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Posts Tagged ‘Purpose’

How would he take you out?

May 25, 2012 5 comments

I was faced with a serious question the other day.  It was from an article I stumbled across while on a Christian leadership website.  I’m going to ask you this question…and you need to answer personally and honestly.  I’m then going to ask you the same question in a couple of different contexts.

* How would our common enemy, Satan, take you out, rendering you unable to serve your family and your community?

That’s a very personal question.  But how would he take you out?  What gimmicks would he use?  What are your weaknesses?  This question isn’t just a “how are you tempted most?” question.  How would he take you out?  How would he destroy your service to God?

*How would our common enemy, Satan, take out our church family, rendering us unable to serve each other and the people around us?

This changes things just a bit because now we’re pushed to take a peek inside our local church family.  How would our enemy try to destroy our church families?  How would he get us off track?  What lies would he tell us?  What goals would he give us that are not what Christ wants at the top of our families’ agendas?

*If he could stop or hinder our discipleship process, our raising up of active believers in Jesus and his purpose, how would he do it?

This question makes one assumption…that we’re active in making disciples as Jesus instructs in Matthew 28:19-20.  Our purpose isn’t just to receive our ticket to Heaven and then decide to sit back and ride life away as though there are no expectations.  Maybe you haven’t looked at Christianity like this.  Satan loves to let Christians sit by without a feeling of daily purpose.  In this strategy, we lose the possibility of influencing others to choose Christ as well.

Bible focus: 1 Peter 5:8   Control yourselves. Be on your guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow.

This stuff is tough!  I’m convicted.  When we forget we have an enemy that wants us to forget about God’s purpose for our lives, we tend to also forget about God.  Peter tells us to be aware that Satan loves for us to forget about him.  He encourages us to be on guard.  Being on guard means we’re also on purpose.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Ed

Article referenced, written by Mike Breen, can be found here:

http://www.vergenetwork.org/2012/02/02/obituary-for-the-american-church-mike-breen/

The Plan of Forgiveness


Toward the end of the service, the Minister asked, “How many of you have forgiven your enemies?” 80% held up their hands.

The Minister then repeated his question. All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

“Mrs. Jones? Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?” “I don’t have any,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

“Mrs. Jones, that is very unusual. How old are you?”

“Ninety-eight,” she replied.

“Oh, Mrs. Jones, would you please come down in front and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years & not have an enemy in the world?”

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation, and said: “I outlived the old hags.”

********

Some people ask where I get these.  I really have no idea….and if I did, I woudn’t say.  Haha

Link for this week: It takes 2 minutes to watch.

This week’s focus is just as difficult for me as last week’s was. This week we focus on forgiveness. Most of us have a problem with forgiveness. We think we deserve forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong, but we have a hard time handing it out when someone has done something wrong towards us. So what we need here is a good working understanding of ‘forgiveness.’

As we’re still working through Matthew 6, Jesus speaks this next request in the model prayer in a different way than we might expect. The way He words this prayer to the Father puts weight on us. The question isn’t only for God to forgive us. We are asking Him to do so in the process of us forgiving those who have sinned against us too. Action required. This isn’t just a “gimmee” request. Jesus knows that would be too easy…and against the true purpose of forgiveness.

Here’s how I look at this. Forgiveness is conditional, but handed out freely. We have to ask for it. We have to be at a point where we believe with our whole heart that Jesus died and rose as the Son of God to bear the punishment for our personal sins…as well as the sins of our neighbor, family member or enemy. Thus, if He can forgive them, we need to do the same.

My guess is that everyone has gathered in close to Jesus as He’s speaking this to the crowd in this section of Scripture. Heads are nodding in agreement with the short statements. “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name,” has been spoken and the “Amens” go up. Jesus says, “Your will be done, here on Earth like it is in Heaven,” and those around Him speak out “Yes Lord” in agreement with the statement of prayer. Jesus then talks about asking for our daily needs. I can hear the people responding again in agreement. Most of them are not pulling down a million five per year. They get it. Then comes the next statement. I can hear Jesus speak, “And forgive us our debts…” and the people’s copy cat response…”Yes please Lord.” Then Christ drops the next line…”as we forgive our debtors.” This is where I can see faces drop to the ground. People look at each other with “uh oh” written on their face. There might even be a few who begin to walk away.

Ok, let’s ask the hard question. What if God forgave us like we forgive other people? How would your eternal salvation look based on your grace and mercy towards others who have wronged you? “Uh Oh!” Don’t walk away!

