It Is Time To Be Humble (part 2)

Posted by on October 23, 2005 under Sermons

It is so difficult to escape from the influences of arrogance and pride when we are impressed with our accomplishments! When we are impressed with what we have done, we feel quite significant. We may tell others about how important we are, or we just may internalize the thought, “I am really something!”

Nothing elevates our sense of importance quite like having someone else tell us how significant something we did was. When other people tell us how important something we did was, our personal sense of significance can really grow.

That is when humility becomes a matter of personal control and not an attitude. For example, it is not humble to talk about it. It is very inappropriate to say to others, “Look at what I did! I am very important!” A Christian simply should not do that! However, it is quite okay to feel it as long as we don’t say it.

To me, a powerful and quite insightful statement about Jesus is found in Philippians 2:3-7.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Jesus is the true example of humility. Can you imagine being in the form of God and not hanging on to that state? Can you imagine going from being in the form of God to being a human? Can you image being in the form of God and becoming a human servant?

This evening I want to focus on a story in Jesus and Peter’s life that most of you know quite well. I want you to notice how easy it is for someone close to Jesus to become arrogant. Read with me Matthew 16:13-28.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

  1. Jesus and the 12 were in an area just north of the Jewish territory of Palestine.
    1. In our words, Jesus asked, “How are people explaining who I am and what I am doing?”
      1. The first thing to note is that Jewish people who came into contact with the results of Jesus’ work or with Jesus himself had to explain who he was.
        1. I am confident that a person’s explanations were consistent with his or her personal understanding of how God works–is that not what you do?
        2. I can just hear the people — “Is he from God? Is he a prophet? Is he a past great personality who has been resurrected?”
        3. I can hear some say, “That is not the way God works!”
        4. I can hear others say, “God must be at work in Jesus–there is no other explanation!”
        5. What I want you to especially note is this: “If you came into contact with Jesus’ work or with Jesus himself, you had to explain him!”
      2. That truth has not changed.
        1. It is so easy to get distracted so that we never have to explain Jesus–we focus on all other kinds of religious things but Jesus.
        2. It is possible to be “a good little Christian” today in the church and never, never think about Jesus or discuss Jesus.
        3. The primary consideration in being a Christian is this: “What do you think about Jesus and what God did through him?”
        4. What you think about Jesus will change who you are and how you live.
    2. Then Jesus turned to the 12 and asked, “What about you? Who do you think I am?”
      1. These are the men who have been with him everyday!
      2. They had seen everything–the crowds, the acclamations, the attacks, the incredible deeds.
      3. They had heard everything–the sermons, the private teachings, the parables, the explanations.
      4. With the personal experiences they had, how did they explain him?
    3. Peter said, “This is simple–you are God’s promised Christ.”
      1. What Jesus did and what most people in Israel expected in God’s promised Christ were not the same thing.
      2. People might explain Jesus in many ways, but very few of them would explain who he was by saying he was the Christ.
      3. As incredible as Jesus’ deeds were, he simply did not fit most Jewish expectations regarding the Christ.
      4. That simply could not be the explanation for who Jesus was!

  2. Jesus confirmed that Peter understood something no one else realized.
    1. More than that, Jesus said you know this because God Himself revealed this to you!
      1. That is pretty heady stuff!
        1. “You realize something the other 11 men here have not yet understood.”
        2. “You realize this because God Himself gave you a special revelation.”
      2. Because you realize this, there are some special benefits that accompany this awareness.
        1. First, I want you to understand that on this realization I am going to build my “called out” people.
        2. Second, I want you to understand not even death can keep me from doing what I intend to do.
        3. Third, I want you to understand I am giving you the keys to the kingdom I will rule.
      3. For many of us, that is an invitation to arrogance.
        1. You understand something no one has yet realized!
        2. You understand it because God enabled you to understand it!
        3. You will be in charge of opening my kingdom to others!
      4. At that moment Peter had no idea of what this awareness would cost him.
        1. He was just impressed with how important he was!
        2. Those are the kinds of things that can go to the head of a take-charge person!

  3. The fact the Jesus was the Christ meant among other things that Jesus had to die.
    1. Jesus began to explain to the 12 that he would die in Jerusalem.
      1. The disciples were not to tell others that Jesus was the Christ.
      2. They were just to understand that Jesus would suffer, he would be killed, and he would be resurrected.
    2. That simply did not fit with Peter’s expectations!
      1. Peter was right about who Jesus was.
      2. Peter was wrong about what he expected to happen.
    3. So Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Jesus for saying such things.
      1. The force of what Peter said was, “God will never let this happen!”
      2. “We will not let this happen!”
      3. “You simply must not talk this way.”
    4. Without realizing it, Peter was powerfully tempting Jesus.
      1. So the man who received a special revelation from God was called Satan.
      2. The man powerfully used by God was being used by Satan!
      3. Jesus was quite clear!
        1. “You are being major trouble to me! You are now acting in Satan’s interest, not in God’s interest.”
        2. “You are not interested in what God had in mind.”
        3. “You are only interested in human desires and expectations.”

  4. Then Jesus told all the 12.
    1. Following me means self-denial and a cross.
    2. Do not think you can avoid these two things.
      1. If you try to avoid them you will lose something more valuable than physical life.
      2. God will know what you have done.
      3. God will deal with you on the basis of what you have done rather than the basis of who you say you are.
    3. You will live to see the reality of my kingdom.
      1. Jesus would not physically live to see it.
      2. However, the 12 would live to see it.

