Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Resources for My Preaching Series

The next several weeks until Easter I am doing a study on the Lord's Prayer for myself, and with my congregation through our preaching ministry. The following are the resources I am using. Does anyone know of any other good resources I can use? If so please let me know

Prayer by Karl Barth

The Lord and His Prayer by N.T. Wright

The Christbook by F. Dale Bruner

Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson

Lord, Teach Us to Pray by Alexander Whyte

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Matthew 1-13 ed. By Manilo Simonetti

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament ed. By Beale and Carson

Matthew by Stanley Hauerwas

The Soul of Prayer by P.T. Forsyth

Cry for the Kingdom by Stanley Grenz

Whole Prayer by Walter Wangerin

Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels

The Lord's Prayer and the Christian Life by Will Willimon, Stanley Hauerwas, and Scott Saye


 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sermon on 2/22 part 1

Saying NO

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
       15
" The
land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
      By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
      Galilee of the Gentiles:
       16
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
      And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
      Light has dawned."[
a]

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Strange how things work out the way you wanted to despite your best planning. I actually put the plan for preaching together back in early January, and I have the sermon passages and tentative themes of each Sunday planned through the end of May. I had decided to preach through Matthew until we got to the Lenten Season. At that point, my plan was and still is, to look at the Lord's Prayer. By the time we got to this Sunday, I was planning on focusing on the second half of this passage, and talking about obeying the call of Jesus. I still plan on doing that…later. But for right now we are starting with the passage I just read.

It is strange how things work together, because I kind of wanted to challenge us to practice the Christian Season of Lent, but I was a little unsure about whether I should do so. Then I came upon this passage a couple of weeks ago, as I was thinking through my messages that were coming up, and I decided that the way that this passage was presenting itself as a passage was a prompting to give Lent a try.

Now growing up, I had never practiced Lent. Lent was something that you find in your dryer, or maybe once in a while in your belly-button. If you did hear about Lent, it was something that Catholics did. When I was younger, I thought that Ash Wednesday was when you were supposed to get your chimney cleaned. Really! But as I grew older, especially when I was in seminary and youth ministry at the same time, I started to love the tradition of the Christian Year, especially the days from Reformation Day to Pentecost. It was a way of active learning, which I am convinced, is one of the best ways to learn. And it is a way of actively learning about the life and work of Jesus.

The two meditations today, as you can see, are about saying no and saying yes. As is the Christian practice of Lent. Most of you may know about Lent from Catholics giving up meat on Fridays. To be honest, I do not know why they do this, but I am sure it came with sincere hearts and good reason. Lent was a Christian holiday before it was a Catholic holiday, but it is a tradition that some Protestants have forgotten until recently. It is a spiritual exercise I want you to think about trying for the next month, and seeing if it challenges you or grows you in a unique way.

What I want you to do, as I preach through this sermon and as you go through your next week, is to think about some decision that is meaningful to you. Maybe it is a step of faith that you have wanted to take and are scared to. I want you to think about either something to go without for a little while, or some habit or commitment to add to your life for a little while. Some discipline or fast that is meaningful for you, and that you think may help you get to know God better.

Ok, back to our passage. Jesus has just finished battling with the Devil in the Wilderness. He has overcome. And now, it is time to start his ministry.

He moves from Nazareth to Capernaum. Capernaum was a growing area in his province with a little bit larger population, but within a day's walking distance from the small town Jesus grew up in.

And in that bustling boom town Jesus starts preaching to people. He says, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!"Repenting is about saying no.

Christians often get a bad rap in the world around them. Sometimes with good reason. Well…a lot of times church people get a bad rap for good reason. But there is one reason that I disagree with. A lot of people criticize the Bible and Christianity for the "thou shalt nots". Because even if you look at the 10 commandments, the Bible spends a lot of times saying NO to certain things.

I don't like it when people criticize the "Thou Shalt Nots" because I believe that the word "NO" has gotten a bad rap. The word NO is often a good word. It is a powerful word. It is a word that protects us. It is a word that strengthens our faith and our character. This two letter word, "NO".

Jesus starts his ministry out with a word that is a word with the same kind of tone and meaning as the word, NO. Jesus starts out his ministry with the word repent. The word REPENT has a very specific meaning. As I have shared with you before, REPENT means that you were heading in one direction. You were walking along a path. You were heading in a certain direction. And at some point you realize that you are going the wrong direction and you make a complete, one-hundred eighty degree turn, and you start heading in the opposite direction from where you were going. In order to move toward me, the Lord seems to be saying, you need to turn your back on some other things.

Jesus' first lesson to the people he was trying to reach was the word "REPENT". Repent is a hard word to hear, isn't it? It seems…well…very critical. Very un-open. Yet Jesus gives us this word repent.

Yet this word REPENT can be very helpful. I started in Youth Ministry before the Advent of the GPS and Google Maps. We just had these things called maps, in a book published by Rand McNally. Maybe many of you use them when you travel even today. I do too. But there are times when you can misread the maps. As a matter of fact, in Montana, after the first couple of years of youth mission trips, I kind of gained a reputation for misreading the maps. The first time I got lost was on the Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. We were on a trip entitled the "Fort Apache" mission site. Well, because I did not think I needed much in the way of direction or assistance, I followed the signs to Fort Apache. This brought me to a little park that had the original fort. No mission group. I kept insisting I could find the way. Finally, the other adult leader and the teens urged me to REPENT, and go up to the reservation police and ask for directions. I had to swallow my pride to do this, as I received a police escort for 15 minutes around the reservation to the town of White River. But I am glad I choose to say NO to my way of doing things, and make a decision to say YES to getting on the right path. It was a little crushing to my ego and pride, but in the end, my saying NO to doing things my own way was the right decision. It put me in the right direction.

If we are to go in the right direction, we need to say NO to going in other directions. Jesus said that no man can have two masters, for either he will hate one and love the other, or love the other and hate the one. We cannot serve Jesus unless we learn to say no to the ways of the world that lead us away from him, to say no to those things that lead us away from being fully committed to him, to say no to those things that keep you from loving God and loving others with your whole heart.

I want you to examine your heart. What in your life, would Jesus want you to try and turn away from? Maybe it is some sin you are struggling with. Or maybe it is something that is getting in the way of you being able to follow Jesus with all your heart. Think of something like that. And then, try saying no to that thing, that attitude, that behavior for the time between next Sunday and Easter. And see what happens. See what you learn about how much faith and attachment you have in that thing you have said NO to. See how much power that thing you have turned your back on has on your life. Maybe it is an addiction you have struggled with. Maybe it a pleasure that is not necessarily wrong, but that you overindulge in. Maybe you want to give up TV for 50 days, or soda pop, or coffee. None of those things are necessarily sinful, but you will find you have invested more emotional and personal energy in them than you thought you did. Or maybe you don't think you can give up drinking alcohol or smoking forever, but you can try and do without it for 50 days. One year, I tried to give up self-deprecation and putting down myself for Lent, and fined myself whenever I put myself down verbally. I lost a lot of money that year until I learned how much I actually did that kind of thing and needed to stop. Think about what you can say NO to, so you can spend more of your life, time and energy saying YES to Jesus.

