Commit in a way that will not waver with feelings. #sentencesermons

patrick-fore-23064.jpgIn chapter 1, Naomi tells her daughters in law to go back and make a life for themselves after their husbands die. Ruth replies:
16  “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Ruth is committed to God, and she is committed to God’s people. She is committed to the call of God on her life.

In Ruth chapter 3, we see Naomi trying to set Ruth up with a handsome guy they met.
Naomi lays out a plan for Ruth. She says take off the garments that signify you are in mourning. Prepare yourself to move on with your life. Go and hang out at the “grain heap,” Its where all the magic happens!

So Ruth does and Boaz comes in dinner late one night and he falls asleep. The scripture says that Ruth uncovered his feet and laid down at them. In this time it was custom that let him know she was interested in marriage.

Boaz wakes up, Ruth says: take me under your wing. Take me, I’m yours. Commit to me. Be my guardian redeemer.

Boaz shows the same commitment to God and God’s people that Ruth did. They were two peas in a pod. He says yes, despite obstacles, despite criticism, despite the risk, despite what I might lose, YES I will say yes to call of commitment.

Even as people of God, we very often decide who and what we will commit to based on our own selfish desires.

We decide to stay or leave relationships based on if we’re happy or not. We decide to commit long term if it’s working for us. We decide to end or begin friendships when they aren’t taxing to our own lives.

The call to commitment that both Ruth and Boaz knew very well, and the commitment that Jesus modeled and asked from us, has absolutely nothing to do with SELF.

It has nothing to do with how we feel. It has everything to do with who and where God is calling you too. Once you know that, to set up your tent, dig deep the foundation, and commit in a way that will not waver with your feelings.

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The secret of the Christian life is in its impossibility. #sentencesermons

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Jesus talks about the unfinished tower syndrome in Luke 14.

He says: Suppose you want to a build tower, won’t you figure out if you have enough to do it before you start it? Because if you don’t, then there’s a bunch of unfinished towers all around the city making it look kinda pathetic.

Where in your life did you start a mission for God, but built half the tower and quit? 

When did you begin to unravel and lay out a dream that God put in your heart, but some where along the line got sidetracked and built half a tower and quit?

Who in your life did you begin investing in, pouring into, helping, loving, then it got hard, you built half the tower and quit? Where has you commitment to the cost lacked?

Luke 14:28 Sit down and estimate the cost before you launch the building project. Simple truth, hard to activate.

This passage is saying, make sure you know what it takes to be a disciple. Make sure you understand the implications. Because in a world full of limitless options and the temptation to commit to nothing, Jesus calls for a life of commitment.

The deeper meaning of estimating the cost in this parable is that, as we count up the numbers, as we figure the sacrifices we realize, without a doubt, it will be more than we have.

To build a life completely sold out to the Kingdom of God, to be a disciple of Christ, it will take MORE than we have to give. It will cost MORE than we will ever earn. It will require MORE than we could ever give emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually.

The beauty in fact of counting the cost is that we, on our own, will NEVER have what it takes. On our own, the terrain of our life will be full of unfinished towers. People we failed, projects we abandoned, kingdom purposes that required too much sacrifice.

Jesus is saying here, discipleship isn’t mustering up our own resources to have what it takes. Discipleship isn’t trying as hard we can and in our own incredible talents and wisdom we get ‘er done.

The secret of the Christian life is in its impossibility. It was never meant to be lived on our own wisdom or power. 

Don’t be discouraged by your unfinished towers in your life- be motivated by them. Be driven by them. Get to Jesus and ask Him for whatever it takes that you’re lacking on your own to help finish that tower. Because the Lord is present, there is no limit to the miraculous interventions of His power.

When we offer our commitment to Him, He will supply the rest. He calls for a commitment to the cost. On no uncertain terms, Jesus asks us for a deep commitment to him ….and to each other.

There is one place that God will not accept: second place. #sentencesermons

john-mark-kuznietsov-219066.jpgI want us to look in Luke 14:25-30. The authors of scripture named this: The Cost of being a Disciple.

