Trading Places

Why should you care? Why should you give up even a penny, or an ounce of time, or give a fragment of focus? Why should compassion ever compete with your comfort?

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 It is in the aftermath of Jesus engagement that we find our answer:

TRADING PLACES: Mark 1: 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Despite Jesus telling him to keep quiet, the man had experienced something so powerful and tangible that he couldn’t contain himself.  His God moment resulted in a persistent Gratitude.  The guy wasn’t being paid to spread the news of Jesus. He realized that Jesus had traded out his ailment with Jesus awesome power! Here is what’s crazy in the aftermath, Jesus ends up in the very place that the man used to be confined–in the lonely places. The leprous were sent outside of camp, and it is Jesus that will one day carry his cross to another lonely place to trade places with us.  This isn’t just someone else’s story; it has the potential to become our story. Paul writes in  Romans 4:25 “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  Jesus didn’t save us via Facebook message, he didn’t save us through a cosmic decree finger-painted in the clouds, he saved us by trading places with us through an incarnation. He allows us to experience compassion before calling us to be compassionate.  Jesus became nothing, so that you could become something in the lives of others

.kolbe.jpg Continue reading “Trading Places”

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Jesus’ Engagement

Today we pick up in Mark 1:40-45, looking at a life of compassionate stewardship. Jesus doesn’t get mad at the condition of the leper and call his legislature,  Herod, or Pontius Pilate. He realizes that true compassion doesn’t end with complaining, it begins with…

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ENGAGEMENT (Mark 1:41b-42) He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

Engaging comes at a cost. The law in Leviticus 13 and 14 were clear that leprosy made someone unclean, while on their journey to the Promise Land, God’s law was inherently practical to avoid contagious disease from spreading through the camp, where hygiene could get sketchy. So it went further, if you touched someone with a skin disease you would be considered unclean. Fast forward to the 1st century and things had morphed from practical to punitive: throwing rocks at the diseased if they got too close, barring them from all social and religious practices, even talk about leprosy caused terror. Continue reading “Jesus’ Engagement”

Jesus Emotion

We are in the midst of a political season—the debates are over, the polls are open for early voting, the commercials and mailers have gone out in bulk, but instead of focusing on presidential politics, let me pull you into the much more heated, contested, and nasty sphere of lunchroom politics. It was in the lunch room where you were either offered a seat at the cool table or shunned, it was where there were fights to the crazy shenanigans. Chelsea’s brother likes to tell the story of his lunchroom antics—when a group of friends switched out the small and delicious vanilla ice cream in those little containers with wooden spoons for mash potatoes. They sat back and waited for someone to scream and scream they did.

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Sometimes, lunchroom politics goes far beyond juvenile pranks. Let me take you back to 1985, Russiaville, Indiana. At Western Middle School a 13 year old becomes a symbol of a national debate which played out in a lunchroom. In the mid 1980’s very little was known about HIV or AIDS, and so a middle school lunchroom became the place where the controversy erupted. It was there that Ryan White found himself banished to a table by himself. It was in the lunchroom where he felt ostracized. Ryan suffered from hemophilia and unfortunately received HIV infected blood. Although the doctors said he posed no threat to any other one else the match had been struck.  Suddenly, parents, teachers, and students panicked that HIV would spread, administrators were pressured to ban White from attending school,  there were death threats and bullets fired through the front window of White’s house, all in an attempt to answer the question: Do this young man belong?

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Today we are going to confront a remarkably similar situation in our sermon series called The GREAT EXCHANGE. We’ve been looking at the idea of stewardship, how God gives us our time, treasures, and talents to invest as an investment in us. Crafting within us a character like Christ, setting us apart with a Commission, and allowing us to engage in his plan to reveal our purpose through a Call, but today we find the Great Exchange today is taking our human consternation (like the fear of the students, teachers, and parents in Russiaville, IN) and replace it with God’s divine compassion.  To figure out how we become stewards of relationships defined by compassion we turn to unlikely interchange that Christ experiences in the book of Mark 1:40-45, after being in solitude and prayer, Jesus is confronted by a man with leprosy.

