SERMON FROM 12/31/2017
THE LEAST OF THESE
We have based our entire year of learning essentially off of a rundown property just outside of San Martin. The house on Santa Theresa that caught my eye this time last year gave me an idea, well God did really.
Being totally rebuilt, faith wise and life wise, from the ground up on a solid foundation can really strengthen us when we need it most. And in this life, we do need it. A foundation does not just support what is on top of it. While yes it does, I want to apply that to my walk with Christ. When I feel doubt, I look back to the basis of my belief, the foundation.
Where it all started, what can I look too in times of trouble? God. It is a mixed feeling I have about this foundation. On the one hand I have a firm base to “move” from, so to speak. On the other hand, I deal with people every day who do not. And what is this base that I speak of, what is this foundation? The author of Psalm 89 puts it rather brilliantly. “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. 10You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies. 11The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. 12You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name. 13Your arm is endowed with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. 14Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. 15Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. 16They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. 17For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. 18Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.”
Just as we realized the miracle of the Christmas season that was among us, and over the last 4 weeks we embraced the fact that it was not just a baby in a manger that was visited by three wise men and all of the other stories that go along with it but it was actually the savior of all humanity for all time, having what we just read as the foundation of our belief, who our God is, it is beautiful.
So when we say we have hope, think of this verse. When we pray to God, this is the God we pray to. When we say we are being blessed, this is who is blessing us!!!
On to today’s message. I always call this book, as most do, the Good News, but Matthew 10 is the exact opposite of what we would call good news. Beatings, betrayal, family division, punishment, slander, imprisonment, hatred. Sounds like a soap opera.
I mean, who in their right mind would sign up for something like this? What is the reward for following God?
I mean, this entire chapter is wrought with what we would not even think to be the “Christian Life.” Jesus sends out the twelve, much like He is sending each and every one of us to the “lost sheep of Israel.” He instructs them as he quotes himself, to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is near.
Can we, in our boldness, tell that to people. “God has a plan for your life,” “Let go and let God,” “Trust in the Lord,” these are all worthy sayings and are perfect in most situations. But can we tell someone who is going through a tough time in life that Jesus is near to them? That the kingdom of heaven is indeed near?
Matthew 10:8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” You did not deserve to be called by God through Christ to receive eternal salvation through the death on the cross, it was given to us freely. Love, forgiveness was not earned by any of us. Why are we making people earn it from us? Give and love freely.
Jesus continues, and we’ll look at this chunk of scripture and then get on to our points.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”
Don’t take anything with you on your journey? Thanks Jesus, we planned on going to lunch before we started ministering because we saw this Yelp review of this cool new café that just opened but whatever!! But the point remains: Do you really need anything? Is the love of Christ that we show people not enough? Are His words not enough? I follow this Instagram page called Creative Church. Some of their posts include submissions from churches that are extravagant in their worship sets and displays. Entryways with huge doors and impressive lobbies.
And honestly as the pastor of a small church, it started to get to me. Do you really need all of that?
Ok, sorry. Jesus tells them that if the home or town they enter welcomes you, give it your peace, if it does not, do not give it your peace. Some skeptics and even some believers do not like this idea at all. But God’s word, while yes does include love and acceptance, also says that we should have nothing to do with people who reject the word of God.
Does that mean I will stop saying hi to me atheist neighbor? Of course not, it means that some pastures have already been plowed. There is nothing to reap from a soulless harvest. Shake the dust off of your sandals and move on.
When we were youth pastor’s there was a group of staff members who poured so much time into just this one person and to no avail. They were trying to change someone who did not want to change. And that is what I think can be a battle for all of us.
Verse 15, as we wrap up this section of Matthew 10, is a little daunting. Anytime Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in the New Testament take note. And I say this routinely: Jesus references things that happened in the OT, like Creation, the flood and even this ancient city that was destroyed by the Lord for its wickedness through fire, as if these events actually took place, funny because they actually did.
It will be better on the day of judgment for a wicked city like this, than it will be for someone who rejects us, our word, and our love. Mind. Blown.
I asked you a question earlier. Is it worth it? What is the reward for following Jesus?
Let’s jump to the end: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
The first thing our preaching, or teaching, or just being nice to people will do, is it will connect people with God. (Verse 40)
Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me, and if they welcome Christ they welcome God as well. We are a conduit to the light of God. Powerful, yes. Scary, YES!! Bur each interaction we have with people is a chance to bring them closer to what we have. That foundation we talked about earlier, that God we pray to, who only knows one way: love, justice, and righteousness, we can lead people to Him.
Let me put on my New Age “tin foil hat” really quick. Look, I am honest and up front with you guys. You know I research and read up on all the different schools of thought out there about atheism and different sorts of beliefs. There is a notion that all roads lead to God. True, all paths in life, whatever “ism” you are following, atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism, communism, whatever it is, you will one day end up standing in front of the Creator of the entire universe.
BUT, that is in all caps by the way, only one road leads to heaven. When we preach the message of love that is through Christ from God, we are leading people on the only road that leads from earth to heaven.
Second, we can be a blessing to others, (Verse 41) Look, we can’t all be pastors, we cannot all be leaders, we can’t all be prophets. Maybe none of us will ever go on a missions trip to a third world country. That does not mean that God cannot use you.
But do not for one second ever think it is you. God doesn’t need us. In fact, before he made man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into our nostrils, he stepped back, looked around and saw all that he had made up unto that point as being very good. Then we came along.
We should consider it an honor to be used by God. And not just in witnessing or preaching, but in everyday life as well. You did good on a project at work? It wasn’t you, it was Him. You came through on a tough deadline, or you actually didn’t lose your cool when you got frustrated, with children, thank God because that was Him.
Jesus tells a parable about using our talents and not burying them. I am urging you to do the same. If God has given you a gift, use it. Paul instructs us to do the same. If you are given a gift use it for the kingdom of God!!
But remember it is never on our own that we accomplish any of this.
Lastly, (Verse 42) We get to it, our reward. Let’s break it down. “And if anyone,” you, me, your neighbor, your co-worker. There is no limitation to the person who is acting here. Also Jesus, by the way, not sure if you knew this or not, but it is bad grammar to start a sentence with the word “and” just saying bro.
Second, look at the recipient: “One of these little ones who is my disciple,” again, no limitation to who could be the recipient of the love that you show. One of these little ones could be a homeless person that we pass on the street, a family struggling in third world country, a long-distant relative who has fallen out of favor with the family, or even our own children.
Third, look at the gift. What is a cup of water though? It could be anything actually. We think nothing of walking to the fridge, or going to the garage or wherever to get water. For us it is a given. Not for some people though.
Let’s put it to love. We live and breathe and act our lives as being loved by God, some don’t. Why can’t we give that as freely as we might give a water to a guest who enters our home? That is literally the first thing we ask people when they come over. Why not start living our lives in a way that shows God’s love FIRST?
Fourth, look at the certainty of the reward. “Truly I tell you,” is a phrase that Jesus uses a lot actually and in the Greek rendering of the phrase, it actually translates to a double negative, never will I not, or never will we not lose our reward of eternal salvation when we do something as small as giving a cup of water to somebody.
In Matthew 25, before we close in prayer, Jesus puts this a different way.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
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.