If I was in charge of naming it, my title would have been: YIKES

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “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. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

There is no passivity in this scripture. You can’t just accidentally follow Jesus.

In this parable in Luke- He is recording Jesus saying:
Don’t begin discipleship without understanding the high cost of faithfulness. It’s going to cost you something. In fact, if you’re doing it right, it’s going to cost you EVERYTHING.

Let’s unpack this scripture a bit:

First Jesus says- if you don’t HATE your mother, wife, children, even your own life you can’t be my disciple.

God says to love everybody, love my neighbor, love my family, love my enemies even. What could this even mean?

The word “hate” is colorful language, written in a parable, to describe how much less we are committed to other people than we are committed to Christ.

If you are a disciple of Christ He needs to be so far above in priority than anyone else in the whole world. He must be better than anything you love. He must supersede even your deepest affections.

You might have a really great mom, and you just love her to pieces, but in comparison it’s like your very best love for someone else is measly. Your commitment, your priority to love and serve anyone else seems so much smaller than your love for Jesus, it can be classified as almost the opposite of love (which is hate.)

Christ can never be added as an after thought of an already full and busy life. There is one place that God will not accept: second place.

The cost of being a disciple requires Christ in first place. We must commit to the cost.

Who gets the priority of time in your life? Who gets the priority of finances in your life? Who gets the say? Who dictates your days? Who’s opinion do you hold in the highest regard?

More options do not always translate to more freedom. #sentencesermons

annie-spratt-37950.jpgFOMO means fear of missing out. This new sociological epidemic has only increased as social media allows us to see virtually almost everything everyone else is doing all the time.

Different people cope with FOMO in different ways. My coping mechanism is to just stick with what I know, zone out all the other options and order the same thing at the same place everywhere I go.

Others go frozen and can’t choose anything due to the enormous about of options. They get invited to 4 parties on Saturday but can’t decide which one they want to attend so they stay home in their pajamas stressing out all day and consequently missing them all.

As culture we demand choice. We demand options. We imagine that more options means more freedom. And most people think that limitless freedom must be a good option.

The irony, is that, studies show this apparently limitless choice doesn’t actually make us happy. The number of choices available to us becomes overwhelming, and actually makes it difficult for us to ever have the joy of fully committing to anything or anyone. Even if we do commit, our culture makes us feel dissatisfied with the choice we’ve made.
It becomes much more dangerous, much more of a spiritual danger, when we take the same multiplicity of trivial options we have at Starbucks, and apply them to the bigger questions:

Where we should work?
Where we should we go to school?
Where we should live?
Whom we should marry?
Who should we worship?
Where should we worship?

It seems that the more options we have, the more afraid we are of choosing. We become enslaved to being noncommittal. We don’t want to make a mistake or cut down our options. In fact, we may become so fearful of making a choice, we simply refuse to choose.

When the enemy of God can get us to be noncommittal, it can cause massive destruction.

Lack of commitment kills our relationships, because it tells us it’s better not to become too involved. We might make the wrong choice, so make no choice at all.

 Lack of commitment kills our serving, because it tells us to keep our evenings and weekends free in case something better comes up.

Lack of commitment kills our giving, because it tell us there might be uncertain financial times coming so you better keep the money because you never know when you might need it. There may be a better more attractive cause to give to, so don’t commit right now to the current need.

Chuck Swindoll tells a story about a woman, who wanted to marry four men. “First she wanted to marry a banker. Then she hoped to marry an actor. Next, she desired to marry a preacher. And, finally, she wanted to marry a funeral director. When asked why in that order (banker, actor, preacher, funeral director), she responded, “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go!”

Not surprisingly, the very opposite of what culture bends toward, the very opposite of the FOMO phenomena is the fact that – following Jesus takes deep commitment.

Easter changes everything. #sentencesermons

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Its the day after Easter and HE IS HERE. He isn’t distant. He isn’t far. He isn’t with someone else. HE IS HERE.

He isn’t afraid of the brokenness in us. He isn’t repelled by the mistakes we keep making. He isn’t tired of our constant asking. HE IS HERE.

Easter is a realization that what was DEAD is now ALIVE.

