Tag Archives: rough patches

Faith, Trust, Doubt, and Hope

Click here to listen to the sermon that came from the following notes.

There are times when God leads you to a passage and you just wonder why God had to lead you there. This week we are going to look at Jesus’ interactions with people bringing someone they cared about to him for healing. The first story is that of a Roman Centurion with an ill servant.

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Luke 8:5-13

  • A loaded question. Purity rules, entering a gentiles house.
  • Centurion’s respect for culture – humility.
  • Centurion’s faith shows that the kingdom is offered to all, not just the “chosen race.”
  • Just being born into the right family doesn’t guarantee us a relationship with God. We must pursue it.

The next story is from the gospel of Mark 9:14-27 and is a much different circumstance involving a Father who has watched their child suffer for many years.

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. 16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. 17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

  • Failure is to be expected.
  • Disciples like us don’t always know the best way to approach a situation.
  • The only real failure for us is to not take things to Jesus, so maybe there isn’t a failure here after all.
  • “If you can?” vs. “If you will?”
  • Worn down faith needs Jesus, not judgment. Doubt is natural and can be the catalyst for deeper faith. Talk about my struggle with faith re:Analise.
  • Key element to both stories: humility.
  • Let us come before God together to seek his will in humility, but with Hope that our Father will act.

Jesus Came To…?

Click here to listen to the sermon that came from these notes.

This week we celebrate the coming of Jesus, not only into this world, but into our hearts and lives. Jesus was born to an unwed pregnant teenager in an impoverished town under the brutal oppression of the Roman Empire. Jesus was born to a people that were considered insignificant and lived out many of the nightmares faced by the global poor in his earliest years. Jesus did not come in the way anyone expected him to, and yet the impact of this unexpected coming, teaching, death and resurrection has altered the way the world works. God’s intervention had truly come. Last week, we ended with an open worship in which we shared some ways that Jesus came to us and intervened in our lives. It is interesting that all of those ways fit in with the mission statement that Jesus used to describe the reason for his coming.

17 The synagogue attendant gave Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and Jesus unrolled it to the place where Isaiah had written these words:

18 The Spirit of the Lord the Eternal One is on Me.

Why? Because the Eternal designated Me

to be His representative to the poor, to preach good news to them.

He sent Me to tell those who are held captive that they can now be set free,

and to tell the blind that they can now see.

He sent Me to liberate those held down by oppression.

19 In short, the Spirit is upon Me to proclaim that now is the time;

this is the jubilee season of the Eternal One’s grace.[f]

20 Jesus rolled up the scroll and returned it to the synagogue attendant. Then He sat down, as a teacher would do, and all in the synagogue focused their attention on Jesus, waiting for Him to speak. 21 He told them that these words from the Hebrew Scriptures were being fulfilled then and there, in their hearing.

22 At first everyone was deeply impressed with the gracious words that poured from Jesus’ lips. Everyone spoke well of Him and was amazed that He could say these things.

 

  • It didn’t last long. Jesus declared God’s grace on all humankind and that was offensive.
  • Isaiah to Jesus the space between.
  • The Spirit of God is the source of Jesus power. Fully human fully God tension.
  • This Spirit worked through him for The Divine Purpose.
  • Good news to the poor. Freedom to those held captive. Sight to the blind. Liberation for the oppressed.
  • The significance of the jubilee.
  • The fulfillment has begun and now we are part of the fulfillment of God’s Promises.

 

Let me encourage you again to remember the ways the gift of God’s son has impacted and changed your life. During our time of open worship take the first five minutes to remind yourself of the ways God has been active in your life and consider what ways God may be leading you to be the agent of His promises of redemption in the lives of those around you.

Oh Come Emmanuel

Click here to listen to the sermon that arose from the following notes.

The time period that inspired O Come, O Come Emmanuel was a turbulent one. Spain, Portugal and North Africa had fallen to the Moors, the Vikings were marauding in the North, and East, even going so far as attacking Constantinople in what is now Turkey. The Roman Empire was continuing its disintegration and it was during this century that feudalism came into existence in France. Things were looking grim from the East to the West, from the North to the South, and it is no wonder that Christians looked to the time of the coming of Jesus with longing.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel is a synthesis of the great “O Antiphons” that are used for Vespers during the octave before Christmas (Dec. 17-23). These antiphons are of ancient origin, dating back to at least the ninth century. It is interesting to note that the initial words of the actual antiphons in reverse order form an acrostic: O Emmanuel, O Rex, O Oriens, O Clavis, O Radix (“virgula” in the hymn), O Adonai, O Sapientia. ERO CRAS can be loosely translated as “I will be there tomorrow”.[i]

In this chanted response we hear the call to the Messiah to bring light into the darkness. (Sing Veni Veni, Emmanuel)

In the early first century things were grim for Israel. The Romans had brutally suppressed every uprising and it felt like no one had heard from God’s prophets for a long time. The Jews were starting to fragment, with many schisms and different voices competing for religious dominance. Most Jews tried to keep to themselves and not get caught up in the religious arguments going on around them while struggling to survive under the burdens of oppression. But God had not abandoned his people! (Story of Zacharias and Elizabeth. Z Chosen by lot to enter temple, disbelieved and was unable to speak after expressing disbelief, wife accepted blessing with joy, at birth of John he was able to speak again and said.)

