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His Church, His Mission and Us! 

Community is breaking down in society.  What seems to have replaced true communities are loose collections of individuals that have similar interests in sport, career, political or social areas.  Marriage has broken down and so family life has eroded which in turn has weakened communities. The spiritual dimension of life has been all but lost to most.  Many complain about the lack of  meaning in their lives but don’t know what’s missing.

Community is all about life, living and passing what’s good from one generation to the next.  It’s done by moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts, friends and relatives.   It’s done by all these loving people growing and maturing together at different rates but always in the same direction – towards strengthening their ties to one another and to God.  This is the wisdom of community.family in HIs Hands

Without God none of it works or lasts because God designed and created men and women;  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)  God defined marriage and so formed the basis of family; “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)  And we all know that the wreck of the first family; Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel resulted from a breakdown of their relationship with God culminating in horrific domestic violence; “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  (Genesis 4:7)  Without God things fly apart because no one is accountable to anyone for their actions.

godly community tetrahedronWe have talked about the marriage triangle with Jesus at one point and husband and wife at the other two.  We see that as each spouse draws closer to Jesus, husband and wife draw closer to each other. We have looked at the basic shape of community that church brings basic family into –  Husband, wife and church in a triangle of community relationship.  This relationship can be sacred or worldly depending on the church’s connection to God which isn’t necessarily part of the structure.  Some churches are so social in nature that God and His Word is in second place at best.tetrahedron_community

How do these relationships fit together because a true community – a church community must have God as part of the structure.  We don’t immediately see that in the Church, husband and wife triangle – something is missing.  And that’s because each depiction is a two-dimensional map giving only a partial picture of the reality.  Just as a flat map of our country doesn’t show Canada  in relation to the world we need a three-dimensional figure –  a globe! – And  by adding another dimension in  this case – a spiritual  one we get a figure made of four triangles – like the crystal structure of your diamond rings – the toughest substance known to human science in nature.  We  celebrate the marriage relationship with this remarkable gem.  Notice it is the individuals(the other two triangular relationships – husband/church/Jesus and wife/church/Jesus) – who establish Jesus in the church not the other way around.  After all a church isn’t a building it’s people!

Godless Community and the church:

If we remove Jesus, we just  have a carnal horizontal community not so different from social clubs.  Without a spiritual connection to Jesus Christ the church community flattens to a humanistic religiosity.  This would be a worldly kind of church and so would be either very weak prone to flying apart or very cult-like clenching people in it so tightly, always on the brink of imploding. Scripture tells us such communities do exist.  They can be formed around self-righteous religiosity or cheap-grace permissiveness.

Jesus nailed the scribes and Pharisees for their demanding grasping religion; “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see.”  (Matthew 23:2-5)  Man-made rules and fake religiosity just won’t work because they are Godless.

Hosea confronted the religious establishment of his day for abandoning God and letting everything fly apart; “The more priests there were, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful. . . .  And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. ‘They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not flourish, because they have deserted the Lord’” (Hosea 4:7-10).  Permissiveness and a casual attitude to God and His Word always results in things flying apart no matter how ‘seeker friendly’ we become by trying to compromise on Biblical principles.the dire reality

This bigger picture also shows the reality of our situation.  Scripture tells that in Christ Jesus we are now at odds with the world and it’s ruler  – the devil; “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:1-2)  There is a war on in the heavenly realms; “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Ephesians 6:12) And the church is at the battle front; “His purpose was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”  (Ephesians 3:10)  We are at war!

The Church cannot make peace with the world any more than the soldiers in an army can make individual peace with the enemy army.  Only our Commander-in-Chief, only Jesus has the authority to heal the earth and bring His Peace to us; “. . . 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.”  (Philippians 2:10-11)

friendsenemiesThose that would have us believe that we can make our world better by being on friendly terms with it ignore Scripture; “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)  It’s not about numbers, attracting members or planting more churches – it’s about God and His people!  Our battle is to bring the Gospel message to the world by being the community of faith that Jesus has called us to be;  “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15,16)

Challenging times are coming.  Our sense of community under Jesus will be openly challenged by the world. Every denial of Jesus either by diminishing Scripture or His leadership in the church, works to remove His strength in our community, marriages and church.  Our mission is to defend the faith we have in Jesus by proclaiming His Gospel boldly.   We can accept our mission in this battle or not. But it won’t go away.  We must choose; “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve:  . . .  but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”   (Joshua 24:15)

Who will you serve?

