What Jesus is For

As we trace the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, we’ve seen God’s legitimate concern proceed any condemnation, him contrast his way with the world’s way—showing that we all are in need of grace, and this might be the most critical point. I wrestled with how to address this topic. You’ll notice that up to this point, I’ve barely quoted any verses directly related to homosexuality. I did that intentionally because the church is bombarded with the attack that we are against everything, so let’s talk, as we finish up the story

Not About What We Are Against, but What the Bible Is For (John 4:19, 23-26) 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet… 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

As Jesus finishes up his interaction with the Samaritan woman, he leaves no mystery surrounding what she needs. He leaves no doubt as to what is missing. There is only a gap  between what was and what is based on the divine power, identity, and hope of Christ washing us clean, justifying us, renewing us through His Spirit. Let’s be clear, the Bible is abundantly clear that homosexuality is a sin, 3 places in the OT, 3 times in the NT, expressing a rejection of that lifestyle. Continue reading “What Jesus is For”

Not Just Homosexuality but Humans

As we continue at our look at the polarizing issue of homosexuality, we have to remember the bigger reality, that  instead of just having a…

Homosexual Problem, We Have A Homosapien Problem–as we pick up with Jesus interacting with the woman at the well (John 4, 10, 13-18)  10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”/ 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” Jesus holds up two pictures of this woman’s life which are in tension. He proves that he doesn’t ignore the sin in her life, but at the same time, he can see for her a life that isn’t defined by an identity of sin. In other words, come and drink from the water that will ultimately satisfy. Instead of throwing the pebbles into the crater hoping it will fill you up. Can you relate to that? Setting up a tent in “what was,” going back to “who you used to be,” feeling that fight for the identity of your very self—and Jesus all along is saying come let me wash you, cleanse you, and make you clean. Christ constantly balances the grave with his grace.  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What happens in the homosexual debate is that things devolve into comparison—“why do you think your heterosexual relationships are any better than my homosexual ones?” One against another, when what we miss is that the true comparison is each one of us against the standing of Christ. Continue reading “Not Just Homosexuality but Humans”

Why Do You Condemn Homosexuals?

How many of you enjoy roller coasters? You never are quite sure after you are buckled in which direction you will be going, upwards or downwards, slow or fast, the sudden drops met with the epic gravity fighting upward slope. Little did I know that when I walked into the Intentional Church Conference, I would be strapping myself into a figurative roller coaster. People had driven in from all over the state of IL to Decatur to hear the speaker take on one of the most controversial, engaging, and polarizing issues facing the church. Christopher Yuan took to the podium and for the first hour he didn’t talk about statistics, trends, state’s rights versus federal decree, instead he just told his story. It was a story twists and turns—a story that starts off pretty smooth. Christopher’s life seemed to pretty much be on autopilot; he had breezed through college and was about a month away from finishing up dental school where he looked forward to stepping to the shoes of his father who had a thriving dental practice. Yet, underneath the smooth surface, were the twists and turns that leave your stomach in knots, Twist– he was running a little business on the side, actually a pretty big business, selling drugs out of his apartment, nearly a ton of marijuana, and he had an even bigger secret. Turn- Despite his conservative appearance by day, by night he spent the vast majority of his time in the gay-bars, hooking up with one guy after another. Homosexuality for Christopher Yuan wasn’t just another topic, wasn’t just a seminar topic, it was his life.

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No doubt this is a delicate issue, for many a personal issue. We all probably have friends or family that have been touched by the topic, I know I do. Yet, even more broadly, this is an issue that has morphed: homosexuality has been declassified by many as a sin, unlisted as a problem to be treated, politicized and debated, swaying on opinion polls rather than God’s moral authority. Not surprisingly, the most pervasive question in a national survey of nonbelievers was simple: Why do you Christians condemn homosexuals?

We have been in an intensely practical sermon series called “DON’T ASK ME THAT,” wrestling through the questions we are oftentimes scared to be confronted with, that drive us to keep our mouths shut such as: Does God Exist, Can We Trust the Bible, Is Jesus Really God, and Why Church? Our focus was to be equipped to engage the lost around us and not just blend in with the lost around us. Yet, homosexuality as a topic can feel like the ultimate roller-coaster, hearing one thing in church and feeling contorted the moment you walk out, told tolerance is the trump card and biblical truth strikes close to home for those whose identity are rooted in their sexuality. Twists and turns. So today, I’m not going to waste your time with my opinion, but allow us to be rooted in the omnipotent words of God and the example of Christ. We need to start by re-framing the conversation, remembering what we are truly talking about…

Not About Condemnation but Concern—Check out John 4:6b-9, where Jesus is on his way to Galilee, traveling through Samaria. Jesus has what appears to be a chance encounter Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, The very fact that Jesus speaks in this context is revolutionary–it is obvious that only an outcast would dare draw water from a well at Noon, in the blazing heat unless they were feeling the heat of a different kind. The heat of rejection, scandal, and scorn. The scarlet letter burning through the fabric right into the flesh. “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans) Continue reading “Why Do You Condemn Homosexuals?”

Why Church?

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In the weekend addition of a small town paper ran a church ad until any before. In big bold letters ran the title: NO EXCUSE SUNDAY–To make it possible for everyone to attend church this Sunday, we are going to have a special “No Excuse Sunday”: Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.” There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel that our pews are too hard. Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night. We will have steel helmets for those who say, “The roof would cave in if I ever came to church.” Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who say it is too hot. Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present. Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can’t go to church and cook dinner, too. We will distribute “Stamp Out Stewardship” buttons for those that feel the church is always asking for money. One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature. Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday. The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them. We will provide hearing aids for those who can’t hear the preacher and cotton wool for those who think he’s too loud! Hope to see you there! Maybe you have never run into any of those issues, but a middle-aged man who was in an honest mood gave me his reason for missing church: God made football…doesn’t that cover it?