What is our purpose as a Christian? Jesus asked us to forgive like the Father…in a very dramatic way non-the-less…so this has to fit into this Christian living thing we’ve signed up for. God wants people back with Him like it was in the beginning (Genesis). We, as believers in Jesus, are called the church. The church is called the body of Christ. Therefore the body, you and I, are suppose to look and act and think and behave as Christ would. Christ is forgiving. We are asked to be forgiving in the same way.

What’s the purpose of forgiveness? Why do we need to forgive? Why do we need forgiven? When we see the true purpose I’m sure we will find the reason Jesus wants us to forgive like His Father does. Forgiveness is the only way to fix the problem between us and God. We’ve sinned. He’s perfect. It may seem like we’re completely stuck in a different place than the original plan…by our choice. God’s forgiveness makes a way for us to be back with Him. Forgiveness between people does the same thing. It makes a way for healing to begin. It gets junk out of the way. Satan hates forgiveness, because it messes up everything in his strategy to keep us away from God. When you forgive someone as God forgives, whether you think they deserve it or not, you put handcuffs on Satan. You are acting like God. God loves to see us act like Him…it brings glory to His name (Hallowed be your name). When you forgive, its like you’re turning to God and saying, “Ok, it’s not about me…it’s all about you.” People will see this attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and God promises that through you taking the humble position, others will not see you, but God himself (Matthew 5:16). Purpose defined.

Here’s the specific question. Do people, even our enemies, see God through our acts, words and attitude of forgiveness?

Questions for growth:

  • What do you think is a good way to get better at forgiving?
  • Who do you need to forgive?
  • Do you need to do it vocally or publicly?
  • Have you forgiven yourself like God has through His son’s death?
  • Are you willing to forgive even if you feel it will get you nowhere with a certain person?

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

Daily Needs – Daily Bread


Our Daily Bread

Matthew 6:11

A salesman from KFC walked up to the Pope and offers him a million dollars if he would change “The Lord’s Prayer” from “give us this day our daily bread” to “give us this day our daily chicken.” The Pope refused his offer.

Two weeks later, the man offered the pope 10 million dollars to change it from “give us this day our daily bread” to “give us this day our daily chicken” and again the Pope refused the man’s generous offer. Another week later, the man offered the Pope 20 million dollars and finally the Pope accepted. The following day, the Pope said to all his officials, “I have some good news and some bad news. ‘The good news is, that we have just received a check for 20 million dollars. The bad news is, we lost the Wonder Bread account!”’

Ok…this is a tough one.  “Give us this day our daily bread” is verse 11 of Jesus’ model prayer.  If you’ve noticed, Jesus starts out his prayer using the words “us” and “our.”  He continues in verse 11 in the same manner.  It’s true that he was talking to a crowd.  But I wonder if He is also addressing the Kingdom, His church.  If this is true, then this is a prayer for the each member of the group to use “daily.”  He wants us to be on the same page moving together with the same goals and values….His Father’s goals and His Father’s values.

With that said, we need to figure out what this “bread” means.  The more I want to say that it is a spiritual request…the more I lean towards it meaning our daily ‘needs.’  Yes, I just said it.  I’ve been talking with a couple co-workers about how hard this lesson is to swallow being a born and bread “American Dream” type of person.  I also just came back from Haiti where I met and ministered to people who, when they prayed this prayer, knew exactly what it meant.  They lived in a maybe 10×10 wooden box built for them after being displace from their 15×15 cement/dirt floor home.

The question is, what do we truly need?  If Christ’s church shows the world that we need anything more than Christ, don’t we do a disservice to His message?  So let’s look at what we know from Scripture first.  Jesus said in John 6, in an extensive way, that He is the bread of life.  He told Satan during his 40 day fast that the Word of God was His bread to live on.  When telling 72 of His followers to go out on their first missionary mission trip, He said not to take anything except the clothes they were wearing.  They would be taken care of…workers deserve fair wages…God would provide (Luke 10).  In Matthew 6, beginning with verse 24, Jesus says that we can’t serve two masters…then the big word “therefore” comes into play as He says, don’t worry about your food, clothes or anything else that you think you need.  Why?  Because the Father knows what you need, and if you focus on Kingdom work, then He will supply your needs.

