Dirty Jobs: Changing Without Being Changed

Doing the dirty job of shepherding required that Joseph stepped outside of the palace and into the presence of the people he was called to serve, he had to plan with their needs in mind, and yet the final step was the most delicate balance.

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Joseph was in the culture to change it without letting it fundamentally change him! (Genesis 41:50-57) 50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh[a] and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim[b] and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” 53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” 56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

We get a glimpse into the changes in Joseph’s personal life. Continue reading “Dirty Jobs: Changing Without Being Changed”

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Pursued: Course Correction

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If you’ve been on an airplane with intense turbulence, that is what these sailors on board with Jonah are experiencing, in their desperation they start praying to their gods, throwing cargo out of their ship to lighten their load (a last ditch move for cargo transporters). In the midst of the madness, the men look to…

Make a Course Correction (Jonah 1:5b-9) But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish. They started casting lots to figure out who was to blame and guess who got the short straw—Jonah. They started pumping him for more information—who are you? Where are you going? And are you in trouble?—He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Verse 11-The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

Everyone on board is pretty scared for their life, except for Jonah who was sleeping. He didn’t seem particularly broken up about the situation. Not conscious stricken. Instead took the approach of trying to ignore reality, deny reality, but like an alarm clock blaring in the morning there comes a time where each of us have to wake up. HERE IS THE COURSE CORRECTION(verse 12) “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm had come up you.”

This can be pretty common when we are running from God? We don’t always feel bad when we are writing the rules for ourselves. Continue reading “Pursued: Course Correction”

Mark My Words-Ripping up the Righteousness

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We just have been given a picture of 4 men who went to extraordinary lengths out of compassion for their hurting friend, we saw Jesus build off their faith to meet the obscure urgent need, not just the obvious want, but have you ever noticed how some people, no matter how good things are going seem to focus on making something negative…The religious leaders were no exception…as they worked at…

Ripping up the Righteous (Mark 2:6-11) Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

Someone once joked: Some people are so negative, if you put them in a dark room, they’ll develop. These religious leaders were able to develop as they heard in Jesus words an unacceptable claim: Jesus was God in human flesh! Sometimes people will argue, “Jesus never claimed to be God,” but if only God could forgive sins…they knew exactly what he was claiming to be, and in case of any doubt his clarification leaves no doubt, “Which is easier” to cleanse a man spiritually or heal him physically…Jesus says, if I can do the harder, I must have power over the lesser—then here is the biggest sign of all…He uses the title “Son of Man”— for himself…which alluded to Daniel 7:13—a heavenly figure who “given all authority; glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language would worship him.”

Being criticized is not a problem if you develop a positive way of dealing with it. Winston Churchill had the following words of Abe Lincoln framed on the wall of his office: “I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If I’m wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won’t make a difference.” Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993, pp. 15-16.

Anytime you are doing something worth doing, people are going to criticize you, people are going to scoff, people are going to complain, and yet what we can learn from Christ—is that the mission comes before the complaints, the needs of the lost and hurting before the comfortable. Romans 12:2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Instead of ripping apart the righteous, we have to ask of ourselves: are we criticizing the church or changing the world?

Saying Goodbye Part 2

Saying goodbye is never easy! Next week I start a new ministry, but this week I saw goodbye to a ministry that helped shape me. As we saw yesterday, the Holy Spirit unites us together as partners in the Gospel. Regardless of what we have in distinction, we are one through Christ! As Paul continues he reveals that what God begins, he finishes.

God began a good work in us! (Philippians 1:6) being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

We get all the hope for humanity in one verse, God’s work for us began at the cross through Christ, continued through the Holy Spirit’s work in us, and will be completed by Christ’s return to rework the world. We get a promise of progress towards completion. When you want to throw up your hands in frustration, when you are left sighing so heavily it could knock over a small shack, wondering, “Does any of this matter at all?” Here is a promise that your effort is an investment, that when you give of yourself, God is willing to give you more and more of himself! It is a promise that all the work you are called to do is building to something, is actually building you up as a new someone, and that all the effort isn’t all an existential experiment.

This phrase, carrying it on to completion, reminds me of a construction site. In fact, it specifically reminds me of working part-time doing construction. We took properties that were in some dire need of TLC and revamped, reworked, and redesigned them. (By we, I mean the person I was working with, I found out construction isn’t my gift).  Continue reading “Saying Goodbye Part 2”

BECOME #3- New Harvest

If you are just joining us, welcome! We are in the midst of a look at the building blocks of discipleship. The first week, we looked at what we believe but also how we believe. An identity more than fleeting idea.  Now we are shifting gears to look at the transformation process concluding today in a new harvest.  So far we have seen the process of receiving the Holy Spirit as belief prods us to baptism, and seen how the Holy Spirit works as he cuts through the hardness of heart—counseling us when we are teachable, but as we look at the second building block of a disciple BECOME—we find the beauty of…

Counseling Leads to New Harvest (Galatians 5:22-25) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  These elements lived out to the full are the very essence of Jesus Christ. He demonstrated God’s love for us. We proclaim “Joy to the World” since we have found the “Prince of Peace.” On and on it goes, in living out the fruit of the Spirit we are actually taking on Christ-likeness. It isn’t a coincidence that God puts application at the heart of each element that goes into a disciple. Relationship with the Spirit of God, leads to relationship with those around us. Against such things there is no law. In fact, where our spiritual ancestors failed to follow God wholeheartedly, that the law’s very essence is fulfilled—loving God and loving the people around us as if they were ourselves. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. When we live by the Spirit we are able to walk in cadence to the symphony of Scripture.

