Normal Life

Mark 10:1 “Jesus left that place and went beyond the Jordan and into the region of Judea. Crowds gathered around him again and, as usual, he taught them.”

This month we are looking at the 10th chapter in the Gospel of Mark. As we begin this new series, I invite you to open your heart and see what God may be speaking to you through the Scripture. (Click here for the sermon on Mark 1:1-16)

Reading through Mark 10 and you can see some difficult passages. Divorce, adultery, rich man told to leave behind possessions, figuring out who is the greatest and a blind beggar.

But today, we get to pause in the first verse.

Think about your normal day. What does it involve? Waking up, breakfast, going to work, lunch, going home, dinner, trying to relax, bed, and then start all over? Any memorable conversations?

I think what we do in our day to day lives is of more importance than anything we do. Our habits are formed, health, etc. These are the moments when we are living real life. Life is the little moments we do daily. We do not have to go out of our way to say we’re “living life.”

I love the line, “And crowds gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he taught them.” Jesus’ “normal” life was being surrounded by people. It was very hard to schedule who he could meet with because you never knew who would show up. But he did not let that stop him. His details he had to do each day were in the midst of talking and teaching people. He taught them about the Kingdom of God.

Imagine how our lives would be if we made this our priority. Everything we do would certainly give God glory (like Colossians 3:17 says it should); and we would lead people to see and experience the Living God.

Jesus’ “normal” day was not written in a schedule, it was being where he needed to be. We have our days scheduled, but what if the people we meet with and talk with are the very people God had scheduled for us to meet? Maybe we need to hear what they have to say. Maybe, just maybe, our normal day is more special than we realize.

Grace With You

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Ephesians 6:21-24 Tychicus, my loved brother and faithful servant of the Lord, can inform you about my situation and what I’m doing. I’ve sent him for this reason—so that you will know about us. He can reassure you. May there be peace with the brothers and sisters as well as love with the faith that comes from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ forever. 

Paul always ends his letters with a statement of grace. Even though there are times when he had to scold the congregations he planted, he wanted them to know and live into the grace that God was giving. I believe we could take the example of Paul and be sure to send people who will keep information correct about us, but also be there to support and build up the community.

These are trusted people by Paul and he knows their gifts and graces. Paul sends Tychicus because he knows the job he will do and that he will be able to reassure the people. Can you imagine what it would be like to have you leader thrown in jail and you are carrying on after this happened. What must have been going through their minds. But Paul is as calm as he can be and find great excitement in showing people the love of God in all his words and actions. This is Paul’s purpose.

He also longs for there to be peace among the brothers and sisters because there can be strife; but Paul wants the people to live in peace because this is the life that Christ calls us to. Peace even when everything seems to be going wrong around us. This peace is not just everything working out; but it is an inward peace which we have opened ourselves up to to show we are trusting in the Living God. This peace and faith comes through Jesus Christ and is offered to those who love the Lord Jesus Christ forever.

Paul’s salutation is full of life and grace. Is this how we leave people when we’re not around them? How can we work with God toward bringing the message of peace to those who need it most?

#TheGospelChangesUs

Faith Is All It Takes

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Galatians 2:15-18 15 We are born Jews—we’re not Gentile sinners. 16 However, we know that a person isn’t made righteous by the works of the Law but rather through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. We ourselves believed in Christ Jesus so that we could be made righteous by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the Law—because no one will be made righteous by the works of the Law.17 But if it is discovered that we ourselves are sinners while we are trying to be made righteous in Christ, then is Christ a servant of sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild the very things that I tore down, I show that I myself am breaking the Law.

In this passage today, Paul is still confronting Peter in his hypocrisy because Peter stopped eating with Gentile (non-Jewish) people when people from the Apostle James (Jews) came to meet with him.

This is a passage we all should remember. Maybe this could help remind us of the joy that Christ gives. Here is the basic message of the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ: we are saved and made righteous by faith not by our good works. In other words, it is not something we do that makes us earn grace. This is something that God freely gives. The only part of this done by us is believe it. That’s it.