The work of the Cross – what holds us back!

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We are Christians yet, often we don’t live like the work of the Cross is finished.  And it is.  Jesus said; “It is finished!”  Why are there times when we live like we’re finished?

Most everybody has a video library these days with lots of movies that we love.  And we watch our favourite movies over and over again.  My wife and I have a copy of Chevy Chase’s Christmas vacation that we watch every year.  Some movies we watch so many times we can say the dialogue off by heart – ‘Help me Obi Wan Kanobi you’re my only hope!’  We dote on these movies and memorize many  wonderful lines – eagerly reliving the experience by speaking these famous lines; ‘Use the force Luke!

yourwordisalamptomyfeet_bibleWhat about God’s Word?  Do we ‘dote’ on the Bible?  Do we love to read it every season of the year – every day of the year.  How many lines of scripture do you memorize and re-enforce your faith by speaking them daily?  Do you know that Jesus  promised to live with us 24/7 –  if we love Him and keep His Word; “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”  (John 14:23)  If there’s little or no room for God’s Word in our house during the week why would we expect Him to be with us on a daily basis?  And why would we expect to meet up with Him in church on Sunday?  If Jesus is a stranger in our home, He’s a stranger to us here on Sunday! The more you get to know His Word the more you get to know Him.  How do I know that – because He said so!  How do I know that He’s as good as His Word? Because when I keep His Word in my living room Jesus is right there with me! Jesus never holds me back.

Sometimes in the middle of the night I’ll get up because I can’t sleep.  Often worries and anxieties will creep into my mind and disturb my peace.  So I’ll get up.  I try not to disturb my wife’s sleep but quite often I’ll be sneaking around in the dark and stub my toe or trip over something.  Crash! Everybody is awake now!  I’ve learned to keep a little flash light by my bed.  If anxiety or worry keeps me from sleeping or disturbs my sleep, I quietly reach for my little light to keep me from stumbling.  When worry drives me to God’s Word which is the Light of my life I know where my help is and I know the way through it.  The Bible tells us; “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  (Psalm 119:105)

When life gets dark and things press in on us do we ‘turn on the light of His Word’?  Or do we stumble around in the dark – stubbing our toes and disturbing our loved ones peace and that of our neighbours?  The prayer of the Psalmist should be our prayer; “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.”  (Psalm 119:106,107)  Walking in the newness of life is walking in faith believing God’s word; “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  (2 Corinthians 5:7)dl-mood-family

You can live in fear – walk in fear by staying in the dark and not turning on the light of God’s Word  in your life or you can walk in faith and live by faith; “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)  How wonderful a life of depending on God is if we just take Him at His Word and walk in it; “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  God will never walk away from you but you can walk away from God through your own grudges, covetousness and discontent!

Finally, do you hang on to grudges?  Do you hold your resentments closer to your heart than God?  This is the sneakiest and deadliest from of idolatry because when we feel we’ve been wronged, let down or abandoned we are certain that nobody has ever been as badly hurt as we have –  not even Jesus!  Isaiah knew different, he saw Jesus clearly; “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;  Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”  Jesus was wronged by you and by me and by everybody.  Did He nurse a grudge or want to make us pay for what we did?   No! He paid the price for our sins so that we might live.

For many this deadly idolatry of self over God is holds them back from an abundant life now and eternally.  Jesus tells us you must forgive; “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”  (Matthew 6:14,15)  What are you holding on to that is killing you?  If you’re nursing a grudge and have an unforgiving heart there’s no way God will nurse you back to health and life no matter how often you show up on Sunday.  It’s not because God doesn’t want to.  It’s because your pride, anger and resentment blocks His Grace and healing.  God will not force himself upon you.  Nor will He approach unholy pride, hatred and seething resentment – we need repentance and Jesus to overcome our shortcomings.

face_to_face_by_recepgulec-600x395Let us ask God to show us what’s holding us back.  He will honor that prayer; “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit”  (Psalm 51:10-12).

Amen!

The work of the Cross – what’s holding us back?

