Sunday, September 23, 2007

Money - September 23, 2007

Luke 16:1-13

Jeremy Blake, age 35 and Theresa Duncan, age 40, filmmakers, artists, writers and lovers, ended their lives this summer – Duncan with pills and bourbon, and one week latter, Blake walked into the Atlantic Ocean.

Why begin on such a disturbing note?

To remember why we’re here.
For all the folks who can’t believe,
who struggle with faith …
who take drugs and abuse themselves …
who are bright and creative, sad and lost, fearful and hopeless.
For their sake, we’re here today.

“You are the light of the world,” says Jesus. “You are the salt of the earth.”

The Apostle Peter says:

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

We’re baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We’re fed at the LORD's Table.
We count among our ancestors the likes of Abraham and Sarah … Moses and Miriam, David and Solomon … Deborah and Lydia …
Their stories, our stories: from bondage to freedom … through the wilderness, across the River Jordan … we stand with Joshua by the walls of Jericho; we watch David pick up five smooth stones in the Valley of Elah and defeat Goliath; we buy the field in Anathoth with Jeremiah; we stand with Ezekiel by the valley of dry bones.
We walk with Jesus in Galilee and follow Him up to Jerusalem; we pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane; we watch Judas betray Him, and Peter deny Him.
We stand with the disciples at the foot of the cross; we flee in horror and can only doubt.
On the third day, we run with Peter to the tomb, to see if it’s really empty, as the women tell us.
We’re on the mountain with Jesus when He says, “Go … go into all the world … tell folks the truth, that life is good and God is real … tell folks about the water and the bread … help them find themselves by finding God – all of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit … and I am with you always, to the end of the age, until the task is done.”

“Go” says Jesus …

The church of Jesus Christ is a missionary organization … the church of Jesus Christ exists for the sake of those who are not here … who can’t believe, who won’t believe … we believe for them.
That’s our Covenant purpose …
I love the name Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Basic agreements – essential tasks.
The promise of God: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

We are people of the covenant, and its various permutations:
The creation covenant with Adam and Eve,
The rainbow covenant with Noah and His family.
The blessing covenant with Abraham and Sarah.
The salvation wrought by Christ on the cross, confirmed by God in the empty tomb, sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

We are people of the Covenant!
We are Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Our purpose is our neighbor; to bring light to the world … a light so good, so clean and so pure that folks like Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan are included in the circle of light.

2 Corinthians 5:

The love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised for them.

We echo Paul’s confession:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.

The Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

It is the glory of our life … less of ourselves and more of Christ … to live the prayer of John the Baptist: “He must become greater; I must become less.”
Christ in the morning, Christ at noon, Christ at night.

It can be done; it’s happening now … we grow into Christ, and Christ grows into us. Not that we’re already there, but we press on to the high calling of Christ.

Josh Waitzkin, the chess prodigy who inspired the film, Searching for Bobby Fisher, has written a book entitled, The Art of Learning.

Waitzkin notes that success is not driven by some mysterious process, but by mastery of basic skills …

Vince Lombardi, famed coach of the Green Bay Packers, the glory days of Bart Star and Jim Taylor, said of the Packers: “We don’t play fancy football; we play basic football and play it very well.”

I used to be drummer in another life … several hours a day, practice … a simple rule of thumb: if I missed one day of practice, I knew it; if I missed two days, the band knew it; if I missed three days, the audience knew it.

Every practice session began with the rudiments, the basics … single and double-stroke rolls … paradiddles … flams and ratamacues … basic skills … again and again and again …

Basic skills – Covenant:
Love one another as I have loved you.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.

Basic skills, Covenant skills: use your money well, says Jesus; make friends with it.

Jesus catches everyone’s attention with a story about a rich man and a dishonest manager …
The point is clear – if dishonest managers know how take advantage of the moment and make friends while they can, surely God’s people ought to know how to make friends, too.

Use money to make friends, says Jesus … be faithful with material things … practice the art of giving … give and it shall be given unto you … a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over … for the measure you give will be the measure you get” – Luke 6:38.

Money is one of the most powerful commodities of life … I think about money a lot … will there be enough? Wish I had more … when’s the next paycheck … will Donna be able to support me in the life-style to which I’ve grown accustomed?

A woman told her friend, “I’m responsible for making my husband a millionaire.” “Goodness, what was he before you married him?” She replied, “A billionaire.”