In part we can chuckle and laugh at the long list of demands that have to all be met before some dare to enter a church each Sunday because we have all probably been there to one degree to another. It is helpful for me to remember that, because now as a pastor the world seems to revolve around Sunday, I blink and Sunday is here again. Yet, it wasn’t always like that,  when I first graduated from college, I was working an hour away from where we lived and I realized just how easy it was to create a host of excuses why church wasn’t all that important or how they didn’t really need me or want me there. It is important to remember that because in our sermon series called DON’T ASK ME THAT we find that a lot of unbelievers aren’t unbelievers at all. In fact, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 89 percent of Americans still say they believe in a God, but they aren’t really convinced that church is all entirely necessary, critical, relevant, etc. So today, we are just going to take an honest look beyond the excuses to the very essence of WHY CHURCH? For our answer we turn to the book of Ephesians where Paul is writing from prison to a people who aren’t quite sure how to see themselves. They have been involved in idol worship, illicit sex, and foolish philosophies— searching for purpose just like a lot of people still today, and Paul starts encouraging them to think about themselves in an entirely different way in Christ — as the church.

(Ephesians 4:11-12)NLT-11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians Paul would get even all-encompassing declaring, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Paul starts to answer the question of Why Church. It is the church that becomes the place where our  Calling Meets Community—In other words, as Pastor Rick Warren said with the first words in his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life- “It’s not about you!” Maybe you’ve tried self-help and been told it is all about you—digging down deeper inside of yourself trying to unlock some hidden gem of wisdom and meaning, and for millions of people that is where they end—in the black hole, whereas, the church is an acknowledgement that purpose is only found beyond self, not in an unyielding focus on self.  As God gifts people with gifts in the church–he doesn’t gift any one person with everything.  Notice the directional implications of what Paul is saying-—what comes from God—is meant to go through you—and into the world—one person at a time.

Kind of like the game of golf. Setting people up to send them out. One of golf’s immortal moments came when a Scotchman demonstrated the new game to President Ulysses Grant. Carefully placing the ball on the tee, he took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf and scattered dirt all over the President’s beard and surrounding vicinity, while the ball placidly waited on the tee. Again the Scotchman swung, and again he missed. Our President waited patiently through six tries and then quietly stated, “There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball.  Campus Life.

We can’t miss the purpose of the church. Like in New York City when the Mayor, Mayor Koch had a radical idea. He wanted to solve the plight of the estimated 36,000 homeless men and women who were dealing with a host of issues ranging from drug abuse, mental illness to long-term unemployment. After crunching the number, the mayor had calculated that if each of the 3500 churches in the city cared for ten homeless people the problem would nearly be eliminated entirely. The church leaders rejected the plan. Another swing and miss.

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 When the church becomes all about a spiritual high, a momentary rush, a drop of entertainment we’ve lost our true calling. If you think you can be a Christian by yourself, in your bubble, without getting messy—you’re mistaken. If you think that being a Christian is going to get you spiritual points and then costs you nothing—no sacrifice, no endurance, no saying no to your old self—than you are wasting your time. In fact, we get two radically different equations starting from the same location.

My life + My Desire + Good News= Momentary Modification

My life + God’s Desire+ Good News= Enduring Transformation

A lot of people stay away from churches because they don’t look like they desire. When what you’ll come to find is that the church you want isn’t found, it is formed.  That we don’t come to a church, we are the church—when we come together. Meeting needs bigger than one person can meet, teaching truth bigger than one person can convey, changing lives in more profound ways than one person could plan.

 

Now or Never

Earbuds blaring, makes it hard for actually hearing the words that come from your mouth .

Going through the motion, 1 foot in front of the other while our hearts seem to be for another .

Who is your conductor, for whom do you lift your voice and where you find your rest?

Constantly we are tempted by the sirens offering comfort which in turn becomes our soma, nothing more than an ongoing coma. My Lord and my God some mock others marvel, mesmerized by a mission that goes beyond each moment.

Lord wake me up from the silence, playing a mime is just a waste of my time , flailing around without changing the times.

How easily we lose sight this whole planet doesn’t revolve around us but that doesn’t stop us from the fight to devise it…

Before you blow your final trumpet let us be found making more disciples, dying like a seed in the garden trying to produce an abundant harvest.

Finally a plan with a greater purpose that exceeds all my contrivance. The final restoration not postponed in your slowness but we saw patience purchased at a price of the Prince of Peace, when it was now if never you responded.

Suffering #3: Alarm Ringing

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FIRE ALARM Ringing (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:14-16) 17… he had to be made like them,[a] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted… Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This lately has been one of my favorite verses. When people wrestle with evil, they feel like God has abandoned them, unable to help them, powerless to defend them, but we see that God experienced the fullness of what man had created in rebellion. IN fact, on the cross, Jesus rejected the gall drink which was meant to dull the pain, and he embraced our pain fully conscience, fully aware, and fully incarnate. He embraced it all in hopes that he would be our rescuer—allowing pain to prod us into action–rousing us from our slumber. Then he took the next step and became our deliverer, his body as a sacrifice which would atone for our sins, not temporarily, but eternally as he took on the role of the Great High Priest. The result is something undeserved, instead of being judged by our goodness, we are given his grace. It is in response to that gift that he calls us to turn back to Him.  Continue reading “Suffering #3: Alarm Ringing”