That’s what we know. Were the 72 taken care of?  Yes.  Did Jesus make it through His fast? Yes.  Are the birds of the air watched over by their creator?  Yes.  Can God clothe us like the lilies of the fields?  Yes.  Should we have any worry about these things?  No.  Reason?  Because when we truly rely on God for our needs, then people will see Him…and want to have Him…and be with Him for eternity.  Our wanting to supply our own felt needs points back to us.  Our relying on God for our daily bread always points back to Him.  One of those tip toes really close to sin…unintentional or not.  The other walks “humbly with our God” as the Lord points out through the prophet Micah in his book, chapter 6 verse 8.

Ok….what do we do with this?  I’m struggling with this one.  As a reasonable person, I can see how huge this could be to pointing people to see God.  But boy is it hard to let go of “self sufficiency!”  Let’s look for a modern day example of this really happening…not just a fairy tale sermon illustration.

George Mueller is a man we can look to for such an example.  He built and ran an orphanage for many, many, years.  He said, in an interview at age 91, “No man can ever say I asked him for a penny.”  When he needed something for the sometimes 2000 orphans under his care….he gathered his staff together and prayed.  God would send food, money, supplies and workers when needed…sometimes immediately before the prayer was finished.  This man truly relied only on what God felt He and his orphans needed.  Who is glorified in this example?  Mr. Mueller?  Well, his is a life to be patterned after.  But we know who supplied every need….no human.  Through humans, yes….but because of any human?  No.

So, can we live like in this manner?  It has been shown that we can.  Now…the question simply remains…will we choose to do so?…Individually and as a group of people who claim Christ their King and God their Father who supplies all things?

I’m not sure what to add here.  I’m sufficiently guilty right now and need to process where I’m at with this one little life changing verse.  I do know this.  I like to take care of things by myself…and therein lies the problem.  When we take care of things ourselves, we are lifted up.  When we fully and completely rely on God…only He can receive credit and fame.

Questions for thought:

  • What do you really need?  List here……
  • What things do we strive for that aren’t necessary, and sometimes place glory on us?
  • How do we change this?  Why would we even attempt to change this?
  • In the end, who get’s all the glory for our life?…all the glory…all

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

ed

Heaven on Earth…Now


What is your church preference?

  • While filling out an application for employment, the applicant came to a query
    which asked, “What is your Church Preference?”
    The man, not being a person of extraordinary intelligence thought the question
    for some time because he really needed the job. He wanted to impress the
    employer and answered very confidently, “I prefer a red brick church.”

As silly as the joke above might be, it very well might be nearer a truth in our American church society today.  If you listen close to the way we talk about our churches, we mention things associated with places, addresses, programs, target groups, worship music and, of course, buildings.  Having just arrived home from a week in Haiti, I can say that I have new eyes when it comes to “church” things.

Let’s speak frankly for a moment.  The Bible talks specifically that we, who claim Christ as Lord, are members of His body (Ephesians 5:30).  The Bible only separates church families by place names, or more specifically the city where they meet (Writings of Paul and Revelation).  The Church has two focuses…Love God and Love people (Matthew 22:37-39).  The church has one purpose.  It is to help people cross over from their life of sin into a life in relationship with the Forgiver of Sins (Matthew 28:19-20).  The Bible does not separate church families by philosophy, style of music, size of building, number in attendance, or length of Sunday morning services.  We are to be one body acting together in purpose throughout the world.

Ok, I’m sure I got some of your buttons pushed above.  But we really can’t argue with Jesus’ model prayer here.  Jesus has us praying for God’s will to be done through us, His church, here on this planet.  This reminds me of His prayer in John 17:19-23…

  • I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the Disciples’] message,21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

We are here, on earth, to be a real and tangible presence of Heaven.  So how are we doing in this area?  How are we doing in our local communities?  How are we doing through the week in our workplaces and schools?  Are we a fresh vision of Heaven to all who see us?  You see this model prayer is both for the individual as well as for the church.  When we pray this one line…it is for us.  It is a prayer, a request that God’s will will be done through each of us…as though we are a constant 24/7 representative of Heaven.

Some questions for evaluation for yourself or your church family:

  • When people see me do they see God?
  • When people hear me do they hear God?
  • When I make decisions, do people see the decisions that God would make?
  • Do people see God’s forgiveness when I forgive?  Do I forgive?
  • Do people see God’s care when I care for them?
  • Do people see God’s unconditional love when I am around?

….or

  • Do they see me instead of God?
  • Do they hear my attitudes and selfishness instead of God?
  • Do they see decisions that are for ‘my good’ rather than ‘my neighbor’s?’
  • Do they see me holding a list of their sins?
  • Do they see me caring more for my personal stuff than theirs?
  • Do they see love when they deserve it, and love withheld when they don’t?