All I want you to see is how easy it is for a person devoted to God to become a very arrogant person. All it takes are two things: ignorance of God’s purposes and substituting your plans for God’s purposes.

Fruit of the Spirit

Posted by on under Sermons

It was early October. The first frost had not yet come, but the mornings were cool and the evenings were hot. It was that unique time of the year when you shivered in the morning and sweated in the afternoon.

A 25 year-old man who grew up on a local farm got off work on Fridays at noon. He decided he would take his .22 rifle and roam the hollows of the family farm squirrel hunting. By 4 p.m. he had not seen one squirrel, so he headed for his truck. The afternoon was hot as the sunshine beamed down, and he began to sweat heavily.

About half way to the truck, he crossed an old watermelon patch. The good melons were taken to market over a month before. All that was left were the culls that came from the late blooms.

At the edge of the patch was a large white oak tree. On impulse, he decided to lean his gun against the tree, gather 3 or 4 cull watermelons, and quench his thirst by eating the hearts out of the small melons. And that is what he did.

As he sat under the tree, he took his hunting knife, split the melons, and began to eat the sweet center out of each melon. Just as he started eating, a white oak acorn fell on his head. He looked up among the branches of the tree at its acorns, and then he looked across the watermelon patch. He immediately had two thoughts. The first thought: “I sure am glad watermelons do not grow up in trees.” The second thought: “God sure knew what He was doing when He put acorns in trees and watermelons on vines.”

I want to ask you a question: how often do you say to yourself, “God sure knew what he was doing?”

Have you ever read the fruit of the Spirit and said to yourself, “God sure knew what He was doing!”

Listen: Galatians 5:22,23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

How often have you read these two verses and said, “God sure knew what He was doing!”

  1. I want you to note some things about the context.
    1. Paul made this statement in his letter to the Christians in Galatia because they were not treating each other right!
      1. Some of these Christian were using their freedom in Christ to hurt other Christians.
      2. These people caused problems in Christian-Christian relationships, and then cried out, “I have the right to Christian freedom!” to escape the responsibility or the consequences of their acts.
      3. Paul declared they had freedom, the freedom to love each other–in Christ Jews could love gentiles and gentiles could love Jews.
      4. While they had the freedom to love each other, they did not have the freedom to be selfish.
      5. So they were not to use their freedom in Christ as an excuse to do ungodlike things to other people.
      6. Pay special attention to a significant contrast.
        1. It was the contrast between the values and acts of idol worshippers and the values and acts of God worshippers.
        2. Paul classified the acts of idol worshippers as “deeds of the flesh.”
        3. He classified the acts of God worshippers as “fruit of the Spirit.”
      7. It is amazing to note how many of the “deeds of the flesh” focused on selfish indulgence.
      8. It is equally amazing to note that all of the expressions of the “fruit of the Spirit” focus on the unselfishness of godly relationships.
    2. Paul made it quite clear to those Christians that the person who converted to God through Christ by personal choice did not think or feel like people who do not belong to God.
      1. People who belong to God through Christ want a lifestyle led by the Spirit.
      2. The lifestyle of people who are led by God’s Spirit are at war in their lives with the desires that oppose God.
        1. The two do not mix!
        2. Each is dedicated to the death of the other!
        3. Both forces actively oppose each other in a person’s life.
      3. The Christian by choice wants a life led by God’s Spirit, not a life controlled by physical desire and physical focus.
      4. The Christian who deceives himself into a conviction that he or she at the same moment can adopt the lifestyle of a God led person and the lifestyle of a person controlled by physical desire will likely make both lifestyles impossible.
        1. He or she will either totally deceive himself or herself about being a godly person and become a hypocrite as physical desires prevail and justify their expressions.
        2. Or, he or she will live under the constant burden of guilt as he or she violates his or her conscience.
      5. The person who wishes to be led by God in his or her lifestyle deliberately kills the forces in his or her life that fight against a God-led lifestyle.
        1. Even if it is painful, he or she kills anything in his or her personal life that opposes God.
        2. Even if it is a slow death, he or she kills anything in his or her personal life that opposes God.
      6. “Why would a person do that?” Because he or she wants to be led by God, and he or she will not tolerate any influence in his or her self that opposes God’s control of life.

  2. It is precisely at this point that individual Christians or congregations get themselves into difficulty with spiritual priorities.
    1. We decide what God wants without consulting God.
      1. “How do we do that?”
      2. We can do that in several ways.
        1. We can make scripture say and emphasize what we want scripture to say and emphasize.
          1. We make God’s word mean what we want God’s word to mean.
          2. We decide what is important, and we use verses to justify our conclusions.
          3. Or, we justify our actions, and we use verses to try to confuse the matter.
        2. Or, we are so ignorant of the Bible that we use the little Bible we know out of context to make our choices okay.
          1. For example, we say, “You know God wants me to be happy,” and use that personal conviction to justify everything from adultery, to addiction, to dishonesty.
          2. Or, we say, “Everyone knows there is nothing wrong with that.”
          3. Or, we say, “God is not concerned with such matters.”
        3. Or, we assume God’s purposes and make our assumptions the foundation of our behavior.
          1. For example, “What God really wants is for me to have that boat (or house, or car, or whatever)–as if God’s greatest purpose is focused on my wealth.
          2. Or, “What God really wants is for me to be healthy–as if God’s greatest purpose is focused on my physical well being.
    2. It comes as quite a shock to realize that God’s purposes are not defined by my physical well being.
      1. God’s purposes were not defined by Jesus’ physical life–else Jesus would not have died.
      2. God’s purposes were not defined by Paul’s physical life–else God would have removed Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
      3. God’s purposes were not defined by Stephen’s physical life–else he would not have been a Christian martyr.

