What’s More, Part Three

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The series, What’s More, has focused upon the more still available to us in this life. The invitation to discipleship offered by Jesus extends the opportunity to follow the only one who leads to life – both a life in the future, but one lived before God in the present.

The third message in this series centers upon a question of Peter, “Look we have left everything and followed you. What will be have?”

“What about us?” is the basic question of Peter. He and his fellow disciples have left everything – family, friends, profession, and possessions – to follow Jesus and serve alongside of him.

The question is not unwarranted. Jesus has just described the challenge the rich (and, really, everyone) will encounter when they attempt to enter into eternal life (vv. 23-26). Salvation can not be earned. Salvation can only be received. Salvation, here, should be understood as life in the presence of God; or, life in community with God. 

Salvation must be received, though!

The paradox, however, is the reception of this free gift comes with a cost! One must detach themselves from the things of this world to which they are tethered so that they can be free to go with him who leads into life. 

Peter’s wishes to know what he and the others disciples should expect to get based off what they have given. While the message considers the response of Jesus to the question of Peter, an observation is also made within this message: “What about us?” reflects our attitude, at times. What can we expect to get!?

The basic teaching of the message being anyone who has made a personal sacrifice for the sake of Jesus’ name can expect an abundant blessing. No one will receive more than another, because the blessing of life is far greater than anything offered by any one of us. The life freely given is far greater than the cost anyone will incur. Therefore, there is no need to question what will be received (nor is there a justifiable reason to squabble over who will get what) because everyone will receive equally the abundant blessing of life.

Follow this link to hear the full message. 

Knotted – Faithfulness to One’s Wife

Slide2I was reading to our youth group the other evening from the Gospel of Matthew when Paul’s letter to the Ephesians fell out of my Bible onto the floor. A few moments later the 1 John through Revelations hit the ground.

The Bible I had been reading, highlighting, and marking for the past decade succumbed to the wear and tear. While I was a little sad, honestly, to “call it” for Bible, I was also a little excited about the prospect of getting a new unmarked Bible. I think I might be at a point in my spiritual life where I am hungry to read the scriptures with fresh eyes.

My new Bible arrived this past Friday and this morning I opened the still crisp pages to read the scriptures with a pencil (always a No. 2 Black Ticonderoga) in hand. Excited to discover the truth revealed in the pages of this magnificent and living book once more.

I began reading the first chapter of Genesis. After a few verses, I thought: “I always start at the beginning. Maybe I should read the two testaments in reverse…just to shake it up…”

I turned to the Book of Malachi and, once more, I began reading.

I was not looking for anything specific by turning to this Malachi. I was just looking for a good place to enter back into the story of God…

The book is short (there are only four chapters), but this brief oracle hits upon some seriously taboo topics. As specified by the prophet, “Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.” (3:7a) Malachi speaks to the waywardness of the people Israel with the hope of encouraging them to “return to [the Lord] and [the Lord] will return to you…” (3:7b)

Malachi identifies some of the ways in which the people of God had turned aside from the statutes of the Lord. He speaks to the faulty instruction of the Priests; adultery and divorce; improper tithing; “polluted” sacrificing; and, harsh speech against God among other things. At one point, Malachi speaks frankly about the failure of the people of God.

Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against sorcerers, against adultery, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, say the Lord of hosts. (3:5)

Yeah, there are certainly a few taboo subjects tucked securely into that one little verse: oppression of hired workers in their wages; thrusting aside the alien. But, I will refrain from adding my two cents on some of those issues.

Another section of the book caught my attention – The implied directive for husband to remain faithful to the wife of his youth.

Malachi begins his address of a husband’s faithlessness with a sobering image. He declares the faithlessness of these husbands have caused the altar of the Lord to be covered with tears.

And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offerings or accepts it with favor at your hand. (2:13)

The cause of the tears and weeping falls to the faithlessness of husbands who have not kept to the wives of their youth.

Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did God not make her? (2:14-15a)

Did God not make her?

Wow! That strikes at the heart.

Your bride. The woman you took as your wife from your youth. Did God not make her? What have you done to her? By failing to remain faithful to her, what have you done to this woman of God’s creation?

Here is the thing: Desire draws the eyes of man away from himself. This desire is the seed of his faithlessness. He looks outward to see the temptation before him. In another sense, however, looking outward is a redirection of his heart.

One might argue our passions are inward looking because they are self-serving. There is truth to that thought; but, let’s think along a different line.

A man and wife are knotted in marriage. Two become one through the unbreakable bond established within the covenant of marriage. Serving our passions is not merely self-serving; rather, it is something different. The self is no more through the covenant of marriage. The self becomes something new and different. And, ideally, through this knotting of two, the one becomes something stronger. To serve the good of self ought to mean to serve the good and the betterment the one formed from the knotting of two. 

When a husband is not faithful to his wife, he is equally unfaithful to himself. He is unfaithful to the beautiful thing to which he has been blessed to be bound.

Malachi chimes in with an instruction to the faithless husband. He declares,”So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth.” Look to your true self – the self God formed when you and your wife entered into the covenant of marriage.

You know the saying, “There is nothing wrong with looking!”