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We live in an incredible reality.  Two thousand years ago an event occurred that changed the fundamental nature of the world and changed everything for us.  God did a work that shook the bedrock of the universe and tore apart all the barriers that stood between us and Him ; “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,  and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;  and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”  (Matthew 27:50-53)   The work of the cross defeated Satan’s hold over us!  Do we live like the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom and the dead are raised? Do we walk as saints in the world and appear to many?  Or do we just appear like many  in the world around us?  If so, what’s holding us back?

romans-6_34-walk-in-newnes-of-lifeThe apostle Paul lays it out; “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3,4)  What does that mean for us?  It means we are not what we were before we came to Jesus; “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.”  (Romans 6:5-7)  We are free of sin and ‘should walk in the newness of life’.  We ‘should’ but do we?

And that means our lives ‘should’ change.  Here on Sunday inside the church building­ and outside the church building – as the  body of Christ –  in our daily lives; “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”  (Romans 6:12-14) ­­­ This presentation is worship 24/7 and if you miss the mark Monday thru Saturday, you’ll miss the mark on Sunday – no matter how good you may look in your ‘Sunday best’.  When I miss the mark during the week I bring that brokenness with me to church. I can hide it or I can admit it and ask Jesus to heal me.   This is the calling we are called to.  Thank you Jesus for grace and Your strength that allows us to get up when we fall down!

God sees deeper than your clothes.  We are all naked before Him!  Do we live like that on Sunday?  Do we live like that on Wednesday – or any day?  Remember how happy kids are in the summer by the beach, running around screeching with joy with nothing on but their swim trunks.  Where is that joy in our lives – that ‘newness of life’? Somewhere along the way we lost it yet it is ours and we can find it again!  If you’re like me sometimes it’s a struggle just trying to act it out to look good.  And not only does God see right through it but most everybody else does too!  What’s dragging us down?  What’s holding us back?  Jesus said; “It is finished!”  (John 19:28-30)  Why do we often live like we’re finished?  It isn’t right! And we don’t have to live that way.

cross_with_deliverance-245101756_stdThe work of His Cross brings Joy, praise, and beauty back into our lives. Jesus came to the Cross;”. . . To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3) The first step is to just praise Him, lift His name up high even if you’re the lowest you’ve ever been!

Here is the Gospel Good News: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28-30)

We can dance and be glad again again because; ‘It is finished!’

Praise the Lord!

Seeing past the brokenness to God

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How we see God is influenced by how we see ourselves. Brokenness and trauma creates its own kind of blindness that can only be remedied  by healing and connecting with what we were before the pain.  Bringing the whole person through the trauma into the present opens our eyes and we can see Goodness and love again.

W. Tozer said; “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he, at a given time, may say or do, but what he, in his deep heart, conceives God to be like”

Our real view of God is often hidden by what we think we should say.  We say what we would like Him to be like and rarely do we reflect on what we really believe He is like.    We wonder why we have difficulty recognizing God all the while never really recognizing what hinders us from seeing Him.

For some time now the Holy Spirit has been telling me that I have to go on another journey.  It’s to a place I don’t want to go – to my past.  You see, I lost track of someone in the past and I can’t connect with him.  The Holy Spirit says it’s time to re-connect.  Years ago as a child we parted company.  Because of some very traumatic experiences at school and at home I left him behind.  Now as an adult I hardly recognize him in old school pictures.  Unease and avoidance circle in the dark fringes of my recollection of this little person and I don’t know why because – he was me!tony001

My wife found a picture of me as a small child and put it up on my night table.  I didn’t like to look at my picture so I would lay the picture face down at night only to find my wife putting it up again.  Finally I took the picture and put it away and said to my wife – don’t put the picture up anymore I don’t like to look at it.  She couldn’t understand why.  And the truth be told – either could I.  I just couldn’t seem to connect with the child in the picture.

When the Holy Spirit told me that I was to make this journey I was puzzled.  I have done a lot of work on my past and I thought it was done.  Yet, it isn’t done ‘till God says it’s done’.  Now the Spirit tells me that how I see God today is intimately connected with this little individual that was me. Yet I  hardly recognize him today and why should that hold me back from connecting with God?     This was the question I pondered in the writing of this message.  Why can’t I connect with this child and why does he make me uneasy.  Too many ‘whys’?

