Captivity

ColossiansThis morning I was reading Colossians 2 and verse eight stood out to me. This verse has been highlighted in my Bible for years now. Many years ago, as I spoke with a friend who was leaving his wife this passage came to my attention as my friend used all manner of worldly thinking and ideology to justify and explain to me why he had suddenly lost interest and was no longer in love with his wife. He used philosophy and so-called wisdom based on the elemental principles of the world as his basis for why what he was doing was not only ok to do, but the only right thing to do. I believe was taken captive by a philosophy which was unable to provide any legitimate substance or foundation for rational thinking.

We have to tendency to lean towards philosophies or ways of thinking that allow us to justify our actions. We tend to use our desires and actions to interpret Scriptures, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret how we should live. This is what my friend did. This is why Paul cautions us to not be taken captive by hollow, empty, deceitful philosophy. That sentence was very loaded. Let me try to break it down.

Paul warns us to not be taken captive. In the original Greek language, which Paul would have written this, the idea is to not be robbed. He says, look out, keep watch so that you may not be robbed. Don’t let your clear, rational thinking be taken captive or robbed from you. Do not let your thought processes be hijacked and stolen from you. Use your critical thinking and rational thought skills (which I would argue are inherent, built-in aspects of our existence thanks to being made ‘in the image of God’ who possesses critical thinking and rational thought) to see through the empty philosophy.

Paul says, what has taken us captive is empty or hollow. The word is empty, meaning there is nothing to it. No substance. Hollow. Valueless, no merit, nothing inside. As I glance across my desk I see my coffee mug. It is empty. There is nothing inside it. Right now, that has no value. It has nothing in it. At 0646, the mug might as well be dead to me. The mug has zero value to it, because the value it brings is contingent upon Empty mugwhat fills it. Philosophy, a word we get by through the combining of one of the Greek words for ‘love’ and the Greek word for ‘wisdom’, so the loving of wisdom must have substance to it. The philosophy or the train of thinking about wisdom have be full of something, not hollow or it is useless.

Paul goes on to describe the philosophy which has taken us captive as deceitful. In the original Greek text, the words empty and deceit follow each other. The text literally reads, empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world. There is much here, but I want to focus on the deceitful aspect. What makes it deceitful? Its emptiness. The fact that it is hollow and promises what it can not deliver. Just like my coffee mug is deceiving into thinking it has value, when it does not because it is empty. So is the philosophy which has bewitched us. It promises big, but delivers nothing. It is deceit because it has no value or substance to it.

It would be presumptuous for me to speak for you, but I don’t want to be taken captive by anything let alone anything which is empty or hollow. Imagine waking up one day, years from now and realizing you have been chasing a hollow, empty dream. Your whole life, everything you put into that pursuit is wasted, all for nothing. Paul is giving us a wake up call to pay attention to the things we place our trust in and what we rely on. Are we trusting in philosophies which are empty and deceitful because they are empty? Are we placing our trust in something of value, something which is not empty? Clearly, Paul is making a subtle argument for placing one’s faith and trust in God and relying on him to find the values and meaning we need to navigate through life. Trust in God is the only thing in the end providing the lasting meaning we crave. There is no other philosophy or tradition providing meaning and purpose equal to what God provides, because God has no equal.

We need to heed the warning and not allow ourselves to be taken captive by empty, deceitful philosophy. We need to place our faith, hope and trust in God each day. We need to allow the Word of God to light our path and direct our steps. (Bet you didn’t expect a theology lesson this morning!)

What empty, deceitful philosophy do you let creep in and distract you?

Bible is lightsaber

The Lie of Worthlessness

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Many of us can relate to feelings of worthless.