That’s just not true.

When you allow your passions to redirect your focus, your attention is no longer upon yourself. You are no longer looking to your true self. You are no longer focusing your attention of the self you became when you took to your wife in the covenant of marriage.

Did God not make her?

Look to yourself and see the wife to whom God formed.

Look to your self and live committed to the self God knotted between you and your wife.

 

Working with Maple

IMG_2300I’m in the process of rough-turning several blocks of wood I’ve been given by friends. I should be able to finish those pieces in the next few months once they dry. In the meantime, I’ve been exploring different species of wood since woodturning is still a new hobby.

Another pastor asked me to turn a communion set for him. Since most of the wood I’ve found or been given is still drying, I looked to buy some kiln-dried wood I could use for the project. Earlier this week, I made trip to Case Wood Supply to see if they had something appropriate for the set. I found some Maple that looked promising for a nice communion set.

I discovered a couple different types of Maple while I was at Case and my curiosity the better of me.  I was able to spend the morning on the lathe and turned some of the wood.

I’ve been wanting to work with Ambrosia Maple for a while now. It appears to be a pretty popular wood among woodturners. After purchasing the Maple for the communion set, I noticed a stack of boards off to the side. The owner told me they were a stack of cut offs from a larger order of Ambrosia Maple. I decided to get an 11″ x 28″ board just to see how it would turn. The first piece I turned was this 11″ Lazy Susan.

The same boards also produced this 11″ cutting board/cheese plate. I was surprised by the amount of character in this particular section of the board. I used a cutting board conditioner, which combines bees wax and mineral oils, on both of the pieces, but a bit more was revealed in this piece.

I, also, came across a blank marked as “Select Maple.” I had never heard of Select Maple. I wanted to see the difference between this “Select Maple” and the Ambrosia Maple, as well as the Maple I would be using in the communion set. I discovered a crack in the wood when I began turning the piece, so that was certainly disappointing. Also, I fought with a lot of tear out on this one. I had to drop down to 60 Grit sanding paper and I was still not able to get the surface I wanted on it. But, the coloring is pretty cool on it!

All in all, it was a fun morning in the wood shop!

BTW, the other night I turned an extra piece of the Maple I purchased for the communion set. I wanted to get a feel for the wood and what to expect before I started turning. I kept it simple and turn a basic cutting board. And, I am pretty impressed by the difference in the three types of Maples.

What’s More, Part Two

Slide3What is the more for you?

The first message in the series, What’s More, looked to the story of the rich young man to introduce the difference between doing and receiving. The young man’s desire to know what good thing he must do and, then, to know what he was still lacking, provides Jesus with the opportunity to distinguish between the observance of the ethical principles of religion and the reception of the grace God extends through a life of discipleship with Jesus. The former enable an individual to do good, while the later blesses an individual to enter into life with God the Father through the Son.

The second message in the series furthers the emphasis upon the more available to us – true life with God the Father in the present through a life of discipleship with the Son for Jesus alone leads into life. The life received in Jesus will be fully realized in the future, but the disciple of Jesus can begin to experience the presence of God through the love of God made known by Jesus.

The Scripture lesson for this message follows upon the story of the rich young man, who walked away from Jesus in disappointment. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach his disciples about the challenge every human being will encounter: the impossibility of earning life. He specifies the primary obstacle for this rich young man – his wealth. Jesus declares it will be hard for the rich to enter into life; but, then, he moves from the difficultly to the impossibility. He declares, “It would be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle.”

Assuming Jesus is condemning the wealthy would be an easy interpretation of this text; after all, Jesus comes down pretty hard on the rich. The challenge confronting this young man, and others of comparable wealth, emphasize the difficulty everyone will encounter. The rich were believed to be favored by God. Their great wealth was interpreted to be an expression of the abundant favor God had shown to them. If these individuals, who were believed to be favored by God, could not earn through their deeds entrance into life, then who could?

The disciples’ response echoes this point, “Who then can be saved?” — salvation should be understood to mean entrance into the eternal presence of the Lord Almighty. 

If the people believed to be favored by God (the rich) could not earn their salvation, then what hope is there for anyone else to enter into life?

Once more a distinction between doing and receiving is brought forth. Jesus declares that while the achievement of salvation may be impossible for man, all things are possible for God.

Once more, entrance into life is not only a future reality, it is a present opportunity! No one can earn this gift. Life with God is made possible for all, because God makes it possible.

How, then, do we discover what’s more for us? Jesus extends the same offer to each of us that he extended to the rich young man: loose the grip upon the things of this world obstructing your relationship with God and, then, go with him…Follow him who leads into life. 

Finally, the challenge is revealed – the difficulty the rich young man encounters, which exemplifies the difficulty to be encountered by anyone who possesses an abundance and, to a delicate degree, the difficulty everyone will experience when they choose to follow Jesus. There is a cost. God freely offers the blessing of eternal life through Jesus Christ, but the reception of this gift requires you to release a grip on the things tethering you to this world. Walking towards Jesus requires you to walk away from something else…

Click this link to hear the message in full.

Influencing Moses, Part Three

Slide2“Stepping out” and “speaking up” for what is right, just, and true is one of the most influential things any one of us can do.

