Mimbres First United Methodist Church

Can I Get a Second Opinion?

Now, some of you may never have heard of the wisdom of Solomon, but it’s one of the original Deuterocanon’s that was included in the bible and still is in the in the Roman Catholic bible more specifically in what is known as the apocrypha or simply “unknown authors”’ that were included in the Latin vulgate or the vulgar or common Latin but not in the Hebrew bible. Before you start saying I’m not Catholic and we’re Methodists, you need new glasses pastor. Yes, we are, we are Catholic as defined by the dictionary, our catholicity is the fact that we are United we are one under God, one church. But you are correct in saying that we are not Roman Catholic but if you know your history or if you stop and think about it, john Wesley was an Anglican priest. If you recall how the Anglican church came about it’s also known as the C of E or the Church of England and it came about because of a certain king, Henry the VIII, he wanted “a second opinion” he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn instead of staying married to his wife Catherine of Aragon. So, he petitions the papacy for a divorce and as you know divorce is illegal for any good Catholic. Henry failed to get his second opinion, so he got rid of the Pope and decided to become the head of the Church of England thereby kicking the Protestant Reformation into high gear. The Anglican church is the Roman Catholic church without the pope and it still keeps the alternative readings, therefore so does the Methodist church. And that’s how we got today’s scripture, so ends the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say. Have you ever wanted a second opinion, like Henry did? I mean seriously, I think we have all been there, maybe not for divorce, but, something, somewhere, sometime called for a second opinion. The answer we received for whatever question was just not connecting with our brains. You were like what? What you say? It just did not register, and when it finally does you start looking for ways to dismiss it, deny it, ignore it, until you say…I think I’ll get a second opinion. I don’t like this one, so I’ll get another one. Eventually someone will tell me what I want to hear, and we’ll forget about the other one. And I promise you if you search hard enough, heck half the time you don’t even have to search, second opinions come to you, knock on your door, and invite themselves in for coffee. And that’s how I see today’s scripture. These people were looking for a second opinion, and they got what second opinions almost always get you, nowhere.

[Wisdom of Solomon 1:16 – 2:1; 2:12 – 22] 16But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his company. 2 For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end, and no one has been known to return from Hades. There is no remedy, isn’t that when we start looking for a second opinion. That’s exactly when we start looking for a second opinion when we feel there is no remedy when your life is at an end and we feel that we have no choice we will look for a second opinion. Indeed, we will search long and hard for that second opinion will do everything in our power to deny that terrible power that death has over us. You see the unchurched, unbelievers, the agnostic, and quite a few Christians, actually believe that life is short and sorrowful. They actually believe that there is no eternity and they just give lip service to God or no service. There’s no heaven, there’s no hell just a short miserable life and we die. It’s that kind of thinking that get us in trouble, wanting a second opinion. When you turn to the second opinion you do indeed summon death you make friends with him, you make a deal with him when you reject the Lord and you exchange a short happy life for a long sorrowfully eternity with your new master death. We reason that no one has returned, so there is no proof. We say:  12“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. 13 He professes to have knowledge of God and calls himself a child of the Lord. 14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; 15the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. 16We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. As righteous people we are an inconvenient truth to those that stand against the law of God. If you want to know why Christians are persecuted so harshly around the world, that’s your answer right there, we are the light, we are the opinion that no one wants, we are not the second opinion, we have the true knowledge of God and we call ourselves His children. We oppose the actions of those others who would seek out death and would consider him a friend, who would make a covenant with him. The very sight of us is a burden to them, they fear our lifestyle, our honesty our cleanliness, the things that make us as Christians who we are.