Heaven on earth.  As Steve Kimbrel has aptly said, we are ‘outposts of Heaven’ in the place we live…in the place we work…in the places we spend our time…for the people we are around.

  • “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

love-serve-spread the Word, ed

Paths – Which one are you on?

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been slowly reading a book by Andy Stanley titled, “The Principle of the Path.”  It’s a great book with one simple message.  Andy is very easy to read as well and he’s full of funny stories.  I’ve passed this book on to many people because of its very simple message.  Oh, in case you were wondering, Andy is the son of Charles.

Over the last few years I had the opportunity to work a couple side jobs that gave me the chance to travel throughout the country.  I would jump on a plane and head to another airport, jump off the plane into a rental car, then begin travels to a church building to speak or a store to install a computer/printer and do some training.  I had a phone installed with GPS, so before taking off, I’d type in the address of my destination.  That way, when I took off in the rental car, the phone would already be telling me what turns to make and when to make them.

GPS worked well, but there were those times when I found myself in a vacant parking lot in a empty side of town calling the church or the store to get different directions.  GPS just didn’t get it right.  Mostly it was an old business address or a difference in zip code or just something random.  The principle of the path would say this though.  The road I was on did take me to where I was going…might have been the wrong destination…but that stretch of pavement took me somewhere.  Isn’t that true in life as well?

The road we’re on will always take us to a destination.  It might be what you’re expecting and it might not be, but the principle of the path always holds true…you will always get to where the road you’re presently on leads…for good or bad.  Unfortunately, many of us get to the destination before we realize we’ve been on the wrong road.  So what road are you on?

The Bible says this, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  The point is, it’s like we’re in the middle of the maze…we think we have a plan…we know our situation…but God is looking from above and can see the direct path we need to take to get to where He wants or needs us to be.  If we don’t look up every once in awhile and say, “Left or right?”, then we will make a choice based only on our intelligence and wisdom…and even though we all think we’re smart…haha  you can finish this sentence.

Have you ever had something happen to you and you put your hands on your head and shout, “How did this happen?”  Well, more than likely it’s because of the left and right turns you’ve taken.  It’s a principle.  You’ll always go where the path leads.

Choose God’s ways.  If you say that you’re not yet familiar with His ways, then look them up.  A great place to start is the book of Proverbs.  Lots of basic life stuff in there.  All given from a guy who had all of God’s wisdom, but not much of God’s intelligence.    He’s writing while looking back on his life and realizing all unintended places he ended up while not following God.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

So what about life?….

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital after my wife had gone into labor and the nurse walked out and said to the man sitting next to me, “Congratulations sir, you’re the new father of twins!”

The man replied, “How about that, I work for the Doublemint Chewing Gum Company.” The man then followed the woman to his wife’s room.

About an hour later, the same nurse entered the waiting room and announced that Mr. Smith’s wife has just had triplets.

Mr. Smith stood up and said, “Well, how do ya like that, I work for the 3M Company.”

The gentleman that was sitting next to me then got up and started to leave. When I asked him why he was leaving, he remarked, “I think I need a breath of fresh air.” The man continued, “I work for 7-UP.”

Life.  Life is precious.  Many who will read this no doubt have been on both sides of the word “precious.”  Because life is precious, it can bring both extreme happiness and extreme sadness.  Life is a gift of God.

 

Life began in the Garden of Eden.  Specifically, human life became the crown jewel of creation when on the 6th day God formed man and woman and breathed into their lungs.  They were alive.  Hearts were beating.  Blood was flowing through their veins.  Their eyes could see.  Their hands could feel the touch of God’s hand in them.  You know how it feels to walk out on a cool morning and take a deep breath.  Adam and Eve took the very first refreshing deep breaths ever.

 

God created them.  That’s where we start with the subject of life.  We cannot start anywhere else. All of our ideas about human kind have to start here.  All of our considerations towards the value of life have to start here.  God created.

 

We do, however, have an adversary that wants to alter where we start when we think about ‘human life.’  Satan would rather us start thinking and feeling with our own thoughts of humanity…based on our emotions, experiences, selfishness, and the worldly values that often seep into our hearts.  Satan would want us to forget Who it was that began life itself.

 

David, the ancient King and Psalmist, said that God knew Him before he was formed (Psalm 139).  David wrote that God formed him and watched him as he grew in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139).  Incredible insight.

 

We also see how important life is through the life of Jesus.  Christ died for humanity.  If humanity was something that could be defined by science or evolution theories, I’m not sure we’d need a buried and risen savior.  Jesus died for our very existence.  God created…Jesus saved.