Saying Yes—Sermon Part 2 on 2/22/09

Saying YES

18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.


21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.


Nancy Reagan got it half right anyway. For those of you who were not alive or who were not paying attention for that time in history, Nancy Reagan was our first lady. She is a fine woman. Ms. Reagan is also a compassionate woman. So she wanted to invest herself in drug prevention. So she came up with a program called the "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign. One of her key campaign spokespersons was a young girl named Drew Barrymore. Drew was the star of several movies by that point, the most well known was a movie called E.T., a movie about an alien from outer space that comes to earth and makes friends with a family that included a young girl, played by Drew.


As it turned out, young Drew illustrated the fault of the "Just Say No" program. Because, as the same time she was a spokesman for the anti-drug campaign in late grade school and junior high, she was also an alcoholic, a smoker, and a cocaine addict.


The "Just Say NO" program wasn't a bad idea. It just wasn't the entire answer to a problem like drug and alcohol addiction. Because it is not enough to just say no. You have to be able to say YES to some things that are more valuable to you than what you must say NO to. Or your NO does not mean anything.


What is true with the just say no campaign is about life with Jesus. Learning to say NO is an important step. But saying NO is important so that you can YES to the right things, the most important things, the most valuable things.


The Bible says Jesus approached these men, as we went around teaching about repentance and the nearness of the kingdom of heaven. The Bible says he went to these men, looked them in the eyes, and asked them to follow him. He said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men". And the Bible says that they did choose to follow Him. Those of you who come to Wednesday Night will notice that they "immediately left" their fishing business.

At a moment's notice, these men knew what to say YES to. At a moment's notice, these men who to say YES to. And they gave up everything they had known, and left who they had known to be apprentices of Jesus. That is a big step. Can you imagine giving up EVERYTHING familiar and comfortable to follow a relative stranger. Just goes to show the disciples knew what to say YES to.


As Christians, we must learn to say NO to anything that gets in the way of our relationship with Jesus, but we need to known by what and by whom we say YES to.


The early church was known by who and what they said YES to. The historic church was known for three behaviors in the Ancient Roman World. There may have been more, but three things are indisputable. First, the early church was known for their love and care of needy children. In ancient times, safe medical abortions were not an option for women. So, often, what people did was "expose" their children. What this means is that if an infant was deformed, retarded, or otherwise unhealthy, or if the situation of the pregnancy was not ideal, the infant would be put out under a bush or in the woods to die of malnutrition or exposure. Christians were known for picking up these babies, adopting them, and raising them as their own. Many Christian homes were full of adopted children, and scandalized a little for it.


Christians were known for being pacifists. The early Christian church, until the time of Constantine, was against military service. They did not believe that they could say YES to God and to being in the Roman Military at the same time. This made many citizens of the Roman Empire quite angry with them.


Finally, Christians were known for the way that they cared for and loved one another. When one was in need, the others came to help. So, in the world they lived in, the early church said YES to reaching out into their communities and loving children in need, YES to worshipping God alone as king, and YES for committing to care for one another. Why have I gone through this history lesson. This is why—BECAUSE THE CHURCH THRIVES WHEN IT KNOWS WHAT IT STANDS FOR. THE CHURCH THRIVES WHEN IT KNOWS WHAT ITS PASSION IS AND WHAT ITS MISSION IS. AND IT THRIVES WHEN IT DEVOTES ALL ITS RESOURCES TO FULFILLING THAT MISSION.





Friends, we as a church need to be known for what we say YES to in Jesus name. And by that YES, I mean standing on the truths of what we believe, YES, but I believe we need to be known for more than that. We need to be known for the actions that we take as a church. We need to be known by how we LOVE those in our community, and how we strive to serve them and reach them in Jesus name.


There are plenty of churches that are known by who they are against, who have defined themselves by what they are not, instead of being known as churches that say YES to God's will and God's way. There may even be a few right here in our own small town. Let them do their thing. Let us be a congregation that continually says YES when Jesus comes calling.


And in our personal lives, let us be the same way.


As we come up on this season of Lent, I want to ask you to take time to not only think about what you can give up to know God better. You may choose instead, if you want to practice the spiritual exercise of Lent, to say YES to something that maybe you have not before. Maybe you have not been doing daily Bible Study. Commit to reading the Bible daily. If you start today, and you read 6 chapters of the Bible a day, you can read through the entire New Testament by Easter. Or try something else. Try giving away one possession a day until Easter. Either give it to someone or take your gift to the goodwill. You might be surprised how attached you have gotten to junk, and stuff you do not need. Or choose to serve someone else in a way that it out of your normal work/family routine each day until Easter. Perform a random act of kindness in Jesus Name each day. Ask Jesus to open your eyes to who you are going to serve. You will be surprised what you discover about yourself and your relationship with Jesus. And you will learn to admire those first disciples, who left everything to immediately follow Jesus.


Whether you choose to give up something to know Jesus more, or say yes to Jesus in a new way during Lent, or you do not do either of these things, say YES to God and his will. Above all the saying YES to an time-tested exercise to help you grow spiritually, say YES to Jesus. Commit to trusting him more. To listening to him speak to your heart. To following him where he tells you to go.


You cannot make everyone happy. You cannot be everything to every one. But you can, today, set apart Jesus as Lord, and say YES to him, wherever he may lead you. Amen.

To the Holy Spirit (a poem by Wendell Berry)

O Thou, far off and here, whole and broken,
Who in necessity and in bounty wait,
Whose truth is both light and dark, mute though spoken,
By Thy wide Grace show me Thy narrow gate

(p. 107--The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Love, It Varieties, and its Facsimilies

When I was in high school our Honors English Professor assigned us to write what he called our "Magnum Opus". Magnum Opus, I guess, is Latin for "major work". What it meant to us is that we had to write a 20 page research paper while we were still in high school. I wrote mine on the writings of C.S. Lewis, and since I did not really have a thesis, I would be utterly ashamed to have anyone read it today.

One of the C.S. Lewis books that I read was "The Four Loves", which was a non-fiction work about labeling different kinds of love. Since I have not read it in nearly 20 years, I will have to share this from memory. But the four loves he listed are brotherly love (phileo), erotic love (eros), sacrificial love (agape), and something similar to love as affection. Lewis believed that understanding these different biblical uses of the word love was essential in understanding our relationship with Jesus and following him.

Lewis' understanding has influenced me throughout my life. In particular, I think about how by mislabeling "love" and not understanding the different kinds of love, people stumble in their relationships. In particular, I think it is easy to conflate all sorts of love as aiming toward erotic love. Thus, in our society, we place a high emphasis on erotic love as the ultimate love to hope for and experience. I believe this idolotry of erotic love is both a lie and destructive.

An example of this comes with John Boswell's research on homosexuality among medieval priests. Through his research, he uncovered covenants between male clergy. These covenants include oaths of lifelong fidelity. I think it is clear that these oaths are not oaths of erotic love, but rather oaths of friendship. I think that Boswell both comes to his research with an agenda to prove, and a cultural bias that nearly diefies romantic love as the most important of romantic relationships. The truth is, I think, for most of human history, people put a much higher value on friendship than they did on romantic relationships.