When is this new harvest coming? Where is self-control when I open my mouth and insert my foot? Where is love when I am consumed by anger? Peace when prone to march to war? It reminds me of a conversation between an older Christian woman in her 80’s and a 21 year old that recently had been baptized in her church. For a month after his baptism he was elated, on fire, and excited. Yet, on this Sunday the woman found the 21 year old in the sanctuary praying before service obviously upset and she asked him what was wrong. He told her that he didn’t know what was wrong with him—he was frustrated that he had fallen short of his new life, sinned again, and wasn’t sure of what to make of it—The woman smiled a knowing smile and replied, “Young man, keep in mind that crucifixion is always a slow death!” Jesus had called us to follow him to Calvary—take up your cross and follow me—and yet the process isn’t overnight but on-going. Here is the beauty that unfolds in faithfully and intentionally becoming like Christ!

Lee Strobel, in his book, Case for Christmas shared a story from his early journalism days. He was tapped with writing a story on the poorest family he could find in Chicago. The family (a mother and her two daughters) had nothing on their walls, one cup of rice, one bed, and daughters shared a sweater on their cold early morning walk to school. After publishing his piece, he decided to check in on the family, it was Christmas Eve after all. When he walked into the house it had been transformed. Readers had generously sent the family clothes, gift cards, and toys. Lee was surprised though to find the family boxing up some of the items. He asked if they were disappointed in what they got. The mother replied that they were so grateful for all they had received. She added that she couldn’t keep all that stuff knowing that her neighbors had nothing. “After all, these gifts are great, but the greatest gift comes tomorrow in Jesus Christ.” The comments left Lee shook, as an atheist, he was wondering what is it about this Jesus that caused a family with nothing to give away stuff when they got something. The fruit of the Spirit allowed him to see a picture of Christ.

If you read John Grisham or like law dramas, think of what happens as double jeopardy, Double jeopardy is the law that it is illegal or unjust to try and/or punish a person for a crime that they have already been convicted of. We find that Jesus Christ has already been crucified on the cross for the sins of the world—and that as we receive the Spirit, embrace the counseling and live out the fulfillment of the law—we take on the Image of Christ—meaning that we no longer can be tried or convicted of what Christ bared on our behalf.

I like the quote by John Owen who builds off the foundation of belief: Every time we say we believe in the Holy Spirit, we mean we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it. Nowhere along the way were you meant to stay exactly the same through relationship with Jesus Christ. Stagnation has no place when the Holy Spirit is given space. Growth isn’t an option, it is an outlet. Relationship isn’t a responsibility it is a natural response. If you aren’t being changed, it isn’t because God doesn’t have the power to change you, it isn’t because God doesn’t have the desire to change you, it isn’t because you don’t have excess to what can change you, for the disciple of Jesus Christ—we have to embrace the Holy Spirit and put the second building block in place.

Empowered: These Ain’t Your Momma’s Results

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Continuing through the events of Pentecost have revealed some amazing transformation in the face of simple tradition. Through the power of the Spirit, we see the radical changes that take place in an instant—changing a ritual into a way of life, and moving the presence of God from the walls built by man to the walls of our heart built by God, and finally we see that…

THESE AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S RESULTS (Acts 2:5-13)Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

When the unexpected occurs, it causes bewilderment, shock, amazement. I have seen this even in Franklin—They see flashing lights, excitement, hear a loud noise, and they all come flocking to see what happened. Sometimes you’ll even have a traffic jam, not because a lane is closed, but because everyone is driving by peering off and slowing down to see the wreckage on the side of the road. In the same way the people have heard the noise, seen the tongues of fire which have rested on the people, indwelling in the first believers with amazing results- Suddenly they are speaking in tongues—languages that are foreign to them.  In fact, the results although a shock to the first Christians, were predicted by Christ who said in Mark 16:17- “These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages.” As they speak suddenly, the diverse listeners hear the message of Jesus Christ in their own distinct dialects, languages, and tongues.

Wives if your husband looks at you at times like you are speaking another language the results are in! A UK experiment found on a test of 40 men and 40 women, that men were more inclined to hear “masculine” words such as beer and football—the words peaked their memory and stayed with them longer. Yet, ladies before you go elbowing your husband in the ribs to punish them for this selective hearing, the experiment found that women are just as likely to have selective hearing for “feminine” words such as chocolate and shopping.