 

Next…again, based on what we know and believe…there is a place in Heaven being prepared for us (John 14:2).  God Created.  Jesus Saved.  God is planning on us being with Him again.  I’m not sure about you, but through the eyes of God…human life is precious.

 

The 10 Commandments speak also of God’s feelings towards His creation.  We are not to kill one another.  We are not to lie to one another.  We are not to steal from one another.  We are to respect each other possessions and family as well as our own.  God Created…and created a life plan.  Jesus Saved.  God is planning for us to be with Him again for eternity.

 

If we base all of what we believe about human life on just these things, we see why Jesus said the greatest commandment is in two parts…Love God, and Love the others that He created as well.

 

I’m so glad there’s forgiveness when it comes to how I/we treat each other. From abortion, to lying, to hate, to selfishness, to jealousy, to adultery, to murder, to stealing…we have all fallen short of God’s plan for life.  Adam and Eve had a taste…they lost it.  We now have a chance to taste the forgiveness that will lead to a life with God again…hand in hand.  The greatest thing is that we have the privilege of being asked to participate in passing this blessing around (Genesis 12:2-3).

 

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

What if ?’s for the American Church

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s what’s behind this new “What If?” page.  I recently was challenged…probably by God…at a conference.  I was sitting in the back in a dark corner so I could think away from the noise of 13,000 people.  Guess what?  It was anything but quiet.  I should say it this way.  I think everyone in that small crowd of Jesus followers could hear God loud and clear.  God was not letting anyone get away to a small corner to just think.  There was a real question/challenge/gut wrenching move of God going on.  I’ve done some study since, and I’m not satisfied with something.  Below you’ll get an idea of where I’m coming from.

I did some research online recently about the American church.  I did this alongside looking into the Scripture at what God considers “true religion” as James writes.  I have to say that I’ve been feeling very guilty since looking into this stuff.  Gasp.  Cough.  Ugghhh.  This feeling is not good.  But guilt, if used right, can be a good thing.  So here are some things running through my cranium.

To begin with, there are well over 300,000 church families in America.  That’s pretty incredible!  Picture it.  There’s a ton of people bowing to remember Christ around us each week.  Oh, the number of church membership…just under 145,000,000…in America.  Let’s assume that 1/3 of them are not active. They are just on a membership card somewhere.  Let’s simply go with the number of 100,000,000.  That’s a ton of energy, muscle, dollars, dreams, talent, passion, grace, salvation, and blessing.  The number of money given to individual church families, not organizations like Salvation Army, equals near 100,000,000 (yes, that’s billion) dollars.   Lutherans alone count for 16 billion, which would put them at number 152 on Forbes 500 just above AFLAC.

Now here are some other basics to set beside those simple numbers pasted above.  There are nearly 149,000 children on the adoption roles within the USA.  What if the church decided to do something about it?  There are 300,000 congregations.

It takes about $5000 to drill a well in Africa for a village.  What if the church decided to do something about it?  We gave over $100 Billion…much of it going to infrastructure and building maintenance.

It takes between 25 and 40 dollars per month to support a child in a 3rd world nation.  What if the church decided to do something?  The Lutherans’ giving alone would take care 400 million children.  Nothing against my Lutheran friends…just a number for all of us to think about.

Habitat for Humanity, in 34 years, has helped put 350,000 new homes on the planet.  What if the more of the church, Jesus hands and feet, got behind projects like this?

About 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year in the USA.  Just imagine what the church could do if we asked and acted one the question, “What if?”

 

Just some things for you to think about.  Help me struggle with this.  It’s a good struggle.

 

ed

 

 

My Life Has a Plan

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Psalm 80

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they “slept like a baby” when babies wake up like every two hours?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?j

These are funny…and I’ll bet you can come up with more. Do you ever think about the questions Mary, the mother of Jesus, asked? ……..we’re making a quick transition now.

There’s no direct writings about this, but I’m sure she knew of the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah. I’m sure she realized the importance of the child she was carrying when escaping to Egypt when the local leader wanted all baby boys murdered. I’m sure she was asking questions knowing that the two year old she was potty training was REALLY the Son of God. When He was actually teaching the rabbis in temple school, I’m sure she was wondering about the rumors of what He would become. Joseph had to be looking into the Scriptures to see what this boy under his care was all about. I would guess there wasn’t much talk about it when the “subject” came up.

I wonder what Mary thought of when she would hear Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist calling Him the Lamb of God. She knew what a “Lamb of God” was. It was the sacrifice for the sins of a family! I’m sure she was asking questions.