We can can’t we?
It may look a little different, but we can relate. We’ve had similar experiences of feeling worthless.
We are in week 2 of our series The Lies We Believe and today we are going to tackle the Lie that I believe most easily, and maybe you do too… it is the lie of WORTHLESSNESS.
John introduced us to this tries last week and he reminded us that we are WAR! Everyday we fight a battle to be free… free from the lies that Satan tries to convince us are truths about who are. They are not TRUTHS, they are LIES.
But the lies feel so right, don’t they? The feel like truth… They feel like they fit.
And they feel so right because Satan is so good at lying
And this makes sense that they are lies because Scriptures teach us that Satan is:

  • The father of lies-John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. “
  • The Deceiver-Rev 12:9- “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” Martin Luther said – “Due to his great intellect, extensive experience, ability to present evil as something beautiful…his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.”
  • On 35 different occasion in Scripture he is referred to as “the devil” which means “slanderer”
  • And 52x, he is referred to as “Satan” which means “adversary.”
  • HE IS NOT OUR FRIEND! HE IS OUR ENEMY

He is a powerful enemy that we need not fear. John referenced 1 Peter 5:8, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. And then went on to say he was a toothless lion because he has been defeated.

Today, as I said we are going to unpack the CORE LIE of WORTHLESSNESS:
What do we mean when we say that something is worthless?
  • it has no value
  • it isn’t worth my time
  • it is unwanted
  • it is unnecessary
  • IT IS A WASTE
Now there are some things that actually are worthless.. the Buell Blast. They make me angry… I don’t know why.
There are many things that give us value, make us feel worth in our lives…
  • family
  • friends
  • work
  • hobbies
  • cars we drive
  • things we own
  • money
  • skills/talents
  • God is the ONLY real source of value –
These other things we use for finding value fade away, disappoint us but God is the only thing that can stand the test of time and really offer us value and worth.
How much are we worth to God? God was willing to die for us. Romans 5:8 –
Unfortunately, Satan is adept at using good things in our life, twist them and use for evil purposes.
2 Corinthians tells us – “for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
There are at least four steps in overcoming the lie of worthlessness. Let’s take a look at them.
STEP 1 – The Source
  • The first step in beginning to overcome and buy the lie of worthlessness is finding the source
  • Where did this lie creep in?
  • Was it through family relationships?
  • Friendships?
  • Was it when you lost a job?
  • What was it for you?
  • For me it was a downward spiral that started with a bad church experience (elaboration on this)… this church experience left me feeling as though I was not worth the fight… my skills/talents weren’t worth it… I couldn’t do it… I couldn’t cut it in ministry… I was nothing…
  • Once this lie got its hooks in, the downward spiral became a rapid define in self-worth, self-value and belief in my abilities to accomplish anything that let me depressed and hopeless.
  • It became such an ingrained part of who I was that I accepted it as truth, as reality.
It is not reality. I am not worthless. But I believed it anyway.
Theres something insidious that happens when we begin to believe the lie… we begin to benefit from it. We start gain from the lie.
STEP 2 – The Benefit
  • What do you get from believing the lie?
  • How does it serve you?
  • It serves me by not making me responsible
  • Here’s how it works – if I am worthless, then no one expects anything from me… which is great because if they don’t expect anything from me, they can’t be disappointed in me when I don’t measure up…
  • Sometimes it feels good to be worthless – no one ever expects anything from me
  • No expectations, no failures
STEP 3 – The Cost
  • What would it cost to no longer buy the lie?
  • What would it cost me to no longer live in this false reality, this fake identity?
  • What did it cost God to save me from this lie?
  • His Son…
STEP 4 – Real Value
  • Matthew 16:26 shows that the soul is more valuable than the whole world because it’s eternal…but that’s probably valuable to us. And here it gets crazy when you think about our value, it doesn’t make sense.
  • Matthew 6:26 says we have more worth than birds, but hey, that’s not saying much. (Have fun with that)
  • David asked in Psalm 8, when he saw the beauty of the stars he didn’t get why God would set His love upon humanity.
  • Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus went to the cross to defeat Satan. We went there to save us from the LIES Satan tries to convince us are truths about our identity.
We don’t need to buy the lie because Jesus bought us with his blood.
What happened at the cross: by paying for our sin, Jesus disarmed Satan, triumphing over him and publicly displayed his power, purchasing our freedom.
WE DONT HAVE TO BUY THE LIE ANYMORE!
We can be free!

the Power of Prayer

I had a great day yesterday speaking at Huntsville Christian Church where my buddy is the pastor. He asked me to speak on the power of prayer. Later this week, the message will be posted on their website… but for now here are my notes. Hopefully, they are coherent and make sense. If you have any questions or want more info, just hit me up on email. When the audio is ready, I will post it up too (at least a link to it).