  3. What is important to God in a Christian lifestyle is the way we treat other people–wives, husbands, children, workers, neighbors, business opportunities, strangers.
    1. I ask you to note something in the fruit of the Spirit.
      1. Where are theological issues? Absent! They are important but they are not number one, with God.
      2. Where is passing judgment? Absent! Recognizing evil correctly is important, but it is not number one, with God.
      3. Where is division? Absent!
      4. Where is negative behavior and outlook? Absent!
      5. Where is criticism? Absent!
    2. Notice three things about the fruit of the Spirit.
      1. All expressions are positive.
      2. All expressions are unselfish.
      3. All expressions are relationship focused.

That leaves each of us with one question to ask self. “Is my lifestyle based on selfish indulgence or on unselfish relationships?”

Asked in another way, “Is my life all about me, or am I allowing Jesus teach me how to be a servant?”

God knows what He wants and is doing. Do I know what God wants and is doing?

What Do You Look For?

Posted by on October 20, 2005 under Bulletin Articles

There are lots of things to complain about! The world is filled with such things! Most lives have an abundance of such things! There are some people who look at the entire world as a great big dumpster! Nothing is “right”! There are no blessings! Something is wrong with everything! Mention any good thing and the complaining person responds, “That is true, but ?”

I hope you have the joy and pleasure of knowing several inspirational people. Chances are if you experience that joy, among those inspirational people is at least one person that you ask, “Why is she (he) so happy?” From all visible circumstances, she (he) has much to complain about. But she (he) does not complain. She (he) sees blessings. She (he) not only sees blessings, but makes blessings visible for others to note.

God waited patiently for thousands of years to send us His son. That son was rejected by those who were supposed to know God. Rejection-what a dumpster! Finally, the son was arrested and condemned on false charges. Injustice-what a dumpster! Then the son was executed. Execution-what a dumpster! Then the son was buried by the pitiful few who were not ashamed of him. Death-what a dumpster!

Then God raised him to life. Resurrection-what a blessing! Through his resurrection, God gave us hope. Hope-what a blessing! Through his execution, God gave us redemption. Redemption-what a blessing! Through injustice, God gave us atonement. Atonement-what a blessing! Through his rejection, God gave us forgiveness. Forgiveness-what a blessing! God’s patience persevered until we could have salvation. Salvation-what a blessing!

Which are you more likely to do-see all that is wrong with everything or see blessings everywhere? God is more likely to produce blessings! His children are more likely to see the blessings He produces!

Since evil became a part of this world’s reality, there always has been more that is wrong than is right. It always is easy to criticize. It takes special vision to see blessings. God has that vision. Let Him teach you how “to see.” You might be amazed to see all the blessings that surround you!

Life on the Vine: Cultivating Patience

Posted by on October 16, 2005 under Sermons

Fruit of the Spirit

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-Control
  • And so there’s Moses watching the people of God disgrace themselves. God had saved them from slavery by humbling the mighty king of Egypt. They were free and God was putting the finishing touches on the covenant agreement between him and his people. And how do they use that freedom? By becoming slaves to idolatry and disgracing themselves in ways that even their enemies would consider wicked.
    God and Moses were mapping out a bright future for these people and the world, but once God heard them debasing themselves and acting like their oppressors, he thought about incinerating them and starting over with Moses, but Moses reminded him of his covenant and how it had lasted for centuries. Of course, God remained faithful.
    And so there’s Moses who has just stood up for the people. He is holding the symbol of their covenant with God (the stone tablets). These people have spit in God’s face and challenged Moses’ leadership. No wonder Moses loses his temper and smashes the symbol of covenant. It was already broken before he left the mountaintop.
    But the story doesn’t end there. Moses returns to the mountaintop. There’s going to be a second chance at covenant. And just so no one will assume that God isn’t present among his people, he agrees to draw even closer to Moses. God will reveal his glory to Moses. Moses will not see God’s face, but he will see his back as he passes by. And he does. And God draws even closer by telling Moses his name; and it isn’t so much as single name as it is a declaration of who God is …
    “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

    Patience is Rooted in the Character of God
    How does Exodus 34 describe God? This is the covenant name of God that is remembered throughout the generations by God’s people. It describes God’s character especially in those moments when we, his people, shame him by disgracing ourselves with sin. This “name of God” that recalls how God is compassionate, gracious, and slow to anger is repeated many times in the Bible. The Psalmists sing in Psalms 86, 103, and 145 that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Prophets like Joel and Jonah affirm that God is compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. For leaders like Nehemiah and Ezra this was the cornerstone of their faith. In our wickedness, God did not abandon us! Why? “Because the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
    This is another way of saying “The Lord, the Lord is patient.” And as much as it comforts us to know that about God, it challenges us when we know that we too must be patient as God is patient. The fruit of the Spirit is rooted in the character of God, and that is so true of patience. Bearing Fruit of the Spirit means adopting the character of God. How well are we wearing the name of God? If we are to be patient like God, then that means being compassionate and gracious-how are you doing on those?-slow to anger-how’s that going?-abounding in love and faithfulness – well, how’s that going? This is what it means to be patient …

    Why are we so impatient? (Why is it difficult to cultivate patience?)
    It’s difficult to be patient isn’t in an environment that is more suited to cultivating impatience than patience.