This lifestyle that is most often not tried because it is found too difficult for those who would seek a second opinion. It casts fear into the hearts of those who would covenant with death, we are a constant reminder their live are meaningless, the things they place so much pride and joy in, money, sex, partying, the hedonistic and decadent lifestyle that society pushes on us constantly, tells our children that the just do it lifestyle is what they really want. That tells them they must be just like this other person, rich and powerful and sexy, that it’s the only way they will be truly happy. It bothers them that we take comfort in the end of this life that we are ready and willing to shed the shackles and burdens that this life places on us so that we may be with our God. It bothers them that we do not fear death, it bothers them that we don’t seek a second opinion, it bothers them that we boast, that God is our father and we are happy and willing to die because we know our reward is in eternity not in mortality, we have the promise of God, they have a second opinion. And it’s a worthless opinion, because it’s the opinion of the father of lies. And they know it, so they seek to test us. 17 Let us see if his words are true and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; 18for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. 19 Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. 20Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.” 21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, 22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls; They say trials and tribulations are the wages of Christianity. But these trials and tribulations are not the works of the Lord rather God permits our adversary to test us just as he permitted job’s trials and tribulations so we are tested as well, for it is our gentle forbearance that delivers us from the hand of the adversary, it is our willingness to follow where Christ leads, to forgive others that trespass against us, that is what sets us apart from those who are led astray. And that is something that we forever have to remember they as well are led astray. They have been seduced by their wickedness and it has blinded them but, that does not mean they are lost forever. God created us, gave us purpose and that purpose is to go forth and make disciples of all those on the face of the earth. We are not as they are, we do not seek a second opinion we know the purpose of God, we no his purpose for us. we know he has a plan for us because he tells us he has a plan for us.

11 For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes [Jeremiah 29:11 – 14] The wages of sin is death, but the wages of holiness is eternal life. Thomas Chalmers said it best: “The death that comes after sin comes as the wages of sin. Everlasting life, coming though it must do after holiness, comes not as the wages of holiness. It is a gift. On this footing must it be received at the last and on this footing must it now be looked forward to by the expectancy of immortality”. In other words, while death is the wages of sin, everlasting life is like grace, even though everlasting life is the wages of holiness, it is still a gift from the most high and not something that can be earned or set aside. So remember these things when you go looking for that second opinion, when you ask God for a second opinion remember you are His child [Genesis 1:26-27] Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Why would you want a second opinion? When you are first among His thoughts. Amen.

How Much Does it Cost?

What does it cost to follow Jesus? Everyone has been asking that question for thousands of years. Like there is not any answer, it is a big secret, when in fact Jesus told us straight out what it would take. All right maybe not straight out, but certainly for those with the ears to hear. 25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. I heard nothing in that statement that I did not understand, that was not plainly spoken, whoever comes to me, whoever, there is no qualification to the invitation. He does not say that if you’re a man its one way or if you are a woman it’s another way. He says whoever comes. He doesn’t say only if you’re fat or if you’re skinny, an adult, or a child. He doesn’t say only if you’re black or white, gay, or straight, He says whoever comes to me. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gang banger, a junkie, a drunk, a whore or even a murderer, it doesn’t matter if you have tattoos all over your body or bits and pieces out of a junk stuck in your nose, it doesn’t matter. And you can be sure that in that crowd there would have been all those people and many more which your average person would find objectionable, would be horrified that Jesus included them into the whoever club. Because we know that what Jesus really meant was only me and you should be allowed in this club, right and I’m not too sure about you. Right, because whoever doesn’t mean whoever, it means only the ones we choose to be in the club are allowed, yes. Yeah, I think this is another one where we fail, (epically fail) we don’t get to choose who gets into the whoever club.

A good thing too …considering what you have to do to get in. You have to hate everyone else, your family, even yourself, nothing can come between or before the Lord in your life. This is one of those literal passages that people like to use as an axe over your head and beat you to death with it. So, let’s take a moment to place things into context, I assure you that Jesus does not mean you have to hate your wife, your parents, or children, and especially not yourself or your family. Jesus’ entire ministry was about the kingdom of God and love for one another, not hate. Jesus told us from the very first that He would not speak to the crowds except in parable, indeed Jesus said in [Matthew 13:34] 34 All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. Jesus does not want our hatred, but neither will He tolerate our halfhearted participation. Love your wife, love your children, your parents, and love your neighbor but do not put them before the Lord, do not allow them to come between you and Jesus. Jesus should always be our number one focus, spreading the “good news”, making disciples, and glorifying God. Amen. Jesus wants our undivided attention, all the time, not just when I feel like it, not just in church for an hour. No, we are told to pray without ceasing, it says in [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18] 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. We are to Pray for guidance because Jesus doesn’t want just anyone. He doesn’t want anyone that isn’t willing to first sit down and count the cost, because there’s a price that we have to pay, that all people have to pay if they’re gonna take up the cross and follow Christ and it’s not as easy as, or cheap as, you think it will be. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Jesus wants us to stop and to first consider what the price is, because let me tell you, once you pay the price, there are no refunds. You may think that you can walk away but I’m here to tell you that once you decide either way, once you pay the price, that’s it… there is no going back. That is why Jesus wants you to stop and consider what you are doing this is serious business, it’s not a game. There are consequences to your decision and eternal life is the least of them, your eternal soul hangs in the balance, that is what you are considering, so don’t be foolish, don’t rush into anything, take the time, and estimate the cost. Do you have enough?