Power of Prayer – HCC – 7.29.12

  1. I want to start by reading Mt. 6:1-15, follow along with me as I read:
  2. PRAY
  3. Jesus’ disciple came to ask him to teach them how to pray, not how to heal, not how to baptize, how to organize life groups, how to reach the lost, how to fill a church calendar, how to survive a board mtg… how to pray
  4. They must have thought this to be very important… of all the things they could ask Jesus, this is what they asked him.
  5. I want to make a few observations about prayer this morning… for some of us, this may be nothing new, if not I am sorry… but hopefully it will remind us of why we pray and the need for us to pray, expecting that God will answer us in our prayers.
  6. Think about how awesome it is to pray… we are talking to God, the creator of everything. Gen. 1 says that God spoke everything from nothing… all he did was open his mouth and everything came into existence.
  7. Not only has God given us the opportunity to pray, but he wants us to. He wants to talk to him, he wants us to get to know him
  8. I know it is cliche, but prayer is simply talking to God, it is simply getting to know him better, it is allowing him to speak to us.
  9. What do you think of when you think of prayer? I think of some specific things:
  10. James 5:16 – the prayer of a righteous man avails much… then i think that is not me… but it is! It is us! The blood of Jesus covers us and God now sees his righteousness on us and so we are that righteous man!
  11. 1 Thess. 5:17 – pray without ceasing… an attitude of prayer about everything.
  12. Paul constantly praying for his people
  13. Acts 2:42 devoting themselves to gathering together for the breaking of bread, for the apostle’s teaching and to prayer… a vital part of their lives.
  14. How about that parable Jesus told about that one lady who would stop asking the judge to the point where she was persistently annoying?
  15. I think about some myths we have about prayer:
  16. NO and NOT NOW are still answers to prayer… we sometimes think that if God doesn’t give us what we want or think we need, he isn’t listening… reality it is he may be saying NO or NOT NOW… think about your children, is NO an answer? Of course.
  17. My best defense against this myth is Mt. 7 where Jesus says if your child asks for bread you wouldn’t give hime a stone, if he asks for a fish you wouldn’t give him a snake, so your heavenly father give gifts that are good and good for you.
  18. we know better… sometimes we dilute ourselves into thinking we know better… really? We know better than the dude who created everything out of nothing by simply speaking? yeah!
  19. We sometimes think prayer is INACTION. Are we crazy? It is the most action-oriented thing we can do… we are asking God to intervene, asking the creator of everything to step in
  20. the last myth is that God isn’t listening… simply not true. Jesus plainly says ask and you will receive, this would be a terrible joke if he wasn’t listening or an incredible weapon if he is.
  21. Eph. 6:18 – Armor of God… first sermon… big guns… Prayer is the POWER
  22. Let’s go back to Mt. 6:1-15 for just a few minutes and work out 4 keys to having powerful prayer –
    1. Don’t be a hypocrite – pray to God and no one else
    2. Don’t say a bunch of un-needed words – keep it simple, God already knows and we aren’t going to impress him with big words.
    3. Be direct – just tell what is on your heart, he isn’t afraid of anything you are going to say
    4. Formula – Praise him, ask for what you NEED, ask him to forgive you as you forgive others… forgiveness is key
  1. Why bother asking? Mt. 21:22 whatever we ask in prayer with faith God will give us… the point here is prayer is a powerful weapon for us to use in the fight against sin and we often forget about it altogether and don’t use
  2. God wants us to ask him… the images he uses to describe himself are things like a GOOD FATHER who gives GOOD GIFTS and the GOOD SHEPHERD who cares for his sheep
  3. We have a powerful weapon in prayer… we are asking the CREATOR of  everything to intervene and work in our lives…
  4. Here’s my favorite part of prayer – no one else can answer them… God is the only one… so why aren’t we praying more, expecting God to answer?
  5. I think it is time we start, right now
  6. PRAY.

