Sep 30, 2018
Common Sense for Extraordinary Times: Making the Most of Now
September 30, 2018
Psalm 124 &James 4:13-17

We talked a few weeks ago about how much we love our kids, distractions and all, in our church. I love doing the children’s time because it gives me a chance not just to explain God’s love, but to connect and hear their perspective on life. It’s amazing to hear how a child views the world and how those views and perspectives change over the years.

But that’s simply a part of how a child changes and develops over time. Even simple things change over time. When I play hide and seek with my granddaughter at seven months, it’s as simple as picking her up so she can’t see my face, I drop it back down and she is startled and then begins to laugh. Owen is not quite two, and his game is much different. He hides by crouching down in a chair and then popping up to look at you. And he is startled when he pops up, looks for you and you have moved. I’ll often wait until he crouches down and moves around until I am behind him and then I speak, and he jumps, totally startled.

Now Sean is six, and it’s a very different game at six. They hide. Oh, they may hide in the exact same place every single time, but they hide. Now, he’ll laugh if I get to close to him. But then I begin to move away and again move behind him. I wait until he peeks out looking for me and then I say something or touch him. Completely startled.

And you’d think that would go away, but it doesn’t. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I’ve unintentionally scared my daughter because she will be wrapped up in a phone conversation and not see me or hear me come into the house. I’ve gotten good at ducking phone calls, by the way.

When you look in one direction or focus too much in one direction, one aspect of life, life will sneak up on you. In fact, life has a habit of sneaking up on you. Not paying attention to your surroundings can not only blind you to what is around you but can be dangerous, as well. My Dad told the story of being out hunting alone in the woods and hills of Kentucky looking on the horizon for whatever he was hunting, and stepping on and being bitten by a copperhead snake. And walking back some 12 to 15 miles to get help. You know, when your father has a story like that, it really dampers your ability to complain about anything.

At least, I thought my father told me that story to toughen me up. As I got older, I began to see how he was trying to teach me a lesson. You’ve got to look where you are going, you have to look at where you are stepping. You can't be too focused on what's coming up next, because life has a way of sneaking up on you and startling you or biting you just at the moment when you least expect it.

But, of course, that’s the problem, isn’t it? We as human beings can’t help but look beyond, can’t help but look to the horizon. We’re not all that much different than the child who plays hide and seek and has someone sneak up on them. We always want to know what’s coming, and we miss what is around us.

But that is the unique part of who we are as humans. It’s a part of the God nature berthed into us. We can think about and contemplate the future. No other animal does this. Animals can learn from experiences and react to them. But only humans have the ability to think about what might happen, think about all of their different options, about what might happen in all sorts of scenarios. We are planners by nature.

Now, that ability to plan can keep us out of a lot of problems. We can avoid a lot of situations by thinking about them and how we might handle them. If I do this now, it might cause problems for someone else, so I have to weigh that and figure out how I might deal with that situation.

And that’s great. But the dark side to that is that our ability to think about our future, to look ahead can also cause us a great deal of anxiety. Worry about what might happen, worry about all of the bad things that might happen in our lives. Those moments when you wake up at three in the morning and for no reason began to think about the day that's coming, and you feel your mind whisper two of the most frightening words you’ll ever hear "What if." Ever play that game, What If. What if this mole on the back of my neck isn’t a mole. What If mom falls and there is no one to help her. What if my child doesn't get into a good college. What if they do, and we can’t find a way to pay for it. What if he leaves me. What if I never find someone to spend my life with. What if we never have children. What if I lose my job? What if I fail, What if I succeed.

My goodness, when you think about all the what-ifs that burrow into our brain, really think about awful scenarios that might happen, it's a wonder all of us aren’t just walking mannequins of anxiety. And I’m not so sure we aren’t. Anxiety can paralyze us, steal our joy, lead us into some dark places, hurt our relationships, keep us from stepping out, keeps us from finding our full optimal. Anxiety may keep us from failing, which isn’t always a good thing, but it certainly keeps us from succeeding in life. Anxiety binds us, drags us down into the pit of despair.