The foundation has been paid for with the blood of Christ, the stones that you need to secure that foundation are in the words of God, the bible will provide you the stone to build with. But the furnishings and the mortar must be paid for with our blood and sweat, we must pay to build our home on that foundation with those stones, we must provide the mortar that binds it together, that provides cohesion to the whole, we must sacrifice ourselves to the service of Christ, we must die to ourselves and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour before we can place so much as a pebble on the foundation that we inherit through the grace of God, as His children we are entitled to this, but you still have to pay the inheritance tax. So, tell me are you willing to pay that much, or will you start and then not be able to finish? Will you find yourself being ridiculed? Be careful. Jesus does not want half-finished buildings in the kingdom of God or people who rush into the next best thing, foolish people who fail to count the cost, people who refuse to pay the price. 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. Once again Jesus is plainly telling us what the cost of discipleship is. None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. Jesus doesn’t say a few, or some, or most of, but all of your possessions. Again, we need to put things into context. Context, context, context, the Bible, your life, everything is about context. In this parable Jesus is not telling you that you have to throw your clothes away and give every last dime to the poor and go live on the street. Jesus wants you to consider the cost, it is not a minimal cost, it will cost you everything to follow Christ, not only will it cost you everything that you own, eventually it will cost you your life. Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. Following the Lord is not for the foolish or the prideful.  [Proverbs 16:18]18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. And make no mistake others will wage war against you so as to hasten that fall and in your pride will you disregard the power of the Lord, will your foolish pride cause you to dismiss your only ally. In the parable the other king is being attacked by an overwhelming force and must decide if he will fight to the death or ask for peace. Will you compromise with the devil and have peace, or will you fight for God, even if it means your destruction. Hard decisions. But when has God ever failed us, never.

Yet we have the responsibility to choose, one or the other. If we are to follow Christ we must count the cost, we must be aware that there is a cost, we cannot go into discipleship without a clear understanding of the price that is being asked of us. And that price is plain, there is no deception here. Jesus is asking us… God is asking us for everything. He is not asking for just a little. He is asking for all that we have… all that we are, and you must decide if discipleship is worth it. We must ask ourselves what is the cost? Can we afford to pay it? Can we afford not to?

Tradition

Good morning and welcome. Today we’re going to look at tradition, in fact the title of the scripture is “The Tradition of the Elders”. Everything in the Bible is about context. That is also true about everything in our lives. Everything past, present, or future must be examined within its own context. Context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. Put simply context is something that is either written or spoken immediately after or before a passage that clarifies its meaning. To unpack it further, context provides clarity to our lives. For most of us we take refuge in tradition because its safe. Tradition does not change, occasionally tradition is added to but very rarely is it altered to remove something. That’s the beauty of tradition, it’s immovable, inflexible, it can be refined and held up as an example to later generations. It’s comforting because we can rely on it to not surprise us. But tradition can set us at odds with the rest of the  world and occasionally assume ridiculous proportions. Stop me if you heard this one A Priest, A Minister, A Rabbi and A Bear: A priest, a minister, and a rabbi want to see who’s best at his job. So, each one goes into the woods, finds a bear, and attempts to convert it. Later, they all get together. The priest begins: “When I found the bear, I read to him from the catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his first Communion.” “I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister, “and preached God’s holy Word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.” They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.” Author Unknown. Silly, yes. Tradition can become comical if it’s carried to far. 7 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Let’s stop right there. This is where we get into context, when we read this the first thing that pops into our minds is Oh no they didn’t wash their hands what filthy little disciples they are. No, the Pharisees main concern is the ritual washing of hands. If your interested you can see a quick explanation on YouTube just search Jewish ritual handwashing, I found it quite interesting. Anyway, back to context, this was something that had become a ritualistic requirement not of mosaic law but of tradition. It’s not a law it is a tradition that has become so ingrained in Jewish society that it has taken on the patina of law and you risked excommunication at that time, even today you could find yourself in trouble with the modern Pharisee for not doing this. As tradition takes on the form of law it supplants the actual laws of God, it puts us back where we constantly seek to be, trying  to be God. How many times have you heard this from someone, I’m not religious. Well neither am I. Today’s religion is taking on the same patina as hand washing did in Jesus day. When I think of religion, I see Joel Osteen, Creflo dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and Oral Roberts. I see churches built on tradition, built on sand, and not on the firm foundation that is the word of God. The pharisee did not go away when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.The Pharisee are alive and well and living in the United States, the Pharisee have become the religious establishment.