I think another example of this happens with people's lack of boundaries in sexual relationships. I think that especially among people with emotional and mental disabilities, it is easy to see how this happens. There are a number of people that are sex offenders that are also mentally and emotionally disabled. This is true, in part, because their disabilities prohibit them from developing boundaries between "affection" love, "friend" love, and "eros" loves. So, when they feel drawn to someone, they feel affection for them, and then this often leads to crossing sexual boundaries, because they have no boundaries. As a matter of fact, I think that abusers that are not disabled, also have problems in understanding the difference between affection and eros loves.

To a lesser extent, I think this blending of boundaries happens in mainstream, heterosexual culture. People have their friendship needs met by someone, and they think that because they have experienced a connection as friends, that it should necessarily lead "somewhere else".

I learned this as a young youth minister. There were times when I felt strong connections with students of the opposite gender. And I had to use my understandings of the four kinds of love to choose how I was going to label these connections. I think it could have been easy to stumble if I had not clearly been able to "define the relationship" with those students in my head, and set appropriate boundaries and systems of accountablity. One way of stumbling would have been defining that attachment as erotic. Another way of stumbling would have developed relationships with students that was overly friendship based, and thus been a peer instead of a meaningful adult presence in their lives. Or, I could have been so hypervigilant about my feelings that I just closed myself off to everyone. Instead, I learned early in my ministry to label the affection and attachment I had to students into a "big brotherly" kind of role with them. This seemed appropriate, until late in my youth ministry career, when I was more of a "non-resident" parent/adopted uncle.

Sometimes relationships need reframing. In certain situations, this may take time away from a relationship with someone. When I was single, I often momentary crushes on people. After a while, I grew to reframe feelings that I first identified as romantic love into an affection for someone that could grow into a friendship kind of love for someone.

At times, we try to use eros love to meet reational needs that eros was never meant to meet. We feel lonely for friends, we don't know how to be intimate with someone, and instead of looking to understand that lack of love in our lives, we tend to go with the quick fix of sex to meet our emotional needs. The problem is, when we try and make sex be able to fulfill us in ways that it was not designed to, we end up both hurt and perpetually dissatisfied. I often hear about and deal with people who try to use sex to build all sorts of relational and emotional capital in their lives that will always disappoint them.

And, in the relationship of marriage, we have all of these loves at different points in our relationships. However, I think that primarily marriage is about a choice to live a life of self-sacrificial love with another, bonded and cemented by eros love.

A couple of conversations I have had with friends in recent days have gotten me to thinking about these things anew. And, although I have wanted to think outloud about this for a while, I feel in a happier and better place talking about this thought process now that I am in the middle of a very happy marriage.

Does this make sense to you?
How have you had to reframe relationships with people?
How have you seen confusion between different types of love?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sermon Delivered on 2/15/09

Temptation

 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
4 But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"[
a]
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
      ' He shall give His angels charge over you,'

 and,
      ' In their hands they shall bear you up,
      Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"
[
b]
7 Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'"[
c]
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."
10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you,[
d] Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"[e]
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.


 

It is strange isn't it? We have these wonderful experiences. These times in our life when everything seems to come together. When we seem especially close to God. When our life seems to make sense. And we wish we could stay in that place and that moment forever. But we can't. And then it happens. Tomorrow becomes today. And you must wake up, and live the life that is in front of you, instead of basking in the glow of what happened yesterday.

I imagine it was this way even for Jesus. One day he is immersed in the waters of baptism. As he comes out of the water the Holy Spirit decends on him like a dove. A Voice from his Heavenly Father speaks from heaven "This is my son, in whom I am well pleased". The day of Jesus' baptism was a very good, quite wonderful, very special day.

But the next moment was quite different. The Bible says, "then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil". Then the Bible said he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and that he was hungry.

It is interesting to note right at the beginning how this temptation is taking place. It is taking place at God's initative. The same Sprit that has decended on Jesus like a dove is now driving him into the wilderness. Jesus goes willingly. And fasts for forty days and nights, waiting for the confrontation. You can see from the text here, and the ancient church fathers make this point, that it is Jesus that goes out in the desert to confront Satan, not vise versa. Jesus has a battle to fight and a point to prove.

This 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness is interesting. In fact, if you were Hebrew this would have just leapt of the page. Many significant things happen in 40s. Moses is exiled for 40 years in the desert. He leads Egypt to wander for 40 years in the wilderness. Rabbinic tradition said Moses spent forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai receiving the law. Elijah encounters God on Mount Horeb after 40 days. Noah survives forty days and forty nights of flooding. So if you were a Hebrew and you would read this you would say, "Ah-hah….this man is like Moses…like Noah….like Elijah" This man is a deliverer for our people. Perhaps if he is fasting for forty days in the wilderness, he could be the Messiah. Our deliverer. The one we have been praying and hoping for.

And if you were not a Hebrew, you would be thinking about this too. But in a different way. You would be noticing that Jesus was going out to be tested and tempted. In Mediterranean culture, a father would test his son as a final right of passage, in one way or another, to see if he was worthy of carrying on the name and the identity of the Father. So you would be on your seat as you read this….Jesus is being tested, tempted and tried by the Father before he starts his public ministry in God's name. If you were in that part of the world, this is what you would expect.

And throughout Greek and even modern culture, we come to expect that our leaders, heros, and deliverers will be tested. It is part of their fulfillment of their qualification as a hero. To have faced temptation and overcome. To have faced the enemy and not to have failed against him or to have backed down. In Greek mythology we see this with Hercules or Odysseus. In human history we see this with George Washington at Valley Forge and we see this with Indian Chiefs like Geronimo in their early battles as well. There stories show them to be people who have been tested, and thus been shown worthy of respect or leadership. This is kind of testing of deliverers is even in a lot of modern movies—such as Star Wars. Luke Skywalker goes to train with Yoda, and is tested there. He succeeds where his father has failed. He is shown ready to be a Jedi on a remote planet in a remote place. He comes out of that "wilderness" of sorts ready to lead and deliver his people.

So, the fact that Jesus is driven into the wilderness to face temptation is what we would come to expect as Gentiles for our hero and our deliverer. And for Hebrews as well. Especially for the Jewish audience that Matthew is writing for. Let me remind you, that Jesus is Israel personified. He must experience what the nation of Israel experienced. Just as God's people were led into the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus goes for forty days. Israel failed to trust God in the wilderness. Jesus must show that he is obedient to and trusts God. He must come to make right what we have often failed at and made wrong. All of human history hangs in the balance in this temptation. Because everything that has happened before in the world leads up to the life and mission of Jesus, and everything good and hopeful in the world that happens is a result of Jesus' death and resurrection. This is why we label time BC (before Christ) and AD (after his death). Our calendars give proof that all of history funnels through Jesus. And thus, everything is on the line with the temptations that Jesus faces.

The life of Jesus is unique not because he faces temptation, testing and trials. The life of Jesus is unique because of the kinds of temptations that he faces, and how he responds to those temptations.