    1. We are a culture of the quick fix rather than the long haul. We are the product of 200 years of the modern scientific age. A lot of good has come from that. But we have picked up some bad habits too. One of the most unfortunate results of the modern age is arrogance. We have assumed that we can solves any problem and along with advances in industrialization and transportation we assume that we can fix anything now. (If anything good is coming of post-modernism, it is that the consequences of our arrogance are now convicting us to be a bit more humble).

      In every area of our lives we are often committed to the quick fix. Politics: “Why haven’t we rebuilt the Gulf Coast? It’s been weeks! Why haven’t we won the war on terror? It’s been years!” Health: “Do you want to lose weight instantly? Here’s the solution …” People seek out doctors to get the quick fix for what’s wrong with them, but they don’t realize that health is often the result of how they have been caring for themselves over the long haul. Faith: “I want to grow as a Christian and I want to do it now!” God saves us instantly, but salvation lasts for eternity. Some of us want to cultivate the fruit of the spirit right now, or at the end of this season. But cultivation is a lifelong process and in an impatient culture that is intimidating, but that’s the way the world really is. When we cultivate patience we learn that the best things take time. Olive tree farmers know that. An olive tree will only start to bear fruit in its 5th or 6th year, and doesn’t reach maximum yield until it is 30 or 40 years old. When the olive growers in the Middle East plant an olive tree, they say a prayer: “God protect it and make it grow so that my children’s grandchildren will benefit from its abundance.” Once I heard a story that an olive tree farmer said that he harvests the trees his father planted and he plants the trees his son will harvest. That is patience.

    2. We are obsessed with speed and productivity. Because of that obsession, some olive trees have been forced to yield maximum harvest in 5 to 6 years. Now think, is that so we can have better olives or is it to make more profit more quickly? Our obsession with speed and productivity is rooted in greed which is the antithesis to patience.

      A few weeks ago I was in Silver Dollar City watching the knifesmith. He described our culture as a throwaway culture. That’s why his trade (which is really just a hobby for him) is no more. The way he makes knives is just for collectors and hobbyists, but it used to be for everday work. The knife smith worked in an inefficient and slow way to make a knife that would last for generations. But now knives are pressed on a machine that can turn out thousands in the time it takes the knife smith to make one. That makes the knives cheaper and easily replaceable. But are they better knives? Are they items that can be passed on to your children and maybe even grandchildren?
      Our obsession with speed and productivity has put even our faith on the clock. We want to attend to all of our spiritual needs in one hour a week. And God help us the church has sometimes catered to this fixation with productivity. A church in Orange County, California has a slogan “Give us 90 minutes of your time and we will change your life.” Well, that is a step better than Jesus who asks us to take up our cross and follow him for the rest of our lives. But then we are so much more advanced than Jesus was back in the first century, yes?

    3. We regard time as a commodity rather than a gift. One of the advancements since Jesus is the clock. (The concept of the “second” wasn’t invented until the 1700’s). People have always had means for gauging time, but the mechanical clock allowed us to standardize time. And now we feel that what started as a tool has become a master. We are now a tool of the tool. This is toxic to patience because Our lives have become ordered by an unnatural rhythm instead of the rhythms of God’s created order. God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Do you see how God built patience into the natural rhythm of the created order. He gave us the lights in the heavens to order the times and seasons. But we have invented artificial light and weather so that we can order time our way! And we are more impatient and stressed out than ever. Think about it, what is the most common response you get to the question “How are you doing?” – BUSY!

      This busy-ness has changed the way we view time. It is a commodity, not a gift from God. We hoard it and sell it. The language we use with time is unique to our culture. We “spend” time. We “invest” time. We “waste” time. We “steal” time and “take-up” time. We have invented the concept of quality time as an excuse to spend less time with people. We are apologetic of intruding on one’s time and we are disturbed sometimes when others want to take some of our time. Why? Because we all have the sense that there is precious little time – but more because we regard time as “my time, my day.” It is mine! Now how does that make us patient? How does that help us cultivate the spirit among us that is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

    How shall we cultivate patience? If we want to cultivate patience we must actively resist the powers that make us impatient.

    1. Give away time in worship, fellowship and service. – Time is a gift from God. We are destined for an eternity, so time isn’t something scarce. Spend time with God in worship. Worship with others and let’s come to the table as if we are coming to a banquet not fast-food carry out. Let’s spend time with one another for no other reason than to know one another. (What I appreciate about our Care Groups and LIFE groups is that so many in our groups, especially our new ones, have said that they want to give up their “personal time” to spend it with others. They realize that there is a power of selfishness and impatience that needs to be challenged.) If we spend time in service with others, do it just to serve others not to be more productive.
    2. Appreciate the journey as much as the destination. – Our impatient culture wants to convince us that the end product or the destination is all that matters. The quicker you arrive there or produce it the better. In 2001 my family took a trip in an RV to New York, my father’s home. The journey is as much a part of that trip as the destination. In some ways even more so. How will our children remember our faith? By the destination or the journey. When we read the stories of the patriarchs, we see that the journey is even more important than the destination, because the goals weren’t always achieved in one generation.
    3. Trust the future to God. – Much of our impatience is rooted in the fact that we do not trust the future to God. We have forgotten the stories. God doesn’t abandon us. He doesn’t leave us with a set of Tinkertoys and Lego’s and say build it yourself. He is working in the details to accomplish all things in his own time and his own way.
    4. Forgive others. (See Matthew 18:23-35) – If we truly want to be patient, then we need to be as patient with others as God is with us. This is the point of Jesus vivid parable about the unforgiving servant. You have been forgiven of so much by a God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. How dare you not be forgiving of others. “But you don’t understand they did …!” This isn’t about them. It’s about God. It is about cultivating patience. It’s about being like God.

