of forever.

tell that to your neighbor:

I’m ready to Share Christ wherever, with whomever, however, because of God’s love is forever.

if you don’t mean it, Paul is calling us to cease the opportunities around us.

if you do, then your words are liturgy of praise and celebration.

Archive for January, 2018

Mark 1:21-28 Living with Authority

Posted by myoikos in #2017#authority5 PracticesChurchevilFaith-sharingJesusSinSpiritual on January 27, 2018

capernaum

They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. [NRSV]

Capernaum was home to the alternate to the Jerusalem temple for the people in the Galilean region to come and worship. It was also the home of Peter and near where the Jordan River emptiness into the sea of Galilee and also need the area where the Sermon on the Mountain was delivered to the gathers of ten thousand.

In some ways, Capernaum was the home to Contemporary worship and Jerusalem home to traditional worship. Jerusalem was a small big urban centre and Capernaum was a big little town for fishers and farmers. Jerusalem was an urban hub of politics and religion.

Mark’s newspaper-like account of the story of Jesus connects Jesus spiritual cleansing as a new teaching:

Everywhere from Jerusalem to Galilee and all places between folks had folks filled with spiritual dysfunction, possession, strange physical illness, mentally ill, all sorts of manifestation that get lumped into ‘filled with evil spirits. The typical remedy was for people to live outside the city wall as “UNCLEAN” and people separated themselves from what they could not change and could not mend.

Jesus silenced the evil, removed the evil and restored the man to health and into the community. It reminds me of the character, Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women:

Julia: “I’m saying this is the South, and we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them up in the attic. We bring ’em right down to the living room and show ’em off. See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they’re on.”

Phyllis: Oh? And which side are yours on Mrs Sugarbaker?

Julia: Both. (Southern Living article: 13 of Julia Sugarbaker’s Best Takedowns on Designing Women, https://www.southernliving.com/culture/julia-sugarbaker-designing-women-quotes)

The perspective of the community was that Jesus was teaching something new, drew on a different authority and was something worth sharing with other people.

  • New will only get us so far before we need “new and improved”
  • We will share all kinds of news with other people, good and bad
  • The different piece is authority

Authority: is approved use of power.

The Good News is that Jesus entrusted to disciples and now to us through the Spirit, the authority of God as the church.

  • As the chur, h we have allowed politics to steal our authority.
  • We have let historical misuse of the power defame our authority.
  • We have allowed others who use God’s power for evil to speak for us unchallenged.
  • With so many speaking evil in the name of truth…

These other voices say: you don’t even need to talk about your faith because you don’t have anything to do with us.” Have you come to destroy us?

Jesus was about silencing evil and allowing the people of God to speak.

A restoring of authority.

  • Remind your neighbor, you have the AUTHORITY, the power: to prayer, love, forgive, heal, bless, teach, restore, trust, lead, witness, and many more things.
  • Is this the week you remain quiet and blame evil or is this the time you speak grace, love and truth and healing and all the other witnesses of God’s power through you?
  • Living as one with authority, don’t just possess a spiritual carry-permit, speak the word that restore the kingdom of God. This is our work, this is our mission.

God in the power and authority of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit: Make disciples, speak truth to evil, transform instead of blame, heal instead of complain, love instead of divide. show of the power of God, Evil does not have the authority it claims in outlives, speak God’s healing word.Advertisements

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Mark 1:14-20 Believe, Now!

Posted by myoikos in #2017 on January 20, 2018

closings

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. [NRSV]

This is always a tricky time to balance safety and closing the church for programs, activities and especially for worship. One of the challenges of our UMC slogan since the 1990s has been closing for weather conditions when we claim we have “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” No matter the common sense of being safe and off icy roads, we communicate a conflicting message: We Urgently want you to comes join us, just Not today when the weather is bad.

It is not only in inclement weather but in many conversations and situations that we “think” with our minds, welcome, friendly, open and inviting and yet the words and actions/or in-actions we witness closed, divided, judged and not welcomed.

It is vital to hear Mark’s account of Jesus beginning his ministry with words and witness of invitation and urgency.

The Urgency of believing the Good News

Several motivations:

  1. We believe the opportunity to help others believe is imminently limited.
  2. We believe any amount of time not believing the Good News is time lost or wasted.
  3. We might believe it’s important but not urgent or that if it were an urgent situation we might help in a pinch.
  4. We believe there is plenty of time to share the Good News, and if we don’t help others then someone else will or they will figure it for themselves.

