Thursday, June 14, 2018

Looking for Jesus in all the Wrong Places

                                       John 6:24-35

I wonder how many people who have read my blog remember, or have even heard of that song Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places. I was reading this part of John and I thought that this story could have a similar title, maybe? Looking for Jesus in all the wrong places......

The people in this story were reacting to Jesus' feeding of the 5000 with just 5 loaves and a few fish, what a miracle !! But in their reaction to that miracle, the people went looking for Jesus to provide more of that bread He fed them. But, why stop at bread? If Jesus could feed 5000 people, then surely He could give them material prosperity, wealth, and health. Just follow Jesus and you can have all your earthly dreams come true.

But, there is the problem. The people were setting their sights to low, they were searching for those earthly treasures, feeding on earthly bread, when they should have been searching for heavenly treasure and bread. They were wanting the gifts, but forgetting about the Giver. Give us more of this bread they say to Jesus, and He responds by giving them an answer they do not expect. Why work for bread that does not satisfy, why work for bread that will only perish? You see? He redirects their searching, He tells them to set their sights higher. Look for the giver of all good gifts, the one who is truly the "Bread of Life." Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places, Looking for Jesus in all the wrong places. Isn't that what happens when we fall in love with the gifts, but forget about the giver?

Earthly bread is a good thing, it is truly a gift from God. It is a blessing that is meant to be enjoyed, how can we not like these blessings? But, what if there was something better? Something better than the latest cell phone, something better than that 3-D television, or even better than a new Tesla? And, what if that something better wasn't a thing at all, but a person who wants to enter into a relationship with you, a person who loves you with a love that is eternal? Wouldn't you want to set your sights a little higher? Wouldn't you want to search for not only those gifts, but also for the giver?

Give us more bread !! It's so easy to love the gifts and forget about the giver. We have so much bread, and we take such delight in our earthly bread that we become like little kids in a toy store. We become so transfixed by all that is surrounding us, hypnotized by all the color and sounds. More, more, more we cry, give us more of this bread. But, Here is the problem with this earthly bread, in this reading Jesus tells us that this earthly bread only lasts so long, that it perishes. Jesus was honest with the people, earthly bread and fish are good things. But, the giver is infinitely better, and that is the true bread we need.

Jesus comes to us as the "True Bread of Life" that satisfies our deepest hunger. Jesus invites us to a feast, and at this feast we are served much better things than earthly bread. Through the bread and the wine of communion, God becomes present in our lives, to love us and to know us. Wouldn't it be a shame if we missed out on this bread that came down to be among us in the form of Jesus Christ?

Search for and enjoy earthly bread, but intensely search for the giver of all gifts, the "True Bread" sent from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord..... Amen

Monday, June 11, 2018

Winners and Losers

Are there winners and losers in the Kingdom of God? I think society today is too wrapped up in competition, there has to be a winner and a loser. The most watched TV shows have a "loser" who gets kicked off weekly, elections are watched and treated like football games, and don't get me started on the stories of parents getting into fights at their children's sporting events. What are we teaching our youth?

I used to coach soccer and fastpitch softball through the parks and rec department where I live, the kids that play are playing for fun. It's not like little league, there are no winners or losers, the score is not kept and no records are kept. Some parents say that is ridiculous, since our kids live in the "real world" which is based on competition, when in all actuality most of our jobs or careers are based on cooperation. But, if competition is truly what makes the world go round, and I am to work with the youth, then part of my role is to paint them a picture of not what the world is today, but as it could be. A world where love and community are the focus, not competition, not self-sufficiency, or independence.

 Philippians 2:3-4 says, Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Our competitive nature prepares us for a world of winners and losers. "To the victor goes the spoils", I believe is the quote. We understand the ways of competition as if it were hard wired into our brains. And, since it is the winners who write the history books, little is made of this part of our lives. So how do we teach our youth humility and compassion?