Satan comes to Jesus after he has been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness to test him. To tempt him. To see if he can get him to betray his call and his mission.

The first thing Satan tempts Jesus to do is to turn stones into bread. Seems kind of innocent doesn't it? Turning stones into bread? What could be wrong with that? Especially since Jesus has been fasting for 40 days. Certainly God would not begrudge him turning stones into bread so he can have a little to eat. After 40 days?

That is the thing about temptation isn't it? It seems kind of innocent at first. You work at getting your finances together. You decide to splurge a little. A person's got to have a car don't they? Pretty soon you have a truck with all the bells and whistles that costs about as much as your first house did. It started small…you thought. Now it has grown out of control.

But anyway…why not turn stones to bread? Why not? What is the big deal about a bite of something to eat? Maybe nothing. But it might be a big deal! Remember Adam and Eve in the garden? They took one bite of the forbidden fruit, and it changed the whole universe! Remember Moses hitting the rock when God had told him to speak to the rock to bring forth the water? It cost Moses the chance to go into the promised land. Sometimes a little something is a big something.

In the case of Jesus, turning rocks into bread would have repeated the miracle of manna in the desert. Imagine the people you could feed if all the stones into desert turned into bread! The hungry would fed! They would have more than enough! And they would worship Jesus because of this. And they would want to make him their king! Isn't this what we would want in our deliverer?

You can see how this would be a real temptation for Jesus our Lord don't you? Why go through the years with the disciples? Why go through the cross? Why not just turn the stones into bread now? The people would be happy! I could meet a lot of needs. And he would be able to eat. Man I bet he was hungry! I imagine this was part of what it meant for Jesus to be tempted to turn stones into bread.

It is always tempting to be a people pleaser. To do things and to say things just to make people happy. And making people happy isn't necessarily always a bad thing. It is just that some times, we can want to do all the right things in all the wrong ways. In ways that make us the star of the show. That make us feel important and needed. But the ends do not always justify the means.

But Jesus rejects this temptation. He choses to be dependant on God and his timing when he says, "Not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord"

Next, Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem. Throw yourself from this pinnacle, Satan Says, and let the angels catch you on the way down. You know that if you do this, Satan said to Jesus, that a bunch of angels would catch you on your way down. The Devil even quotes a Scripture out of context to prove this to Jesus.

You can see how this would be tempting. If you cannot, picture it in your mind's eye. Jesus jumps from the temple, and all of the sudden a bunch of angels are escorting him to the ground. A bunch of angels and a Messiah decending upon the Temple Mount. If you cannot imagine that then, imagine what it would be like now, with Jesus and an army of angels decending on the temple mount. You would think…now here is the Messiah. Now there is Jesus Christ come again. In power.

Again, he would be a people pleaser. He would be giving hope to people longing for hope. It would be a first step at delivering a people under the foot of the cruelty of the Roman Army.

Satan is also appealing to his pride. People would look up and say "There is a Messiah to lead us!" The next day there would be Jewish schools and parks named after him, and all of the sudden his name would be on everyone's lips. Instead of starving in a desert, the finest foods would be available to him.

Why not do it? Why not set free your people? Why not give people hope and purpose? Why not, as the perfect Son of God use fame to spread God's message far and wide? Why not? Because God had a different way. A way that is more difficult. But also, a way that is better, more true, more right. The way of Satan might have seemed like good news for a while, but it would not have made the people of God any different from any of the other nations of the world. In the movie the Mission, toward the end, the priest says, "If might is right, then there is no place for love in the world." This is why Jesus could not leap from the Temple. God has a better way than the world's way. So Jesus tells Satan, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God."

For the third and final temptation, Satan gets a little more bold. He takes him to a high place, where they can see all the kingdoms of the world. All their wealth. All their power. All their sin. All their selfishness and all their greed. All the power in the entire earth Satan offers into Jesus hands, if Jesus will just bow down and worship him.

Now some of us have heard the saying, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts, absolutely." And we think that power is almost always bad. You may be right in the end. But, power can do a lot of good in the right hands. Power can make laws fair. Power is what can help those in need. Power is what determines life and death. Jesus might have been able to do amazing things if he ruled all the thrones of the world. All those bad things about power, those are in the fine print at the bottom of the page.

Jesus again recognizes that the temptation is against God's will and says. Get behind me Satan. The Bible says to worship God and God alone.

Jesus is up to facing down the temptation. He faces down the devil. And when the devil departs, he is ministered to by the angels. Jesus has passed the time of testing that was in front of him, and he has proven himself worthy. He has shown to us that he is the perfect lamb of God. He is ready to begin his public ministry.

And through Jesus' example, we learn a little bit about how to face down temptation, even in situations where discerning God's will is more difficult than we anticipate.

First, learn the word of God. Don't just know verses. Don't just learn what TV or radio preachers or even this preacher tells you. Read the Bible for yourself. And don't just read verses here and there. Get to know the big picture of Scripture. You might have noticed both in this passage, throughout Scripture, and even in our world, that the Devil knows the Bible too. And he knows how to twist it to make it say something it doesn't if he can. But Jesus is grounded in Scripture. The more you know Scripture, not just in your mind, but the more the Word has made its way into your heart, the easier it will be to avoid temptation.

Second, when you face temptation, know that the Devil does not usually tempt you with a gift wrapped package that says EVIL on the front. The Tempter is crafty and tricky. In the Garden of Eden, knowledge and evil sounded pretty noble to Adam and Eve. Satan convinced them. We can think that our sincerity and good intentions can sanctify behaviors that are totally wrong because we had good goals in mind. Or we can tell ourselves, that the end justifies the means. But sin is sin no matter how you use your reason to justify it.


 

Back home in Alaska they used to pick of these piles of moose manure. They would lacker them up, put little shiny things on these little moose nuggets, make them into earrings and broaches for tourists. But it didn't matter how much you gussied up that moose manure, it still wasn't diamonds or gold. It was just moose poop.

Sin is very similar to those moose "nuggets". You can justify it. Rationalize it. Pretty up your good intentions all you want. But sin is sin. And it doesn't matter what sincerity or good intentions you have when you are tempted, right is still right, and wrong is still wrong.

Finally, the way of Jesus is not often the easy way, but it is always the right way. When you are tempted you will always think it is easier just to steal. It is easier to cheat. It is easier to take shortcuts that you know are wrong. But giving into temptation always takes you further than you want to go, and costs you more than you want to pay.

Sin is like an adjustable rate mortgage. It seems to cost less on the front end, and you may have the best of intentions to fix it down the road, but it usually cost you more down the road that you intended it to.

Know, as you go this morning, that the way of Jesus is not always the easiest way. In fact, it may seem more painful, more stressful, and more difficult at times. But following Jesus is the right way. It is the way of strength and courage. It is a way of beauty. It is the way of blessing and hope.

And as we scrap, as we struggle, as we stand against temptation, we will know what Christ promised at the end of the book of Matthew, "For I am with you ALWAYS, even to the end of the age". When we stand against temptation, Jesus stands with us. And that is enough. That is always enough. Amen.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gospel of Matthew


I have been studying the Gospel of Matthew for almost a year now. Actually a little longer--because I had been teaching and re-teaching the Sermon on the Mount off and on for the year before that.