And it’s into that place that James speaks a word of Good News and hope in our Scripture today. We’ve called this series Common Sense in Extraordinary Times. James speaks some life-giving words of sanity into our anxious times. So I hope if you’ve been dealing with worry and anxiety as you look at the horizon of your life, that you will read and re-read what James says here.

First, let me say this. If you are dealing with anxiety, that life-paralyzing fear and despair, please make sure you are talking to your medical professionals. God will and can heal you. But understand that one of the ways we find healing is through the hands and skills of those in the medical profession. There is no shame in admitting we need help and our anxiety is overwhelming.

One of the things that James says here is that anxiety can blind us to what is around us. Just like looking at the horizon, looking in a what might happen can allow life to sneak up on us, so it is with anxiety. Anxiety, spending so much time worrying about tomorrow, can blind us to the blessings of today. We can be so worried about our child’s future that we never enjoy them today. We can get so caught up in what might happen that we don’t see the good things we have in one another right now. We can be so worried about our spouses or what might happen that we become blind to the good things about one another God is blessing us with right now.

One of the best ways to counteract our anxiety, our what-ifs is to concentrate on the nows. When you get caught up worrying about the what ifs, take a few moments and look for what you are being blessed with right now. You’ll find as you begin to see the blessings around you that much of the worries about the what ifs will begin to dissipate. Try praying this prayer, “God, please keep me from being so caught up in what might happen tomorrow that I miss what you give me today”. One of the reasons we do something as simple as saying grace before a meal is not only to give God thanks but to settle ourselves and realize even in the anxious times of life, God still blesses us.

James says ‘remember your place’. Psalms and proverbs remind us, wisdom begins with realizing God is God, and we are not. James says it’s arrogance to believe that we can control what happens tomorrow. And that if we could control it, we would always make good decisions. James says isn't it better to know that you don’t have to deal with the what ifs? That the goodness of life doesn’t dependent you? Isn’t it a blessing to be able to say God you are God and you have my horizon. You have the what ifs. And I trust even when things may not go the way I think they will, You have Your hand on my life.

God has His hand on your life. Give it to Him, turn the what-ifs over to Him. Open your eyes to the blessings of God, and let go of the things you can’t control. Experience His peace and be blessed.

Amen.

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  • Sep 30, 2018Common Sense for Extraordinary Times: Making the Most of Now
    Sep 30, 2018
    Common Sense for Extraordinary Times: Making the Most of Now
    September 30, 2018
    Psalm 124 &James 4:13-17

    We talked a few weeks ago about how much we love our kids, distractions and all, in our church. I love doing the children’s time because it gives me a chance not just to explain God’s love, but to connect and hear their perspective on life. It’s amazing to hear how a child views the world and how those views and perspectives change over the years.

    But that’s simply a part of how a child changes and develops over time. Even simple things change over time. When I play hide and seek with my granddaughter at seven months, it’s as simple as picking her up so she can’t see my face, I drop it back down and she is startled and then begins to laugh. Owen is not quite two, and his game is much different. He hides by crouching down in a chair and then popping up to look at you. And he is startled when he pops up, looks for you and you have moved. I’ll often wait until he crouches down and moves around until I am behind him and then I speak, and he jumps, totally startled.

    Now Sean is six, and it’s a very different game at six. They hide. Oh, they may hide in the exact same place every single time, but they hide. Now, he’ll laugh if I get to close to him. But then I begin to move away and again move behind him. I wait until he peeks out looking for me and then I say something or touch him. Completely startled.

    And you’d think that would go away, but it doesn’t. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I’ve unintentionally scared my daughter because she will be wrapped up in a phone conversation and not see me or hear me come into the house. I’ve gotten good at ducking phone calls, by the way.

    When you look in one direction or focus too much in one direction, one aspect of life, life will sneak up on you. In fact, life has a habit of sneaking up on you. Not paying attention to your surroundings can not only blind you to what is around you but can be dangerous, as well. My Dad told the story of being out hunting alone in the woods and hills of Kentucky looking on the horizon for whatever he was hunting, and stepping on and being bitten by a copperhead snake. And walking back some 12 to 15 miles to get help. You know, when your father has a story like that, it really dampers your ability to complain about anything.