 If you want to know the truth, it is not natural for us to care about other people. Humanity is born greedy and self-centered, and our youth are not any different. We need to see that the real problem here is in the heart. If we simply try to change their behavior, we are not helping them get closer to Jesus.

I see Philippians 2:3-4 used a lot in teaching our youth about humility and compassion, but I think maybe verses 1 and 2 should also be used , which explains, If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one with spirit and purpose.

Paul is saying that if your encouragement is in Christ, then you can put others first. If you have comfort in Jesus' love, then you can care more about your neighbor. If we want our youth to put competition aside and care about others, we have got to be aware of what fills their lives. We need to show our youth Jesus is real, and when that happens, their hearts will naturally overflow to those in need. So, are there winners and losers in God's Kingdom? What do yo think?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Inclusive Love of God

 If someone asked what I was passionate about, I am sure most people would say the Seahawks. I definitely couldn't say they were wrong. I would hope some would say my faith or my family also, but there is something else I am passionate about. That passion I am talking about is sharing the Inclusive Love of God to the world by doing for others....

I was born poor and didn't grow up in the best of neighborhoods to say the least. As a child and into my teens there were plenty of opportunities for the church to reach out and help us, not just my family, but also others in the community. Instead of sharing the Inclusive Love of God, they built an exclusive community and shunned us and kept us on the outside.  

When I became a Christian I realized that that is not how it is supposed to be. God Loves every person in this world whether they know it or not, and we need to share that love starting in our own communities, and then spreading it out to the world. 

There are plenty of verses in the bible that tell us we need to do for others, but these 2 are a couple of my favorites. Matthew 5:16 says, Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven. Matthew 25:40 says, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

My brothers and sisters, not only do we need  to get out and serve others, but as Christians and the Body of Christ we should want to serve others and share the inclusive love of God. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Let the Children Come to Me

      I heard a joke the other day about 2 children complaining about their parents. It goes something like this, 1 child said parents teach you how to walk, then they teach you how to talk, and the other child said, yeah and as soon as you learn they tell you to sit down and shut up.......

      That joke got me thinking about how the disciples treated the children in the Book of Mark chptr. 10:13-16. Mark tells us that parents were bringing their children to Jesus for blessings, but for some reason the disciples were trying keep the children away from Jesus. I am not sure why they would try to keep the children away from Jesus, because it was a custom for Jewish rabbis to bless the children. In that blessing was a hope filled with health, joy, and peace. For whatever reason the disciples had for trying to keep the children from Jesus, Mark tells us that Jesus thought differently.

      Over the centuries, right up to today, it seems that some Christians take on that same attitude as the disciples. They don't think children belong in worship, they don't look at children as important members of God's Kingdom. But, I think it would be wise of us to listen to children. They hear things that we no longer hear, and have priorities that we lost somewhere. I heard a story of a teacher who would listen to the children in his class, and tip his cap to them everyday, because he said, they are the future in our midst. One of those children in his class was a boy named Martin Luther.

      The custom in many churches is to send the children away from the sanctuary. A lot of children think that church is a place where the adults tell you to be quiet as they send you away. I wonder what Jesus would do. Perhaps He would go out there with them. The truth is that we don't listen to children, we assume that they need to listen to us. The last time we were out for dinner I heard a father at another table tell his little son, " I don't care what you want, you need to listen to me." Children spend a lot of time sitting while adult voices talk at them, and then we are to busy or tired to listen to them. We ignore them in restaurants and serve the adults first. We hang pictures high up on the walls like everyone is tall. We ask children what they want to be when they grow up as though they are nothing as they are now.