2000 years ago, on a Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying.
Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. Roman soldiers are flogging Jesus with a leather whip that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. He stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow.

We can see Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load.
We watch as Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for you and for me.

In Matthew 27:45 it says: at noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about 3 Jesus called out in a loud voice, My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?

Heaven is weeping. The Son of God, the only perfect man is dead. He died.

Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. 
But that was Friday.

But then it’s Sunday. That which was DEAD is now ALIVE.

The scripture says at just about dawn on that first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. The angel of the Lord was coming down out of heaven and rolling the stone away from the door of the tomb. The angel of the Lord is sitting on that stone and the guards posted at the tomb to keep the body from disappearing were shaking in their boots because it’s Sunday, the angel says, He is not here, He is risen indeed.

The crucified and resurrected Christ proves to be ALIVE.

He has defeated death, hell, sin and the grave. On Sunday. And now everything has changed. It’s the age of grace, God’s grace poured out on all who would look to Jesus. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ who died on the cross of Calvary was buried and rose again.

It’s EASTER, that same thing can happen to us today. 
That which is DEAD can LIVE again.

There’s no place like home. #sentencesermons

filippo-ascione-64872.jpgSo Finally the Israelites, once wandering slaves, settle into the land they were promised. Throw a stinkin party! Deep Breathe. Out of Egypt. They’re home. All is right with the world. King David secures their borders, peace is upon them. The end. And they lived happily ever after. Or not so much..

Solomon comes into power…He recruits forced labor. Forced labor equals slaves. In just a few generations, the oppressed become the oppressors. The people, who once longed for freedom from Egypt, are now building another Egypt.

This group of people fail again.Everything falls apart. The temple is destroyed, many are killed, and those who survive are carried off to a foreign land called Babylon.
And in Babylon, the survivors become slaves. The Israelites are slaves again in a foreign land. It sounds a lot like Egypt. That place that’s anti kingdom, that place that makes us crave being home.

Ever been there? Ever thought you conquered that bad habit, you left that old lifestyle only to return to it? Ever felt like nothing could go wrong, and in a moment the rug is pulled out from underneath you? Ever felt like Paul (a writer of the New Testament)..I do what I don’t want to do. I don’t know why I keep doing it but I keep doing it.

Ps 137:1-4 says..
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion (home). There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; …”

The harp was the sound when life was good. It’s that party music you blast when you’re really excited about something. This group of people are so defeated, they hung up their harps on the trees. Nothing was good. Everything that was good was gone. They’re completely defeated.

They weep. They cry out.

But..What happens when people cry out? God hears their cry and does something about it. God always hears the cry of the hurting. Even when we are entirely responsible for getting ourselves in the situation in the first place. Even when it’s all our fault, He hears.
These people are saying..If God freed our people once before, couldn’t God do it again? 
You see the entire point of the Old Testament, the whole thing, every story can boil down to this, this is Gods big idea, all of these pages is this…

We’re dysfunctional.
We can’t get it right.
So we blow it.
Then we cry out to God in our mess.
He hears us.
He does something about it.
He delivers us from Egypt..and gives us a taste of home.

Then because we’re dysfunctional.
We can’t get it right.
We blow it again.
We screw up bigger sometimes.
Then we cry out to God in our disaster.
He hears us.
He does something about it.
He delivers us from Egypt AGAIN.

Gods promise through Genesis and Exodus and in your life, right now, right here today…He is going to lead all of creation out of Egypt..out of death, out of decay, out of violence. The whole point of the Old Testament is that God is going to lead us home. And there’s no place like home.

What reputation do you give the name of God? #sentencesermons

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God chooses Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Don’t forget Egypt represents more than just the literal country, it means away from all that is anti- God. They sea is parted and they’re protected and that’s the part of the story you know. Their journey takes them to a huge mountain called Sinai.

At Sinai God speaks. For years, God hears and at Sinai, God speaks.

God hasn’t talked to a group of people since Eden. Things have been quiet, sort of an eerie silence. There has been exchanges with individuals but not with the masses.
Sinai is breaking the silence. God is near. God is about to speak.