    At least, I thought my father told me that story to toughen me up. As I got older, I began to see how he was trying to teach me a lesson. You’ve got to look where you are going, you have to look at where you are stepping. You can't be too focused on what's coming up next, because life has a way of sneaking up on you and startling you or biting you just at the moment when you least expect it.

    But, of course, that’s the problem, isn’t it? We as human beings can’t help but look beyond, can’t help but look to the horizon. We’re not all that much different than the child who plays hide and seek and has someone sneak up on them. We always want to know what’s coming, and we miss what is around us.

    But that is the unique part of who we are as humans. It’s a part of the God nature berthed into us. We can think about and contemplate the future. No other animal does this. Animals can learn from experiences and react to them. But only humans have the ability to think about what might happen, think about all of their different options, about what might happen in all sorts of scenarios. We are planners by nature.

    Now, that ability to plan can keep us out of a lot of problems. We can avoid a lot of situations by thinking about them and how we might handle them. If I do this now, it might cause problems for someone else, so I have to weigh that and figure out how I might deal with that situation.

    And that’s great. But the dark side to that is that our ability to think about our future, to look ahead can also cause us a great deal of anxiety. Worry about what might happen, worry about all of the bad things that might happen in our lives. Those moments when you wake up at three in the morning and for no reason began to think about the day that's coming, and you feel your mind whisper two of the most frightening words you’ll ever hear "What if." Ever play that game, What If. What if this mole on the back of my neck isn’t a mole. What If mom falls and there is no one to help her. What if my child doesn't get into a good college. What if they do, and we can’t find a way to pay for it. What if he leaves me. What if I never find someone to spend my life with. What if we never have children. What if I lose my job? What if I fail, What if I succeed.

    My goodness, when you think about all the what-ifs that burrow into our brain, really think about awful scenarios that might happen, it's a wonder all of us aren’t just walking mannequins of anxiety. And I’m not so sure we aren’t. Anxiety can paralyze us, steal our joy, lead us into some dark places, hurt our relationships, keep us from stepping out, keeps us from finding our full optimal. Anxiety may keep us from failing, which isn’t always a good thing, but it certainly keeps us from succeeding in life. Anxiety binds us, drags us down into the pit of despair.

    And it’s into that place that James speaks a word of Good News and hope in our Scripture today. We’ve called this series Common Sense in Extraordinary Times. James speaks some life-giving words of sanity into our anxious times. So I hope if you’ve been dealing with worry and anxiety as you look at the horizon of your life, that you will read and re-read what James says here.

    First, let me say this. If you are dealing with anxiety, that life-paralyzing fear and despair, please make sure you are talking to your medical professionals. God will and can heal you. But understand that one of the ways we find healing is through the hands and skills of those in the medical profession. There is no shame in admitting we need help and our anxiety is overwhelming.

    One of the things that James says here is that anxiety can blind us to what is around us. Just like looking at the horizon, looking in a what might happen can allow life to sneak up on us, so it is with anxiety. Anxiety, spending so much time worrying about tomorrow, can blind us to the blessings of today. We can be so worried about our child’s future that we never enjoy them today. We can get so caught up in what might happen that we don’t see the good things we have in one another right now. We can be so worried about our spouses or what might happen that we become blind to the good things about one another God is blessing us with right now.

    One of the best ways to counteract our anxiety, our what-ifs is to concentrate on the nows. When you get caught up worrying about the what ifs, take a few moments and look for what you are being blessed with right now. You’ll find as you begin to see the blessings around you that much of the worries about the what ifs will begin to dissipate. Try praying this prayer, “God, please keep me from being so caught up in what might happen tomorrow that I miss what you give me today”. One of the reasons we do something as simple as saying grace before a meal is not only to give God thanks but to settle ourselves and realize even in the anxious times of life, God still blesses us.