How does this sit with you? How do you like to receive a gift “just because?” This is how God is. We tend to think that we need to prove ourselves and the gifts are the reward. God does not work this way. We need to stop trying to make ourselves look good and realize God is not concerned with what we do, but what is in our hearts (our motivations).

So what is “righteousness?” According to Webster dictionary it is “acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin, morally right or justifiable.” Do you feel this way everyday? I don’t. There are times where I do not feel I deserve to be in God’s presence as well as there are times I do not feel I am good enough to do what I am doing. Both of these are lies that stop people from doing what God calls them to live.

We do not have to have everything perfect, because God has made us righteous because of Jesus Christ. We all, like Paul, have a sullied past; but God sees us like he sees Christ. You and I are made holy and righteous because of Christ.

Now, it is possible to have this knowledge and our lives are not changed. We can tell is we are allowing Christ to work within us to transform our lives when we exhibit more and more the fruits of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23. Going back to living for ourselves and not allowing Christ to reside in our hearts rebuilding a wall that we need to tear down. This means we lose time for God to make transformations in our hearts.

We do not need to “earn” God’s favor or grace, we simply accept it. Then we should allow this grace to live in us to make us more and more like Jesus Christ.

These are all things I am continually striving for with God’s help.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Advent Devotional 2014: Prepare (December 10)

Luke 1:57-66 When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a boy. Her neighbors and relatives celebrated with her because they had heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy.  On the eighth day, it came time to circumcise the child. They wanted to name him Zechariah because that was his father’s name. But his mother replied, “No, his name will be John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives have that name.” Then they began gesturing to his father to see what he wanted to call him. After asking for a tablet, he surprised everyone by writing, “His name is John.” At that moment, Zechariah was able to speak again, and he began praising God. All their neighbors were filled with awe, and everyone throughout the Judean highlands talked about what had happened. All who heard about this considered it carefully. They said, “What then will this child be?” Indeed, the Lord’s power was with him.

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What stands out to you when you read these verses? If we remember what has happened before this time, Zechariah and Elizabeth have been prepared for this day their son would be born, They were given a glimpse of how the child’s life would be and what he would stand for. They trusted the Lord to provide in their circumstance and that his word would come true. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s heart was prepared and ready for this day.

This is part of the journey we are in this Advent (season of preparation and expectation) as we examine our hearts to see how the story of Jesus’ birth will continue to shape and transform us. Zechariah and Elizabeth were different after the meeting with the angel, and we should be different (being able to stand out from the crowd) after any meeting we have with God.

They were able to confidently tell the people around what their child’s name would be even though it did not make sense to the rest of the crowd. What is God asking you to do that seems other people don’t understand? Will you be bold and confident in your faith and the calling God has placed on your life?

Dear God, You have guided us to this place and this time. Help us in any unbelief we might have so we can celebrate this season of Christmas with boldness and confidence of your presence and your calling in our lives. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Life’s Faithfulness

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*sermon preached Sunday, October 12, 2014

Some things we can talk about, teach about, preach about and come together to study each and every week. We hear the same messages or the same theme in the messages in worship; but we don’t change. We don’t always attend worship and think, “God is always with us; God is right here with us! God is coming down to transform us!” The hard truth is that we have become desensitized to the incredible power of God’s Word. We have become desensitized to the amazing transformation that God’s grace can bring us.

God is calling us to relive and rediscover the joy; to rediscover the excitement of his grace. Not just so we can learn something new; but so God himself is allowed in our lives to transform us into the people he created us to be.

The story of Ruth is really incredible. Here’s a brief synopsis of this story:

Although the book is named for Ruth, it begins and ends with Naomi, a woman from Bethlehem. The story opens with Naomi and her small family traveling to Moab to escape famine. The men die off, and Naomi is left without her family in the foreign land. When Naomi decides to return home, her daughter-in-law Ruth insists on coming along. Back in Bethlehem, Ruth works to get food for the two of them by collecting leftover grain in what turns out to be Boaz’s field. (Boaz was their relative). The two women think up a plan for their long term security. Boaz cooperates and marries Ruth. The story’s final scene shows their newborn son in Naomi’s arms. (1)

So this is a picture of grace. 2 concepts we’ll look at while thinking about grace are: faithfulness and redemption.