Before God speaks to the people, he tells Moses to remind them of the exodus. Ex 19:4 God tells Moses to say this…“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

God invites them to be a holy nation. Genesis is about the progression of sin, violence , opposition of God. Anti kingdom. Dysfunction. God says form a nation not shaped by greed, violence or abusive power but compassion, justice, and care for ones neighbor.

It’s as if God says, you’ve experienced Egypt: now I’m calling you to be anti Egypt.
On Mount Sinai, God gives them the ten commandments. Often portrayed as strict rules given by fire breathing God to keep people in line. But in the original context, commandments take on all sort of new meanings.

These people have been living as slaves. Slavery is fundamentally inhumane. It robs dignity. It makes you see yourself and the world very differently. God begins with the Ten Commandments with the desire to teach them to be human again. These commands are vital truths about what it means to live in authentic human community. They are anti Egypt.

For example, the third commandment..

Don’t misuse God’s name. Hebrew for misuse can also be “carry.” God has redeemed these former slaves and is now inviting them to be representatives in the world of this redemption and the God who made it happen. They are how the world will know who this God is. God’s reputation is going to depend on them and how they carry Gods name. Will they promote God as an anti Egypt God? This command is certainly about the words a person speaks. But at its heart it is far more about how each person carries, represents, and gives a reputation to the name of God. These people are no longer slaves.

Commandment four…

Take a Sabbath, a day each week, not do any work. In Egypt they worked every day without a break. The Sabbath is the command to take a day a week to remind themselves they aren’t in Egypt anymore, that their value doesn’t come from how many bricks they produce. Their significance comes from the God who rescued them, the God who loves them.

The 10 commandments are a new way to be human. Everything about the rest of the commandments speaks to new liberation. God is inviting, looking, searching for his people who can represent him in the world. He’s still doing that today.

 

 

 

 

Some of this information coming from “Jesus wants to save Christians” by Rob Bell.

God always hears our cry. #sentencesermons

 

jude-beck-222790.jpgEgypt, the super power of the day, was ruled by Pharaoh. Pharaoh responded to the growing number of Israelites in the country by forcing them into slavery. They had to work every day without a break, making bricks, building storehouses to Pharaoh. Day in and day out. All day long. What a terrible existence.

The Israelites are oppressed, they’re in misery, they’re suffering, and they’re crying out to God..we want to go home. Something isn’t right with our situation.

God, because of who He is, at the core, hears their cry. We have a God who always hears our cry.

You see God saying in the scripture:
 I’ve seen the misery of my people, 
I have heard them crying out!

The cry of these people inaugurates history. It kicks things into gear. It shakes things up and gets them moving. The cry is the catalyst, the cause, the reason that a new story unfolds.
Because God doesn’t just hear the cry, God does something about it. The entire book of Exodus is how God responds to the cry.

Think about your life. What are the moments that have shaped you the most? Whats paramount? What season of your life will you never forget? Was it when there was nothing left to do but cry out?

These peoples cry of desperation was the beginning of liberation from Egypt. It was the beginning of their journey home. Things had to change, and something new was happening because they cried out to God and He always hears.

Just don’t quit when it gets hard. #sentencesermons

jasper-guy-201670.jpgIn Acts 26, Paul is in front of the King. The King of the whole nation. He is about to tell him and all the people about Jesus, and the gospel of peace.

How did Paul get there? Did he call up the royal secretary and make an appointment?
Two years earlier he had been arrested on false charges in Jerusalem. At the time he got to give his testimony to the whole Jewish Sanhedrin, just like Jesus said he would—they will arrest you and this will be a time for testimony.

Then there was a plot against his life and so he was moved to Caesarea on the coast. This time he gave his testimony to Felix the Roman governor. After two years in prison in Caesarea, the new Roman governor Festus puts Paul before king Agrippa so they can hear what he has to say.

Now jail stinks. Especially back then. I’m sure there wasn’t Dish network and brownies. But because of that persecution, Paul got to tell so many influential people about who Jesus was.

I believe that God will use you too. If you embrace the persecution, he will set you up. You will find yourself in a position that you never dreamed possible. You will get to talk to people that you never would be able to. Just don’t quit when it gets hard.