    Life on the Vine: Cultivating Peace

    Posted by on October 9, 2005 under Sermons

    Fruit of the Spirit

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-Control
  • starfruitStar Fruit, Carambola – Origin unknown, but probably native to Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern China. The star fruit has never been located in the wild.

    The Rare Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
    When we strive for the fruit of the spirit that is love and joy we strive for the wonderful, God-grown variety. We accept no substitutes and we are aware that there are cheapened, weakened, less wholesome varieties of love and joy that are not produced by the Holy Spirit.
    However, peace is different. Peace is just simply a rare fruit. We are not accustomed to its taste or its presence. When we see it, it seems so strange and out of place. But when we taste it we know that it is good. And when we cultivate it in our life together we realize that the fruit of the spirit that is peace is truly a gift from God because it doesn’t grow naturally or “wild” in the soil of our world.

    We tend to define peace as the absence of something: The absence of war, conflict, stress, fear, noise. Consider why we do that: Because we are not used to the alternative that peace is actually something positive and war, conflict, stress, fear, and noise are actually the absence of peace. But peace is more than absence of negative elements. It is the presences of something very good. It may be more accurate to say that the negative elements are the absence of peace. In the Hebrew, this present peace is known as shalom. It is something real and it involves relationships. We see it at the creation … Creation – “It was good and very good” – But in a corrupted world we don’t recognize the “shalom of God” …
    Christ’s mission is to restore that shalom …
    The world vs. Christ – John 14 – Christ gives peace, but the world gives …
    Why is it difficult to cultivate peace? [What does the world give?]

    Our world and culture are fragmented: We are fragmented in so many ways.

    • In order to live with one another we require rules and boundaries. “Good fences make good neighbors.” Our politics assume fragmentation and conflict. We accept so easily the reality of “us and them.” We are comfortable with “our kind of people” but concerned or fearful of “those kind of people.” So we maintain boundaries (some subtle and some obvious) that keep all kinds of people apart – we say it is to avoid conflict. The rules and boundaries we live with do not create peace – but they do limit chaos and conflict.
    • We divide our lives into public and private worlds. It seems so second-nature and it is understandable that there must be boundaries to respect privacy, but what happens when these two worlds and two selves are at odds? The greater the difference between our private self and our public self, the less peace we enjoy.
    • We divide our world into the religious and the secular. And we make absolutely certain that they do not overlap. Now if we believe that peace is a gift of God, and God is contained to the religious world, then how much peace will there be in the secular? Faith is privatized so we make many private choices, but we do not realize how they are connected to community or to the rule of God.

    This is the way of the world -but the world cannot give us peace (John 14)

    Our world and culture and polarized:
    Our culture wants to force us to take extreme positions. Examples: Red States vs. Blue States. Liberal vs. Conservative. There are absolutes, but these do not demand that we are polarized from others. We are in the world though not of the world.

    Our world and culture are compartmentalized:Our world and culture compartmentalizes life by setting up different expectations in different settings. This calls for different rules. One set of rules and expectations at home. One set of rules and expectations at work/school. One set of rules and expectations in church. This confusion keeps us from peace which is a result of submitting to the rule of God.
    Can we recognize the problem? A compartmentalized life challenges our allegiances. Strangely, we only know peace when we are so devoted to God that our allegiance is undivided. No compromises are made in any other area of our lives.
    Through history, the martyrs have peace because their allegiance is not divided. The ethics of our culture would have advised persecuted Christians in the late first century to go ahead and make an offering to the altar of the emperor. After all, it is just politics and isn’t really your faith. But they didn’t compartmentalize their lives like we do. And so many who would not worship the emperor and call him “Lord and God” where executed. Foolish? Perhaps by the standards of our culture, but that devotion was built on peace given by the true Lord and God and the martyrs gave witness to a faith that outlasted their persecutors.

    How to Cultivate Peace

    1. Live Under the Rule of God. Shalom, the real Peace of God is something positive not just an absence. It is more than an attitude. Shalom/peace is a way of life. Well-being, wholeness and harmony that characterizes all relationships: with one another, with the world and with God. Shalom is what we can expect when we live under the Rule of God. Because Christ is our Lord, we ought to review our structures of power (Mark 10) – We do not lord it over one another

    2. Pursue peace with one another – Philippians 4:8-9. Remember that what God wants above all is for his people to live together in whole healthy relationships. We are instruments of his peace.

    3. Practice Forgiveness and Accountability
      When we admonish one another and forgive one another it is not about exacting authority over them; it is about promoting well being and wholeness. When we pursue forgiveness and accountability, conflict can lead to peace!
      Accountability must always follow forgiveness. The accountability is an accountability to live worthy of our salvation and not cheapen it. All of us are both debtors and lenders in the kingdom that is what it means to be a kingdom of priests. So we are holding one another accountable. Here’s a suggestion on how we proceed with accountability: Since it is just not practical for us to go around forcing others to be accountable to us, let us give others permission to examine our lives. Let’s make ourselves accountable.

    4. Remember your Baptism (Romans 6:3-6) – Added to Body of Christ – we are not fragmented! We are given a foretaste of shalom in the body of Christ (Acts).