    James says ‘remember your place’. Psalms and proverbs remind us, wisdom begins with realizing God is God, and we are not. James says it’s arrogance to believe that we can control what happens tomorrow. And that if we could control it, we would always make good decisions. James says isn't it better to know that you don’t have to deal with the what ifs? That the goodness of life doesn’t dependent you? Isn’t it a blessing to be able to say God you are God and you have my horizon. You have the what ifs. And I trust even when things may not go the way I think they will, You have Your hand on my life.

    God has His hand on your life. Give it to Him, turn the what-ifs over to Him. Open your eyes to the blessings of God, and let go of the things you can’t control. Experience His peace and be blessed.

    Amen.

  • Sep 23, 2018Common Sense for Extraordinary Times: A True Audit
    Sep 23, 2018
    Common Sense for Extraordinary Times: A True Audit

    September 23, 2018

    1 Corinthians 1:18-24 &James 3:13-18

    I want to thank all of you who have or are intending to help with the recovery from Hurricane Florence. I know many of you may have given through UMCOR which is the relief arm of the United Methodist Church. If you haven’t done so, I would ask you to prayerfully consider doing something at some point Hurricanes are incredible phenomena of weather. They are both powerful, and slow. We watched for weeks, it seems, this hurricane build up strength as it began to creep up toward the Carolina Coast. I heard one person say having a hurricane come at you is a bit like being stalked by a turtle.

    With so much time to prepare, we saw people begin boarding up their homes and businesses and get ready if they were able to, flee the storm. What I thought was interesting was to see so many people take stock of what they had in order to get ready to face the storms. They took an audit of everything they had in their homes that was important to them. They took what they could and made a record or video of what they couldn’t take but was still valuable to them. I even saw pictures of people write their phone numbers or address on their pets in case they got separated from them during the storm.

    The impending storms revealed what was important to those facing the hurricane, didn’t it?

    What about the hurricanes in your life? When the hurricanes blow, when crises appear, what are the treasurers of your life, where have you spent your time and energy. Who are you when the storms of life turn toward shore?

    Let me ask you that question again. Who are you when the storms of life turn to shore? Because the truth is, the hurricanes of life will always turn to shore. Oh, not everyone, surely. We often, by prayer and God’s grace, avoid hurricanes and crises. But there are times when, despite our best prayers, we experience disappointment, crises, the winds pick up as if everything in our lives swirls around us and we feel as if we are going drown.

    I think what never occurs to us is that sometimes the allowance by God of the storms coming inland into our lives is, in itself, an act of mercy and grace. Why? Because it is then our true hearts are revealed. Not how we would like to be, but we see where we have spent our time and energy. We see who we truly are. They reveal to us the depth of our relationship with Jesus. And, perhaps, as we take stock of how we live in crises, we might wonder, am I the person God wants me to be? If someone were able to look at the record of your life, in the storms, who would it reveal you to be?

    In a very real way, that’s exactly what James is asking in our Scripture for today. I like the book of James, as I’ve said before. He has an incredible way of looking at really extraordinary, complex issues, and simplifying them for us. In today’s Scripture, James says “how do we know we are saved? How do I really know that I am a Christian? I mean, it has to go beyond knowledge, doesn't it?” Dallas Willard said one of the great mistakes we make as Christian is in the idea that knowing more about Jesus makes us better disciples. But one can know everything Jesus says about loving one’s neighbor, and even agree that Jesus is right, and it is good. But it doesn't mean that we will do it. So how can I know? In a way, James asks if there was an audit done of your life, what would it reveal?

    James says one of the convicting indicators that show we are saved, that we have given our lives to Jesus and have a life-transforming, ongoing relationship with him is this: our lives will be

    marked by doing foolish things for the Lord. Let me say that again. How do we know we are saved? Our lives will be marked by doing foolish things for the Lord.

    So let me ask you, if you look at your life, what foolish things have you done for God lately? Because that’s what God asks us to do, isn’t it? He asks us to do all sorts of foolish things, and those that follow Him are the ones who do the most foolish things and are seen as the most foolish of people. Has God asked you to do something foolish for Him lately? Is He asking you to do something foolish right now?