I wonder if she ever thought of the story of Abraham and Isaac. I’m positive she knew the story of her ancestor Abraham. I wonder if she ever thought she might be in a similar place to Abraham…she wasn’t the Father…but she was the momma. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. Was she going to have to see her son Jesus in the same position? I’m sure she and her husband asked those questions.

There was a ‘plan of life’ that Jesus was following. I’m sure there were logical people who were following Jesus…some were disciples. Others may have been the women who were following. One might have been Mary. If God’s son was here with us, among us, then there must be a purpose and an ‘end game.’ What was it? I’m sure Mary knew in her heart where this was going. He was the Lamb. Lambs are killed for the purpose of forgiveness. He was perfect. He was unlike any child she was familiar with. He didn’t back down to danger or high risk. He was making those in authority upset. There were rumors of arrest and death to shut this person, her son, up.

We see so many people in this life lost as if without purpose or a plan. I just watched a John Maxwell video clip about successful people. He said that the first thing he notices about successful people is that they know what they’re here for. He said that there are two important days in a successful person’s life. One…when they were born. Two…when they figured out why.

Follow me here…we’re going to use a line of logic. If Jesus was born to die for us so we could live and be servants in a great Kingdom, then what’s that say about us? If we are servants in God’s Kingdom, then what’s that say about our daily life? If God provides us a daily life, do you think there are things, everyday, that He wants us to pray about or do? If there are things that God wants us to do every day, do we have purpose? I’m starting to let that sink into my being. Where ever I am or whatever I’m doing, I have a purpose. It might be the little thing I said to the telemarketer on the phone. It might have been the smile I gave to the gal in the Taco Bell drive through. It might be the sincere asking of “How has your day been?” to my daughter when she gets off the bus. It might be the prayer I said during lunch time for a friend.

I’m convinced that Life is not random. Do random things happen in life? Yes, but my plan of my life is not random. I have the purpose and plan of living a daily life so God is seen by many people.

Mary, I personally believe, knew this about her son Jesus. Yes, I believe it broke her heart. Yes, I believe she stayed awake at night with nightmares about what ‘might’ happen to her son. Yes, I believe that she was torn apart when the arrest took place. But I also think that Mary might be running around Heaven pointing to Jesus and telling people, “That’s my son…I’m so proud of Him. He’s also my savior.” When she was finally face to face before God, I’m sure that God said, “Well done servant.”

A leader has plans for followers. God is our leader and He really wants to say to us, “Well done servant.” As leaders, can we point to our Leader everyday so that other people see their plan in the story?

For Kids – I would just continue to tell the Easter story as we head into the big week. Next week is Palm Sunday…when Jesus entered Jerusalem with a huge party that drove the authorities nuts. Here are some different links I found that might help you with this one.

Parents will be watching the video which will take them from the beating of Jesus up to just before the cross is raised with Him on it. The focus is on how Mary felt through all of this…realizing that Jesus’ life really did have a plan and the plan was for all of us.

We Decrease, Jesus Increases

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

John 3: 28-36 The Proper Imbalance

(A Sermon preached by Senior Associate Dean Willie J. Jennings

at the Duke University Chapel For the 2003 Baccalaureate of Duke Divinity School)

28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” 31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. 34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

Dean Jones, beloved and esteemed colleagues of the Divinity School, glorious graduates, families, and friends, I draw your attention to a slender verse of scripture that was read in your hearing found near the end of the third chapter of the Gospel according to John, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

Is it is possible to capture in a few simple words the beauty and complexity of one’s life? If it is possible, then with these words John the Baptist summarizes his own life. John’s words draw together all the loose strands of his life and all the pieces of his history. What brought it all together for John was hearing news of that other prophet, the one who was with him at the Jordan. The other prophet was now drawing disciples. John replied to that news by making a clear distinction. “I told you,” he said, “I am not the Messiah. I have been sent to prepare the way for him.” John’s words raise for us the crucial question. Indeed it is the question that binds us all together here in this place at this moment. What does it mean to have your life defined as preparation for another?

John, John, this fire-breathing dragon, this locus and wild-honey eating, camel hair-skin wearing wild man — He appears in the wilderness shouting the demand to repent. John has been thrust into the midst of his peoples’ hopes and pains, fears and longings. Expectation and interpretation will forever surround his life and there will never be escape. John has become like so many before him — prophet, servant.