Taboo: Racism

I had the opportunity to speak on the giant topic of Racism during our Taboo series we recently concluded at H2O Church. I feel like this is one of the hardest messages I have ever given, not because I struggle with racism but because I understand and feel the weight of this issue in our culture. After having given this message, I feel like it is one of my better ones. I have the audio posted for you. In the middle of the message you will hear the audio of the new video by John Piper, Bloodlines. I had nothing to do with that entire video and give John Piper complete and total credit for that video. Let me know what you think!

My Turkey, My Messiah

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving I had the chance to speak again at H2O Church Orlando. My message was entitled, “My Turkey, My Messiah” and I had intended to draw some connections and conclusions between the sacrifice of the turkey and the sacrifice of our Messiah. The morning of the message, as I was going over it a final time I felt God giving me a new message.

I hate it when that happens.

So, I scrapped the message I had written and quickly scribbled the words God had given me. I will at some point actually type them and then post the syntax.

That Sunday at H2O, we tried something that had never been done at church before… we videoed the message. So your treat for today is to get to watch the message as it unfolds.

Let me know what you think:

 

Beat Up, Used Up & Broken

Good Morning! For those of you visiting with us today, my name is Eli. For those of you who are regular attenders… my name is Eli.

I’m super excited about being here to share with you this morning. This is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning.

I am a failure. I’m broken, beat up, used up, spit out, loser, disappointment, inadequate, incapable, insufficient… a failure. Let me try to help you understand how I got here…

I grew up in a Christian home, with an ordained dad & mom. I graduated high school and went to Bible college. You ever notice how when kids who grow up in the church graduate high school and then their faith is challenged? My faith wasn’t really challenged until I was about 30 with a wife and 2 kids. The first time my faith was challenged was as I served at a church in Gainesville that really chewed me up and spit me out. That experience caused me to question who I was, my abilities, my self-worth, self-confidence, my purpose in life, and my calling. I was left without self-confidence, without courage and without belief in myself to accomplish anything (particularly in ministry), feeling like a failure.

Lucky for me, I was pretty quickly hired as a caseworker for DCF, which prohibited me from really processing and working through the feelings of failure this church experience created within me. I really loved working as a case manager, it created in me a passion for the broken and screwed up families around me.

But you see, I sorta felt like Ezekiel. You remember he was in training to be a priest. And before that role could really take off Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and his chance at being a priest utterly destroyed when the temple was blown up.

So I got into case management and saw the underbelly of the American family. The abuse that occurs is sickening and inhuman. However, when exposed with this tragedy, I felt like this was my calling in life, that God was calling me to work in this field to be a ray of light in darkness. I felt as though God had prepared me for this role. After about 4 years at this job it was taken away from me, when I had a supervisor that decided he didn’t like me and formed a personal mission to fire me. Finally, when over-worked and stressed out I reacted to him in a way that gave him the opening he was looking for to fire me. I felt like Jeremiah who said:(Jer.20v7) 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

In case you missed what just happened there, he called God a liar. I felt that way. I had 2 careers taken away from me. When I say they were taken away from me, what I mean is I had failed in both. With ministry, I failed in the sense that I couldn’t play the game in such a way to keep a position successfully at a church and I failed in case management in the sense that I couldn’t get along with my supervisor in a way that would keep him from firing me. So here I was married with 2 kids and jobless. I was broken, beat up, used up, throw out, a failure, a loser, worthless, and depressed. I spent a solid 2-3 years depressed and I mean depressed to the point where I was crippled, unable to move forward in life.

I was a failure.