A tour guide was showing someone around Washington, D. C. The guide pointed out the place where George Washington supposedly threw a dollar across the Potomac River. "That's impossible," said the tourist. "No one could throw a coin that far!" "You have to remember," said the guide, "a dollar went a lot farther in those days."

And for the latest in stocks …

Helium was up. Feathers were down. Paper was stationary. Knives were up sharply. Pencils lost a few points. Hiking equipment was trailing. Elevators rose, while escalators continued a slow decline. Light switches were off. Mining equipment hit rock bottom. Diapers remained unchanged. Shipping lines stayed at an even keel. Balloon prices were inflated. And batteries exploded in an attempt to recharge the market.

Bill Evans recalls a pastor saying, “Give until it feels good.”
That’s basic … that’s covenant.
The art of giving.
Doing it right.

Donna and I took dance lessons for years – we learned a basic rule: “When it’s done right, it feels right.”

If it’s not done right, it never feels right, no matter how hard we try, no matter how often we try it – if it’s not done right, it doesn’t feel right.

We’d go back to the dance studio, the instructor would show us the missing move, and there it was – we could do it, we could do it right, and it felt right.

Do it right. Give until it feels right!

Learn the basics. Look to Christ in all things.
George Burr said at Staff this week: “Look for God in the music.

Pray more often; open your Bibles and read a little bit every day. Read John Ortberg’s latest book … watch Joel Osteen now and then to get a boost … feed your soul, fill your life with positive energy and the grace of God.

“The one who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.”

As long as there are Jeremy Blakes and Theresa Duncans, we’ve got our work cut out for us … that’s why we‘re here!

I’m glad to know these things, and I know that you are, too. Use your money to make friends. We are … Covenant People! Amen!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

One - September 16, 2007

Luke 15:1-10

Crystal Lake, Wisconsin … I was eight-years old … my brother teaching me to swim.

From the dock out to a barrel-flotation raft, and back to the dock again.

Late morning; time for lunch. My brother, on the dock, waiting for me.
I jumped off the raft feet first, surfaced, put my head down, and began to swim to the dock.

I put my legs down by the dock …
Found only a steep slope and gravel at the tip of my toes.

I began to slip backward … arms flailing.
“Put your head down” my brother shouted.
But I was panic-stricken.

My brother jumped in, swam around behind me, with a shove of his hands in the hollow of my back, pushed me to shallow water.

We went in for lunch.
He doesn’t remember – I do!

I was saved that day!

Who hasn’t been saved a time or two?

A school teacher gives you a break on grades.
A loan saves your business.
Your big-time mess-up everyone lovingly forgets.
The promotion you didn’t deserve.
Your spouse forgives and forgets.
Friends & family put up with your idiosyncrasies.

Who knows how many other times the hand of God has stayed heartache and disaster … brought us through, and we didn’t even know it.

I was waiting at a busy rail crossing – forth car back. The train cleared and the cars moved. I was not but 20 feet on the other side of the crossing, when a freight train thundered through from the other direction.

Salvation IS our story.

A man had been in business for many years, doing well, and now the business is going down the drain.

He goes to his pastor to seek advice.

The pastor says "Take a beach chair and a Bible and put them in your car and drive down to the edge of the ocean.
Go to the water's edge. Take the beach chair out of the car, sit on it and take the Bible out and open it up.
The wind will riffle the pages for a while and eventually the Bible will stay open at a particular page. Read the first words your eyes fall upon, and you’ll know what to do.

The man does as he is told.
He settles into his chair on the beach, opens the Bible; the wind riffles the pages and then settles.

The man looks down at the Bible – his eyes fall upon the words – and he knows instantly what he needs to do.

Three months later the man comes back to see the pastor.

The man is wearing a fine suit, a broad smile on his face.

He hands the pastor a thick envelope full of cash for the church – just to say thanks.

The pastor is delighted. He asks, “What words in the Bible brought this good fortune to you?”

The man replies: "Chapter 11"

Who hasn’t been saved a time or two?

Jesus makes it clear – everyone is important, no one is left behind … the great God Almighty thinks small, one person at a time.

Our reading this morning covers two parables … there’s a third parable part of this sequence - the Prodigal Son.
Each parable ups the ante, driving home the point: everyone counts – no one is left behind … God thinks small, one person at a time.

One sheep out of a hundred … one coin out of ten … one son out of two …

The shepherd has plenty of sheep, but every sheep counts.
The shepherd sets out to search for the lost … “until he finds it” says the text.