Words, Words surround the life of this servant. Words about him, questions to him, interpretations of him and his actions. Endless words. Yet John has only one word, one weak word for his life –Preparation. Prepare – prepare the way of the Lord. John prepares the way for the Messiah. John’s life has become nothing more, nothing less than the stage upon which the Messiah, the deliverer will appear. John has become an occasion, an event that marks the coming of the savior of the world. God has done this to him. You can see God’s fingerprints all over this. This is God’s work. My sisters and brothers, the God we serve places women and men in the terrible cross currents of peoples’ pains and longings, their desires, their delusions, and fears. And in these cross currents, the servants of God are pushed and pulled by peoples’ expectations and interpretations. The servants of God are always vulnerable to the words of others. They can and will be cut and ripped by those words and they may even be killed by those words. We could not come right out and say this to these graduates. If we had told them this they would never have come to Divinity School. We would have never received their tuition dollars. So we waited until now. Listen soon-to-be graduates — anyone who would be a disciple of (Jesus the Messiah) must pass through the fire that is John the Baptist. You must take the same path that John took. You have entered a new interpretation of your life.

He must increase but I must decrease. These words capture the character of Christian ministry. We who live in service to Christ must interpret our lives through these words. That crucial exegesis of our lives through these words can never end, because God will never bring it to an end. This exegesis is eternal.

There is a truth in John’s words so basic, so terrifying that we often ignore it. What is that truth? God does not share. God does not share our lives with our family, with our friends, with our churches, with our spouse. God does not even share our lives with us. God in Christ seeks to re-pattern our lives so that his voice and his message become our life. There is no balance here. No Christ and me, fifty-fifty, half and half. Failure forms in our life in trying to find a place for the Messiah’s life in our lives. There is no balance, only a holy imbalance.

God has come into this world to do what we cannot do. We must never forget this. We cannot resist the lure of violence as a power that allows us to get our way. We cannot overcome the horror of death. We cannot drive away the despair in peoples’ lives. We cannot transform this world into a beloved community. John understood this – Christ must increase. This is both a plea and a statement of fact.

The cunning of reason crumbles before the stratagems of the evil one. The power of the strongest body fades at the onslaught of the forces of death. We can save no one. We have no power to transform any life. Christ must increase. And increase he shall – God in Jesus has broken the power of death and has taken hold of all creation as the focus of God’s redeeming love. This will be seen. This will be known by all flesh.

All that remains is the decrease. You are not the Messiah. My friends, anyone in ministry must say this to themselves at least once a day. But you must also say, “I prepare the way for him.” The decrease gives us everything. The decrease is not about taking away, but giving way. It is giving Jesus the stage of our lives to do his work. John the Baptist got it just right. The stage must be set (prepare the way) — all that remains is the decrease.

The journey of ministry is the giving way. The journey of ministry is not a journey of self-discovery, or self-realization, or self-revelation. If you are using ministry as a way to search for yourself, get out now. It’s not too late. Go do something else with your life. I say this only to save you from the disappointment that awaits you. You will never find yourself in ministry. Never!

It is not about you or me. It is about Jesus Christ. We preach and live Christ not ourselves. We prepare the way for him. All that remains is the decrease. And with this decrease, the one sent from the Father will pour out his Spirit on us without measure. With this decrease, God’s restoring and renewing power will be seen in our lives. With the decrease, the Son of God will be exalted and glorified through our lives. My friends, the moment is critical, the hour crucial. Lives are at stake. Christ must increase and we must decrease! Will you yield to the Spirit of the living God? Will you give way to Jesus Christ? If you do, then the journey you will take will be filled with awesome surprises. And with each step and at every stop God will be there. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

http://www.divinity.duke.edu/docs/faculty/sermons/Jennings-Baccsermon03.pdf

John the Baptist

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Matt 11:11


New Year Resolutions for Pets

15. I will not eat other animals’ poop.
14. I will not lick my human’s face after eating animal poop.
13. I do not need to suddenly stand straight up when I’m lying under the coffee table.
12. My head does not belong in the refrigerator.
11. I will no longer be beholden to the sound of the can opener.
10. Cats: Circulate a petition that sleeping become a juried competition in major animal shows.
9. Come to understand that cats are from Venus; dogs are from Mars.
8. Take time from busy schedule to stop and smell the behinds.
7. Hamster: Don’t let them figure out I’m just a rat on steroids, or they’ll flush me!
6. Get a bite in on that freak who gives me that shot every year.
5. Grow opposable thumb; break into pantry; decide for MYSELF how much food is *too* much.
4. Cats: Use new living room sofa as scratching post.
3. January 1st: Kill the sock! Must kill the sock!