Slowly, God began to awaken me and assist me in realizing it’s ok to be a failure…

Look at Peter, one of my heroes from the Scriptures: He was a failure’s failure. The only thing he didn’t fail at was failing. A few examples:

  1. Walking on Water – or should we say almost drowning in the water?
  2. Cut off dude’s ear… why the ear?!? Was he was just that bad with a sword, that it was completely accidental?
  3. Denied Jesus 3x

He constantly failed and was constantly re-used by God. Constantly restored, constantly redeemed. As I looked at Peter I realized, even in my failures God didn’t view me as worthless. I recalled Romans 5v8 that says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Or what about 1 Cor. 6v20,

For you have been bought with a price.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a God who loves us, who values us & our failures. God loves us even though we fail. We am his creation, his children and as such he values us enough to do whatever is necessary to restore, redeem and return us to him.

Even though I fail.

And maybe to some degree because I fail.

God uses our failures as the space to make his strength evident. When we realize our inabilities, our shortcomings, that’s when we have the eyes to see the power of God and how it is perfected.

Check out 2 Cor. 12v7-10,

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Really? Our weaknesses, our failures become our source of strength.

God loves failures.

Our biggest failures often become our greatest accomplishments. That’s how I got to H2O. Orlando was the site of my biggest failure. Where I went deep into depression, where I couldn’t find a job, where I almost obliterated my family, where all of my worst fears about myself became my reality. God is using my biggest failure to be my greatest accomplishment.

I wanna close with this comparison:

You remember Judas, he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He failed. Instead of allowing God to redeem him he took his own life.

What about Paul, who made it his life purpose to kill every Christian. He failed. But he allowed God to redeem him and he was the one who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Are you gonna let God use your failures? Are gonna be a Judas or a Paul?

Beat Up, Used Up & Broken

Good Morning! For those of you visiting with us today, my name is Eli. For those of you who are regular attenders… my name is Eli.

I’m super excited about being here to share with you this morning. This is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning.

I am a failure. I’m broken, beat up, used up, spit out, loser, disappointment, inadequate, incapable, insufficient… a failure. Let me try to help you understand how I got here…

I grew up in a Christian home, with an ordained dad & mom. I graduated high school and went to Bible college. You ever notice how when kids who grow up in the church graduate high school and then their faith is challenged? My faith wasn’t really challenged until I was about 30 with a wife and 2 kids. The first time my faith was challenged was as I served at a church in Gainesville that really chewed me up and spit me out. That experience caused me to question who I was, my abilities, my self-worth, self-confidence, my purpose in life, and my calling. I was left without self-confidence, without courage and without belief in myself to accomplish anything (particularly in ministry), feeling like a failure.

Lucky for me, I was pretty quickly hired as a caseworker for DCF, which prohibited me from really processing and working through the feelings of failure this church experience created within me. I really loved working as a case manager, it created in me a passion for the broken and screwed up families around me.

But you see, I sorta felt like Ezekiel. You remember he was in training to be a priest. And before that role could really take off Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and his chance at being a priest utterly destroyed when the temple was blown up.

So I got into case management and saw the underbelly of the American family. The abuse that occurs is sickening and inhuman. However, when exposed with this tragedy, I felt like this was my calling in life, that God was calling me to work in this field to be a ray of light in darkness. I felt as though God had prepared me for this role. After about 4 years at this job it was taken away from me, when I had a supervisor that decided he didn’t like me and formed a personal mission to fire me. Finally, when over-worked and stressed out I reacted to him in a way that gave him the opening he was looking for to fire me. I felt like Jeremiah who said:(Jer.20v7) 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

In case you missed what just happened there, he called God a liar. I felt that way. I had 2 careers taken away from me. When I say they were taken away from me, what I mean is I had failed in both. With ministry, I failed in the sense that I couldn’t play the game in such a way to keep a position successfully at a church and I failed in case management in the sense that I couldn’t get along with my supervisor in a way that would keep him from firing me. So here I was married with 2 kids and jobless. I was broken, beat up, used up, throw out, a failure, a loser, worthless, and depressed. I spent a solid 2-3 years depressed and I mean depressed to the point where I was crippled, unable to move forward in life.