Zacharias: May the Lord God of Israel be blessed indeed!

For God’s intervention has begun,

and He has moved to rescue us, the people of God.

69     And the Lord has raised up a powerful sign of liberation for us

from among the descendants of God’s servant, King David.

70     As was prophesied through the mouths of His holy prophets in ancient times:

71     God will liberate us from our enemies

and from the hand of our oppressors![e]

72-74     God will show mercy promised to our ancestors,

upholding the abiding covenant He made with them,

Remembering the original vow He swore to Abraham,

from whom we are all descended.

God will rescue us from the grasp of our enemies

so that we may serve Him without fear all our days

75     In holiness and justice, in the presence of the Lord.

76     And you, my son, will be called the prophet of the Most High.

For you will be the one to prepare the way for the Lord[f]

77     So that the Lord’s people will receive knowledge of their freedom

through the forgiveness of their sins.

78     All this will flow from the kind and compassionate mercy of our God.

A new day is dawning: the Sunrise from the

heavens will break through in our darkness,

79     And those who huddle in night,

those who sit in the shadow of death,

Will be able to rise and walk in the light,[g]

guided in the pathway of peace.

 

  • The turbulence of our time.
  • God’s intervention has begun.
  • God will rescue and redeem.
  • Rescued and redeemed for holiness and justice. Live holy lives dedicated to justice.
  • Knowledge of freedom comes from forgiveness of sin. Who are we showing God’s freedom to?
  • God’s new day is one ruled by compassion and mercy.
  • When we live out the compassion and mercy of God, we reflect his light into the valleys of the shadow of death and guide others into the pathways of peace.
  • God’s intervention has begun, are we ready to take our place in his plan of redemption?

 

[i] Martin, Michael W. Treasury of Latin Prayers. 1998-2014. http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/VeniEmm.html (accessed 12 11, 2014).

Bearing Good Fruit

Click here to listen to the sermon that came from these notes.

As we get into the tail end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is becoming more emphatic and is speaking to a broader reality. He has given some very specific instruction, and now is giving the disciples some warnings about what they are going to encounter when the training ends and their time of service begins. Last week we heard Phil speak to the reality that the world around us makes it easy to follow paths that lead away from God and the truth of who and what we have been gifted to be. This week, Jesus addresses how to spot those who are luring us to the easy path for their own ends.

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20

  • Agrarian society. How wolves hunt.
  • The two types of wolfishness.
    1. Fear wolf. Throws the acorn at Chicken Little.
    2. No worries wolf. Prosperity, God just wants us to be happy and succesful.
  • The wolves play off of each other for mutual benefit.
  • Wolves are identified by behaviors that benefit them at others’ expense.
  • The fruit we are looking for is fruit that is benefiting others and building them up.
  • Paul in Galatians gives very similar teaching, reiterating what Jesus calls us to look for.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:13-23

  • There are no qualifying statements. One of the ways we can identify wolfish thoughts in ourselves is when we feel the need to qualify these characteristics and make exceptions.
  • Jesus’ way is focused on others and how we can serve, and that is a narrow gate and a narrow path indeed. Let us ask God to give us wisdom in recognizing the messages of self-gratification that are used to entice us from His path and for the grace to confront ourselves when we give in to wolfish thoughts..

The Judgment Distortion

(Click here to download if autoplay is not working.)

Author’s note: I am switching things up a bit in that most of my post is audio and the words are my notes that I used to prompt myself. In my speaking I have decided to write out matters of introduction, then allow the Spirit to lead my speech. I would love to hear any feedback on how that went.