When I came to Fowler, I started teaching the Gospel of Matthew to our small group on Wednesday nights. We started with the Sermon on the Mount, and then kept plodding through the book from there. We are now on Chapter 25 of Matthew. I am hoping to finish Matthew around the beginning of June. We will be going back to the Sermon on the Mount to study the Lord's Prayer for the season of Lent.

I remember when I lived in Belgrade, several of the folks in the church I served complained about the Senior Pastor spending too long in their Thursday Morning Bible Study working their way through the Gospel of Matthew. One woman, an elderly woman who was very dear to me named Liz Forney, remarked that she would be dead before they got through studying the Gospel of Matthew. She died the next year. The small group had not finished the Gospel of Matthew yet.

I wonder if people feel the same here in Fowler. We have done the Wednesday Night Bible Study on the Gospel of Matthew. Our Sunday School curriculum sent to us from David C. Cook is in the Gospel of Matthew until the end of the month, and then I am preaching from the Gospel of Matthew as well.

Those of you who know me would think I would be bored to tears. I usually have a hard time teaching on any one thing for longer than about six weeks. The truth is, I love doing teaching like this. I feel like I am getting to really know a book of the Bible better than I have ever known a part of Scripture before. And I feel like as I preach through Matthew, I preach with the passion and the knowledge of someone who is very familiar with a particular part of Scripture, and loves what they have learned. There are times, as I dig deeper and deeper into the same Bible book, that I have a hard time figuring out exactly what to say about it, because it has become so familiar. I think, though, that the benefits of depth and breadth of knowledge for me and the congregation outweigh the cautions of familiarity and overthinking.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Overteachable


I am a big advocate of being teachable. I think just about every one and every thing can teach me something. I can learn things from people I argue with and people I agree with. My enemies can teach me and so can my friends. People I am leading can provide lessons for me as well as those who are in authority over me. Good situations can help me grow. Difficult situations may help me grow even more in the long run. Every person, I believe, is a parable of God, able to be used by God to teach me something new. Currently I am thinking about a conversation I had with my former boss, Mike Sayler, and some advice he had about writing based on his editorial work for the Minister's Council Meeting.


I have a friend who I was in the middle of some relationial strife with a few years back. (We got past it,and get along well now) Sometime either during or after that difficult patch in our friendship, we had a time in our small group where we each went around our group and said what we appreciated about other people in the group. One of the things that she said that she appreciated about me--and it meant a lot because it was an honest compliment in a time where she did not have to say anything nice--was that I truly listen and consider to what almost anybody says to me. I may not agree someone when they say something, or even agree later after I ponder what someone has said, but I honestly listen and consider what I have been told. I think this is true of me for the most part, and was moved that my friend noticed.


I thing that this teachable spirit is Biblical. When I read the parable of the soils in the book of Matthew, I think one of the most important things about being "good soil" is having a teachable heart. God can teach you through all sorts of people and in all sorts of situations.


I am starting to come to the conclusion, though, that I can be overteachable. I can listen to people too much. I can be overly generous in considering each person's opinions equitably. Being overteachable has been a problem for me some specific ways. First, as a leader, people can interpret my willingness to listen and be taught by others as weakness. These people, once they have had some sort of influence with me, seem to think that they have a right to power or control over me and the decisions that I make. When I choose to disagree with them, they see my inability to do what they want as a betrayal of some sort, because in the past I listened, agreed and responded to them. I am not sure how to navigate this problem, but I think part of the reason I get into situations like these is that I am overteachable.


Also, it can cause undue emotional distress. I try to listen to everyone and learn from them. That is fine when I am working with folks collabratively. It can be wonderful when people have positive input. When I recieve constructive criticism it can be challenging but helpful. When I recieve unconstructive criticism it can be agonizing. I replay and analyze an offhand comment that someone has said in my head, and expend a lot of emotional energy trying to spiritually discern exactly how to respond, and just how much truth there is in what they are saying. I find it hard to be dismissive of anyone. Sometimes I think it is healthy to be able to be dismissive of some folks.


At times, words of people, no matter how irrational or rediculous, can get in my head. They say something, and it something that just sticks with me. Recently I had a conversation with a fellow minister about his beliefs about marriage and sexuality. Specifically, the minister spoke about the importance of the frequency of sexual intercourse for a happy marital relationship, and a lack of sexual fulfillment as a primary reason for divorce among people he counsels. Now, since this is a semi-public blog read by several family members of my wife and myself, I am not going to get into any details about our sexual relationship, except for to say that neither of us have any complaints in our newlywed years. But what I will say, is that this person had a tone like he had this whole issue figured out, and had set himself up as evaluater of everyone else. And even though this person is not my leader in any regard on such matters, he has influenced me in a way in which I evaluate myself consiciously in light of his standard. Enough so that I have to consciously make an effort to dismiss his input from our marital relationship. Some stranger does not need input on such private issues of my life, but I am overteachable. So I consider what he said, audit it to discern how true the details of what he said are factual, and give serious consideration to his words, and evaluate my life in light of what he says.


I shared the above example because it is not uncommon in many other arenas in my life. It bothers me that I think to much about what other people say to me. My teachable attitude at times means that I take too much into my spirit, and give too many people influence over how I live my life and do my work. I think it is important that I learn from people. But at times I feel that by being teachable I give people too much power over what I think about and how I feel.


I guess my question is, how do I be teachable, without being over teachable?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Happy Endings

Tonight we watched a movie at our church called "The Mission". It is a little over 20 years old now, and I have watched it at least 8 times. It was good to watch again twice this weekend.

The Mission is a movie about the Jesuit missionary movement's mission in South America at about the same time as the founding fathers. The movie shows how the Jesuit missions became successful in South America, and then destroyed by European and church politics. It ends with the priests and the natives being killed by Portugese soldiers, and with the priests standing and fighting and dying with the people.

It is truly a beautiful movie about the beauty and the evils of church and ministry, but it does not have a happy ending.

I have been thinking about how much we crave happy endings. We expect everything in our lives to have a happy ending. We think the meaning life is about being happy and having a happy ending to every problem.

Not everyone's story is a Disney story. There is a beauty to failing right and failing well. There is a beauty to living a life that is less than ideal with strength and dignity. There is something beauiful about a story that isn't easily resolved, that isn't easy, that is not always worked out and completely understood.

Because, sometimes life is like that. Unresolved and ununderstood. But good and true and beautiful nonetheless.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sermon for 2/08/09

To Fulfill All Righteousness

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?"
15 But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him.
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He[
c] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."


 

Picture this. Here is John the Baptist. He has found a patch of water that is deep enough to baptize people in. He is baptizing a few, and then preaching for a little bit. Baptizing and preaching. Talking about repentance.

His beard has a little bit of honey on it that he has not noticed from the locusts and wild honey he has eaten that morning. His hair is unkempt. It is hot, and his skin is darkened and wrinkled from spending day after day in the middle eastern desert.

