Dirty Jobs: All We Need

When our appetites are raging, when our attention is divided—we have to figure out if resistance is really worth the effort. Is God…

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All We Need?- As Joseph’s story continues, it takes a turn for the worst and again his coat becomes the center of attention—with Joseph’s cloak her mind starting working overdrive (39:16-20a) 16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” 19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. Continue reading “Dirty Jobs: All We Need”

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Church Shopping: Laodicea

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A million dollars is a lot of money! What would you be willing to do for a million dollars? Would you move to Antarctica for 6 months? Take a soaking bath in manure? Would you randomly stand up in church and do the funky chicken and quack like a chicken? Let’s bring this into a little bit more serious challenge—Would you be willing to kill someone for a million dollars—if all you had to do was press a button. In 2009, Cameron Diaz starred in a movie called “The Box,” where she was offered a million dollars to press a button. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HT1K-XoREU. Let me take this social experiment one step farther, would you give up your faith in Christ?

 

Today, after visiting 6 different churches all over 1st century Turkey, we conclude our series with the church in Laodicea wrestling with that last question most heavily, is there a price at which Christ will be forfeited to win the whole world? Some of the churches we visited faced poverty, others persecution, some mild prosperity, but today we find a city sitting on gold and Christians who are considering whether to give up God. Laodicea was the banking center for their region, home for 40,000 people, with two good sized theaters outnumbering the 200,000 person town of Ephesus, had a booming marketplace, textile manufacturing, and a salve (eye treatment which brought people from far and wide). They had economic, medical, and manufacturing centers pumping the city with vitality, wealth, and prosperity, and yet despite everything seemingly perfect, Jesus begins his letter:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen (a title meaning God of truth), the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Jesus is preparing the people: You might not like what I have to say, but you need to hear the truth, the people in Laodicea despite embracing self-sufficiency had a problem with their:

 

Bottled Water (Revelation 3:14-16) A sign of great wealth of our nation is that you can walk into any grocery store and find piles of fresh, clean, bottled water all ready to be consumed. Yet, you only need bottled water when your water leaves something lacking. Jesus uses the Laodicea water crisis to highlight their spiritual crisis:

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Laodicea was a city struggling with a water crisis. Just like Flint, MI where the water was contaminated, Laodicea had no natural source of water in the Lycus Valley, and the water they piped in was full of minerals, smelled horribly, and was tepid once it finally arrived in town in the hot Asian sun. The next town over Hierapolis being known for healing and hygienic hot springs while Colossae nearby got cool, crisp, refreshing water from the glacial melt. Jesus points out that like their tepid, room-temperature, nasty water; they had become contaminated by the comfort all around them. Hot water had a purpose—cold water had a purpose—but Jesus is saying pretty clearly, “You make me want to puke.” The people of Laodicea boasted in their self-sufficiency and yet they lacked the very thing that they needed to be self sustaining. Continue reading “Church Shopping: Laodicea”

Church Shopping: Philadelphia’s Patience

In our dependence on God, we are made dependable by God for something that transcends us or even our own ability, but for the people in Philadelphia, and maybe for you and me it can be a challenge to:

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Stay Patient When You Feel Pressured (Revelation 3:9-10) I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

Jesus was aware of their struggles and gives them the promise of vindication in the midst of others apparent victories. Continue reading “Church Shopping: Philadelphia’s Patience”

Church Shopping: Sleeping Sardis

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How many of you could use a nap? Life gets crazy, running kids around, keeping up with grandkids, appointments, doctor visited, etc. That is why the PowerNap Sleep Centers of Boca Raton, FL decided to move forward with their vision called, MinneNAPolis opened in Minnesota’s Mall of America in November 2005. The object was pretty straightforward. The new store had themed rooms including Asian Mist, Tropical Isle, and Deep Space. The walls had been sound proofed and reinforced to block out the noise of squealing children and overhead announcements.

The company website read, “Escape the pressures of the real world into the pleasures of the ideal one.” “Its not just napping,” according to a press release. Yet, after only 5 months the store was put to sleep after trying to charge seventy-cents per minute.

Falling asleep can sometimes come at a price. If you fall asleep at the wrong times can have playful implications, you wake up with a fake Italian mustache because your friends have written with sharpie or maybe serious implication—if the heaviness of your eyelids hit you when you were in control of your vehicle, when it was late at night, when every muscle in your body told you to relax, and your brain was yelling NO. There are sometimes where it just doesn’t pay to fall asleep.