I don’t say this to be mean or judgmental. I’m simply observing a fact, today’s religion is no longer really based on the word of God , rather it is based on feelings, and tradition is being used to hide the true word of God. Tradition is subtly twisting the word of God to achieve the other guys design and not God’s. More and more often the word of God is given nothing more than lip service, listen… He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” I don’t want to be a part of a religion that simply gives lip service to God, I don’t want to be a part of a religion that says the Lord’s prayer by rote with no meaning and I don’t want to be a part of a religion that affirms their belief in God the same way they would read a laundry list. I don’t want to be religious, I want to be Godly, I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I want to live my life in Sanctifying Grace. I want to live my life as a child of God and servant of our Lord Jesus. Amen. Tradition is fine for keeping old memories alive but the Word of God is the living word, it has no need for tradition to keep it alive, for it is renewed constantly, it’s renewed every time we read it, Every time I read the Bible I get something different the Holy Spirit opens up something new and it’s not just me He’s been doing it all over the world for ages. The word of God is alive and well within us and it is renewed and renews us every time we read it. Every time we worship the Lord with our hearts, our minds and all of our strength we are not worshiping in vain, we are worshiping as the Father commanded through the Son. When we partake of communion we are not performing some tradition, we are partaking of the Holy Sacrament of Communion, we are doing as our Lord and Saviour commanded us to do before He paid for our sins. Communion is not a tradition it’s a Holy and Sacred covenant with God. Baptism is not a tradition, it a Holy and Sacred covenant with God, which we do to be cleansed of sin and to rise as a new creation in Christ. They are necessary because we are not Holy. Understand this,

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” I’m going to pull a 180 from my normal preaching, instead of telling you it’s not about us, this time it is. This time we are responsible, we are the source of the evil in this world, the enemy does not make us evil, he does not corrupt us, he only shows us the possibilities that we have within ourselves. What’s that misquoted saying by Pogo “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Remember he cannot create, he can only distort what God has created. Yet, humanity, of all the creatures in the universe, we are gifted with free will, or cursed, depending on your perspective. We took it upon ourselves to eat of the tree of knowledge. We opened ourselves to the evil that God had locked away from us. Tradition is how the serpent keeps us static, complacent, fat and happy. God did not say to us stay at home and watch TV, NO, He said go forth and multiply, He said go into the world and make disciples, 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. [Romans 8:19-23] Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.

The Whole Armor of God

Today we’re gonna closeout Ephesians, Paul’s taught us about the glory that is the unity of Christ. The glory that we can expect if we are in union with Christ, if we are in unity as Christians as the body of Christ. Paul continues the lesson and teachers us exactly what it means to be a Christian and to live a Christian life, he teaches us what it means to have a heart, a heart for God, for ourselves and for all of God’s children. He then goes on to the mind of a Christian and we are taught that one of the most important things about Christianity and that is as Christians we need to have wisdom, we must turn from foolish things. And the most foolish thing we do is to allow Satan into our hearts, into our heads, into our lives. Now I know you’re saying pastor, I don’t let Satan anywhere near me what are you crazy, why would I let Satan near me? I mean I’m not stupid and I know none of you are stupid. No one lets Satan near them. Like I said and as it’s pointed out many times in scripture Satan is a crafty guy, the evil one can sneak right in there with you, no problem, and there’s very little that we can do, no that’s not right, alone there is nothing that we can do to stop it. That’s right I said there’s nothing we can do to stop it in and of ourselves. Only through the grace of God and the love of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit can we as human beings hope to fight this battle. Paul say: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  Paul says in the revised version be strong in the Lord however a more literal translation of the words that Paul use is not be strong but rather be strengthened, to be strengthened in the Lord, to be in the strength of his power. We cannot strengthen ourselves we must be empowered by God. And that power is not something that is infused in us once and done.

