SERMON FROM 10/15/2017
MORE WITH LESS
We want more. Actually, we demand it, don’t we? Consumerism has absolutely taken over every aspect of life. We stack boxes upon boxes of “stuff” and I use that term loosely, in every corner of our homes. In fact, some people, and I was one of them, actually rent out storage units for more and more stuff.
Things. Things can take over our lives if we are not careful, yet we still want more. In my younger years, I once owned 17 hats. But what is our infatuation with having more and more and more??
Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, when asked how much money is enough, replied with, “Just a little more.”
But I want to do more, I want to have more, I want more, but how can I do that with less?
Well, well, we have ourselves quite the conundrum don’t we?
There is an absolutely shocking amount of hate going on in this world, and we see it way too much. Imagine if that were replaced with love how much better off we would be.
Ok, that literally just sounded like the cheesiest cheeseball thing ever, right? “Yea, Pastor Jacob, like that’s really gonna happen.” Well why can’t it? Why can’t it start inside of each and every one of us? Why can’t we consciously make the decision every single day to love more with less hate?
Here is an interesting quote from a man named Jesus Christ, oh, you’ve heard of him? Good.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
Great, that just contradicted everything I said. Or did it?? He’s right in the sense that anything that gets in the way of our love for Christ, whatever relationship we have, familial, personal, business, whatever it may be, literally gets in the way of our love for Christ.
That first part is a real tough teaching, is it not? I mean 1st Century Jews were so tied to family, they did essentially everything together. It’s funny, nowadays a family of 4 sits down to enjoy a meal and they are all staring directly into a screen. Peak 2017 communication.
So we can, in effect, hate less by looking to Jesus in any and all situations. Love him first, love him more, love him always. *Bumper Sticker!!!
The bible describes a peace. Not I go in peace, not my peace I leave you, or I come in peace, but a peace, that literally cannot be described. Paul is wrapping up his letter to the Philippian church and in the last chapter, he describes this peace, well as best could be described.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
I wrote out this scribbly note as I gathered my thoughts during the week about this sermon. “Think more with less thoughts.” And as I flipped through my book, remember our theme is more with less, I just about tried to scribble it out every single time I glanced at it, it makes no sense, it cannot be described, I don’t want to say that it transcends all understanding, but…
Think about it, let the peace of God “guard our hearts and minds” and we’ll be less distracted and preoccupied with other “stuff.” We can ponder the wonders ad mysteries of Christ, as opposed to why Helen decided to wear those shoes with that shirt. But how?
Paul is writing a letter to the church in a city called Colossae, a decently sized city in Asia Minor. The church, apparently was dealing with recognizing the supremacy of Christ. Their minds and thoughts were not set in the right place, they could not clear their minds of those things to focus clearly on Christ. Which, if you do, you will know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he is indeed supreme over all.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
Ridding ourselves of such things will inch us closer and closer to the peace of God. We can have more closeness and “in-touchness” (not a word) with less of these things.
Christian singer and songwriter Colton Dixon has a powerful voice and a very powerful song with a very powerful message. No, I am not going to try and sing it. It’s message is simple and profound: More of you, less of me, makes me who I’m meant to be.
More with less.
We can be more Christ-like as soon as we start becoming less us-like. But, wait, I like me? In fact, sometimes it feels like I am the only one who actually does like me.
In another letter from Paul, this time to the believers in Rome, now we have to remember these letters were not separated by chapter number or sectional titles, it was one long scroll. So when Paul starts out Romans 12 with “Therefore” he is actually summing up what it is there for, or what came before.
The end of Romans 11 is a closing to what Paul is describing as the Jews and Gentiles being saved. Now, going back a few hundred years during the diaspora, or the dispersion, Jews who were exiled from Jerusalem during the time of Jeremiah, sometimes chose to stay where they were as opposing to return to Israel. Co-mingling with the people of the area, questions arose about who then, would be redeemed through the promised Messiah.
Now, where was I?
Ah, yes Romans 12.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Being a Christian in Rome, first of all, was dangerous. If Paul is writing this around the year 57, the rampant persecution had not yet begun although in some areas it was still happening. But being a believer around people who were living, “as the pagans do” must have been tough. God even told the Israelite Nation after he brought them out of Egypt that this would happen. That they would be enticed and intrigued by foreign gods and odd practices. Paul is reminding Roman believers of the pitfalls that would await them.
Here is the crucial “more with less” moment. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Seriously, we pray this prayer: God, (shakes fist) help me to be more like your son, loving, caring and kind. I could just see God up in heaven like: “Then be less like the world.”
It’s really simple actually. How many times have we “conformed to the pattern of this world?” Gone along with the crowd, just because it was easier? Set our beliefs aside not because we did not want to offend, but because we wanted to fit in? (That rhymed.)
More with less.
