Sermon Seeds: It’s All Different Now

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Mary has always been one of my favorite characters in the Easter story. Her devotion. Her faith. Her willingness to obey Jesus’ instruction to tell the Disciples what must have seemed positively ludicrous.

The moment when she goes from thinking Jesus is a hired garden hand, to hearing him speak her name…hearing Jesus say her name.

She wraps her arms around his feet—an act of worship, love, and hanging on. “I’ll never let you go again.”

Let go, Mary. Everything that was is gone…behold I make all things NEW!

Yes, I’m leaving, but I’ll never be gone and you will never be alone. My Spirit will always be with you.

Now go…tell.

Hmmm…isn’t there a Christmas song like that?

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Can you hear him speaking your name? Will you share the incredible news: He is not here. He is risen!

He is risen indeed.

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Sermon Seeds: Build Them Up

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ (Colossians 2:2, NIV).

Way back when I first began my journey in ministry I felt led to this verse in Colossians. Without consciously deciding, I made it the purpose statement for my life: encouraged in heart and united in love, so that the folks I am connected to will be moved to deeper (complete) understanding of the mystery of God, Jesus the Christ.

My life has been spent encouraging others, and working toward unity.

Truth be told: it can be pretty exhausting. Some days I feel like a cheerleader who never gets to rest. And who isn’t always appreciated. I’m sure if you’ve ever been to a sporting event you’ve been trying to carry on a conversation while those responsible for morale and keeping you focused on the game keep yelling louder and louder to try and engage you. They can be enormously annoying.

And don’t get me started on the up-hill battle for unity these days. Everyone has an opinion, and it’s the only one that matters. People would rather be right than in relationship.

Being right. Even if it means putting someone down. Even if that process involves untruth. Even if it means trashing their character.  Even if.

Jesus knew this. The Pharisees and leaders of the day had to be right. And Jesus stood between them and control. So they trumped up false charges. Had people lie about what Jesus did and said. They forced people to break the ninth commandment by paying them to perjur themselves.

And he died, a horrible, cruel death.

They didn’t realize then…and we forget today:

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Prayer thoughts: God help to be more concerned about building each other up. Help us build bridges that result in better relationships and deeper understanding of who you are and how you want us to be. Amen.

Sermon Seeds: Adulterous Generation

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At one point in Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and Sadducess (recognized religious leaders of the day), demanded that he give them a sign to prove his authority.

“A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away (Matthew 16:4, Berean Study Bible).”

Adulterous.

Aldultery we think we understand. But what about adulterous?

Understanding this word better will help us understand why this commandment is so important to God, and why Jesus spoke about it on more than one occasion.

I went to the Thessaurus to find words that might help us. Consider these: illicit, fast and loose, immoral, cheating, two-timing, moon-lighting.

What about antonyms or the opposite: chaste and pure. To those I would add loyal and committed.

Isn’t it interesting that when God begins this section of rules and commands, he starts by demanding a pure and chaste relationship with himself?

Our relationship with him becomes the standard for our relationships with our mates and with others.

But we’re not naturally wired that way. One of my favorite hymns puts it this way: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above (Come Thou Fount).”

We are prone to wander. We have wandering eyes and wavering commitment. We are tempted to move to whatever seems better than what we have—whether it’s a car, house, a job, or a mate.

We flirt with the new until our heart forgets the promises we made. Our reckless and riotous living is similar to the prodigal son described in Luke’s gospel. We don’t appreciate what we have, so we take what’s not ours…and the chasing and wandering lands us starving in a pig sty of our own making.

The solution? Return to the God who knows us best and loves us most. The God who specializes in restoring because he never stops loving.

And if you haven’t wandered yet? Keep your heart pure!

Just in case you think purity is impossible, God has a word—a promise—for you (and me!):

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Sermon Seeds: Harmony

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Last week’s commandment reminded us: It all starts at home. (Honor your parents.)

So this week we begin the journey out the door. And we need to remember: it all starts in the heart.

Our commandment is: don’t murder. The focus in the Old Testament seems narrow and we find Jesus much later attempting to broaden our understanding by telling us no one needs to die, no blood needs to be shed for a murder to take place—it all begins in the heart.

Our judgments of others, our attitudes towards others, matter. These are the seeds of our actions—and Jesus is pretty clear: they can lead us to be guilty of murder.

What’s the answer?

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he answered by summing up all of them: love God supremely (first four) and love your neighbor as yourself (last six).

How do we accomplish those commandments that focus on loving those around us, including the less than lovely or loveable? First, we have to get the ones about loving God supremely.

Starting with no lying, stealing, or murdering is like started to read a novel in the middle; or building the roof before you lay the foundation.

Not the best plan. Not God’s plan.

And once we’ve got the order down, let’s try to live in harmony. Not all our notes will be the same…but we can work together to make something beautiful.

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Monday Morning Musings: Homecoming

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Yesterday we celebrated Homecoming Sunday. It was well-planned and well-attended. The music was such a blessing. If there had been a prize for widest age span at church we probably could have won. The youngest child there was seven months and the oldest person was one hundred and three (103). Our attendance was twice our normal average, from thirty to over sixty!

God laid on my heart the story Jesus told about the prodigal brothers and how their selfish ways caused them grief.

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We often throw a lot of focus on the wayward wandering brother, but if the other brother’s behavior hadn’t mattered, Jesus wouldn’t have included him in the story. Each one made choices, each one put their desires first.

In the Bible there are so many stories about the consequences of choices made by individuals and groups of people. Think about Thomas, question one time and forever be remembered as the doubter. Or Mary and Martha, get frustrated when you get stuck in the kitchen, but don’t ever complain about it. And the list goes on and on.

Whether we’ve wandered and made a mess of things like the younger brother or stayed home with our heart tightly shut, it’s time to come home.

These twenty-one verses have been described as the most perfect short story ever written in literature.

It is a good story. But it doesn’t have to be over.

Yours doesn’t have to be either.

Write a different ending.

And even if the road home looks impossibly long. Remember the father went out to both of his sons. And he promises to be with you every step of the way as well.

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Sermon Seeds: Nehemiah Prays

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In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign,[a] I was at the fortress of Susa. 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.

3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

Within Nehemiah’s brief account, there are twelve prayers. Prayer bookends the story. One might (and should) determine prayer is important to the process.

I read once that there are many things you can accomplish after you pray, but there should be nothing you do until you pray.

Having that thought this week, as I prepared for the message, has impacted my thinking and my praying.

I wonder what it will do for you.

Sermon Seed: Investing a Treasure

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Imagine, you have been given a fortune. More money than you could make in twenty lifetimes.

Actually, you haven’t been “given” it as much as it has been entrusted to you by another–your boss.

What would you do?

In Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 ), he tells a story about a master who does that with three of his servants.

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The first two double what was entrusted to them, but the third is some combination of fearful and lazy so he buries his.

The investors are rewarded and invited to celebrate, while the non-risk taker is cast out.

There are mountains of theories and interpretations for this story.

For me it boils down to this:

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