By that I mean we’re not little Energizer bunnies with the power of God always in us, rather than it being just one time, the power of God must strengthen us constantly just as we are constantly growing into Christ into God’s sanctifying grace. It’s a process it’s not a one-shot cure-all thing. It’s a constant struggle. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. It truly is a fight it is a battle, it’s not a game, people die every day waging this war ancient war. The enemy is real, in the United States we don’t seem to really believe this like I’ve said before it’s almost impossible to get the average American to believe in spiritual warfare. They are more likely to believe in Casper the ghost and the haunted stories on Saturday Night Live or whatever TV reality show happens to be playing this week, rather than the word of God. The enemy is powerful, he is cunning, and he is ruthless, and he is after all of us. What we’re told as Christians is that we have already won the war and that’s not true. God has already won the war but we as Christians still have to fight the battles. The day of glory is not today and it’s not for us to decide, the day of glory is for God to decide, and none shall know the day not even the Son. James Montgomery Boice in his expositional commentary on Ephesians has this to say “Many Christians today would judge the teaching of these verses unimportant. They would encourage us to think positively and peacefully, as if there were no spiritual battles at all. They see Christianity not as an entrance into warfare but as an exit from it. They see it as the solution to our problems. If you are sick, Jesus will make you well. If you are discouraged, Jesus will make you happy. You get the impression from those who talk like this that to believe in Jesus is to enter upon a smooth path and to enjoy smooth sailing” It’s not, as any Christian can tell you trials and tribulation is what you can expect, Jesus told us [Mathew 10:34] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. And whether you believe in the enemy or not, he believes in you. So, 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. Why do we stand firm? For the same reason that we dress in our armor it is to be ever mindful that we stand ready and able to do god’s will through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. That it is, God and no other that strengthens us.

We fasten the belt of truth around our waist because we battle the deceiver, “when he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” [John 8:44b] So speak only the truth and the breastplate of righteousness will protect you from the unrighteous: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all impiety and unrighteousness of people, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what can be known about God is evident among them, for God made it clear to them.  [Romans 1:18-19 LEB] The unrighteous fear the truth, they fear to tread its path, just as they fear the light, but not so the righteous we do not fear this path because we are wearing the right shoes. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Don’t be afraid to get out there and preach the Gospel. If you don’t go forward if you don’t proclaim the good news how will people here and if they don’t hear, how will they come to believe, and if they don’t believe, how will they come to know Christ. 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” [Roman 10:15] Do not fear the road, for you are clothed for the journey, but this road leads to conflict, this road takes us into great danger so even though we are clothed for battle still 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. The Devils not gonna stand back and let you walk that path free and easy. He’s constantly gonna be sniping at you taking potshots every time you turn your head here is gonna come another arrow not just any arrow but flaming arrows. The devils not just out to put holes in you, he’s out to burn your life to the ground. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [Ephesians 2:8] It is our faith that opens us to God it is through his grace and his grace alone that “you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul.” [1 Peter 1:9] So, 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. The word of God, the Bible is your sword so do not neglect it. The way to keep it sharp is to read it daily. Just like a sword you need to practice with it. It’s no good if it just sits on your coffee table, when you really need it you won’t know how to use it.

You’re no different from any other warrior and the best warriors practice constantly. You have to practice with your weapon to be an effective warrior of God. Amen.  All these things are needed but the most important thing in any battle is communication.

You need to 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak. Always be in communication with God, pray that like Paul you may be bold and declare the Good News as we are commanded by God to do. Even if you are surrounded and in chains the enemy can never take the armor of God from you. You are never without that protection no matter where you are, and you will always have your sword to defend against the evil days no matter when they come. Amen.