    Focusing On God’s Concern

    Posted by on October 6, 2005 under Bulletin Articles

    Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ?You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

    AND “Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

    AND “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

    Paul wrote, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

    The storms have come and gone. The horrible pictures that filled the TV screen and newspaper for days have been replaced with other concerns of the moment. Yet, much of the destruction remains. Homes are destroyed. People are displaced. Jobs have vanished. Folks, just like us, struggle every single day to survive with no income, home, or end in sight. Their material hopes are the remembrances and generosity of people they will never meet.

    Hunger is hunger. No electricity is the same for everyone. No running water is disaster for anyone. No sewage system is a nightmare for any family. No gasoline-what do you mean no gasoline?

    Keep your hearts open. Pray for our drivers as they haul supplies to the Gulf. Help any and every way you can. Caring for those in need is not all of righteousness, but it is definitely a huge part of it.

    It Is Time To Be Humble

    Posted by on October 2, 2005 under Sermons

    Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-11

    Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    Does it seem to you that more and more things are spiraling out of control? Six months ago ask us how America is doing and ask us now how America is doing. The answers likely will be very different. Six months ago answers were formed by the perception that we are in control of our destiny. Now answers are formed by two perceptions: (a) the conviction that we are in control is highly questionable, or (b) that it is obvious that we are not in control at all.

    What has happened? The Iraqi war just is not going as we had hoped. The harder we try, the more obvious it is that we are not in control. For those of us who are older, it reminds us of a conflict when our superior technology was no match for the sacrificial determination of a people. Talk to us about the struggles in Iraq, and you are very likely to hear the statement, “There is only so much we can do.”

    What else has happened? Gasoline prices are not at all going the direction we wish. We are a nation in love with our automobiles, and our automobiles are financially ruining us. I clearly remember being part of a discussion with some friends in business who said, “I cannot survive a dollar a gallon for gas.” Don’t you wish you knew somewhere accessible that sold gasoline for a dollar a gallon? When it hit two dollars a gallon, we said, “Ridiculous!” When it had $2.50 a gallon, $1.90 looked like a bargain! Did you ever dream you would spend $ 50 on a tank of gas–unless you drive a large SUV, then it is $75 to a $100 a tank.

    What else has happened? The major destruction of two large hurricanes. Because of a gulf storm called Katerina and a gulf storm called Rita, hundreds of thousands of people have no home, no work, and no connection with past generations. The devastation is so extensive it borders on being unbelievable. Those storms will not leave scars for months; they will leave open wounds for months. It will take a few months before the full impact of the tragedy is evident.

    1. The temptation is to find a “fall guy,” someone to blame.
      1. The “blame game” does not work–not anywhere: families, industry, churches, or societies.
        1. Blame may temporarily make us feel better by helping us escape any sense of responsibility; “It is not my fault!”
          1. The key word is “temporarily”–even if we are 100% correct in our blame assessment (which rarely is the case), the problem or problems still exist.
          2. Blame is a way to hide, not a way to fix.
        2. Correction is a matter of accepting responsibility rather than a matter of verbally hiding.
          1. Getting angry about who was responsible for causing the problem does not eliminate the problem.
          2. The problem exists–the issue is what are you going to do about it?
      2. We live among a people who love to determine “who is at fault.”
        1. It is almost like we believe a problem is solved if only we can determine whose fault it is.
        2. First, we want someone else to take care of us.
        3. Second, we reserve the right to get angry if their care does not meet our expectations.
      3. I wonder when:
        1. We will realize that the world was not made for us, that we do not deserve “rights” other people do not have, and that social problems are more complex than a simple political solutions.
        2. We will realize that having the freedom of multiple cars may not be worth the price to ourselves and our society.
        3. We will realize that physical damage can reach a point of expense that it is too demanding to fix.
        4. We will realize that freedom involves restrain instead of indulgence.
        5. We will realize we that there is no existence that provides opportunity without risk.

    2. We began our worship with a reading of 1 Peter 5:1-11; focus with me on the message of that reading.
      1. The letter declares that Peter the apostle is its writer.
        1. Who is the person who dares write about the power and usefulness of humility?
          1. This is the man who dared take Jesus aside and rebuke him (Matthew 16:22).
          2. This is the man who participated in discussions about which of Jesus’ twelve disciples is the most important disciple (Mark 9:33,34).
          3. This is the man who told Jesus on the night of his death, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You,” and then denied Jesus three times before daylight.
          4. This is the man who learned the power of humility the hard way.
        2. Peter clearly understood the Christian community could represent neither God nor Jesus Christ if they were not ruled by genuine feelings of humility.
          1. The humble God created our means of forgiveness while we were still sinners.
          2. The humble Jesus left heaven, became a part of that which he helped make, and gave his life for us.
          3. Arrogant people cannot represent an humble God and an humble Savior.
          4. Peter, from experience, knew that.
          5. Peter understood how easy it is for humans to think arrogance is faith.
      2. This is the admonition from the man who learned the power of humility the hard way.
        1. Leaders, you exist as shepherds who serve, not as men who seek to control.
          1. There is someone bigger than you, and you will answer to him.
          2. It is not your flock–it is the Chief Shepherd’s flock.
          3. You are just managers of his concern.
          4. Look after the flock willingly.
          5. Stay in touch with God’s interest.
          6. Do not serve for the sake of money.
          7. Be examples rather than being controllers.
        2. Followers, follow well as you listen to those who are made wise by experience.
          1. Clothe yourself in humility in your interaction with the rest of your spiritual family.
          2. If you expect God’s help, be humble, not proud.
      3. General admonitions to everyone.
        1. Humble yourself as you place yourself under God’s control.
        2. Be humble because it is your choice, not because it is someone else’s demand.
        3. Do not exalt yourself–leave exalting in God’s hands!
        4. Give your anxieties to someone who can do something about them–give them to God.
        5. God’s concern for you is personal!
        6. Be realistic!
          1. Never forget Satan is serious about destroying you.
          2. Do not let him control you with fear–resist him!
          3. Understand the only way you can resist him is through your faith in God.
          4. Never think you are the only one suffering–just look around you.
          5. God is bigger than your suffering and will ultimately make you triumphant.
          6. However, never forget your survival depends on God, not you.