We can love more with less hate. We can think more with less thoughts. We can have more fulfillment with less expectations. We can become more Christ-like by becoming less us-like. We can have more freedom by becoming a slave to Christ.
SERMON FROM 10/08/2017
TRAGEDY TODAY. TRIUMPH TOMORROW
It feels like every week we have another horrible incident to discuss and pray about. Just 7 days ago, as you know, nearly 60 people lost their lives at a country music concert in Las Vegas. Despicable, really. And as the debate raged on, not sure why or how it ever got political, it occurred to me that above all the human heart is wicked.
We see it in scripture continuously: As early as the time of Noah, God looked down and saw that the thoughts of the human heart were only wicked and only evil all the time. Jeremiah, in chapter 17 wonders who could ever even know the heart, because it is desperately wicked and deceitful at all times. Jesus, in the gospel of Mark says, “He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’” Ok, on a side note, if I were trying to convert people to turn from their evil ways and follow me, I probably would not go about it this way.
But the point through scripture is that we are, by nature, sinful. Hence the need for a savior.
We as the Foursquare church see it this way: READ FROM PAPER
We were once, as a human race, walking arm in arm with God, enjoying his presence and all the good that came along with it. Then, the fall. We fell out of favor with God, he placed dissension and eternal division between the offspring of the woman, you and I, and the offspring of the serpent, whom Paul describes as the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
That brings me to something very exciting. As you know I like to plan ahead, and in my prayer and quiet time, God has given me a vision for 2018. And as I, we, further develop that vision, I will bring you more details.
Ok, where was I? Yes, the heart. Advancement in the technology in repair of the human heart is mind-blowing. Doctors have a way of replacing entire parts of it, even the whole thing. But cannot change its wicked desires.
This is the cause for a lot of the tragedy we see in the world today. The wickedness of the human heart.
As you see in your bulletins we are going to be contrasting tragedy today, with triumph tomorrow. Let’s begin, shall we?
Christian author and former atheist C.S. Lewis has this to say about tragedy:
“For in grief nothing "stays put." One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often -- will it be for always? -- how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, "I never realized my loss till this moment"? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
Well, there it was, I just laid it out for you. Not very encouraging is it?
When we experience tragedy, what do we do? Send out a hashtag or change our profile picture? Do we kind of shrug our shoulders and say, that’s life?
In Luke 8, if you would like to follow along, 2 people are facing tragedy. Jesus has just returned from a previous healing, this of a demon-possessed man in an area known as the land of the Gerasanes, and a crowd had gathered and was expecting him.
“Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.” (Luke 8:41-42)
In the moment of tragedy, this man, a synagogue leader who knew that he would most likely be punished for asking Jesus to do anything, let alone asking him to raise his daughter whom he heard was dead, runs directly to Christ in the time of tragedy.
But because Luke is so smart, we have that in common, he doesn’t jump ahead, his truly is a step by step, chronological gospel. He wants to tell us everything going on at the time. So we’ll get back to Jairus later.
“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” (Vv. 43-44)
Tragedy brings about desperation. No one could heal her, until she meets Jesus. Scholars and biblical commentators think that perhaps this woman had spent all she had up to this point looking for a cure. Down to her last option, she meets Christ. Realistically, this woman would have been an outcast from society. In Jewish law, the touching of anyone diseased or even coming into contact with blood meant you had to undergo some form of ceremonial cleansing. So this woman, conceivably had probably not been touched for 12 years. Until she meets Christ.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
Tragedy will force us, well maybe “force” is not the right word here, but tragedy will surely make us think about some things, and put them into perspective. Look at Jesus’ last words to her. What healed her? Her desperation? Her act? No, it was her faith that healed her. Her faith that even though she was in this condition, Jesus was her way out.
Luke continues, “While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
Again, we see the issue of faith in a tragedy. Now, like I said, all we really know about Jairus is that he was the leader of a synagogue. We are not told how long his daughter had been sick, did it just happen or was it perhaps something she had been living with. At any rate, Jairus is facing a decision, so when he, who we would have to assume just saw this miracle take place, is told that there is no need to “bother” Jesus anymore, what might his reaction have been?
Side note: Asking Jesus for help is NOT bothering him.
When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”
Jewish people would actually hire professional mourners to wail at funerals. I just heard earlier in the week in Jeremiah 9 that the impending destruction of Israel would be so terrible that Israel should, “Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them. Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids.”
Jesus shuts them down rather quickly.
They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.”
In one of these stories a woman’s faith heals her. In the other, a father’s faith helps heal his daughter. Out of both of these tragedies comes triumph.
No examination of tragedy turned into triumph would be completely complete without a Psalm from David. A man that brought some of the tragedies in his life upon himself, and likewise, had tragedies happen to him. But his faith, his faith was revealed through these. And the same is true for us. Hard times reveal our true character. Tough times let people know if we really ARE believers in God.
Psalm 30:1-5: I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.