I love the confidence of the text, not if, not maybe … the search continues until the lost is found.

God is successful …

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be, that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

The lost are found … the wayward rescued … the lonely comforted … in the end, God prevails, goodness overcomes … all is made new.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … I saw the Holy City … death no more … grief, tears and pain, no more … all things made new.”

The second parable – one coin out of ten … the woman is likely a widow – her ten coins, ten days wages – even one coin lost is a serious matter … so she begins to search for it: she lights a lamp, sweeps the earthen floor, sifts the dirt and dust, “until she finds it.”

The prodigal son … one son out of two … there’s no searching here … a different strategy: waiting … does the Father trust the inherent character of the boy?
Does the Father know deep down that it’s going to be okay?
Was it hard to wait?
Did the Father know where the boy was? Was there any news from the far-away land that gave him hope?

What binds all three stories together – joy.

Joy in the finding, joy in the restoring, joy in heaven.
Party time – yippee and yahoo … set the table, bring out the wine, kill the fatted calf; we’re havin’ a barbeque.

Because everyone counts; no one is left behind. God’s purpose prevails … the lost are found!

It all comes down to one … one sheep, one coin, one boy!
Heaven thinks small!

Some might have said to the shepherd: “Why bother?” – one sheep out of a hundred is an acceptable loss …

Maybe the widow should have written it off, and spent her time more productively.

Maybe the Father should have disinherited the boy, quit wasting his time going on in the morning to scan the road.

But not God … no acceptable loss … no one written off … no one disinherited.

God’s passion, God’s delight, God’s purpose – to find the lost and restore them … bring them home where they belong.
God seeks the lost sheep.
God lights a lamp, sweeps the floor – goes through the dust and the dirt until the lost coin is found.
God waits, longer then the boy can wait – God outwaits all of us … until hunger overcomes pride, need overwhelms resistance … until we can’t stand it any longer, and we turn our way back home.

“I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.”

For me, one of the more powerful passages of the Bible – Philippians 2

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…. … following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath…. 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 this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God!.

God be praised … “the LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want … he maketh me to lie down in green pastures … he leadeth me beside still waters … he restoreth my soul.”

In these three parables, it all comes down to one … God thinks small … God seeks; God sweeps; God waits.
Comfort, consolation, encouragement …
“I am confident that the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

God never gives up … God never calls off the search … God seeks and finds … God sweeps and reclaims … God outwaits the boy … until the boy comes home.
Sooner or later, by hook or by crook, in this life or in the life to come … in ways known and ways beyond our grasp, the mighty grace of God prevails … we all come home where we belong … yippee and yahoo!

Throughout the years of ministry, my greatest joy: watching people enter into the love of God … lay their burdens down at the foot of the cross … peace at last … strangers no more to the gospel; no longer lost and alone … no longer aliens to the love of God … from wilderness to Promised Land … from bondage to freedom … from the darkened cave of self to the enlightened world of Christ.

No greater joy …

I think of two men …

One signed up for the Bethel Bible Series … a two-year commitment to study the Bible, Genesis to Revelation … he knew nothing about God’s Word.
One day, he stood in the doorway of my office, tears welling up in his eyes, his voice choked - “I never knew how much God loved me. How I have come to love God’s Word.”

The other man signed up for a mission trip to Haiti – just to do something, a good work, a good deed – he was a crude man … tough and not religious.

During the course of ten days in Haiti, he saw children with spinal tuberculosis, eye-tumors, infants dying of dehydration … he waded across filthy rivers to deliver medical supplies to remote villages … he watched people struggle to make a living in the toughest of places … he worked with doctors in the wards … he listened to impoverished Christians joyfully tell of God’s goodness and love … something happened deep inside that man.

He came to know Christ personally … church had only been a custom, a family tradition – a low-level Sunday morning option … but Christ took hold of him, changed his life, re-arranged his priorities.

What joy in heaven … it all comes down to one!

Don’t every stop praying for the lost … because God never gives up.

Don’t every think for a moment that you’re unimportant … that you can’t go back home again … you can; the Father waits … and will greet you with joy!


Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Price is Right - Sep 9 07

Luke 14:25-35

The comedian, Jack Benny, delighted audiences pretending to be a tight-wad … every penny spent was a penny lost … the bottom-line was the only line.

One episode, Benny is held up by a gunman who says, “Your money or your life.”

Benny pauses … the robber says “Look bud, I said ‘Your money or you life’“ and Benny snaps back, “I’m thinking it over.”