    We are called to do foolish thing such as help people who can’t pay us back. Now, the world looks at that as incredibly foolish, why would do you do something for people who can’t pay you back? But we do. We get no benefit from it, yet we do it. Now, I’m just not talking about giving money to people to help them out, although that's a good thing. But what about the other foolish things we are asked to give that we may never receive back? Jesus tells us that we are to give kindness and a kind word to those that will never be kind to us. He tells us we should love those that will never return that love to us. He says we should forgive people who will never forgive us and don’t, even appear sorry for what they have done. The world says it’s foolish. Jesus says it’s the mark of a person who is following the Lord.

    We are to be gentle and peaceful in a world that says that’s not how you get ahead. If you want to succeed in life, you have to toot your own horn, you have to run over people, step on them if you must, do what you have to, go hard, to be successful. Jesus asks us to live in a completely different way, to live a foolish life that strives for peace, that calls for us to be gentle in how we treat other people.

    The world tells us that we need to work to attain as much security as possible, don’t leave anything to chance. Jesus says we’re to live a life that foolishly lets go of anxiety, that refuses to worry about things it can’t change, or hurry something like tomorrow that can’t be hurried.

    Look, living like Jesus calls us to live will look like foolishness to the word. Let’s be honest, it will look like foolishness to us sometimes. Do I really believe Jesus can transform my life, can make me be a different person? Does He really forgive sins and change us so we don’t even want to sin anymore? The world says that’s foolish. The way to deal with sin is to allow God to change us.

    Yet, James would remind us that it is through and only through the foolishness of Jesus that the world will be redeemed. And every day, you come across people who are starving for

    foolishness. Your closest relationships are starving, you live in a foolish way before them. Loving, forgiving encouraging them when the world will not. Your co-worker friends are starving for something the wisdom of the world cannot give. We live in a world that has become bankrupt, relying on a wisdom that cannot deliver, and we are starving, feeding off a wisdom that cannot sustain us.

    What the world needs right now, perhaps more than it ever has, is a church willing to be foolish for Jesus. Who are fools willing to give up victim time and money to go and be in mission and help those we will never see again. To give to a ministry that help's people you will never know. Foolish enough to pray for the salvation of people. Foolish enough to turn the other cheek. To go the extra mile. To believe that Jesus can change lives.

    So what about you? Is God calling you to be foolish? Are you just a fool enough to say yes? At the beginning of the message, we asked you to think about the audit of your life. You know when the world looks at you, that’s what it does. It’s looking at you to see what you think is important, looking at how you live your life, if you live to what you say to believe. If we were to do that audit today, would we see someone foolish enough to live for Christ? Amen.

  • Sep 16, 2018Common Sense for Extraordinary Times: Small but Mighty
    Sep 16, 2018
    Common Sense for Extraordinary Times: Small but Mighty
    September 16, 2018
    James 3:1-12 & Psalm 19

    It is exciting when a baby says her first words: mama, daddy, ball, milk... phone!

    We celebrate their vocabulary with lots of praise. Last Saturday, one of our grandsons who is 1 ½ was staying with us. He was wandering through the house calling out my “grandma name” which is “Nono.” Hearing him say my name made me happy. Between our first efforts at speaking as a toddler and our last words in life, we say thousands and thousands of words. Some of those words we are glad that we said. There are other words we still regret saying because of the damage we caused. Words have lasting consequences. We know this because we’ve been scarred by and have hurt others with our speech.

    In our present sermon series, we are studying the book of James. James is a short letter to Christians that contains cautions about our behavior. One of his main concerns is about talking. Words are powerful because they can influence lives. What we say is important. You may forget a few sentences you once said, but the words may be remembered by someone else for the rest of their life.

    James uses the image of fire to describe the effects of our words. Words can spread like wildfire and cause much more harm than we ever imagined. A fire can start small and spread and cause the loss of hundreds of homes, of forests, and lives.