God has shown me very gently that I’m uneasy because this little guy sees God differently from the way I do.  I remember that he just wanted to be loved and feel safe.  He loved everything  and  was no threat to anyone.  I remember when he learned that some people hated him.  I remember his fear when he realized that he wasn’t safe.  A hard and broken world, changes a child, kills his innocence and takes his trust.

I remember how he saw God. He just loved Jesus and so expected the world to be loving.  He felt safe with God and expected safety all around him.  He would just run to Jesus with arms wide open; “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.’”  (Matthew 18:2-5)  For this little guy, he truly was in his Father’s world  until this broken world intruded – what a haunting scripture passage this has now become to me.

And in the times when his innocence was trampled and taken, I remember his confusion and fear.  I came to be out of that confusion and fear.  It made me the man I was to become – a man with lots of armor – the wrong kind of armor.  This broken sinful world can transform  a child of innocence into a child of fear who then grows into  an adulthood of anger and cynicism.   And the Holy Spirit wants me to go back to those moments?!!!  To confront what I was and lost – to confront what I became, struggled against and only overcome by Jesus?  Why?

Why return – because you can’t leave your child behind – that child born in the fear and confusion and the man he came to be has to be set free together – free of the chains of bondage of his deepest fears and resentments towards others and God.  These resentments cloud his vision and hinder his path to righteousness and peace with God!  These confusions create the toxic dark doubts that press in even though the light of the Holy Spirit burns at the centre of my heart.  Why was I and why am I unlovable, bad and not worthwhile?  Where were you God, when I got bullied and beat up on the playground FOR YEARS?  Where were you God, when my mother and father lost my oldest brother in a horrible fire and couldn’t get over the pain of that loss?  Where were you God in a family broken by tragedy and MADE RAGGED BY GRIEF AND LOSS?

Those deep hidden confusions and resentments create a belief in such lies that sometimes God isn’t there for you and you don’t deserve His protection.  Lies that  you’re not worthy of a loving, powerful God’s  protection.   Such lies forced upon a child by a cruel and indifferent world exert a powerful  influence on the adult he becomes.   Remember, I confessed that I in the past I didn’t trust God with my children – I now know in my spirit where that came from.  And to know the truth as revealed in Christ Jesus is to be set free from the lies of our past.   (John 8:32)

The heart cry ,‘Where were you . . .’, is the cry of a child who has suffered and lost in a fallen world and had his security dashed to pieces.  It can happen to anyone at any stage of life because everyone carries their little child inside of themselves.  It happened to Martha when her brother Lazarus died; Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21)  No matter how we say we have moved on and beyond our past – that child cannot be left behind – he must be rescued and redeemed – it’s a package deal and God does heal all wounds. What is revealed by the Holy Spirit to our spirit is the beginning and basis of all true healing.  We must be open to His leading in our lives, even when He takes us to places we don’t want to go.

A childlike trust and dependence on God is essential to our spiritual growth and maturation.  The childish belief that the world we live in should be fair and we are entitled to only good things creates the mistaken desire for protection rather than His Presence.  Jesus is always with us in our suffering,  He went ahead of us into it and by his wounds and cuts we are healed; “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken , smitten of God, and afflicted .  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed .  All we like sheep have gone astray ; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”( Isaiah 53:4-6)

Jesus said; “. . . in Me you may have peace. In the world you will  have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  That is why Jesus said; ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18:2)  However buried childish resentments against God and the resulting disbelief holds us back from recognizing who God really is and how He does have us in the palm of His hands.  Such childish hurts and attitudes must be revealed by the Holy Spirit and the wounds that caused them must be healed – this is God’s work in us;  “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.   Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11,12)

What is the face of God – what is God really like.  What did Martha see when she cried out to Jesus – ‘if only You had been here . . , ?’  Jesus, the Word made flesh, assured her and had to ask; “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26)  I now know in my heart that only eyes that are opened in childlike trust in God can see who He really is.  And the journey of holiness, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, is to recover that sight.  Today is the day of salvation for that little child that was me long ago.  I am not out of God’s protective reach – I never was and I never will be!  His presence in my life is my protection!  He was always with me and never abandoned me.  The power of the lie is broken and the child is rescued!