“Think it over” says Jesus …

Before you make your decision … before you sign on the dotted line … before you say “Yes!”

Large crowds traveled with Jesus … best show in town; folks are fed; the sick are cured … Jesus is a celebrity.

He turns to the crowd and says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

That certainly puts a screeching halt to things … what in the world is Jesus saying?

Well let’s put on our hiking boots, check the maps, get some extra water, and take a hike back to the first century.

Jesus is a rabbi … a teacher … an itinerant teacher; on the road constantly, town-to-town, teaching the Kingdom of God, healing and helping folks along the way.

His fame grows … He’s captivating, interesting, entertaining … He teaches with authority; stellar speaker; not afraid to tangle with the powers-that-be … folks want to hear what He has to say … they bring their needs and their wants; their ills and their sorrows … they bring their friends, their families.

With an arresting image, a catch-your-attention word, Jesus says: first things first!

Seek first the kingdom of God and all the other pieces fall into place … life is a cacophony of commitments, loyalties and relationships – family and friends; school and work – pulling and pushing in a thousand different directions.

The phone rings, we pick it up – it’s Fred, or Suzie, asking us if we would volunteer our time for a new project, if we could give a little more money to the school fund-raiser … and just that day, the boss asked for a little more work – we’re pulling our hair out, wondering how much more of this we can take.

First things first …

It’s all about priorities.

If I had it all figured out, I’d tell you right now … but I don’t have it all figured out … no one does – Paul the Apostle says of his life with Christ: “Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press to take of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Let’s take a look at the word that seems so disagreeable here – “hate” … why such a stop-action, freeze-frame word?

What does Jesus mean?

Bear in mind one simple observation:
His audience understands what He means … it makes sense to them; they may not agree, but they know what He’s saying …

The Greek word is misew - it can mean how we often use it – a word of abhorrence, an emotive word, filled with disgust and loathing …
But it has a secondary meaning: “to love someone less in order to love someone more.”

When Jesus turned to the crowd, they knew what he was saying: every rabbi said it, one way or the other – there’s a decision to be made, a price to be paid.

How many golf fans here? … If Tiger Woods called you up and offered a week of golf lessons at Pebble Beach, without cost – staying in a five-star hotel, eating in the best restaurants, how long would it take for you to clear the deck and make the arrangements?

Last summer, in Michigan, a friend asked me on a Friday morning if Donna and I could spend a week on his boat cruising the North Channel along the Canadian coast of Lake Huron … he owned a marina and had a fine boat … so I said, “Yes!” – then he said, but we leave Sunday after noon … it was amazing how quickly I put things in order.

Jesus cuts right to the chase: if you want to be a part of God’s work, be prepared to change your priorities … it’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

Be prepared to love your family a little bit less in order to love God a little bit more!

Every missionary has grabbled with this … and pastors do, too … but it’s not just the religious who wrestle with these things.

Every soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan made a decision to love the family a little bit less in order to love the country a little bit more.

Teachers make the same commitment … folks in a high-powered careers …

A young man getting married: the Bible says, “a man will leave his father and mother, and be united to his wife; they will become one flesh.”

In order to go anywhere, we have to leave somewhere!

Remember the episode when Jesus is teaching in a crowded home – His family comes, but because of the crowd, they can only stand outside. Someone tells Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

Jesus replies: “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

Jesus then looks at the folks seated around Him and says: “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

When Jesus is 12 years old – His family and village went to Jerusalem for Passover – a huge celebration, tens of thousands of pilgrims – the whole village of Nazareth traveled together.
When the festival is over, Mary and Joseph join the crowd to return home – they assume Jesus is with someone else – and they don’t worry about it, but at the end of the day, Jesus is nowhere to be found.

Mary and Joseph rush back to Jerusalem … for three days they search for Him – can you imagine their panic? If you’ve ever “lost your child” even for a few moments in a shopping mall, it’s a terrible anguish.
They find Him on the third day, in the Temple, speaking with the scholars … and when Mom and Dad finally find Him, they scold Him – as we all do when we finally find the lost child: “Why did you wander off? Why did you do this to us?”
Jesus responds - “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be here, in my Father’s house?”

Hardly an apology … not very heartfelt, nothing cozy and sentimental here … no Hallmark card moment.