Notice first Jesus Emotions40 A man with leprosy[a] (a variety of skin disorders fell under this heading) came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Jesus was indignant…”At different times we get a glimpse into the humanity of Jesus, when he wept over Jerusalem as his final Passover approached.  As Jesus saw the pain Lazarus’ death caused he grieved, when he saw his Father’s temple becoming a house of robbers he reacted with righteous anger but this seems like a strange case was Jesus mad at being asked to help this poor man?

Most Bibles put a footnote in saying that another translation is possible—“filled with compassion” yet indignation is still a defensible position. The question is what was Jesus indignant over?  Constantly, Jesus demonstrations of emotion come over frustration at how a sin ravaged world has worked over, ostracized, marginalized, and pushed to the outer edge those that Jesus had created. Jesus’ emotion is clear—he sees in this man not a problem to fix, an inconvenience to circumvent, but a human being in need of someone to care. A man who was so isolated outside of community that he would ask Jesus if he was willing to make him clean, so programed that he thought even the Messiah wouldn’t truly care about his plight. Continue reading “Jesus Emotion”

Farmer’s Harvest

Two analogies: a soldier focused on his commission, an athlete building to fulfill their calling, and finally a….

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Farmer (With a Target) 2 Timothy 2:6-8, The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.

Here is an analogy that we are used to talking about at the crossroads, where over coffee the most common topic of conversation is the weather, where you are talking about the hard work that goes into producing a harvest, it is a way of life. Yet, just listening in my ignorance of farming, there is one conversation I have yet to hear—“Hey guys—I’m just going to wing it this year—I’ll plant the seeds that I happen to come across—I’ll just hope for enough to get a harvest, to pay the bills. There was no booth at the Farm Progress Show called—“JUST WINGING IT.” Continue reading “Farmer’s Harvest”

Athlete Training

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Paul’s first analogy holds no punches, putting us on the front line—managers rather than masters of our world, but his second analogy calls us to be like …

Athlete’s Training—Not everyone is as lucky or as cursed to have Michael Phelps’ training regimen which became famous during the 2012 London Olympics as he was reportedly eating about 12,000 calories a day. Simone Biles who worked over the competition was reported as completing 18 workouts a week to bring home the gold. We live in a 24/7 Sporting world, radio, television so we can connect with Paul’s words:  (2 Timothy 2:5) Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.

Just because we have been given time, talents, and treasure, how do we actually go about discerning and cultivating what we have?  Have you ever noticed how easy it is for someone to call themselves an athlete? Continue reading “Athlete Training”

Soldier’s Focus

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An old story is told about a young farmer, standing in his field, observes a peculiar cloud formation. The clouds form the letters G, P, and C, and he thinks them a call from God: Go preach Christ!

The farmer rushes to the deacons of his church and insists that he has been called to preach. Respectful of his ardor, they invite him to fill the pulpit.

That Sunday, the sermon is long, tedious, and virtually incoherent. When it finally ends, the leaders sit in stunned silence. Finally, a wise deacon mutters to the would-be preacher, “Seems to me the clouds were saying ‘Go plant corn.'” Continue reading “Soldier’s Focus”

Great Exchange: Commissioned

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In God’s power and goodness he created man, despite our rebellion he offered rescue to mankind through Christ, but the goal of saving the lost involves you and me…

A Divine Commission– as the culmination of what has come before (Matthew 28:18-20) 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

When someone is on their death bed or going away for the last time—their final words takes on greater significance.  It is Jesus last words; his greatest significance takes his life’s goal of seeking and saving the lost and turns it into a co-mission. He includes us in changing the world. True discipleship breeds duplication. Pastor Griffen put it this way: “We’ve been commissioned to proclaim God’s good news to people in bad situations and change the world. We’ve been sent to shout freedom to people imprisoned by life and the order of things.  We’ve been sent by God to declare new vision to people blinded by the weight of their past and present realities.  We’ve been sent by God to call people who’ve been oppressed by greed, pride, power, violence and hate and declare their freedom.  We’ve been commissioned by God to change the world.” Continue reading “Great Exchange: Commissioned”