Christian Wisdom

Be careful how you live. 32For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them; [Proverbs 1:32] Be careful how you live, Seek after wisdom. [Proverbs 1:33] 33but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.” Be careful how you live. We went over this last week don’t lie don’t steal don’t get angry with one another don’t do malicious things to one another don’t have hate for one another always we need to be forgiving we need to build people up not tear them down we need to imitate God walking in love not hatred all these things we know we are supposed to do we know we’re supposed to live carefully. Still it’s quite easy to walk carefully and be foolish. Listen to what Paul tells us 15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Not only must we be careful in how we live we must do so with wisdom. We must be careful with the time that we are given for it is short, on this earth we are given only a short time to do what we have been created to do, a very short time to do the will of God. Because the days are evil what did Paul mean the days are evil, consider this we all watch the news we all see the crime on TV we hear about the evil in the world. Think about it 50 years ago, just 50 years ago you would never, never hear curse words on TV or in public for that matter you would never have seen nudity on TV, pornography was this horrible thing known only in back rooms and under teenage boys’ mattresses. Now thanks to the Internet it’s everywhere it’s available to anyone 6 to 66. The Internet has ushered in an age of great knowledge but not all of that knowledge is good, our society now uses the Internet for great evil and that evil has become the dominant force in our society if you are wondering let me confirm for you the evil days are not just then they are here now, our children grow up with pornography with drugs with alcohol they grow up self-serving self-righteous. Little children grow up thinking that it’s OK to curse their parents it’s OK to have sex out of wedlock it’s OK not to get married it’s OK not to go to church it’s, it’s OK not to believe in God, it’s OK to be greedy to be gluttonous to be foolish because when you get right down to it that’s all evil is it’s being foolish. 17 So do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. The Will of the Lord is to seek after wisdom 20 Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. 21At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? [Proverbs 1:20-22] Nothing makes the Lord happier then when we seek after wisdom.

All we have to do is look at Solomon the wisest man on earth granted his wisdom by God, listen to this “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties I think this is one of the greatest verses in scripture, I believe that if we all could come to God humbly and speaking the truth Father I am only a small child I do not know you’re will for me and I seek your will father, how much that would change the world, how much that would change us our hearts as Christians just that simple act to trust and love as a small child trusts their parents to  make things right to show them in love how it’s done, Amen. Solomon had it right, and he continues to seek God in humility, he says, Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” Solomon asked for wisdom, not for long life or health or wealth but for a small thing, discernment, the ability to know right from wrong and to apply that discernment equally, justly, wisely.  10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” God tells us to seek her out she’s in the streets in the square, she’s in your home everywhere you look there is wisdom to be found but you must look for it, you must seek it out. Contrary to popular belief one does not gain wisdom with age. Neither is wisdom a product of intelligence.  4if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures— 5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, 8guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. What is wisdom and why is it so hard to find?

Let me give you a small example, this story is from an unknown author and appropriately titled The Wise Woman’s Stone A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. “I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me something more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone. What is wisdom? Is it giving up what is most precious to you, simply to make another happy, or is it realizing that what you thought was the most precious thing in the world was only a colored stone. Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? 2On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: 4“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. [Proverbs 8:1-4] Wisdom is not readily attainable, but she is there for all who seek her. 17 So do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord despises drunkenness and debauchery not because wine is evil or wicked but when it is taken too far and it descends to drunkenness, debauchery is not far away and that opens the door for evil to come in, again we’re dealing with Satan and the dude wants us drunk, he wants us insecure, boastful, full of ourselves, because if we are full of ourselves we are not full of the Holy Spirit and God would have us filled with the Holy Spirit rather than wine. He wants our songs and our hearts, He wants us to come to Him Joyfully singing, with wisdom, and in love, giving thanks in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. The other guy he wants us hungover watching porn and cursing the Lord. So, what’s it going to be wisdom or foolishness? Solomon said it best in the opening verses of proverbs, 7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Be careful how you live.

Christian Living

Today’s scripture is a continuation of last weeks, last week Paul was encouraging us to be in unity, because we can only follow Christ path if we are one body only if we are unified in heart, mind and soul, as one creation under God. Paul continued in chapter 4 to explain exactly what he means by this he gives us a list of do’s and don’ts six as a matter of fact. Six rules to follow. Things we should and should not do specifically we don’t lie, we don’t stay angry with one another, we don’t steal, we don’t debase one another, and we don’t act maliciously towards one another, we do not have hate for one another. And for every don’t there is a do, six things that we should always do we should always speak the truth with one another we should never let our anger become uncontrolled, we should always quickly forgive one another, we should always work so that we may have enough not only for ourselves but to give to others, we should never tear people down with our words really we should encourage them edify them and lift them up to the Lord. Always be forgiving never judgmental. And above all be imitators of God and walk in love not hatred, this is fundamental to being children of God to followers of Christ for we are born again we are new creations and have no need to hold on to the old sins. Let’s look at them one on one and their relevance to us. 25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