    3. We like to believe that citizens of America are bigger than anything that might come our way.
      1. Only people in this nation are that arrogant.
        1. Other people have all kinds of problems they cannot solve.
        2. Most people are concerned about surviving, not about having fun.
          1. The key question with us is, “Are you having fun?”
          2. Most people in our world rarely ask that question.
          3. For most people, life is not about pleasure.
      2. Most people in the world might like to have our power, but they do not want our way of life.
        1. When you look honestly at our families, our values, and our addiction to materialism, you cannot blame them.
          1. To many people, Americans are morally a disaster.
          2. I would readily confess that most other people do not know us very well–their perceptions are often created by American television shows and American movies.
          3. I would also confess that we are a schizophrenic people.
            1. We are capable of great compassion as evidenced by the storms recently.
            2. We are also capable of great selfishness as is too frequently evidenced by our addiction to materialism and pleasure.
        2. I surely do not suggest that I know the answer.
          1. It is a huge problem.
          2. It is a complex problem.
          3. There are no simply answers.
      3. All I am saying is this: it is long past time that we realized that there are some things much bigger than we are.
        1. The world does not exist to sustain our way of life.
        2. We are not more important than other people.
        3. A hurt is a hurt, suffering is suffering, and hunger is hunger no matter where you live on earth.

    4. May I get very personal for a moment?
      1. My life has been based on prevention.
        1. One of our classrooms could not hold all the whole grain bread, cereal, and oatmeal I have eaten.
        2. I jogged for 17 years.
        3. I have been on an exercise program 5 days a week since 1975.
        4. I have been on a low fat diet since I was 40.
        5. I have watched my weight for over 25 years.
        6. I have taken flax seed oil and vitamins for years.
        7. I have never been a smoker or a drinker.
      2. Something bigger than oatmeal, exercise, and low fat diets control my physical life every day.
        1. I do what I can do every day, not what I want to do.
        2. I have been forced to realize some things I enjoyed doing I likely will never do again.
        3. And there is very little I can do about it–neither my physical will power nor medical science is in control of my situation.
        4. At best my daily situation can be temporarily improve.
        5. But my cerebellar atrophy cannot be fixed!
      3. I am not the only person who experiences a condition that cannot be fixed.
        1. There are two things such situations make you realize fast:
          1. The first is how small you are.
          2. The second is that the confidence that you are in control is extremely deceitful.
        2. The end result is a profound realization of the importance of humility.

    This evening I want to affirm to you some good news. There are many physical situations bigger than you are. However, you can choose to belong to someone who is bigger than any of those physical situations.

    1 Peter 5:6,7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

    Life on the Vine: Cultivating Joy

    Posted by on under Sermons

    Fruit of the Spirit

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-Control
  • Read John 15:8-11 –

    We want to live our life, and our life together, connected to the true vine. We want to bear the fruit of the spirit. The fruit of the spirit is love. Genuine love. The kind of love that the Father has for his son Jesus. The kind of love Jesus has for us. If we remain in Christ, then we will remain in his love. The result of this is joy. And the fruit of the spirit is joy. Christ’s teaching about “the vine and branches” tells us a couple of things about joy.

    1. Joy is directed outward. Notice in verse 11 that Christ is teaching us this lesson so that his joy may be in us and our joy may be complete. He does not say, “do this and you will be joyous” or “I am doing this so I can be joyous.” A relationship is assumed. The loving, vine & branches, obeying Christ, asking & receiving relationship leads to a by-product: Christ takes joy in us and our joy is made complete because we take joy in him.
      Real joy is not something you pursue for its own sake. In fact, you cannot. Joy cannot be manufactured. It is a natural product that is a by-product of taking delight in something external. (Like honey – you can encourage the development of honey, but only bees can make it.) This strikes us as strange because we are a culture and a people who invest a great deal of resources in entertainment and pleasure. We will come back to this in a moment, but let’s just notice that joy is something altogether different that entertainment and pleasure. Being entertained can lead to joy. And when we are joyous we may be pleased. But it is a mistake to equate these with joy.

    2. One of the ways we know this is true is because joy can thrive even in suffering and difficulty. Notice that branches are sometimes pruned so that they will become more fruitful. A survey of the apostle’s teachings on joy will show you that joy can emerge in the midst of great difficulty. “Consider it nothing but joy when you face difficulties of any kind, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
      Mature and complete! Joy grows out of the stoniest and harshest of soils, but it is one the sweetest of fruits and if you have ever experienced joy grown in suffering or difficult circumstance then you know …

    One of the most extravagant meals I have enjoyed is a plate of beans and rice shared with a family of 6 living in a 10′ x 10′ box of wood and corrugated metal in Mexico. With gratitude and joy they shared their food with Karen and me. Joy was served up at that meal. We were touched by their generosity and their hospitality – not because they could show us hospitality, but because they did!
    Our joy becomes complete in maturity for this simple reason: The more we are drawn out or ourselves the more we likely we are to find joy. If we are drawn out of ourselves toward God and one another, then we are more likely to cultivate joy.
    It can be hard to cultivate joy in our culture, especially if that means being drawn outside ourselves being called to mature.