I was a failure.

Slowly, God began to awaken me and assist me in realizing it’s ok to be a failure…

Look at Peter, one of my heroes from the Scriptures: He was a failure’s failure. The only thing he didn’t fail at was failing. A few examples:

  1. Walking on Water – or should we say almost drowning in the water?
  2. Cut off dude’s ear… why the ear?!? Was he was just that bad with a sword, that it was completely accidental?
  3. Denied Jesus 3x

He constantly failed and was constantly re-used by God. Constantly restored, constantly redeemed. As I looked at Peter I realized, even in my failures God didn’t view me as worthless. I recalled Romans 5v8 that says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Or what about 1 Cor. 6v20,

For you have been bought with a price.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a God who loves us, who values us & our failures. God loves us even though we fail. We am his creation, his children and as such he values us enough to do whatever is necessary to restore, redeem and return us to him.

Even though I fail.

And maybe to some degree because I fail.

God uses our failures as the space to make his strength evident. When we realize our inabilities, our shortcomings, that’s when we have the eyes to see the power of God and how it is perfected.

Check out 2 Cor. 12v7-10,

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Really? Our weaknesses, our failures become our source of strength.

God loves failures.

Our biggest failures often become our greatest accomplishments. That’s how I got to H2O. Orlando was the site of my biggest failure. Where I went deep into depression, where I couldn’t find a job, where I almost obliterated my family, where all of my worst fears about myself became my reality. God is using my biggest failure to be my greatest accomplishment.

I wanna close with this comparison:

You remember Judas, he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He failed. Instead of allowing God to redeem him he took his own life.

What about Paul, who made it his life purpose to kill every Christian. He failed. But he allowed God to redeem him and he was the one who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Are you gonna let God use your failures? Are gonna be a Judas or a Paul?

What is REAL Worship?

Formatting got weird but you get the idea anyway.

What is Real Worship?

Eli Westfall

Matthew 25:35-40; James 1:27

Student-led Sunday 7/25/10

Intro:

  1. CIY Video
  2. Eat the sausage?
  3. Recap our CIY Challenges

T.S.: This leads me into what I feel to be the essential lessons that we learned from CIY:

  1. A. What is REAL Worship?
    1. a. I’m not talking about contemp. vs. trad. songs or style of service here.
    2. b. I’m talking about what is ‘REAL’ worship?
    3. c. What does God think of when he thinks about worship?
    4. d. What kind of worship makes him happy?
    5. B. I think that we can get an idea of what kind of worship makes God happy or what he is looking for when he thinks about worship by looking into the Scriptures:
      1. a. Micah 6:6-8 6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
      2. b. What was God trying to get at?
      3. Mt. 25:35-40 says, 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
      4. D. God says that real worship is caring for someone in need…
      5. E. Not b/c of what we get out of this but b/c they need it
        1. a. We don’t do it with a conscience awareness that God is watching with the intent to reward us
        2. b. We help other b/c it is the right thing to do, not b/c we expect to get praise for it
        3. c. Coincidently in Mt.6:2 Jesus says 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
        4. This passage in Matthew where Jesus calls us out for not helping those around us fits into the verses from Micah in that in v.8 of the Micah passage God says that he requires for us to do justice, love kindness & walk humbly with God… if you help ppl who need help that you encounter along the way you accomplish at least 2 of 3 of those:
          1. Do Justice – it’s just not right for us to  let ppl go hungry, be naked, be sick and not cared for or to suffer the indignity of jail alone (Jesus makes no distinction as to whether they deserved to be in those circumstances or not)
            1. i.      These are the simple things of life that every person should have.
  2. Love Kindness ­– when we do these kinds of things for ppl we do it b/c we love the rest of humanity, or as Lk.10:25-37 in the story of the Good Samaritan expresses are our neighbors.
    1. i.      Helping someone in need is the Natural expression of a heart that loves their neighbor.
    2. Further, what Jesus tells us here
    3. James, the very bother of Jesus, offers some insight into what God accepts as REAL worship.
    4. James 1:27, 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
    5. Let’s talk about religion for a minute… what comes to mind when we think of religion?
      1. Rules
      2. Regulations
      3. Rigidness
      4. Lack of love
      5. institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
      6. What did James mean?
        1. Worship in the sense of the outward expression of religion in ritual or liturgy or ceremony… that is worship, what we do outside ourselves to express worship to God
        2. Worship, James says, is caring for the orphans and widows…
        3. Anytime you see orphans and widows in Scripture, its speaking of ppl who can’t care for themselves.
        4. We see this terminology especially referring to ppl that God has accepted responsibility to care for as in Ps 68:5, 5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
        5. Or as in Zech. 7:6-10 where the Word of the Lord comes to Zechariah, 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears.
        6. According to these verses to be close to the heart of God is to care for those that can not care for themselves.
        7. Zechariah’s complaint regarding the ppl of Israel was that they were oppressing the widow & fatherless, the alien & the poor.
        8. This leaves us with the fact that we can have it ‘right’ on Sunday morning but completely miss the point with what actually matter to God.
        9. Watch this with me, cause its about to get crazy-
          1. Style songs are not what matters
          2. Powerful loving sermons are not what matters
          3. Saying all the right things during the communion meditation
          4. All the programs and activities aren’t what matters
          5. wHAT matters is doing the actual MINISTRY that Jesus started by reaching out to a world that so desperately needs him.
          6. If you were at Friday night’s session with Les Hardin what did he remind us Jesus was called? A glutton and a drunk.  Why? Cause he spent time with tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes.
          7. Are we prepared to do the actual ministry that needs to be done for this community? Or are we going to be contented to let the world die around us with no help from us?
          8. This Wednesday we have the perfect opportunity to get out and do ministry where rubber meets the road… Heart4 Homeless.
          9. Last several Wednesday nights have had great attendance… disappointed will Christ be if our attendance is weak this Wednesday?
          10. REAL Worship is serving the ppl who need it, the orphans and widows, those hungry or thirsty or naked or sick on in jail… are we going to throw our worship away and sit idly by or are we gonna do something about it?

The Diary of God… Prophet/Priest

Yesterday I was having a conversation and I used an analogy to describe me that I had not in some time. I spoke of Ezekiel and his call to be a prophet. “Zeke” as I like to call him had been called as a priest into the priesthood. The problem with that is the whole Babylonian captivity thing. Zeke thought he knew what God had planned for him until one day God changed his mind… or should I say that God changed Zeke’s perception of what his ministry was going to be. Check out Ezekiel 1:2; 2:3; 3:2 for more of the story according to the Scriptures. I wonder if the Scriptures were kinder to Zeke than reality was. It seems as though he went to the new path willingly with no complaints. My journey has not been so easy going. There have been many days of second guessing, rethinking, looking back, and wondering if I had done the right thing. Every time I wrestle with this question God seems to work in my life in a way that allows me to see how he has me where he wants me. My plan wasn’t always to go to Bible College and then go into ministry. But I ended up there and then what you do after that is go into ministry. My ministry experience has been tumultuous. And after graduating Bible College and struggling to find my way in ministry, I fell into case management. I have had a few experiences recently that have been encouraging me in the path that I find myself on. I’m not sure why I constantly struggle with whether I am in the right place or not as far as God is concerned. In the last year I really feel like God has lead me to where he needs me, he is constantly deepening my passion or purpose for the children, youth and families that go unnoticed in the world. There is great ministry to be done by working at a church in vocational ministry, but there is a vast, untapped source of ministry outside employment at a church. This is what I call secular ministry. Watch out for the book about it one day. I often feel that being able to do the ministry of the church is easier when not employed by a church. Honestly, there is a precipice that must be overcome before you can begin to realize this type of ministry. It is real easy to be employed by a church and talk about passages like 1 Peter 2:5 about all being a holy priesthood, but it another thing when we are faced with the task of finding ourselves on the other side of the ministry coin, trying to fit into the ministry of the church. It is not always easy, it takes effort to force ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to minister to those around us. I remember when I was a Campus Minister at UGA, I used to tell our student leaders that it was imperative for them to meet the new visitors. I can meet visitors all day long, talk to them, and take interest in them… I’m a Campus Minister, I get paid to care about them. Therefore it means a ton more when one of the student leaders, just another college student like them, genuinely cares. The same is true about people in general. The “clergy” is paid to care about the world, when one of normal joes do it is out of the ordinary. I was reading a Brian McLaren book a few years ago and I think it was him who pointed out that the Jewish Rabbis didn’t get paid to be Rabbis. They had to work and ind money other ways in order to be able to be Rabbis. This changed my life and my view of ministry. A passage of Scripture that God really laid on my heart several years ago is Proverbs 24:11-12. I have kind of made these my personal mission statement verses. They are the ones that have held me accountable over the years as I have chased after God and attempted to understand the journey he has lead me on. Being a Priest is cool, but being a Prophet is better.