    We remember this past summer there were wildfires out West with tremendous damage. Read again James' description:

    “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

    It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that.

    By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it.”

    In 2004, a movie came out entitled “Hotel Rwanda.” The film tells a portion of the story of what happened in the country of Rwanda in 1994. There were growing tensions and conflicts between two groups of people who lived there: the Tutsis and the Hutus. The President of the country died in a plane accident which was then blamed upon the Tutsi rebels. The movie brings out the role that words had upon the political situation.

    A radio station broadcast news of the day and they referred to the Tutsi people as “cockroaches.” They were an infestation in the country. People listened on their transistor radios to the derogatory words spoken, words which became slogans and fanned the flames of hate. In the movie's story, the manager of a hotel there is a Hutu and his wife is a Tutsi. Circumstances lead him to try and save as many Tutsi people as possible from genocide. He offered them sanctuary inside the hotel, and later tried to lead them to safety. His efforts did save some people, but in the Rwandan war, over half a million Tutsis civilians and their supporters were killed. Over half a million people.

    Words spoken can influence how we think about other people, how we look at them, how we treat them. Our tongues can ignite a fire that could possibly burn out of control.

    Gary Chapman is a pastor and author whose writings focus on relationships. In one of his books, he used a unique metaphor for words saying that words can be like “bullets or seeds”. As bullets, words are meant to harm, to injure, to leave a mark, maybe even destroy. Words as seeds bring support and respect. They nurture and promote well-being. Words that encourage life take root inside and help the listener to thrive. What do your words accomplish?

    In our time, almost anyone can send out their words to a large audience. Through social media, we can instantly share our opinions, our likes and dislikes. We can pass on what others have shared with us: true or false, for better or worse. What started out as one comment can easily snowball into an avalanche.

    We can make fun of and degrade people we will never even meet! A young man who was being bullied at school said that he could never escape, the taunts from school followed him home on his phone.

    Kate Bowle is a professor at Duke Divinity School where she teaches those who are studying to be ministers. She is also a wife and mother of a little boy. In 2015, at age of 35, she discovered that she had Stage 4 cancer and is undergoing cancer treatment weekly trying to extend her life. In her public writings, she has expressed what she is going through when you are in your thirties and facing your death.

    She has received many responses from friends and strangers everywhere telling her what she should do and what she should feel, with many responses coming from other Christians. As you will see, some of their words have not been particularly helpful to her soul.

    They give her reasons for her illness; they said that God is teaching her a lesson, that her sickness is a consequence of her sin. They point out that she is whiny and that you can't always get what you want. Someone told her to just keep smiling, that her attitude will determine her future. Words were shared that tear down faith, not build it up.

    She has also received the gift of words that lift her up and bring healing to her soul. Words from those who have also walked through the valley of the shadow of death. People who have expressed to her how, even on the darkest days, somehow they knew that God had not abandoned them. They pray for her journey, her healing and for her peace.

    The acronym THINK was constructed years ago but I believe it is still an excellent guide whether you are talking on the phone to your Aunt Sue or on Twitter. It is attributed to Alan Redpath who was a British evangelist and pastor in the 1900s.

    Simply ask yourself before speaking/writing: is what I am about to say True -Helpful -Inspiring-Necessary -Kind?

    Pay attention to your words. How often do we justify our destructive words by saying that the other person deserved it, that they started it, or that they unloaded on us and so we paid them back?

    Notice how others react to what you say. When someone is upset by our words, do we respond by saying they are just “too sensitive or they can't take a joke.” Let's listen to ourselves. Remember to think. Be careful in what you write and what you say. Look again to verses 9-10 —“With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. No more should we bless God and curse people who have been made in God's image.”

    James calls on us to examine ourselves closely -- to focus on the words that come out of our mouths – words that reveal who we truly are.

    This is the most convicting thing I will say today. Our words reveal our hearts. We may deny it, but it is true.

    In one of Jesus’ teachings, He said we will know what kind of tree it is by its' fruit. Words show the condition of our hearts. Jesus taught “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Anger, jealousy, insecurity, pride, hatred, hurt, bitterness, can come out of our hearts and be revealed in our words.