This is very important we must always remember that we are one body, lying to our neighbors our friends or family is the same as lying to ourselves and God. Lying is an original sin it’s right up there with killing and stealing, one of the big ten, thou shall not lie. John tells us in Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” It is death to lie, put aside the fact that you can’t lie successfully to God anyway you look at it, it’s futile. Still putting all that aside, Paul tells us this for a much simpler and more practical reason. Jesus is explicit when he speaks about lying and where and who it belongs to. In John 8:44 Jesus is speaking to the Pharisee and he is arguing with them about whose children they are, whether they are children of God or children of Satan and this is what he has to say about it “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Very truly I tell you to be a liar is to put yourself on the same plane as Satan. Why would we do that? Who in their right minds would want to do that? So, speak the truth it’s not hard, though occasionally painful, the momentary pain of an uncomfortable truth is less than the agony of eternity spent with the father of lies. Regardless liars usually get caught and what happens when someone lies to you… don’t you get mad; of course, you do. Righteous anger is well and good, and we have a right to be angry, being angry is not a sin. If anger were a sin, then God could not become angry with us for our sins. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. Simply put do not let righteous anger turn to resentment. I know you’re going pastor make up your mind. either it’s a sin to be angry or it’s not a sin to be angry which is it? Well righteous anger is not a sin obviously, but anger that is harbored in the heart and not resolved turns to resentment. Resentment turns to bitterness and that bitterness will eventually turn to hatred and that is a sin. once your anger turns to hatred you open the door to the devil and he’s more than happy to come on in make himself comfortable. That’s why Paul says not to let the sun go down on your anger, it’s also where you get the very bad marital advice of not going to bed angry, or as Phyllis Diller says, “never go to bed mad – stay up and fight.” I say bad advice because sometimes you just need to end it and start over in the morning, quite often you won’t even remember why you were angry and you can apologize and get on with life.

But Paul’s not talking about that kind of anger, no he’s talking about the bitter unresolved anger that eats at you and keeps you up all night, we need to let that go, no matter how difficult it seems to be. We need to recognize it, vent it and toss it in the garbage where it belongs along with these other do nots’. Like stealing, 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Paul is not talking about a common thief in this context he is talking about someone who makes their living off others at the others expense. He is talking about those who do not make a living with their own hand. Who do not do an honest day’s work neither do they work hard for what they have rather they spend their time trying to find the easy way out trying to make the fast buck. Always at the expense of another. Instead Paul is telling us to not just work to be able to afford the minimum or even to afford the luxury’s in life rather work hard in order that you may help others less fortunate than you are. And listen even if you do encounter a thief or another one who is trying their best to go the easy route and con you out of your hard earned money 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. There is no need speak ill of another, even if that other is robbing you. It’s so easy to let those hateful words flow. Much easier than I forgive you, they come much easier than how can I help you, they come much easier than I love you. The same goes for those who cause any kind of grief or disappointment it is far easier to speak degrading and belittling words that make us feel larger, more powerful, bigger in our eyes. So much easier to say hurtful things than it is to tell someone it’s OK I am sure that you did not mean that, or you’ll do better next time don’t worry about it God loves you. But it’s essential to stop and think before we speak because we can greave not only others, we can grieve the Holy Spirit and Paul says 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. We are marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit. We so often use the Holy Spirit as a title as the third part of the Trinity that we forget the Holy Spirit, that God’s spirit indwells us. When we commit a sin no matter what sin that is, either to another or to ourselves we are committing a sin not against ourselves or against another, but against God. I want you to think about that for a minute I want that to sink in… when we express our hatred, our anger, when we say those nasty things to another person to another Christian or about another person or another Christian we are not just saying it to that person we are saying it to God.

Think about that and the next time, that bitterness, that anger comes up, the next time you feel that hatred, when those words about to come out of your mouth think about what it means and 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. God knows this isn’t going to be easy for us. Jesus knew that this wasn’t going to be easy for us. Paul knew it wasn’t going to be easy he knew that the more a person followed Christ the more they got into Christian living the more difficult it would seem to become, as G.K. Chesterton said: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” But the sad thing is that Christianity only seems difficult at first, at first it is very difficult but as Christ said [Matthew 11:28-30] 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The difficulty is not in Christianity, not in living a Christian life. Brothers and Sisters the difficulty isn’t about Christian Living it’s about discarding our old life and learning to live as new creations, as Christians. 5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Amen.