When we truly see Jesus, we will see ourselves and where we stand; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . , in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:35-39)  Amen!

Letting Go

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Let us take a look at what Jesus in his sermon on the mount (Matt. 5: 3- 12), teaches about life and letting go.   After each verse I will give what my NIV study bible offers by way of explanation.  The NIV Study Bible expresses each condition  in the first person and talks about where you have come to, to receive this each blessing [1].  In each case you will see that a spiritual blessing entails the letting go of a worldly concern and accepting a reality that may not be pleasant or flattering.

 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I have come to the place where I feel accepted by God, when I feel most unacceptable to myself.  I recognize my need for God and know that I do not have to earn His Love with wealth, status or spiritual sophistication.

 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

I have come to the place where I can really feel the empty places in my life.  I can let others know when I am hurting and share the grief of others without embarrassment.  I can weep, like Jesus did.

 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

I have come to the place where I don’t have to be the strong one all the time.  I can be tender and gentle with people.  I’ve given the control of my life to God and I don’t have to “win” all the time.

 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

I have come to the place where I want to know God and His will for my life more than anything.  I am more excited about God’s will for the world than my own financial gain, success in my career, or acceptance by my peers.  I long for God’s perspective in my decision – making.

 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

I have come to the place where I can enter into the feelings of someone who is hurting lonely, or distressed and feel alongside them in their pain.  God has given me a sensitivity for the suffering of others.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

I have come to the place where I can be completely open and honest with God and others – transparent because I have nothing to hide.  I don’t have to put on “airs”, or pretend to be what I’m not.

 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

 I have come to the place where I really work at keeping the channels of communication open between me and those around me.  I deal with anger and disagreements immediately and don’t allow them to fester.  I encourage those around me to work out their differences without hurting one another.

 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

I have come to the place where I now what I am living for, and for this cause I am not afraid to suffer and, if need be , die.  I am willing to “take the heat” and stand alone for what is right.  I can take criticism without feeling self-pity or self righteousness.

 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven …[2]

The Beatitudes are blessings within reach but only through the Grace of Christ.  They frame what can be through a life of faith and letting go of the material world.  Imagine what a beautiful place our world will be when this becomes a reality for all.

Jesus explains very clearly- we have a choice that cannot be avoided.   He states:

No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the otehr.  You cannot serve both God and Money.[3]

The choice is crystal clear: The Beatitudes by Faith or the world by love of money an all that money stands for.  The NIV study bible shows a vision of the kind of people that we can become when we accept the blessings of Christ and strive to follow Him.

I will conclude with George Eliot’s sad and poignant vision of a life given to money.  Her description of Silas Marner in her beautiful book Silas Marner is a warning and lesson to us all:

The light of his faith quite put out, and his affections made desolate, he had clung with all the force of his nature to his work and his money; and like all objects to which a man devotes himself, they had fashioned him into correspondence with themselves. …  His gold, as he hung over it and saw it grow, gathered his power of loving together into a hard isolation like its own.[4]

Let us close with a prayer attributed to Sir Francis Drake in 1577:

 Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we have dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

 

Disturb us, Lord, when

With the abundance of things we possess

We have lost the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the new Heaven to dim.

 

Disturb us, lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wider seas

Where storms will show your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

 

We ask You to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push into the future

In strength, courage, hope and love.

Thank you

the conclusion of a sermon given in Sept 2005


[1]           NIV Study Bible; p. 1245

[2]           Matt. 5: 1 – 12

[3]           Matt. 6: 24

[4]           George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) , Silas Marner 1861,  p. 46

Living by Faith

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How do we live a good life in today’s world.  Who do we listen to for advice and help?  Where can we go for affirmation?  How can we find our way?

Today, the lineups  for hospital  beds and medical procedures, school closures, bad water and tainted meat scandals show all to clearly the “morality and ethics” of the champions of the new global reality.  How many leaders claiming to show the way have ended up impaled upon their own character flaws and arrogance.   Fiscal and moral bankruptcies abound.  People have become frantic because the more they guzzle the tonic of easy solutions,  the deeper and sharper their thirst becomes.  Bloated materially and languishing spiritually, many stagger and their suffering is great.  The frantic yearly Christmas shopping rush is a sad testimony to our impoverished state.