      Jesus said "Let the little children come to me." Worship is richer and livelier with them there. There is no need to make it seem less complex for the sake of children, the church seems to stress the importance of understanding, but all understanding is not intellectual, all learning is not verbal. Children worshipping with adults who worship with deep and solemn respect before the presence of God learn lessons that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

      Jesus said the Kingdom of God must be received "like a child."It is true that in 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul said that he gave up his childish ways when he grew up. But, childishness is not what Jesus is referring to. Childish is people thinking the world is centered around them, that if they cry long enough  that they will get what they want. But, when Jesus asks us to be childlike, He is talking about that open, trusting responsive part of us which laughs and cries, and is willing to risk.

      Listen to the children, not just the ones who are young in years. There is a child inside all of us, no matter how old we are, that needs to be listened to. Who knows, when we adults start listening more to the child inside of us, we may learn to be more joyful, less weighed down with worries. Maybe more able to enjoy the wonder, and beauty of life. The child in us can show us the gift that life is, and to share that gift with others. The child in us can reveal the grace of God all around us.

      As adults we can have a huge influence on children and take our roles as mentors seriously. We can make the church the most welcoming place we can for children. what children learn about church in their younger years will stay with them for the rest of their lives. So, like Jesus maybe we can be as inclusive of children as He was, valuing them as precious members of God's Kingdom, because they model for us the awesome Grace of God.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Are We Sinking Or Swimming?

                                          Matthew 14: 22-23

                     Are We Sinking Or Swimming?

   Are you drowning in doubt? Or are you walking on water in faith?
   So, we pick up with Jesus sending the disciples out in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee, after He had just fed the 5000, promising to meet them on the other side. That’s when things go bad, when they are a considerable distance from land a storm blows in bashing waves against the boat, the disciples see what they think is a ghost walking on water and they cry out in fear, but Jesus says to them Take courage, It is I, don’t be afraid. So Peter says, Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water and Jesus said come. Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water, but once he notices the waves and the wind, he takes his focus off of Jesus, and begins to sink into the sea of doubt, a doubt of his own making.
   Friends, what are the things in life that bash us with the storms of doubt while it feels like God is miles away on the shore? Just like Peter, we hear what God has to say, but then Satan puts that little spark of doubt into our minds. It tells us that God’s word is not good enough, that His track record with His people isn’t good enough and we start to drown in our own sea of doubt. Whether you are the disciples in a boat or a person in a pew, the cold waves of doubt are always threatening to pull you down.
   You know, we hear God’s promise that the righteous are not forsaken; neither will their children beg bread. But the economy remains uncertain at best, and that doubt creeps in. We look at our big beautiful church, and the newness has worn off, but that mortgage remains, and that doubt creeps in. We hear God tell us that His word will never return empty, but will always accomplish His purpose, but we wonder whether or not the empty pews or chairs will fill up. We hear God’s promise that nothing can ever separate us from the Love of Christ, but then we look at our rocky marriages, and that doubt creeps in. We hear God’s promise that we can do all things through him, but then our sins or addictions hold us down even though we know in our heads that Jesus forgives the sins of the world, but in our hearts we feel the icy wind of a guilty conscious, and then that doubt creeps in. 
   Are we sinking or swimming in life? Is our faith barely treading water? There is only one thing we can say, the same words that Peter cried out. Lord Save Me!!!! Lord, save me from drowning in the Sea of Doubt. Lord save me from focusing on my own issues, Lord save me from my sinful self. Save us He does !! In vs. 31-33 it says, Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. You of little faith He said, why do you doubt? And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying truly you are the Son of God.
    You see, at first Peter’s faith was strong at the site of Jesus; maybe some would call it reckless faith. Peter pushed aside what he knew of wind and waves, and he asked Jesus for permission to walk to Him on the water. Jesus says come and Peter walks on water, but then that doubt creeped in. But, in that instant of faith, Peter walked on water. That is how faith works, regardless of what the mind, heart, or the body experiences, faith holds God to His promise. When everything seems impossible, faith hears God’s promise and says absolutely possible. 
   God doesn’t promise us that we will walk on water on demand, but think of the things He does promise us, through a little water and a few words, God put the devil to flight and creates faith in children that aren’t old enough to say mommy. He makes you a promise with the bread and wine, you receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for forgiveness. Our God tells us that while we were sinners, Christ died for our sins. Jesus tells us that He will go before us and prepare a place for us so that He can come back and get us. Hold on to these promise and not only will you be walking on water, but you will walk through the gates of heaven. 
   You say, OK Mike all good and well, but that wind and those waves look scary. So, tell God something he doesn't already know. It’s because of that scary wind and waves that God made His promises in the first place. And those promises are always powerful, they sent Moses to save the Israelites, and lead them to the Promised Land. His promises brought Peter out of a boat and onto the water. His promises brought faith to your heart and hope to your future. God’s promises have built a church, and those same promises will fill it as God sees fit. All of this my friends, you can count on….