John baptizes another. Then another. Then Jesus walks up. He wants to be baptized.

Now, you need to know that John was the first one to notice who Jesus was. John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the promised one in-utero. He leapt for joy in his mother Elizabeth's womb when he noticed that the Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus the Messiah.

John has spent his adult ministry preparing the way for Jesus. Preaching repentance. Baptizing a baptism of repentance.

Then Jesus comes to him. Jesus comes to John from Galilee. Trekking over dirty dusty trails. Walking up to him like any other man. Asking to be baptized. How would you have responded if you were John the Baptist?

How would you have responded if the Son of God came to be baptized by you? If the Lord put you in that place of leadership and authority over him? I imagine you might have responded like John. No it is you that should baptize me! You would have felt unworthy to have Jesus come to you just like John the Baptist did. Unworthy to untie his sandals much less baptize him. I think, in other words, if you and I were in the same situation we would respond very much like the way that John the Baptist did.

"Who I am Jesus, to baptize you? You should be baptizing me?"


 

What puzzles me as I look at this Bible passage is something simpler. Why would Jesus need to be baptized anyway? What does it mean when they say that Jesus was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness"? And what made God so pleased at this event more than the many other events in the life of Jesus?

As I worked on understanding this passage, these are the questions I come to this passage with. And if I have these questions about what is going on, I thought maybe you did too. So I thought we would work together to understand a little more about what is going on here, and thus grow a little in our knowledge about Jesus.

One of the things that challenges me about Jesus' being baptized by John is that the baptism of John is a baptism of repentance. And Jesus, being without sin, did not need to repent. So, if Jesus did not need to repent, why did he need to be baptized?

Well the answer to this is easier and harder than we might anticipate. The answer to our question is found in our reason for asking that question. It is a simple answer, but it will take a while for me to unpack and explain. The reason Jesus came to baptized like one of us is that he wants the BE ONE OF US.

Jesus wants to be one of us. The theological shorthand for this is incarnation. He is fully human. Even though he is also fully God, he wants to set that aside to sweat with people, and eat with people. He wants to talk with people, and sleep like other people do. He wants to get tired and lonely, cold and hungry. So that he can know us, and identify with us.

Phillippians 2 puts it this way, as Paul looks back over what Jesus did, quoting one of the earliest church hymns:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,


6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

7 but made Himself of no reputation,

taking the form of a bondservant,

and coming in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled Himself

and became obedient to the point of death,

the death of the cross.

9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him

and given Him the name which is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

of those in heaven, and of those on earth,

and of those under the earth,

11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.


 

When Jesus enters into the waters of baptism, he is saying YES to this call from God. He is saying yes to loving us enough to enter into our heartache and our pain. To live life as a human. And to love us. To love us enough to suffer and die for us.


 

This baptism is Jesus' installation service. It is where he commits to be the faithful Son of God as a human being. Where he says yes to God's call and agenda. As humans we all have free will. We all have to choose. This is the point where Jesus says yes to his mission as a person like you and I.


 

As Jesus enters the waters of baptism, it is his anointing into the ministry. It is his initiation into the formal part of fulfilling his mission to be one of us, and yet die for all of us. This is what Jesus means when he says fulfilling all righteousness. Fulfilling that mission and obeying that call of God.


 

And it is this obedience to God's call that makes God open up the heavens and say that he is pleased with Jesus. Because when Jesus enters those waters of baptism he obeys GODS call and GODS mission.


 

Now that we understand this truth, that this baptism about Jesus saying Yes to God's call on his life to live with us and love us, to suffer and die with us, entering into a baptism of repentance makes a little more sense. When we came to the waters of baptism, we come repenting of our sin. We come baptism saying that we have sinned and fallen short personally. When Jesus comes to the waters of baptism, he comes to the waters of baptism KNOWING that He is going to take on the sins of all.


 

Remember what we learned over Advent. Remember how Matthew views history. God creates people. And people sin. He calls is Israel as his own people. And asks them to trust Him. And they sin and they turn away. And in the fullness of time, God send's Jesus. And Jesus is Israel personified. Israel is referred to as the Son of God. And Jesus is referred to as the Son of God. And the first two chapters of Matthew show us how Jesus is faithful, where the nation of Israel and all humanity was unfaithful, Jesus is obiedient . All of history is like a funnel, and the center point and the focal point of that funnel is Jesus. Everything that has happened before in history leads to him, and everything after him flows from his life and work. And now, Jesus submits to a baptism of repentance. Not because he has sinned. No, Jesus is sinless. But because Jesus stands in those waters on our behalf. Agreeing with God that Israel has sinned, you and I have sinned, each of us has sinned and fallen short of the God. He comes to the waters of baptism knowing, as Paul teaches in Romans, that he who had no sin became sin for us. Martin Luther says it this way, "For He was not washed from His own sins (since he had none), but for my sins and the sins of the whole world."

So Christ comes to the waters of baptism to be one of us. To say YES to God and his mission. To say Yes to taking on the sins of the world.


 

But Jesus comes to the waters of baptism for another reason. He also comes there because he is the great teacher. The greatest teachers, you see are always the ones that show the way, not only by the words that they say, but by how they live. Good teachers don't ask you to do what they have not done.


 

Jesus wants us to trust him enough to follow him. Following him starts with repentance. And then he calls us to be baptized. And by being baptized, to stand up in front of everyone and say 1—I have sinned and 2—I want to follow Jesus. Jesus wants us to become disciples and be baptized. But he does not ask us to do what he is unwilling to do. He shows us the way by being an example. He shows us the way by doing himself what he asks us to do right from the start.


 

Perhaps now, it is important to explain what the world disciple means. It means someone who has the discipline to imitate the Master. When one chooses to be a disciple, one chooses to do what the Master does, to experience what the Master experiences, so that they can become as much like the Master as possible.


 

Why is this important. Because Jesus says YES to God and his mission, YES to taking on the sins of the world, YES to being one of us because he calls and invites US to be like him.


 

To live like him. And to love like him.


 

To do the will of the Father like him. And to have the Spirit of the Living God descend on us like it did on him that day.He wants to show us the way. He wants us to spend eternity with him YES. But he wants that eternal life to begin in your life and heart now.


 

As we continue in Matthew he will show us how to pray and forgive, how to give up on worry and judging, and live a life of strength and power and beauty.


 

He wants to die for us, and live with us and be one of us so that he can show us a better way to live. To live with hope. And with love. And to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, letting God's holy spirit do things in us and through us that can only just imagine now.


 

The question is, will you say YES to him? Will you step into the water, and give your whole life to living this in this God-driven, God-blessed, Christ-like life that he has in front of you? I hope that we will all say YES anew today.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sermon on 2/1/09

A Voice In the Wilderness

 1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
      " The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
      ' Prepare the way of the LORD;
      Make His paths straight.'"[
a]
4 Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.[
b]
12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."