Our LORD's attitude toward family may seem rather surprising in view of conservative Christian commentators like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who have made family their top priority – they’ve even criticized other evangelicals who’ve taken up the environmental cause – because they see the family, and the related issues of abortion and homosexuality, as the only priority.
Family is everything for them, but it’s not everything for Jesus.

Let’s think about families in the Bible …

Family is important to God … “honor you father and your mothers” – the fifth commandment; the only commandment with a promise “that your days may be long in the land.
The family is God’s building block for a good world … the first family, Adam and Eve; the flood family, Noah and wife and their three sons; the covenant family, Abraham and Sarah … those long and boring “begats” are a celebration of family … family is vital.

But let’s look a little more closely …

Adam and Eve had two boys, and the one killed the other. After the flood, Noah plants a vineyard, makes wine, gets drunk, lays naked in his tent; Ham ridicules him; the other two boys cover him, and the family is split. Abraham and Sarah have Ishmael, and that proves no end of trouble; Isaac’s two sons, Jacob and Esau, fight like cats and dogs.

Sound familiar?

Family is important … Jesus loves His family - but first things first.

Love well-placed makes a better world.

What Jesus proposes sounds harsh, but it’s liberating …

Love prioritized is liberating.

Jesus wants to take what is precious – our family - and put it into proper perspective, so that our love of family remains safe and wholesome.

To love God first is to find the wherewithal to love our families wholesomely.

To love God more … so our family is free from the pressure to be more than a family can be … our children aren’t perfect; our parents aren’t perfect, our grandparents aren’t perfect – expect what’s appropriate, and no more.

The marketing pressure on families is incredible – on the secular side of things: turn your little ones into Harvard-quality geniuses – on the Christian side: turn them into little saints.


Marketing pressure has produced a lot of edgy parents who have forgotten how to enjoy their children, and a lot of edgy children who are angry, lonely and self-destructive.

Misplaced love, love that expects too much, loves that tries to live through another human being, dissipates itself and shrinks the spirit, leaving us dissatisfied and angry.
Thank God, love misplaced doesn’t work. Thank God, we have a way out through Christ.

Love prioritized grows as it goes … love given to God first is returned to us stronger and cleaner.

Think about it says Jesus.

There is a price to be paid …

But the price is right …

If I’m going to shell out good money a restaurant, I want good food and good service.

If I’m going to buy a car - that it be comfortable, reliable and retain its value.

I’m more than willing to pay the price, if the price is right.

There is a price when it comes to God … but it’s not the highest price … there are steeper prices out there … like going to crummy restaurant, or buying a car poorly designed.

The steepest price of all – trying to love others without first loving God! That’s the highest price of all, a terrible price, a price paid for which there is no return of value!

Trying to love without first loving God is a terrible investment!

There’s a price to be paid for loving God, but God is worth it … God is a bargain compared to any other investment! Because Christ has made the downpayment!

When we strive to put God first, everyone benefits … it’s not a perfect science; we work at it every day … every day, we pay the price – first things first.

That’s a price I want to pay, and I know that you do, too.

The price is right. Amen!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Trust - Sep 2, 2007

LUKE 14:1, 7-14

What follows are notes I compiled and refined during the week. The message was delivered with these notes in mind but mostly extemporaneously. May these notes trigger reflection and resolve, drawing you closer to the enabling power of Jesus and His Holy Spirit.

Most important words in Christian vocabulary: I can … experiment, say, “I can’t!” … now say, “I can!” How did that feel?

I can be a disciple of Christ … I can turn my life over more fully to Christ … I can defeat the evil one, because the one who is within me is greater than he that is in the world – 1 John 4:4

I can change …
I can grow …
I can go where I didn’t want to go five years ago …
I can let go of my anger …
I can forgive the one who wounded me …
I can let go of my past …
I can live more constructively …
I can be more positive …
I can trust God …

I can!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13 … say it.

A huband and wife are sound asleep – when there’s a knock on the door. He rolls over and looks at the clock -- it's half-past three in the morning.

"I'm not getting out of bed at this time", he thinks, and rolls over. Then, a louder knock. "Aren't you going to answer that?" asks his wife. So, he drags himself out of bed and goes downstairs.

He opens the door and there is man standing at the door. The man was clearly drunk. "Hey, mister, can you give me a push?"

"No. Get lost, it's half-past three. I was sound alseep," says the man and slams the door.

He goes back up to bed and tells his wife what happened and she says "Dave, that wasn't very nice of you.