    We will face moments when we think “Where did that come from, I can't believe I just said that!” Then is the time to ask God to show you what is not right in your heart and ask God to give you His guidance and power to deal with it. It is also the time to apologize for the hurting words you have said.

    This spring, there was a young boy named Harrison in Chesterfield, England who made his debut as a goalie for his soccer team. Harrison has had quite a few health challenges in his life, and it means a great deal that he is able to play soccer.

    Unfortunately, in that first game, his team lost 11-0. His dad, Allan, posted a video of the game which featured all the saves that his son had made as a goalie. The dad did a very vulnerable thing. He asked if soccer fans would share some words of support with his son Harrison. This was a risky request because anyone can be ridiculed o line, even children.

    Wonderfully, soccer fans from Canada, America, and India sent messages of support. Dozens of professional soccer players responded. One player wrote: “Brave as a lion and kicks it a mile. Keep up the good work.”

    Why did his father ask for their input? He said that he just wanted to get the message to his boy to keep on playing, to not give up.

    I believe that our heavenly father wants us all to pass on messages to the rest of His children: messages of wisdom and guidance, messages of hope and encouragement, messages of truth and forgiveness.

    To share words that bring life, and not words that diminish another human being.

    My grandmother died when I was eight years old, but fortunately, she wrote notes and letters to me. I still have a few of them. She shared words of love and support with me that still are affirming after all these years.

    Words do last a lifetime. What legacy are we leaving?