Urgency: importance requiring swift action.

Jesus begins his ministry with a call for people to find God was near, make a spiritual change in their lives and believe God is working to love, transform and fulfil our lives.

Two Usual Tracks

Urgency through repetition:

Were you aware that it takes viewing the same commercial 16 times for us to become motivated to consider buying or using a product or service were previously not interested or aware existed? That doesn’t mean after watching the same commercial 16 times we automatically buy the product, but after that much repetition, we begin to make an internal action toward a new product. We are 50% likely to try, talk about, take some action to learn more about a product or service. Advertising creates a sense of urgency or importance.

Urgency transformed through repentance

Before and After stories. This is my life before Jesus, and this is my life after. For those who grow up in in the faith and in the church, we have the repetition model. For those who come to the church later have a more clear before and after witness.

EITHER MODEL, Jesus is the one describing the Good News as something IMPORTANT and something REQUIRING SWIFT ACTION.

BUT… It is hard to look back 2000 plus years and say, you need to be in a hurry to give your life to Jesus.   A God who works in billions of years starts with a message of urgency..Mark 1:14-20

..NOW is the time,

The cooling of the sun and the increase of earthquakes, volcanoes and colder winters will be the new norm for the next thirty years. Some would say these are signs of the end times/others would say we are in a long cooling cycle of the sun.

The “Now is the time” perspective is that whether our time is long or short, the weather is not going to be pleasant. (Now is the time to invest in a heavier coat!)

Mark account of Jesus’s Marketing Message: is about the second type of URGENCY:

How long do we let someone stand in the cold before we open the door and convince them it is better inside the house than out?

How long do we let folks run around in with fear, emptiness, loneliness, grief, grudge, judgment or any other reason, when we know that in this fellowship, in this word, in this body that God is near, God is here!

We who have found Christ, or We who have known Christ all these years, look out the windows and doors and see a hurting, searching, failing, struggling, divided-world and we are called to invite people to believe in Jesus.

Believe, Now! Not because the end is near, rather because

  • you don’t have to be alone
  • you don’t have to be afraid
  • you don’t have to be divided
  • you don’t have to be correct
  • you don’t have to be perfect
  • you don’t have to be hungry
  • you don’t have to be captive
  • you don’t have to be a stranger
  • you don’t have to be lost
  • you don’t have to be cold

..but you do need to come to Jesus

  • This is what is urgently needed.
  • This is what is Good: God so loves us that he gives us Jesus
  • This is what is Good: Jesus died for our sin/brokenness/failures and pride/
  • He emptied himself to fill us with a new chance a life with God and all God’s people.
  • Don’t stand out in the cold, come inside
  • Let the cold weather be your opportunity to invite someone into the fellowship.. into the church, into your spiritual journey- travel together

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John 1:43-51 Come See Heaven Open Up

Posted by myoikos in #2017 on January 13, 2018

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” [NRSV]

CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME OUR OF ROCK SPRING

  • The power of doubt
  • Consumption of assumption
  • Oh little town of Rock Spring,
  • Nathanael, the product of Peter and Andrew

COME AND SEE

  • Come see with your own eyes,
  • The shepherd saw the angels but said to one another, let us go see for ourselves, what has been told to us
  • Thomas who had not yet seen Jesus raised from the dead, told the others, I will not believe until I see with my own eyes
  • The invitation is for tag team invitation for people to come see.
  • The greatest showman is a wonderful new musical that is a great movie even if you don’t ususally go see movies, it is worth experiencing. Is about PT Barnam’ seeing a dream come to life, loose it, and being reminded that joy can be found through people who love and trust.

YOU WILL SEE HEAVEN OPENED UP

  • Peter and Andrew promise Nathaniel that he will see heaven open if he goes to see Jesus,
  • That is what it means to find Jesus
  • It might. It be coming to church, the music and events, the ministries and activities, but it is through these people and the relationships we share that the Kingdom of God can show up
  • Some folks will tell you they don’t like church because all they talk about is money, or the Christian people gossip, lie and stab each other in the back, these are folks who have seen people WITHOUT Jesus
  • The challenge is to strive to share Jesus and not ourselves. Or at least not sharing our selves without Jesus opened up and visible.