In truth, the experiment found that with all the competing messages vying for are allegiance, we only hear the messages that we find appealing or credible. Think about your friends or family outside of church— During these same hours—something else won out—extra sleep, work, exercise, family time—Yet just as God used the Spirit to add credibility and credence to the cross of Christ and unify the believers in the first century—allowing the miraculous to invade the everyday…. Paul in 1 Cor. 6:10-11 shows us how the Spirit still adds credibility to the message today—: 9Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. (That use to define us—sin which would lead to death) But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God… 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Although the changes that happen around us, some slow and some fast, may rock our world—-in Christ, the greatest change of all is what happens in your heart—your allegiance, conviction, your worldview. As we move forward as the body of Christ, there will be times where you might be frustrated with changes, you might be angry with new initiatives, you might be frightened by unique directions, but know that THIS AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S CHURCH—and that is okay—because it is Christ’s church—that as we change, we do so to fulfill the same unchanging mission, with the same unchanging mission, and that the methods—-whether we join together on two wheels or in a tin hut, are only momentary—while the changes of the Holy Spirit are forever.

Empowered #7: THIS AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S CHURCH!

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Last week we looked at the periods of waiting that sporadically invade our life and yet more often than not, if I had to guess I bet—you probably spend more time racing (around) rather than resting with things constantly changing around you. Sometimes change is slow and steady other decades like in music—as we moved from Elvis Presley to the Beatles with the British Invasion—to today’s classics—“What does the Fox Say?” Other times change happens in an instant—from the calm of September 10th to terror of September 11th—-Despite the speed at which it occurs, a social scientist rightly quipped, “The only thing constant in life is change!”  Even the church is getting in on the action– One church in particular- located in Merced, CA- have gone out of their way to embrace change—called aptly, “This Ain’t Your Mama’s Church.” Meeting each week not in a church with four walls, comfy chairs or padded pews, no soft-spoken messages, but instead on two wheels, with lots of horse-power, chaps, leather and angels to spare, but that is only because some were former Hells Angels. It is a motorcycle church! So today we are going to look at what happens when the waiting is over!

Today we continue in our Empowered Series, through the book of Acts. We move from the church being called on to Wait to seeing that when God is ready—change can transform everything. In our text from Acts 2:1-13, we will see the three major changes in the life of the early church which still impacts our faith today!

We begin in (Acts 2:1) When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Pentecost had come, let the party begin. But what are we celebrating? Sometimes it is easy to forget that the Jews practiced this event before Christ and still after Christ in the festival called Shavout- (Sha-voo-ot). Originally, it marked God giving Moses the Law on Mount Sinai, and annually celebrated by the Israelites honoring God’s provision, blessings, and concern by bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the temple. Yet here in our text, we see that after the every year being the same that this AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S PENTECOST- Look what happens in Acts 2:2– Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. In fulfillment of Christ’s promise, like a trumpet sounding announcing the arrival of royalty, or a major decree, the blowing wind acknowledges the arrival of the far greater power and presence-the Holy Spirit!  As God bottled his love for humanity in Christ (Romans 5:8), he pours out that love through the Holy Spirit—leading John to say “It is the Spirit who gives life.”

The change in the church can easily be taken for granted, the spirit came at Pentecost and the church was formed and we turn the corner,” but don’t miss the explosive change– It would be like a farmer waking up each morning—hooking up the old plow to the old horse who has seen better days. Every inch of progress would come at the price of blood, sweat, bulging arms, and lots of naying. The contrast of Pentecost would be waking up in the morning, walking out to your field and finding the latest and greatest planter from John Deere, fully equipped with GPS, air conditioned cab, and precision planter. When we try to live on our own power—we barely break the surface, each step forward only comes at the expense of our blood, sweat, and tears yet the infusion of power, precision, and the presence of God changed the entire landscape and offers to change our entire lives.

Look what happened here, God took a long-standing tradition and turned it into a moment of transformation. Not simply the memorialization of God’s law– into a true moment of interaction with God’s grace allowing us to be real with God—breaking the surface–no fake smile, plastic halo, or hollow words. Just as God did with Pentecost, he can do in your life. What things do you do everyday nearly on auto-pilot, stopping at the coffee house for a cup of joe, meeting with your friends, maybe God is calling you to take your tradition and start using it as a moment of transformation.  Usually though we avoid change as much as possible—change messes with our schedules, our sanity, and our sociability—yet sometimes only change will catapult us towards Christ! It took Moses seeing a burning bush that wouldn’t be consumed to get him out of the literal rut he probably walked in following the sheep! When is the last time you’ve tried growing in your faith by serving in a unique way, or read something that might solidify your conviction or reached out to someone new, or strived to disciple the next generation of believers? If the answer is never, or not for a long time, lets allowed the Holy Spirit to wake us up as it woke up the first Christians.