  • Sep 2, 2018Coming Home: Standing in the Gap
    Sep 2, 2018
    Coming Home: Standing in the Gap
    Series: Coming Home
    Sept. 2, 2018  
    Acts 3:1-8 & John 17:1-10
    One of the saddest stories I ever heard was from a man who was a dentist. On the outside, it would seem that he had everything he would want. He had a loving family and a very successful practice. His practice had put him in an economic bracket where he could afford pretty much everything he wanted in life. He certainly didn’t lack for the finer things in life.  Yet, for some reason he was filled with dissatisfaction and anger.
      Now, anger is one of those things we think we can contain and manage much better than we do.  But the truth is, when we have anger, even when we put a lid on it, it’s eventually going to come out somewhere. It may come out against another person who just happened to be there when the pot boiled over. Or it might manifest itself in depression, or ulcers, or high blood pressure.  But it’s going to come out somewhere.   And this man simply couldn’t figure out why he was so angry. He had everything. He was at the pinnacle of his career. Why wasn’t he happy, why was he so angry? It got to the point where it began to affect his marriage, his relationship with his children, and his health. He knew he had to do something.   Finally, he began to talk to his pastor. And the pastor said, let’s assume something. Let’s assume there is no anger for angers’ sake. Let assume something. Or even better, somebody has caused his anger. Who are you angry at?  And the man thought about it for a long time. Days, in fact.  Finally, he came back to his minister and said I think I have it figured out.  I know who has caused all this anger.   He said I am mad at me. Well, I am mad at the 18 year old version of me.  The pastor was surprised and said, ‘well why are you angry at the younger you?’ He said ‘who was the 18 year old to decide what I wanted to do with my life?  Who was he, at 18, to decide that I would be a dentist for the rest of my life. Or that I even wanted to be or ought to be a dentist?’  He said ‘I finally realized I hate being dentist.  It’s not that I’m not good at it, I have the skills and experience. But I hate it.  Every day, I hate doing this for a living. And the only reason I am doing it is because some 18 year old punk decided he could dictate what I would do with my life.’   Isn't that sad? Angry at the 18 year old version of his life whose decisions put him on the path he was on, he thought, for the rest of his life.  Feeling imprisoned by decisions that put him on a path that he simply didn’t want to be on.      This is Labor Day weekend.  Tomorrow, many will celebrate Labor Day, will celebrate their vocation by not going to work. Although Labor Day is a federal holiday, it’s also one that ought, I believe, to be celebrated in the church.  Vocation is important. When we work, we are touching a part of the image of God in us. God creates, he works, and when we do the same, we are doing a good thing. We were made to do so. What we do ought not be something we do simply to get paid.  How sad is it when we see it only as a way to make money and not a way to make the world around us better, to do something important.  Of course, like that dentist showed us, while having a vocation is important, choosing the right one is important, as well.   I thought about that looking at those who wore today what you wear at work. And I thought about it for all of these children who wore what they want to be when they grow up. I hope you get to be all of those things.  And I hope you have chosen well because what you do matters.   If it’s true that what we do matters, should that also not be true for us as Christians?  What we do matters, what we labor at as the body of Christ matters.  And what we choose to do can be the course for our lives.  What have you chosen to do, what is your vocation?   Jesus, at the end of the book of Matthew, gives us the Great Commission. Jesus says our vocation is to make disciples of Jesus Christ going into all the world to redeem the world.  Now hear that. Our vocation is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Not grow larger churches, which is great. Or sway everyone to our way of thinking. But, everyone's role is to help those who don’t know Jesus to give their lives to Christ and to help others grow deeper in their faith. Not just my vocation, but yours, as well.  What are you doing to fulfill your vocation? Have you chosen well?   Again, that seems to be a pretty daunting task. How do I make disciples of Jesus when I’m trying to fit everything else in my life in?  What can I do at my age, with my issues, schedule, how am I supposed to make disciples of Jesus Christ?   Knowing this series, it ought to come as no surprise to you, that the place to begin to fulfill your vocation is to pray.  Look at Jesus, the very first thing Jesus does, every time, to fulfil his vocation, to redeem the world, is what? What does Jesus do? He prays every time, He prays for others. Jesus intercedes for them, He lifts them up in prayer. Sick, a disease, sorrow, whatever it is, Jesus prays for them. Look at our Gospel lesson today.  Jesus interceding for His disciples. I love this prayer solely because it’s so un-miraculous.  I mean nothing happens at first here. It’s just Jesus saying ‘Father, I love these guys.  I know they aren't perfect. But I love them. Watch over them.’ He intercedes for them.  Peter and John with this man in Acts? They say ‘let us stand in the gap between you and what you need,’ and they pray for him, and he is healed.   There is a reason why, as we have spent this summer together, we have had such a big emphasis on prayer. It’s because, I believe, as we look to the Bible, there is no greater foundation for our vocation as making disciples of Jesus Christ than prayer.  Praying for others may do more to bring about the redemption of the world than we can ever realize. Prayer has brought more people to Christ than any sermon ever written. More people have given their lives to Jesus because their parents faithfully prayed for them every night than all the eloquence of every preacher combined, even mine.    More people have experienced healing through the simple faithful prayers of the people around them than through all the experience and intellect of every person in the medical field. More people have experienced healing and the mending of broken hearts because someone somewhere was praying for them than the combined wisdom every counselor could provide. More people have been freed from the chains of addiction, rescued from their own bad decisions by the simplest prayer of a child than any 12 step program has ever done.   Now, does that mean that preachers and doctors and counselors and programs aren’t necessary or important? No, of course they are. God works through them.  But often they are the answer to the prayer that someone has prayed.  So often, lives are changed in ways we can never understand because someone was willing to stand in the gap and pray for another person.   I’ve read recently, especially in the light of a tragedy, that when people ask for prayers, they really aren’t accomplishing anything.  If all we are doing is equating prayers with good thoughts, or, God help us sending you good vibes, then I would agree.   But that is not the Christians’ understanding of prayer. Prayer isn’t sending someone good thoughts. It’s the vocation of standing in the gap between people and pain, it’s inviting God to unleash the power of the Holy Spirit into people’s lives, into people's hearts, into the world. It is our first step in walking alongside God in the ultimate redemption of the world.   Now, what we need is not less prayer, but more. We need a church that, from beginning to end, are people of prayer asking God to move, heal, help, and redeem. Will you be those people? Every day, will you fulfill your vocation, be a person of prayer, and live with no regrets? Amen.