Gil

Today we are going to look at two teachings, one from the Sermon on the Mount and one from Paul’s letter to the Romans. One of the things I love about studying the scriptures is that when done prayerfully I pick up on themes and connections that I would normally miss and today we are going to talk about judgment. I am not talking about decision making here, but about passing judgment on how somebody else missed the mark. Being an armchair quarterback for someone else’s life usually doesn’t go over well. Jesus just finished cautioning his disciples on not putting up a pious front in public to appear more holy and now he takes them one step further down the path of self-examination.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

Paul in the beginning of Romans runs down a long list of the specks and planks he saw active through his travels in the Roman Empire, especially among those who ruled, speaking of how the idolatry he witnessed led to all kinds of debauchery, lust, and greed. After running down the laundry list of what ways people missed the mark when their aim was on something other than God, he addresses the Christians living in the heart of the fully corrupt empire with these words:

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 1:28-2:4

  1. The danger of what appears to be true about someone else. (Story about friend.)
  2. Work on our issues first, because often our issues cloud our perception and distort our vision.
  3. The rebound effect of judgment.
  4. Kindness and not judgment leads to repentance.

Don’t Worry? Really?

(I am changing the way I preach, so for the full text you will need to listen to the audio file. Below are the notes I made to preach from.)

Click here to listen.

Today, I am preaching a sermon on not worrying while I am worrying about my daughter. It is one thing to trust Jesus for my future and rely on God to provide for me, but there is something about looking at that little face and hearing her cries of fear and distress, that challenges my ability to trust God to provide for her. Intellectually I understand that God’s love for her is deeper than mine ever could be, but when those we love are in danger our intellect usually gets pushed out of the driver’s seat. Here is the strange piece though: as much as I am afraid and worried there is still a comfort that comes from knowing that others are praying and from having my feet planted on the firm foundation before the current storm of life rose up. That is what Jesus is doing here in the Sermon on the Mount, he is laying a foundation for His disciples to stand on when the storms come. He said to his disciples:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 5:25-34

Let’s do a quick recap of the Sermon on the Mount to put what we just read in context. Jesus had just called the disciples and saw the large crowds already beginning to form. He pulled the disciples aside and began to teach them by turning the expectations on good attitudes upside down. Jesus base level foundation was that God especially blessed the people who were going through tough times, didn’t have it all together, and knew they needed outside help to make it. He then told them that they were blessed to be persecuted for living by different priorities. Jesus then confronted the disciples with the need to practice our piety in ways that glorify God, not in ways that glorify self. Then in teaching them to pray gives them a simple prayer designed to align themselves with God’s agenda rather than get more stuff out of God. He then taught the disciples that putting God’s priorities first means that their loyalties cannot be divided between God and anything else. Only God is worthy of our loyalty and praise. Anything else, no matter how seemingly helpful is a distraction. Two weeks ago we looked at the distraction of material wealth and the ways that can divide our loyalty from God. That is the extent of what I have scripted for this week as the aforementioned distraction kicked in for another hospital run. I still felt led to speak on this scripture this week that God would give me the right words when I came to speak.

  • Don’t worry vs. don’t worry about.
    1. Mental illness – beyond control
    2. Specifics not generalities
  • Food worry
  • Clothes worry
  • Kingdom priority
  • Worry about the future

None of these teachings of Jesus is something we can do on our own, they require two things: the Holy Spirit to transform us and other followers of Jesus to carry us when we can’t take another step.

When Trusting God is Hard

I wanted to post a reflection yesterday, but I took my almost two year old to a pediatric cardiologist. My little one has given us quite the scare, and now is the time when my faith is tested the most. It is easy to trust God for myself, always has been. Going through the trauma of hospitalization and a congenital heart defect in my baby…the trust is a little harder to employ. I find myself asking the usual questions that parents must ask in these situations and wondering why.

I find it very hard to trust when it is my baby that is in danger, and this is one of those times when we dig out the lament Psalms and ask God why again. I answer back to the voice that comes from Job’s whirlwind saying “How dare you ask?” with “Because I love.” God replies, “Me too, just wanting to make sure you remember why you ask.” I don’t have any answers. The limbo state when we are still going through tests, waiting for results, and hoping the meds actually help is the hardest. Having definitive answers and a plan of action can be so much less troubling, but that isn’t where I am yet. I still worry.

Having to trust and trusting are two very different things. When I have to trust, it is because that trust is being challenged and something is happening that feels like the trust may be broken or misplaced. Now, this might come as a bit of a shock, but pastors doubt too. (We might even doubt more if we are isolated.) Right now, I echo the cry of the parent who came to Jesus seeking healing for his child “I believe! Help my unbelief.” My well of emotional energy has run dry and this means that I have to depend on others to believe for me. This is why it is so crucial for us to have honest faith communities around us. There are times when our well runs dry and we need to go borrow water from someone whose well is full.

I share with you the queries that are in my spirit and hope you can sit with them as a way to prepare yourself for challenging times. So take a few minutes and write out your responses and please revisit these questions to keep your mind up to date on the answers.

Who can you rely on when your emotional, physical, or spiritual wells run dry? What practices are life giving or recharging to you?

I hope you never have to face into the fires of doubt and fear, but you probably will and I am here if you need me.

Gil