Sadly, “stepping out” and “speaking up” is difficult, threatening, and risky…which is why so many people shrink away from it, hiding safely off to the side of life. Continue reading

Preparing for Storms – Life and Otherwise

images.jpegA little less than a year ago, I wrote the original post, Preparing for Storms, in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew. As I read over this original post, I am mindful of the similarities of today as we are anticipating Hurricane Irma. We are preparing! I imagine many of you are preparing, as well.
Continue reading

Influencing Moses, Part One

Slide2Moses was certainly an influential leader in the history of Israel. To become a person of influence, however, Moses would first be influenced by others.

Influencing Moses is a series on the individuals who influenced Moses in the earliest part of his life. And, really, it is a series about the extraordinary courage of a number of women!

Part one of the series considers two lesser known women: Shiphrap and Puah! These two Hebrew midwives defied the order of the king of Egypt by allowing the boys born to the Hebrew women to live!

But, a little consideration of these women will reveal they have not acted out of disobedience (of the king); rather, the act of these women is one of radical obedience to God, whom the reverently feared.

The influence of these women is far reaching! By their actions, the further leader of the Israelites would be born! Through Moses, these women would have an influence upon all of us!

More poignant, these women influence the way we ought to view the decision we face every day. These women were given a choice: keep the command of the king or obey the will of God. These two women chose to obey the will of God even at the cost of disappointing man! And, for that reason, these women are not only an influence upon us, but they are also an inspiration to all of us – there will be times when serving the will of God will require us to disappoint man.

If you wish, have a listen to the full message!

The Life of a Seed, Part Four

SeedThe life of a seed has much to do with the receptivity and the response of the soil. And, in the same way, our receptivity and the responsiveness has an effect on the proclamation of Jesus.

The series, The Life of a Seed, has explored the Parable of the Sower with the intention of understanding how a seed grows into a fruit producing plant. Grasping the considerable influence the ground has upon the life of a seed enables us to know the deeper meaning of Jesus’ teaching. Continue reading

Speck: Choosing to See with Compassion and Empathy

fontcandy“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. — Matthew 7:1-5

I got a speck of saw dust in my eye yesterday. The speck posed an annoyance yesterday evening as Ginny and I sat down to watch America’s Got Talent. I did not mess with my eye, figuring the speck would be flushed out when I slept later that night.

I woke up this morning in a bit of discomfort. The speck had not flushed out. Worse, the speck was rubbing against my eye forming tiny scratches. I tried a couple different approaches to remove the speck: rubbing my eye (not a good idea); wiping the eye lid; eye drops; and, flushing my eye with water. Nothing seemed to help. The speck remained and the discomfort increased as my eye became more bloodshot.

While delivering his “sermon on the mount,” Jesus asks his disciples, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

The question is asked so Jesus can further encourage his disciples to first remove the log from their eye so they may see clearly to take the speck out of their neighbor’s eye.

These words are likely familiar to many of you. Jesus uses the imagery of speck/log in reference to the human tendency to judge others. The point of Jesus is to first attend to one’s shortcomings before addressing the shortcomings of others. Or, a more strident reading of this teaching suggests Jesus commands his disciples to attend to their sinful tendencies against the tendency to judge the sinfulness of others. And, of course, this is a teaching that speaks beyond the Twelve to all followers of Jesus — Judge not, lest ye not be judged! 

While judging others is certainly the central issue, Jesus makes a comment towards the end of his teaching, which brings another point into view. Jesus instructs his disciples to remove the log from their eye so they might see clearly to remove the speck out of the eye of their neighbor (Matthew 7:5).

Jesus does identify the ability to assist in the removal of a speck from the eye of a neighbor. The emphasis is a matter of one’s approach: do not seek to call out (judge) others for the specks that limits the view; but rather, approach your neighbor with compassion and empathy as one who knows the pain of having one’s sight blinded by a log!!

A little speck of saw dust is still floating around in my eye. It is uncomfortable; and, it is limiting my ability to see clearly.

Our tendency towards sin is no different. Sin limits our ability to see clearly. Sin blurs our view of God and it disrupts our ability to see and live into our relationship with God through Jesus. Life lived out of rhythm with God through Jesus Christ can be extremely uncomfortable.

That is the point we often miss!

Judging others is not just unhealthy, because it points out the flaws of another without acknowledging the faults of our own. Judging is ineffective! (Dare I say, negligent?)

When we choose to judge, we are choosing to withhold compassion and empathy from our neighbor. We forget the smallest speck can cause a great deal of discomfort and limit one’s vision.

When we choose to judge, we miss the opportunity to serve the well-being of our neighbor – to honor the pain they carry; to comfort them in their distress; or, to offer them a guiding hand.

I guess, at the end of it all, its a matter of the way you choose to see things…

Are you able to see clearly with the love of God? Or, is there a speck in your eye blurring your vision?

Blessings,
RC

Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

Not able to make it to a worship service this morning?

Feeling a little uninspired?

That is okay!

Because, sometimes we just feel a little uninspired.

But, have a listen to the message Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way.

Because, there is peace for us still…!