Monday, May 14, 2018

Super Moms

      Christian moms have super powers, and never get the respect they deserve. Their kids have heroes like Iron Man or Captain America, but the real super heroes are moms. They are SUPER MOMS !!!! Moms chase demons out of closets and from under beds, tend wounds, and turn tears into giggles. And at the end of the day they still have smiles on their faces when the children get home from school and dad gets home from work.

      Christian moms are the only ones that can cook breakfast and get the kids off to school on time,  work a full time job, put the trash out that dad forgot, do the laundry, cook dinner, clean the house, help the kids with home work, and still find the time to spend with God. The Holy Spirit gives moms the power to do things dads can't do. When a child asks dad for permission to do something, dad says go ask your mother. The Holy Spirit gives mom the power to know when their children are lying, and to know how to ask them questions to get the answers they want. You can truly see the fruit of the spirit in their lives. (Galatians 5:22-33) But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control.

       Christian moms have been given other gifts of the Holy Spirit as well. (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) -Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, even interpretation of tongues. You want to know what the baby is saying? Ask mom, dad would have no idea. Moms love their children like God loves, with agape love, love that is unconditional. All mothers are special, but Christian moms have that relationship with the Lord to lean on. They are SUPER MOMS !!!! So let us honor our mothers and always give them the respect they deserve. Moms are a gift from God and we need to cherish them as such. Amen.......

Thursday, May 10, 2018

you are a masterpiece

Have you ever just felt worthless? Felt like you just can't do anything right? I know it happens to me quite a bit. I see people my age or younger that are CEO's, or Vice Presidents, they seem successful at whatever they do. I start to think that I am not what I should or could have been. It happens to me quite a bit.

A few years back my family and I went to the King Tut exhibit. There were so many treasures in there, but you can't buy them because they are priceless. I did manage to buy a mask made out of gold for only 25 cents. I keep it in my desk drawer at work. That's right, I keep a masterpiece in my desk drawer. OK, it's actually a post card, a copy of the mask. It's just a worthless copy.

I think life makes us feel more like that post card. We are made in the image of God, but we are just 25 cent copies. But God doesn't see you as a copy, He sees you as a masterpiece. None of us are cheap copies, because we are the masterpieces of God. Ephesians 2:10, We are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. (NIV we are God's workmanship)

We are individuals made as God's masterpiece. We are made in His image, and there isn't anything this world can do to take that away from us. Let's reflect on this for a minute, take the "we" out of that and insert your name. I, the Rev. Mad Mike, am a masterpiece of God. Say it with your name, say it everyday.

God has created His masterpieces so that we may do the good things He has planned for us. It's not that we are His masterpieces because we do good works, but rather we do good works because we are His masterpieces.

We are created in the image of God, created by the greatest creator there ever was. No craftsman or artist could ever have created a masterpiece like God has. All of our worth is found in God. If I had painted the Mona Lisa, it would be worthless. Just like if we were a man made people, we wouldn't be worth much, but with His touch, God has made us priceless.

We have been created by the Master Artist, and paid for with the Master's Life. We are priceless creations.......