January 2nd – December 31: Re-live victory over the sock.
2. The garbage collector is NOT stealing our stuff.
AND the Number 1 New Year’s Resolutions Made by Pets…
1. I will NOT chase the stick until I see it LEAVE THE IDIOT’S HAND

John The Baptist

Taken from: Student’s Life Application Bible-NLT (Page 1015)

In almost any crowd, John the Baptist would be called unique. He wore odd clothes, ate strange food, and preached an unusual message. He would not have agreed with our habit of evaluating people by how they dress – or by how they act. He would have insisted that we listen to what he had to say.

John really wasn’t interested in being unique. What he wanted to do more than anything was to obey God. And he wasn’t afraid to ask others to do the same. John realized that he had a special role to play in the world. His job was to tell the world that the Savior was about to arrive. John was totally committed to his purpose.

This wild-looking man stood face to face with people and told them to repent. He told them the best way to get ready for the Savior was to be deeply sorry for their sins. Although John was preparing people to receive Jesus when he physically came to the world, John’s message still applies today when we realize that Jesus wants to come into our life, too. We can’t receive the Savior until we know we need him. We won’t know we need him until we realize we are sinners.

Today, we still need to hear john’s favorite word – repent! If you don’t know what it means, you may not have done it. Repenting means that you are not only deeply sorry for your sinfulness but are also serious in wanting God’s help to live his way. Until you have repented, you won’t experience God’s forgiveness or the strength he offers to live a life of obedience. Repentance may be the most important thing you think about today.

Facts

· The God-appointed messenger to announce the arrival of Jesus.

· A preacher whose theme was repentance

· A fearless confronter

· Known for his remarkable lifestyle

· Uncompromising

Stats

· Where: Judea

· Occupation: Prophet

· Relatives: Father: Zechariah. Mother: Elizabeth. Distant Cousin: Jesus

· Contemporaries: Herod, Herodias

Lessons

· God does not guarantee an easy or safe life to those who serve him

· Doing what God desires is the greatest possible life investment

· Standing for truth is more important than life itself

Key Verse

· “I assure you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the most insignificant person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!” (Matt 11:11)

John’s sotry is told in all four Gospels. His coming was predicted in Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 4:5-6; and he is mentioned in Acts 1:5, 22; 10:37; 11:16; 13:24-25; 18:25; 19:3-4.

Here’s a news story I clipped and pasted into this note. I think that it is maybe a modern example of the “So What?” part of this lesson for the week.

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AP WASHINGTON – Fox News analyst Brit Hume says he doesn’t regret urging Tiger Woods to become a Christian so the golfer can find forgiveness for marital infidelity.

Hume told CBN News that “Christianity is a religion for sinners — and I think that Tiger Woods has an opportunity here, and my prayer would be that he would take it.” Hume has been denounced for saying that he doesn’t think the famous golfer’s belief in Buddhism “offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.”


Brit Hume (news analyst)The longtime journalist said he wasn’t surprised that the remark aroused controversy. “If you’re trying to find the two most explosive words in the English language, those two words are ‘Jesus Christ,'” he stated.

He recognizes that openly expressing faith in Jesus Christ offends a lot of people. “People rage about this,” he said. “It’s very offensive to those who don’t share the faith, [and] it’s offensive to some people who claim they do share the faith. This is to be expected, and it has been happening to people who proclaim their faith in Christ for as long as anybody can remember — this is part of the deal.”


Hume described how he became a Christian. “Eleven years ago, my son committed suicide,” he shared. “And as you can imagine, it was absolutely devastating. And yet throughout that whole horrible time, I had this sense that God was there for me, that he would rescue me, that he would save me — and he did.”

The news analyst said he was deeply moved by the hundreds of letters of condolence he received after that tragedy. “I felt that I was seeing in them the face of God,” he recalled, “and I felt that it was time for me now to face up to the Christian faith which I purported to belong to, and try to face up to the implications of what I purported to believe — and I’ve been trying ever since.”

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I guess the take away here is that John lived a life of integrity, in spite of the opposition he faced. He spoke that forgiveness is the way to God and the way to Life. He pointed people to Jesus saying that Christ was the Lamb of God. He knew that sin kept us from God and that the only way to have God truly in our lives was to repent of sin…not a popular subject then nor now. Where are you on the ‘John the Baptist’ scale? Could you, like Brit Hume, publically say that Christ is the way to forgiveness and redemption? Could you publically ask someone to become a Christian? I want to have those kind of guts…and that kind of love.

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