Ruth’s faithfulness to stay with Naomi. So what does this mean for us? First of all we are reminded that God’s faithfulness is steadfast and unchanging. (2)

God is with you, God is with me and he is steadfast and unchanging. We have to be patient in any circumstance that we’re in so we don’t lose hope.

God is being faithful to us in every aspect of our lives by never leaving us nor forsaking us. Our first concept here is faithfulness; God is faithful to you. Our question today is, and as we begin this stewardship series is “Are you faithful to God?”

That is a tough question and many of us really don’t even want to think about it because it seems like we will begin an argument or get very defensive; but this is a hard question we really need to seriously consider. Are we faithful to God?

Remember this good news: God’s faithfulness to us is not dependent on our faithfulness to him. Our faithfulness to God honestly depends on our mood, how much sleep we got, how our day goes, etc.

As we ponder that, we should think about our priorities that we have in this life. If we look in the story of Ruth, Naomi’s priority was to find food because there was a famine. The land was parched. Our souls are parched and we are searching to find the living bread and the living water; but God is so faithful that we already have nourishment within our reach.

Are we as faithful to God as God is faithful to us? NO. But God believes in you so much, God believes in us so much that he is willing to stand by us and walk with us through the years of famine so we don’t lose hope.

The other concept we see as we just briefly go through this story is “redemption.”

To redeem, in this sense, comes from the Hebrew word Ga’al. What this means is “to redeem, to ransom, to release, deliver, to fulfill the duties of a relationship. The main idea is the buying back of someone of something such as a field or a farm.” Basically something that is consecrated to God. (3)

We see Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s, is redeeming the land.

Redemption is the act of releasing another from captivity or bondage; it points to acts of reconciliation. (4)

God is faithful to us and God is working in us and through us to redeem the world. Part of redemption means to be reconciled. Not only to other people, but to God. When we are reconciled to God, our faithfulness to him increases. So we’re not only thinking of ourselves or sulking in our situations. We’ll look at the global picture and see what God wants us to do. We realize that we should be faithful stewards of this creation and all we’re given.

As we live in Christ, we get to see the amazing grace that God gives us in our lives. Think about that for a minute. God is faithful and God redeems us.

I like this story of a father and son who go fishing. The father and son are out all day long. They didn’t catch anything; they were out in the water and didn’t catch anything. Besides that is was a hot day. The father was getting frustrated so they go on home. The mother asks the father, “how was your day?” He said, “terrible, we did not catch anything; it was a terrible day fishing.” She goes off and talks to her son and asks, “how was your day?” The son, looks at her with a big smile on his face and says, “it was fantastic! I got to spend the whole day with dad!”

The truth of the matter is that we’re too much like…………………..the father in that story. We look at our circumstances, or lack thereof and we say it’s a terrible thing. But in this story God has the attitude of the son. God loves to spend quality time with us. God is excited to be in relationship with us. That’s what he’s calling us to do: to reclaim and rediscover our excitement for him!

So as they were traveling back to Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth were searching for a redeemer. They were trying to find someone who would save them, and they found Boaz. He not only bought the land to save the family inheritance; but he took Ruth as his wife.

Today, we still search for a redeemer, for a savior. But we don’t need to search anymore because Jesus Christ has bought our past, our present and our future and he is faithful to stay with us forever.

Boaz broke the chains of famine holding Ruth and Naomi down to give them freedom and a known, secure future. Christ breaks us free from any chains or walls we have built: greed, lust, pride, envy (jealousy), personal comfort, selfishness, and on and on.

He’s just asking that we are as faithful to him as he IS faithful to us and trust that the redemption that he has bought for us can and does transform our lives so we truly live in this grace that God freely gives us. So we trust him and allow his amazing grace to change our lives, to change our future. Trusting him and seeing God in every person we encounter and everything we do.

Notes:

(1) CEB Study Bible Introduction to Ruth

(2) Wesley Study Bible NRSV

(3) NIV Keyword Study Bible

(4) Wesley Study Bible NRSV