Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 25, 2011 - "Brain Scan"

Philippians 2.1-13

Who doesn’t need their head examined now and then?

We’ve all been told that a time or two, haven’t we?
“You need your head examined!”

When my children were young, I’d look in one of their ears, wave my hand and three fingers by the other ear, and say, “By golly, I can see my three fingers. There’s nothin’ in there.

And we’d all laugh, of course … 

A friend of mine had a brain scan, and he jokingly said to me, “They didn’t find one!”
The Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” sings, “If Only I Had a Brain” … I do all kinds of wonderful things.

And, indeed, with a brain, a mind, we do wonderful things … we can fly around the world … and tell a child we love them.

The Bible says: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The renewing of our mind is mostly a miracle - by grace we are saved, not by works, lest anyone should boast … 

That’s the glory of infant baptism - God at work, before we know it, before we can do anything about it … God at work in our little souls. 

When we get a little older, there may be a moment when we accept Jesus as LORD and Savior, when we say “Yes!” but long before we accept Jesus, Jesus accepts us.
You didn’t choose me, says Jesus, I choose you!

God loves us first!
Before our decision, God’s decision - before the foundation of the world … can’t get anymore before than that!
Salvation is a gift!

But the Bible also says, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling … 
Working it out is mostly up to us.

We feed our mind with good reading.
We nourish our heart with prayer and worship.
We choose good thoughts and positive ideas.
We strive to be on the right side of history.
We practice doing good.
We forgive, and forgive quickly.
We apologize when it’s our fault, and even if we’re not sure whose fault it is - the power of the word “sorry” covers a multitude of sins.
We work out our salvation day-by-day … in ten thousand different scenarios …

Even Jesus has to work things out … when choices come his way:

A woman, caught in adultery, brought to Jesus by a crowd.
They’re ready to execute her … death by stoning - capital punishment.
Because the Bible says so! 
Are these mean people?
No, they’re law-abiding citizens.
They want to know where Jesus stands on the matter.
“Do you stand on the side of the law?” they ask him. “Are you a law-abiding citizen of Israel?”
The letter of the law, or something more?

Jesus makes it clear that day - there’s more to the law than the letter of the law … 
I came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it … expand it, make it larger, beyond the letter of the law, to the heart of the matter … 

When asked about the Law and the greatest of commandments - all 613 of them - Jesus chooses two - Love God with all that you are (from Deuteronomy), and love your neighbor with the same regard with which you love yourself (Leviticus).

And then adds the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Elsewhere, Jesus says, There is something greater here than the temple … something greater than Jonah … something greater than Solomon.

It’s the “something greater” that Jesus brings to us … Jesus choose something greater …

No stones for the woman caught in adultery … because of something greater.
Because love wins.
Love is something greater, greater than the letter of the law.
Faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love!

The mind of Christ for us!
Something greater ...
To let our shine so that the world can see our good works, and give glory to our Father in heaven.

That’s evangelism … works of faith … kindness, loyalty, mercy, gentleness, humility, intelligence, restraint, wisdom and welcome … and courage - Christ Courage - to stand up against the proud and the powerful, and Christ-Courage - to stand with the forlorn and the downtrodden … to build the better world - thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The mind of Christ for us: 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. 

Dear friends, we need our heads examined now and then.
As our Psalmist wrote [139.23-24]:
 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my thoughts.
     See if there is any wicked way in me,
      and lead me in the way everlasting. 

A brain scan … just to be sure … that we have the mind of Christ. Amen and Amen!

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11, 2011 - "Take It Easy"

Romans 14.1-12

There are a lot of wonderful words.

Words that bless us and lift us up.
Words that encourage us and make us strong.
Words that bring sunshine to our lives.
Words that lead us and guide us.
Words that instruct us and inspire us.
Wonderful words of life.

I can’t think of a better word then “welcome!”

Welcome home, we say to the traveler, take it easy!
Welcome to our home, we say to the visitor - glad you’re here … make yourself at home … take it easy; we’re glad you can be here. 
A welcome letter from a university to which we’ve applied … it always comes in a large envelope, have you noticed that? … rejection letters come in small envelopes … welcome letters come in big envelopes.

Rachel remembers Donna and me storming into the house one afternoon … she was on the floor in the family room, her back against the couch, watching TV … wondering what all the stomping was about … Donna and I came into the family room; with a handful of mail, and the Large Envelope with a huge return address on it   … instantly Rachel knew what it was … because welcome letters come in a large envelopes.

Ever notice that about people?

Kind people come in large envelopes.
There hearts are large.
Their kindness is big.
Their laughter is rich.
They have a relaxed and easy way about them.
Their sense of honor is like a golden thread woven into the tapestry of life.
They’re eager to do good.
They tell the truth, but do it with love.
They hold themselves accountable to high standards.
But are easy-handed with others.
They set an example that others admire.
They have a solid reputation.
People like to be around them.
They’re big people.
Large envelopes, full of good news and welcome!

When I’m around a large-envelope kind of person, I feel better.
Large-envelope people turn on lights when the room is dark.
They encourage us and lift us up.
They make life better for all of us. 

They get it done.
With a smile and a positive outlook.
They’re a big envelope, full of good news.
They take it easy.
They practice the art of welcome!

Welcome is a big word.
Arms-stretched wide kind of word.
As wide as the Pacific Ocean.
As tall as the Rocky Mountains.
As big as a Wyoming Sky.

Paul says to the people: be big with your welcome.
Because love is big.
God is big.
Jesus Christ is big.

Paul says,
Welcome the weak. Take it easy with them.j
Maybe in time, they’ll become strong.
They won’t need all their little rules and little regulations.
They will find God’s big love to be the only rule and only regulation they need.
They, too, can become big.
We all can become big.
Big with faith, hope and love.
Big with grace, mercy and peace.
Big with justice, kindness and humility.
These are big things.
And they make us big.
God makes us big.
Christ makes us big.
Love makes us big.

Big envelopes, full of good news.

“Dear Rachel,” the letter began.

What a wonderful word.

Amen and Amen!