Unity In Christ

How do we maintain our unity in Christ our love in one another when all around us is the secular world and it is constantly calling us to do the opposite? How do we walk in the light how do we shine forth the light Of Christ when all is darkness? Because, even though all around us in the world is this darkness We have to remember that it is Satan that is propagating this evil and Satan always uses others to do his dirty work. The evil one’s favorite pastime is sowing doubt and descension he loves to make us question ourselves, our very reality. Because when we are confused, or doubt preys on our minds we are not focusing on the spiritual we are not focusing on God we are focusing on the flesh. We are not showing the love of Christ, we are not unified, our Hearts and minds are not one with God. When we are not one with God we leave ourselves open, we become vulnerable to all that evil in the world. That evil doesn’t just make a home in others it can and will seek you out first, remember as a Christian you are always in the line of fire. The more effective you are as a Christian the more certain it is that you will encounter trials and tribulation. No doubt about it that sucks, but that is why we are called to the church, because it is only in Christian unity that we can survive against the forces arrayed against us. Remember this is spiritual warfare but the physical is also involved so let’s unpack that as I said Satan will always use someone to do his will because it’s almost always degrading and belittling and Satan hates us because God made us only a little below the Angels, Psalm 8:4-5 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. By degrading us he thinks he’s proving to God that we are not worthy of His love. And to that end he will use anyone, but remember that person is not necessarily evil, recall the Gerasene demoniac? Mark 5:15 15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. It should frighten us as well, that Satan can manipulate us so easily. So easily that we often do not perceive that we are being manipulated. Paul knew this well because he had been manipulated by Satan as Saul of Tarsus. But Christ Called forth Paul the Apostle from Saul of Tarsus just as he calls us forth to live our lives in Him. I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. That’s hard to do even with other Christians.

So how do we maintain our own patience and gentleness and humility bearing with love for one another when the other has no love for us. This is when we have to remember that while we are all different we are also all wonderfully and fearfully made by God and There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. One God, one father, one Holy Spirit, one Jesus who is above all and through all, in all, they are one in the same three in one the triune God. We are all a part of God’s plan and each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”  (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) This part is kind of hard to get your head around but Christ descending meaning that he went below to the lower parts of the earth or to Hades or hell so that he might fill all things, so Christ is in all things, Christ is everywhere there is nothing that is beyond His reach there are none that cannot be saved and there are none that are undeserving of Salvation. There are many that will not be saved, many will be judged and found wanting, and cast into the depths for eternity just as He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 Remember we are all beloved of God we are all God’s children and he gave gifts to all of us. 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. And here’s the tricky part we have to grow up we have to grow up in Christ we can no longer be children pulled this way and that way by doctrine that has no basis in Gods word, by false prophets and their lies or smooth talkers and their “just do it” feel good philosophy. We cannot as Christians succumb to popular opinion and political correctness when we defend our faith and values from an amoral society. But neither do we have to allow ourselves to be overcome by hatred and violence, we have no need to for these things as adults in Christ, we do not need to speak falsely or in hatred.

15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. [1] We to need to work together in harmony. We are all part of one body we are all children of God, even though we don’t necessarily get along with every part, and it is often very difficult to look someone in the eye and say I’m sorry, how can I make things better, especially when they seem to want to destroy everything you worked so hard for, but it’s Gods plan and we were created to fulfill that plan. We can do it for all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us. Look at Paul and Peter they were most definitely not the best of friends however for the good of Christianity they got along. And it’s fortunate that they did if they had done as we do so often and continued to hate one another the church very likely would never have come into being but through the love of Christ they were able to resolve their differences between themselves and create God’s church on earth. We are that church, we are the inheritors of all that Paul and Peter created through Jesus, and along with that inheritance comes the responsibility to act like adults especially when we would rather not. Jesus modeled God’s plan for us on earth, we already know what needs to be done. We need to spread the gospel, the good news, repent for the kingdom of God is near and not everyone has heard the message yet and many who do are going to fight it like children fighting to stay up late, and as adults it is our Job to educate them to bring them into unity with us and with Christ. For it is only through our love of one another that we will be known as followers of Christ and that love is what defines us as Christians. I leave you with Jesus’ final prayer for us it’s not for peace or understanding but for our unity in one another.  John 17:20-21 “And I ask not only for these disciples, but also for all those who will one day believe in me through their message.  I pray for them all to be joined together as one even as you and I, Father, are joined together as one. I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognize that you sent me. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Eph 4:1–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.