 

Voices are funny things. Some of them are very high. Some of them are very low. For instance, have you ever met a man that looked big and burly and tough, and all of the sudden this high pitched voice comes out of his mouth. I have. It was hard to keep from laughing. The same is true of Jennifer's stepbrother's daughter, in the opposite way. She is this small cute little girl, but she has this very deep husky voice for a toddler. At this point, it is adorably cute. You can like someone, think they are attractive, and then they open their mouth, and their voice wants to make you get as far away as possible. My pastor in high school, a man named Ron Elerick, was 6'9" and over 500 lbs. He was a biker evangelist and a gifted pastoral counselor. He had this deep voice that made you feel very safe around him. His deep voice also tended to be so soothing that it was difficult to stay awake for most of his sermons. The content of his sermons were not bad, but that voice made you want to take a nap.


 

People's voice can tell you a lot about who they are. Are they strong or insecure? Are they tense or are they laid back? Are they well educated or not very well educated? Are they from the Northeast or the Deep South. Often a voice can tell you all of these things. I am a loudmouth. So my mother sometimes told me to use my inside voice. I do the same with my dog when he starts barking. "Jake, use your inside voice".

There is more to our voices than pitch and volume though. A lot of times when we get to a good place in our relationships and our careers we talk about having, "Found our voice". We talk about people being a "voice of encouragement" or a "voice of concern", meaning that what they say speaks into our lives. When we talk about someone's voice, we means much more than the way the voice works. We mean how the person uses their words to disrupt or make peace, to bring together or tear apart. Or to hide and say nothing.

The Bible calls John the Baptist a "Voice crying in the wilderness". A Voice CRYING in the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord. John is introduced as THE VOICE that sets the stage for the ministry of Jesus. What kind of voice did he have? And how did he use his voice?

There are a lot of ways that you can describe John's voice, and we may get to many of them, but perhaps the best description of this voice crying in the wilderness was urgent. The voice was urgent.

The fact that he was an urgent voice accounts for all of the other things we notice. The Bible says that he was a voice CRYING. CRYING OUT. This indicates that it was a message that needed to be heard immediatey. If this voice was so urgent, you may ask, why did he go out into the wilderness to meet God? Why not go to Jerusalem? Why not go to the cities. Why not go out into the highways and byways to prepare for Jesus?

First, and most obviously, to fulfill Scripture. Even more, the reason to go out into the wilderness is because he was a prophet, and he wants people to truly listen . Prophets sent by God are sent to shake people up. To get them out of their apathy and their standard way of seeing things, and to see the urgency of reconciling with God. Because John was an urgent voice, he had a prophetic and strange voice. An urgent voice is a shocking voice. And his actions needed to match his words. You see, a little bit like a children's message in worship, the prophets tried to make the Word of God as visual as possible. Isaiah walked around naked to make his point. Ezekiel laid on his side and cooked food with his own dung. Hosea married a prostitute to tell the Israelites that they were hoaring after other God's. Prophets acted out their message as they spoke it. Part of that for John was to go into the wilderness and live on locusts and wild honey.

The wilderness has special significance for the Hebrew people. The wilderness is where God spoke to people. In the pretty places, in the places with enough food and enough money, enough friends and enough power, these are not the place in Scripture where God most powerfully speaks to people. Throughout Scripture, God met people in the desert. This is most especially true with the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. In was in the wilderness God provided Bread from Heaven. It was in the wilderness God sustained them with water from a rock. While they were wandering in that barren desert that God gave his people the Ten Commandments. It was to the wilderness that David was able to find safety as King Saul was trying to kill him in biblical history. And it was in the wilderness that the prophet Elijah ran, and heard God speaking to him on a mountain through a still small voice. The wilderness, where there was not much more than the Dead Sea and caves, is where John the Baptist preached because that is where God most often met his people. It is urgent that they are ready to listen to Jesus. It is urgent that they recognize Jesus as he comes. John the Baptist understands this urgency, and adapts his message accordingly.

So John goes to the desert, and he says, REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND. John goes out to the desert, and urges people to REPENT. To turn around. To prepare their hearts to be receptive to God's Word. And he says to not REPENT soon. Or to think about repenting. To think about turning your heart toward God. No John urgency says REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD Is AT HAND. At hand means to right in front of you. Very close. Imminent.

The gospel not only encourages us to listen with urgency, it encourages us to act with urgency as well. The word REPENT means to turn around. To allow God to change the direction we are going, and to put you in a totally different course.

There is no such thing as the status quo if we are going to listen to Jesus, and act upon what we hear. We can not just stand firm in our relationship with Jesus. We must be either moving toward him and with him, or he is moving away from us. We must either be growing or dying.

Because this call of God is important and urgent, it is not something to be trifled with. It is not something to be considered lightly. Gospel listening and living is not something you can just float along with and play at. It is life or death important. It is life or death urgent.

The Bible says that the Pharisees and the Saducees came out to see John the Baptist. And that John thought that they were not taking his message, and the coming of Christ seriously enough. So he challenged them. He told them if they just wanted to play at repenting and following Jesus, that God would know, as well as the rest of the world. And if they were not treating this message as the urgent message it was, well, then, they would have to pay the price. God would know.

So what does all of this mean? What does all of this talk of urgency mean to us in our day to day living?

It means that if we have yet to trust Jesus enough to accept him as savior, we should not wait. The nature of the good news of Jesus is that it requires a response. Either we say yes to Jesus or say no to Jesus. We should not say, maybe tomorrow.

If you have not accepted Christ, I urge you to accept him into your heart today. Trust him today to save you. He has lots in store for you. He has a mission for you to fulfill. He has blessings available for you. He has a hope and a future for you, but you need to accept that hope and that future.

This means as a church that we have an urgent message and an urgent mission that requires our immediate attention. Our commitment to this Backyard Mission Project is one step in this journey. There are needs that need to be met urgently. And you as a church recognize this. And you are acting to be the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out in your community not in a summer far off, but this summer.

But this is just one step. Deep down in our souls there needs to be this passion. This passion to tell others what Jesus has done for us, and can do for them. This passion to reach our friends and our family with this call to repent and be made new by Jesus. We need to seize the opportunities to be kind to our neighbors in Jesus name. We need to seize the opportunities to encourage other people to know the Jesus that has changed our lives.

We cannot just hope that people will come walking through the door of this church. People will not do that. We need to be like John the Baptist. We need to be a little strange and a little peculiar. We need to stand out for Jesus. We need to use our voices to testify to his goodness in our lives, and to encourage others to repent and follow as well. We cannot just stand on the sideline. As long as we have a VOICE, we must use our VOICE to praise Jesus, proclaim Jesus, to cry out in urgency to a world that does not understand the relevancy and the urgency of our Jesus.

So use your voice….

Use your voice to say YES to Jesus.

Use your voice to say YES to Christ's call to repentance.

Use your voice to say YES to the call to go out to the world on a mission.

Use your voice to say YES to Jesus. And let your actions match that yes. As you live your life. As you come to this table. Where we remember Christ's death for us. Say yes to his love. Say YES to his gift.

Amen.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Top 10 Commercials in the super bowl

10. The Monster mooses rear end commercial.
9. The Bridgestone commercial about the tires getting stolen in outer space.
8. The Bridgestone commercial with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head
7. The LMAO commercial from NBC
6. The Cheetos commercial.
5. Etrade commercial. The new baby was a smart addition
4. The Pepsi "I'm good" commercial on diet drinks with men
3. The teleflora commercial...it was good...and then the last words made it one of the best
2. Doritos "crystal ball" commercial.
1. The career builders.com commercial with the koala getting punched.