Remember that night we broke down in the pouring rain on the way to pick the kids up from the baby-sitter and you had to knock on someone’s door to get us started again? What would have happened if he'd told us to get lost?"

"But the guy was drunk," says the husband.

"It doesn't matter," says the wife. "He needs our help and it would be the Christian thing to do."

So, the husband gets out of bed again, gets dressed and goes downstairs. He opens the door and, not being able to see the stranger anywhere he shouts: "Hey, do you still want a push?" and he hears a voice cry out "Yeah please."

Still being unable to see the stranger, he shouts: "Where are you?"

And the stranger replies: "I'm over here, on your swing set."

We all need a push now and then … trust is a dynamic process … spoke with Mary Ann Leatherman today – she’s in the hospital … she asked what I’m preaching today. I said, “Trust.” She replied. “I’ll work on that today.” I said, “I’ll work on it with you!”

What can we do to intensify our trust?

Rehearse the story of our faith …
Remember past events and how things worked out … e.g. our move to CA. How Eric helped with wireless.
Release our cares … “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Christ is in front of me … Christ is behind me … Christ is below me … Christ is behind me … Christ is within me … all the time, everywhere, and forever!

We have a roll to play … For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me. Col 1:29

Do our best … even when it’s not our best – good things are worth doing poorly … and then trust God for the rest … for God to make up the difference … for all of us … even Mother Teresa … recently revelations – no one’s a saint in the silly sense of being perfected … no, we all struggle, we all walk

Little children, you are from God, and have conquered …; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

God asks of us only what God knows we can do … Josh on a bike … I knew he could ride it; he didn’t.

Primal story: the snake in the grass – something is missing, God did an okay job, but could have done better … and it’s up to you to go for it … they plucked the fruit and we’ve been on their journey ever since: lamenting what we don’t have … “if only we were doing thus-and-so. If only we had this-or-that.” To live in the spirit of scarcity is to live edgily, with a sense of impending doom and defeat, forever anxious and uneasy, spiritually, emotionally, off balance. There is but one antidote – to trust God. To surrender our lives to God, to believe that God is at work in ALL things for our wellbeing … that good comes out of and through evil, that crucifixions become the means for redemption, that our losses are more than compensated by the goodness and love of God. A God who knows what it is to lose His life, and by faith, hope and love, via the cross, find it. Jesus said it well: “The one who hangs on to life loses it; the one who loses it for my sake gains it.”

Primal story: David in the cave … worldly wisdom: “Now’s your chance David. Everyone would understand; no one would accuse you.” But David refused; he put his life into the hands of God.

What does Scripture say about David: A man after God’s own heart. 1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22

Prayer of Surrender: “LORD Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, I give myself to you, in faith and obedience.”

1 Corinthians 6 – a church where everything that could go wrong with a church went wrong – apparently they were quick-triggered folks taking one another to court … Paul puts a radical twist on it: “to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?”

It may be distressing, but not dangerous.
A triviality compared to my mental health.

Proverbs 25:27 – “It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor.” (NIV) … “or to seek honor on top of honor” (NRSV).

Majoring in the minors; minoring in the majors … what’s really important? One of Satan’s ploys: obsession with the trivial!

Manage your fears, manage your anger.

Insecurity triggers old behaviors.

Romans 12:14ff – leave vengeance to God … it’s something we can’t handle, but God can. “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. …. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In other words, love governs all … esp. love for “enemies,” both real and imagined.

Because love is the test of our commitment to Christ … love is the ultimate witness to the world that we’re followers of Christ … love is what the world seeks – not our beliefs, as valuable as they are, not our programs, as good as they may be, not our worship, as solemn or vigorous it may be … but to see something in those who name the name of Christ that cannot be found anywhere else – a great and generous love, a love that responds to hurt and pain with kindness and mercy, long-suffering … Paul’s list in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, etc.. This is what the world longs for, this what the world seeks, and this is what the Holy Spirit offers through the people of God when we’re fully devoted, fully obedient, fully humble and completely enthralled with Jesus Christ our LORD. Yes, it’s possible!

Calvin’s motto: To you, O LORD, promptly and sincerely, I give my heart.” Symbolized, a flaming heart held in the hands.

Surrender of the heart to Christ – the ultimate moment in our journey, the beginning and the end – the ever-constant challenge and the ever-constant delight of surrender.

To trust God, more and more, is the joy of our life …

To be a congregation of those who deeply trust God … so that God will trust us … and entrust to us those whom God is calling! (message for another day …)