    1. As I have already mentioned, joy is too often confused with pleasure. Here’s the root of the problem. We get the cart before the horse and assume that pleasure leads to joy. And we are disappointed when our attempts to find joy fail. In our culture we are conditioned to consume what we want, not what we need. This makes our lives and our life together vulnerable to some of the pestilence in our culture that makes joy difficult to cultivate …

    2. We are bombarded by attempts to manufacture desire. How were we conditioned to want and desire? The spirit of the age. Just as the Holy Spirit gives life and ripens the fruit of the spirit, the spirit of our age tries to bring life to desire. Much of our culture and economy is based on gratifying desires. This is sometimes very obviously bad. But sometimes not so bad. Perhaps you would like to get a better education or get healthier. These are not bad. And if you invest your time, money and energy in pursuing these things you are gratifying a desire. Just pay attention to the ways that our culture (media, peer pressure, expectations) attempts to manufacture desire and then offer the means to gratify it. This becomes most detrimental to cultivating joy when the cycle of manufacturing and gratifying desire becomes an endless pursuit of happiness …

    3. And our culture too often equates happiness with excess. We live in a Super Size culture that craves “More” and we are convinced that “Bigger is Better.” Until recently, cars have gotten bigger and bigger. I have no problem with anyone driving a Humvee. But if you had told me 10 years ago that there would be dealerships selling anyone their own battlefield assault vehicle I wouldn’t have accepted it. What is interesting is that excess begins to hurt and now the gas bills are starting to compare with the loan payments. Small care or large car we are all starting to think about excess. Let that examination carry over to other areas – I don’t understand why we complain that gas is $2.75 a gallon when we are paying over $3 for 12 oz. of coffee at Starbucks. (How was I ever convinced to pay so much for coffee?)
      We have become a distracted people. Sort of like the man Jesus spoke of who kept building bigger barns to store his wealth, but ran out of time to enjoy what he had acquired. This is why the endless pursuit of happiness doesn’t necessarily lead to joy. Excess prevents us from being thankful with what we have. We become insatiable. When we gather to worship we cannot give thanks because we feel such insatiable desire rather than gratitude. (We often say that we cannot evangelize those we meet through benevolence until we meet their physical needs. In other words, we cannot preach the gospel to empty stomachs. I think we have the same problem in our worship sometimes. We cannot preach the gospel or enjoy the fruit of the spirit because we are spiritually hungry. The good news is that there is food for the soul).

    4. Finally, joy is choked out by the weeds of fear and anxiety. The endless pursuit of happiness that accepts the principles of excess often lead to financial burdens that create fear and anxiety. Some of the desire that our culture tries to manufacture is the desire to feel safe. So we are sold products that are supposed to eliminate our fear and worry. Jesus taught us about the seed and the sower and that some of the seed fell on rocky soil and thorny ground. These are those who receive the word with joy, but trouble and persecution (rocks and stones) or worries and desire for wealth (thorns) choke out the seed or keep it from taking root. The result is the same – it yields nothing. It doesn’t mature.

    So how do we cultivate joy? How do we encourage the environment that allows us to find joy and allows joy to mature and ripen in our lives and our life together? (Note the importance of cultivating joy among us, since we cannot seek joy for its own sake and since joy is experience when we are drawn outside ourselves.)

    1. Joy thrives in worship, because joy draws us outside ourselves. In worship we focus on God and what he has done for us. Our worship is a response to God’s actions. The confusion in our culture could create some concern among us because we assume that joy contradicts reverence. Especially when joy is mistaken for pleasure. Joy takes place in worship when we are drawn outside of ourselves – either to God or one another.

    2. Joy is nurtured by contentment. I didn’t know if anyone could ever improve on “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” but Tim Burton did. He has so captured the spirit of our age. One of the characters, Varuca Salt, is a spoiled brat and her father gets her whatever she wants. She wants a golden ticket to visit Wonka’s factory. Mr. Salt drives his workers to slavery to unwrap thousands of chocolate bars in search of the golden ticket. When he finally gives her the golden ticket (through no work of her own) he offers it to her with a smile hoping for a bit of thanks, but instead without missing a beat the child says – Now daddy, I want a pony. Without contentment, none of us can experience joy. Discontent family members can rob the joy from the whole family. And discontent church members can rob the joy from a congregation. This is why the cultivation of joy is so associated with maturity, because it is nurtured by contentment.

    3. Now having said that it seems odd that I would next suggest that if we want to cultivate joy, we should “Learn From Children.” When we think of adults who act spoiled, discontent, grouchy, stubborn, selfish we call them childish. Maybe that is unfair. Maybe children who act in those ways are really acting “adult-ish!” Some of the most “childish” behavior in kids is just an imitation of a more sophisticated, but just as negative, adult behavior. Children are just like us, they have their good days and bad days, and we can learn from them on the good days.

    Story of the boy at Fort Chaffee: A Katrina evacuee from New Orleans who took joy in the toys we found for him. He taught me a lesson about joy and I took joy in his delight.