Second Half of Commercials in Super Bowl

First Break--
Coca Cola--The Star Wars like things was ok, but not great. Seems they are always trying to chase the "Buy the world a coke" commercial from years gone by.
Bridgestone--Getting Car tires stolen in outer space with rap music. I laughed. Not in the top 5, but maybe the top 10
Denny's Commercial--Free Grand Slam. This looks good, and is competing with IHOP. New commercial on a recently developed theme.
Monster--The mooses rear end commercial is good. My wife was laughing out loud.

Second Break--
Budweiser--Another Clydsdale commercial. Sentimental and sweet, but not outsanding.
Race to Witch Mountain--Isnt this a remake?

Third Break--
Transformers Commercial--Dont want to see this.
Career Builders--It may be time. This is a brilliant commercial. I LOVED it. My favorite so far. Especially the punching small animals part

Fourth Break
Coca Cola--Coke botthe thefts by the animals in the park. This was a creative and fun commercial.
Frosted Flakes--A look at us, we are helping people commercial. I hate those. And another commercial driving people to the website. Why does Frosted Flakes need web traffic?
Conan--I liked this Conan OBrien Commercial Better.


Fifth Break
Southwest Motors Commercials--Good commercial. Homeof the halfprice car
American Family Commercial--blah blah blah.
Honda Commercial--Also boring and samey

Sixth Break
Freedom Financial Services--Refinancing. Boring
Springs Hosting--Interesting local commercial specially made for Super Bowl

Seventh Break
Hyundai Assurance--Again Hyundai. They are working hard to move into the US market in force.
Coke Zero--This spoof on the old coke Mean Joe Green Commercial is great. Extremely well done.
Cash for Gold--Mc Hammer and Ed McMahon commercial is hillarious. I love it when commercials make fun of themselves

Eighth Break
Vizio--Very simple. Interesting concept. Not sure it worked.
Taco Bell--Again the same commercial. It is somewhat funny but....
GE--I like the Tinman commercial. Good stuff

Ninth Break
Hulu--Funny because it makes fun of television and computer stuff. "An evil plot to destroy the world...enjoy. "

Tenth Break
GE--Old wind energy commercial
Pepsi--Commerical like an SNL skit. It was of the better half, but not great. Spoof of McGuiver.

Eleventh Break
Bud Light Lime--Hip hop music. A scene that changes from winter to summer. A decent commercial to introduce a new product.
GoDaddy.com--another Go Daddy commercial that leads you to the web site to see the more risque version. Smart marketing I think.

Superbowl Commercials--Halftime

Monsters vs Aliens--not interested in watching
Sobe--Another dance thing. Last year it was creative. This year it is played out.
Sprint--Not even a new commercial? Lame.
Toyota--Again a re-run commercial.
Priceline--I like the priceline commercial
Overstock--Carlos Boozer Commercial for Overstock is cute
Universal Orlando--Rerun from pregame
NBC Commercial--LMAO Syndrome--Funny NBC commerical and educates older folks.
Pueblo Bank--Wow. I didnt know there would be local commercials this early. Especially from a bank.
Taco Bell--Nothing too knew
Hallenbeck Coin Gallery--Must be cheaper rate now. Another cheap local commercial.
1st bank--Identity theft commercial is one of the best so far.

Live Blogging Super Bowl Commercials--First Half

First Break After Kickoff
Beer commerical--The budget cutting commercial where they cant get rid of the beer for meetings. Ok, but overly formulaic.
Dan Brown movie "Angels and Demons"--Typical movie commercial. Kinda want to see the movie though.
Audi commerical--Interesting how they give nods to other European vehicles, and then show their vehicle as the evolution of all european cars

Second Break After Kickoff
Pepsi commercial--This was a fun commercial. I enjoyed the Wycliffe Jean/Bob Dylan mindmeld stuff. Not sure what they were saying about Pepsi except it is a multigenerational beverage
Doritoes--Crystal Ball--Loved this commercial with the snow globe crystal ball. I thought the broken vending machine was funny enough, but when the boss got a snowglobe thrown at his crotch--well that was funny right there.

Third Break After Kickoff
Bud Light--Conan doing the Swedish commercial. Lame, but very Conan.
Crackle.com--online movie with Jack Black. Is this an ad for a movie that is only online. I don't get it. This commercial worked. I had to look up the movie to know what it was about. An online movie service. Hmmmm. Worth the money for them, but not that fun to watch the commercial.
Toyota Venza-Boring commerical. Interesting how the foriegn cars are taking advantage of American car weakness during the Superbowl.

Fourth Break After Kickoff
Mr. Potatoe Head/Bridgestone--What man cannot relate to Mr. Potato Head's joy when her lips go falling down the hill. Funny stuff.
Fast and Furious Commercial--Looks like another good movie.
Grease Monkeys--Castrol Edge commerical. Quirky funny but predictable goofiness. Monkeys have been done before.

Fifth Break After Kickoff
Will Ferrell--Land of the Lost--Another decent movie. A little funny looking. A family movie perhaps?
Doritoes--girls clothes flying off. Money flying everywhere. Man dies. Very funny. Go to their website they say to watch them again. Again driving toward website.
Go Daddy. Com--Racy as usual. This time they refer people to their website for potential porn. Smart business stategy.

Sixth Commercial Break After Kickoff
Pepsi-Slapstick Comedy. I'm good. The Diet Cola for men. Good commercial
Dog Adoption drive--fun smart commercial. Loved it.
Budweiser--horse wanting a treat to.

Seventh Commercial Break After Kickoff
Budweiser--horses again? Horese runnning to get to his one true love.
Movie--New Star Track prequel. Very poorly done. Preview in the movie theater was better.

Eighth Commercial Break After Kickoff
G--Gatorade. Why is Gatorade marketing itself as G? Is it going to help me relate more to it? Is it trying to get credibility with the hip hop crowd? Seems silly.
Cars.com commercial--this wont be everyone's favorite. But...I thought it was really well done. Emphathizes with everyone's struggle on getting a good price on a car. Says that it is every man's concern. Hope they use it more and more.

Ninth Commercial Break After Kickoff
Hyundai Commercial is good. Has a sense of humor about its name. "Hyandai. Like Sunday." Again not an American car commercial.
Etrade--the friend is cute. Jenny loves the etrade babies.

Tenth Commerical Break After Kickoff
Disney/Pixar--Up. Looks interesting.
Bud Light--Drinkability. Ok commercial. But not great.

Eleventh Commercial Break After Kickoff
H and R Block--This is pretty funny. Death needing parking validation?
Teleflora Commerical--This is good. I loved this commercial. Very funny. And makes me afraid of sending flowers in a box.

Twelth Commercial Break After Kickoff
Cheetos--I love the Evil Cheetah. This quiet revenge stuff the evil cheetah leads people in, this passive-agressive tension, is brilliant.