This impoverishment is not a new condition of mankind.  Thoreau in the 1800’s observed:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.  From the desperate city you [go] into the desperate country,…   A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.[1]

Have you ever felt a quiet desperation -perhaps, in traffic, at work, in the Christmas rush, or in the silence of your own worries and pain late at night?  Are our souls so beset with the watery bloat of material wants and concerns that our will cannot move us to a more courageous way of life? I can’t speak for your soul but I will admit that this is a condition that causes me suffering and anguish.  I’m left, to envy and aspire to the bravery of the mink and muskrat.

Thoreau, went on to poise a universal question: “When we consider what, … , is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other.  Yet they honestly think there is no choice left.”[2]

For Thoreau, there are many choices and alternatives to quiet desperation.   People just need the courage to explore and seek them out.   On this point I disagree with him.  As a Christian, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  With Jesus, we can escape the life of quiet desperation.   With Christ we can live free and become what God intended us to be.

Jesus, in His Grace and Mercy teaches us not to worry about the necessaries of life.

He urges us in Matthew 6: 25 – 34:

… 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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  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?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes; See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.  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, O you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, what shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear?  For the pagons run after all these things , and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  BUT SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU AS WELL.  There fore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

However, we all know that  living free from the worry about tomorrow is easier said than done.  Seeking God’s Kingdom first before we worry about bills, kids and work just doesn’t seem realistic.  Jesus’s response was; – “O you of little faith”.

Thoreau, put it this way:

How vigilant we are! Determined not to live by faith if we can avoid it; all the day long on the alert, at night we unwillingly say our prayers and commit ourselves to uncertainties.  So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. [3]

When we move forward in Christ, seeking first the Kingdom of God as our faith grows we gradually abandon the worries about tomorrow.

Is this an easy process?  Not for me, and probably  not for you.  Quite often – Its scarey.  Paradoxically,  we make the most head way when life  knocks the wind out of us.  Usually, IT HURTS.

Faith is about growing and there are always growing pains and plenty of problems letting go of the baggage that keeps us overly focussed on tomorrow.   As we travel our spiritual path, letting go of our burdens, we also face a world that at best  has absolutely no comprehension of the faith journey.  At worst, we face powers and principalities that are openly and eternally hostile to our journey.  Without a doubt our journey will include run ins with both the uncomprehending world and Satan.  This is why I believe to the bottom of my soul that the spiritual journey can only be successfully completed through the Grace of Christ.

Without a doubt, our journey to the Kingdom of God, involves our becoming less and Christ becoming more in our soul’s centre. The concerns and worries about tomorrow often have to be knocked out of us.  What will we become after a life of letting go and seeking the Kingdom of God first?  Where will we “end up”?

How many of us, when life is good – cling to Jesus?  God in His mercy, has built into us, a tendency to cling to Him, when life is hard and painful?  In weakness we flock to Jesus.  And He takes our weakness and makes it a great strength.  Only the proud and arrogant refuse the lifeline to drown in a sea of stupidity.  The world, has a great deal of trouble understanding that a life of letting go of tomorrow’s concerns can lead to great blessings.   However the emptiness of the rat race is becomming evident to more and more people.  A while ago, I saw a poster in an office that pictured a whole group of rats in Nikes and stylish running  outfits racing around a track. It read the trouble with winning the rat race is that your still a rat.

Our lives can become so full with agendas, meetings, activities, commitments, parties, and appointments that our hands full and our arms are heaped up with concerns that we literally can’t see where we are going, in a spiritual way.  Common sense tells us that you can’t accept anything if your hands are full unless you put something down.

At our best, we can realize that our hands are too full to accept what God has for us.  But if you are like me, sadly and all to often, our hold on the worry about our daily bread causes us too cling tightly to let go of anything. The time of letting go comes with accidents, sickness, broken relationships, and strife.  When life’s events shock loose your tight hold on the little things.  Thankfully, Jesus is right there to take hold of your emptied hand.  Thankfully, Jesus is right there, ready for your embrace and tears.  Thankfully Jesus is right there to cry with you and love you.

from a sermon given on Sept 13, 2005


[1]           Henry David Thoreau (1854): Walden, p. 50

[2]           Ibid

[3]           Thoreau; Walden, p. 53

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