Fast forward two years to where I am today and the story is not over… I am now working a church fulfilling the ‘priest’ aspect of God’s calling on my life.  Why am I here?  Hopefully, to use the skills and knowledge that I gained from the secular ministry in the vocational ministry.  I find that even in vocational ministry it is often hard to do the real ministry of the church.  We get caught up in doing the work of the church that we don’t do the Work of the Church.  Make sense?

Being a priest is great… not everyone is called in that way though…

If we take ministry (prophet or priest variety) seriously, it is hard.  Long hours, hard work, little thanks and lots of hurt feeling because people lash out at you.  People get mad cause they don’t get it.  People want someone to blame when you force them out of their comfort.  People  don’t like being pushed.  People like to be a Christian as far as it doesn’t cause and real discomfort.  People like being a Christian as long as they don’t have to change anything.

In some ways, I hate being a Christian and being in ministry… it challenges me to think of others over myself.  Selfishness is destroyed.  I don’t have the right to be selfish… But then again was God selfish?  Philippians 2:4-8 — 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

What are you Afraid of?

Whenever I hear that questions of think of The Replacements & the scene where Gene Hackman asks the team this in the locker room. One guy says bees. Another spiders. Finally, Keanu Reeves says quicksand – meaning feeling like you are in over your head and that you are sinking fast. This feeling of being overwhelmed, stressed out & unable to cope isn’t an unfamiliar feeling to many of us. This week, or rather the last several weeks, I have felt this way very strongly. And now I’m preaching this morning…

I went to Bible College and was trained as a preacher. When my class graduated there were many in the student body who believed I should have preached at graduAtion (because I was a better preacher) and that I should have won the preaching award (same reasoning). I realized early on that I’m good when I’m in front of people an the center of attention. I feel awkward in smaller more intimate settings. Whilst, I’m a good speaker I’m probably the world’s most nervous speaker. This morning is no different. I’ve struggled with my sermon this week – so much else has been going on. I hope it is good. There have been several times that I just put it down and walked away cause it wasn’t happening at that moment.

My plate is very full right now, and many don’t/can’t know why. Fortunately, God’s grace is sufficient for me. Now, I just need to rely on it more.

Years ago when we first moved to gville, I had God’s grace and hope readily on my mind. It was in every sermon I preached. Every lesson I taught. It was in every meditation I gave. Honestly, over the ensuing years lost sight of his grace. I lost hope for the future. I have gained some of it back, but nothing like where I was. God was BIG & I felt that & was in awe daily of him. This last week I have struggled with feeling hope and knowing grace. I have felt the weight of the world.

As I wrote my sermon I remembered Jesus felt the weight if the world too. He suffered just like me. His experience on earth was just like mine is. Full of good days and bad days. Days full disappointment. Days full of hope. My Messiah is an appropriate source of hope and grace because he has been here. He has been in the trenches with me.

What am I afraid of? Preaching when I don’t feel confident of my sermon. What else? Losing hope for good.

God cover me and wrap me up. May your grace always be on my mind…