That is the context for our sermon series called CHURCH SHOPPING which takes us to the city of Sardis. Sardis unlike Thyatira, was a city with a huge history and a reputation as one of the greatest cities in the world. In the 6th century BC, they had been the capital gem of one of the wealthiest kings in the history of the world: King Croesus (Crease—US). He had paid for and constructed a beautiful temple to Artemis (one of the 7 wonders of the world)—goddess of fertility—they enjoy prosperity, influence, and peace with the safety of a wall that many felt was impenetrable. Yet as Jesus writes to the city nearly 6 centuries later he is going to appeal to their past to remind them of a new future:

While other churches have faced persecution, some economic pressure, others wrestled with compromise or tolerance Sardis is unique—a church that has seemingly figured out how to keep the peace—a church that is able to take a nap—and yet just like with MinneNAPolis, their slumber had come at a cost. Just like when you fall asleep behind the wheel of your truck or car, there is a fine line between being asleep and being dead.

EXPIRATION DATE— Like milk that has been in the fridge too long—it looks good from the outside, but when you take off the lid there is no doubt that it is rank. (Revelation 3:1b-3a) I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Explanation: The people of Sardis, the Christians must have been a little surprised by Jesus harsh opening—after all, hadn’t been the most successful of any church so far, they had hit the pinnacle winning the prize of being at peace—yet Jesus sees through their peace as puny—giving into everything around them—reminding us that peace alone is never the prize, but being in the presence of God is. There is no temptation for the church that is already dead, no pulse for the church that has avoided the spiritual battle, no activity for those not standing for Christ.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. It is a subtle yet powerful reference that Jesus makes as he calls them to “hold it fast,” reminding them that what they had once built had come down to pummel them in an earthquake 2 centuries earlier. Leaving hundreds dead, that which looked strong was weak, that which was meant to protect actually pounded down, instead of holding up it came falling down. The peace they had built wouldn’t save them, when it caved in on them.

It is amazing how far some people will go to try to pretend they have built something lasting, even when the pieces have started falling down around them. Maybe after losing a loved one you took some form of memento or keep sake, a favorite piece of jewelry, old letters, or trinket to keep their memory alive, but I’m guessing you never knew about the big business of making the dead appear alive was actually a favorite keepsake of the Victorian era. It was known as Post-mortem photography, Continue reading “Church Shopping: Sleeping Sardis”

Quotes of the Day

“God is a God who bears. The Son of God bore our flesh. he therefore bore the cross. He bore all our sins and attained reconciliation by his bearing. That is why disciples are called to bear what is put on them. Bearing constitutes being a Christian.” (91, Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship)

Effort

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Do you ever feel like you’re carrying more than you can bear? Like the mythological character Atlas with the world on his back or Sisyphus who was perpetually called on to roll a rock up a hill only to see it roll down. The rock seems to roll down each day for the caretaker caring for the chronically ill, the worn out single mother trying to work two jobs to provide for her children and yet feels like she is missing out on knowing her children.

In human flesh, even Jesus confronted the reality that he couldn’t do everything.  In his book The Master Plan of Evangelism Robert Coleman points to the “genius of Christ’s ministry.”  Jesus shifted his emphasis after eighteen months of ministry. Instead of trying to invest in everyone, he choice those who were open, faithful, malleable, passionate, and ready.

Dann Spader in his book on discipleship called Walking As Jesus Walked summarized the shift: “His mission was not so much to reach the whole world as to make disciples who would reach the whole world. This is a sublte but life-changing distinction.”

For Jesus in Mark 1:16-20 he reached out to brothers Simon and Andrew, James and John. Instead of trying to do everything, what are the names of the few that you are investing?

Mark My Words-CURIOUS

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Let me start with an impromptu survey- How many of you belong to a social media site? We tend to be experts in following or being followed, it is a part of our cultural makeup, creating a brave new world- where some are even networking before they know how to tie their own shoes, or posting before they are potty trained. One mom said of her 1 year old’s Instagram account, “I think everything my son does is cute…but, I didn’t want him to hijack my page.” Another mom said that her daughter by 18 months had a solid 72 followers and had over 69 posts on her page.

What’s amazing is how widespread social networking is, right now there are about 2,351,180,025 people who to one degree or another spend part of their existence following the lives of those around them. The stats are surprising, social media crossing over barriers with both rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and increasing old—we are all following someone, something, a life defined more and more by tweets and tumblers, pins and posts.

Today, as we continue in our series- MARK MY WORDS, seeing Jesus in action through the Gospel of Mark, we come to the heart of following in Mark 3:7-12. So far in the Gospel, Jesus has done a lot: multiple miracles which have multiplied the crowds, made claims of divinity, and eluded the religious leader intent on killing him. It is as Jesus withdrew from the crowds, that the different ways people followed then are revealed and the best way for us to respond today is made clear..

Let’s jump into our text beginning with the CURIOUS—in verse 7-8, 10: Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon…10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Continue reading “Mark My Words-CURIOUS”