You hold the keys to heaven, who will you keep out? Who will you let in?

  • So this passage holds our model:
  • Have an encouragement accountability partner,
  • Reach out to the people we know and meet
  • Invite them to come see Jesus at work in our lives, in our worship, ministry, fellowship, etc..

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Acts 19:1-7 People of the Spirit

Posted by myoikos in #2017#holyspirit#marriage#relationshipBaptismHoly SpiritMeaningRelationshipSpiritualWitnessWorship on January 6, 2018

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. [NRSV]

The Coach’s Gator-Aid Baptism: Acceptance and Celebration for winning or setting a record, but Christian baptism is not just a public celebration: it is about covenant making and covenant keeping.

Baptized in the Spirit vs Second Birth

Over time some churches and denominations have made more of the verse that is like intended. Some would teach that when you and I repent, acknowledge that we are sinners and believe Jesus to be our “Lord and Savior” that it is somehow a partial baptism that we must have a second baptism in the Spirit, as the sign of some spiritual maturity or marker of spiritual progress. When in fact this passage is about a lack of information, a shortcoming in the teaching and Paul wants all disciples to ha e the full story, the full benefit, and full connection as a disciple, believer and follower of Jesus.

John Wesley

Salvation for Wesley is the process that begins in the Holy Spirit before we are aware of what is happening, We mark our part in the process when we acknowledge Jesus Christ has died for our sins personally (thus justifying us through Grace and the Spirit), what follows in our response of becoming the person Jesus died and rose to save, the Spirit guiding us in the journey of sanctification toward the goal of wholeness in the Spirit, he called perfection.

Bottom line, if someone speaks of not having the Spirit it is actually a matter of perspective, ignorance (being misinformed or uninformed) and/or misinterpretation.

From the beginning of Creation, the Holy Spirit moved through the great chaos and spoke order and purpose. The Spirit moved in creation over the earth and was breathed into humanity giving us that very image, breath and spirit of God in us.

What makes us exceptional is that we each are Spirit-filled people, we all have the Spirit of God to credit for our life, our purpose and our meaning.

When the world denies or runs from God’s Holy Spirit

They do so in fear, misinformation, pride, personal desire to control, or a lack of experience/understanding.

So what? Our personal faith journey is to affirm we are spirit filled people, saved by Christ and living for God’s purpose, in God’s love, uniquely through each one of us.

So what’s the deal with this passage and Paul re-baptizing these folks?

  1. This passage is about teaching what baptism is about
  2. This passage s about understanding the work of the Holy Spirit
  3. It is for us a reminder that to be a Christian is to 1) be aware we are born of the Holy Spirit, 2) we are connected by the Spirit and 3) empowered by the Holy Spirit for Spiritual work and witness.

Part of this verse is about competing traditions:

“We have John the Baptist”… Our baptism is older and more closely connected to the first baptism, John the Baptizer, who baptized Jesus, “If John was Good Enough for Jesus, then John’s baptism is good enough for me. “Ours is the more traditional flavor.”

Paul is teaching that Baptism is the vehicle and not the destination.

It’s not owning/experiencing something, it is becoming something more important.

Paul’s correction is not saying John’s baptism was wrong, only that it conveyed part of the power:

The Two Parts of Baptism

The Jesus Part and the “my” part.

John the Baptist’s baptism was about repenting, acknowledging our sinfulness and our brokenness and that Jesus is the hope and salvation for our sins.

The second part is what difference does the Jesus part make in my life and how will accomplish my response to Jesus’s part.

Too many people settle for the utterance of words instead of the building of a relationship. Are you and I settlers?

Think of the marriage covenant:

Legally a couple is married when they have exchanged vows and pledged themselves to one another and both say the traditional, “I DO.”

But that is not the marriage, that is only the beginning of the covenant. The marriage is the journey of joys and struggles that span the time the couple shares.

Paul reminds us that we are

  • Spiritual
  • Need Christ but also the Spirit
  • Therefore help others find a way to grow in the Spirit

Invite someone to a life in Christ

Inquire what Baptism means to someone’s daily life

Back to School Homework

Do you remember your baptism?

Do it make any difference to you on this day?

If so how,

If not, let’s work on it together, is Paul model