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.......





Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Compassion

                                                                 Matthew 14:13-21
                         

      A man named Peter Ustinov once said, "charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible, compassion is time consuming".

      Today, I am going to talk about compassion. Godly, Christ like compassion. Compassion in the midst of our own wants, our own needs, and our own limitations. Compassion shown to others, because compassion has been shown to us. Compassion because Jesus looked for the broken and poor, He dealt with them with compassion, and then left them for us to care for.

      All four of the gospels tell this story, each with a different amount of details, some with much conversation, and some with little. But anytime something is mentioned more than once, to me that says it has special significance. 3 times means you better sit up and take notice. But 4 times? You had better engrave it into your soul. And that my friends are what we are here to do today. To make the word of God a living part of us.

      So, Matthew's account, where we are today, is pretty straight forward. Easy to understand and digest. Matthew addresses this miracle from the simple standpoint that Jesus saw the needs of the people and He met those needs in a way that only He could. Yet, He didn't do it alone. He used His disciples, just as He does today.

      I think one of the biggest statements made in this story is found in verse 14, When He went ashore He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick. Let me talk about the word compassion for a moment. It is translated from the greek word splanchnizomai, which means yearning with the bowels. Have you ever been so deeply moved with sympathy or empathy for someone that your stomach ached? Then you have a feeling of the depth of Jesus' pity was for the people that followed Him.

      Compassion is that internal yearning, that deep sense of empathy or sympathy, and concern for people who have great needs, which affects us physically because of it's intensity. It is such a deep emotion that it can't easily be shut down or ignored. We simply cannot walk away from people in great pain, desperate need, or deep poverty. Jesus had splanchnizomai on the people, and so He dealt with it. We are to have that kind of compassion for people and deal with it just as Jesus would if He were standing there in our place.

      Imagine being tired, hungry, and emotionally over worked. Then you look out and see some poor person with such a great need that they are just a pitiful sight. You can tell by looking at them that their problem is not a quick fix, it's going to take some effort. That's when most people would turn and make nimble practiced justifications for not responding to the need they see. But, Jesus completely disregards His own needs and focuses on the needs of those He came to save and to serve. No matter how tired or needful Jesus was, He always gave to others first. This is the kingdom principle that must be a part of the walk of faith of believers today. If a person is a true Christian, then they are by definition a disciple of Christ.

      In verse 15 it says, when in the evening, the disciples came to Him and said,, this place is desolate and the hour is already late. So send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves. So, what do the disciples see? they see the need of the people, and they see their own limitations. They see the world through the eyes of the flesh. What they don't see is Jesus as they should have. They don't see their circumstances through the eyes of the master of all of creation sitting in their midst. This is the Jesus who has healed thousands, driven out demons, given sight to the blind, made the deaf here, and raised the dead. How is it that they couldn't see Him as the one who could feed several thousand people? They couldn't see it because they were focused on themselves. Sure, they saw the people and their needs, but their focus was on themselves. Isn't this like us in our own lives? We see the needs of others , look immediately at the resources we don't have, and we fail to respond to the need before us. Do we believe that we are the hands, feet, arms, mouth, body, wallet, ride, smile, kind word, gentle touch, shelter, provider, etc. etc. of Jesus Christ? Then how should we respond when we see need?

      In verse 16 it says, But Jesus said to them, they do not need to go away, you give them something to eat. In other words, take what you have and give it to those in need. Do it in faith and trust Me for the rest. Being concerned for people is just the start. Now do something for them. What was their response? They argue, can you believe it? They actually argue with Jesus. Who can argue with Jesus like that? I better be the first to raise my hand because I can. I argued with Him the whole time I was writing this sermon. But, He turned my heart around and got me to see that He was giving me an opportunity to live this message. So, I took it, and the blessing is wonderful all the way around. I can't even begin to tell you how many times , or how often I have felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit, and have discussed, argued, cajoled, minimized, justified, and rationalized not doing what was needed. There are always reasons not to, atleast I seem to always be able to find them. Maybe it's just me, but there are always this fear factor that makes me get to concerned about the response I am going to get from the gallery. But, I forget about the gallery that I am supposed to be playing to. Jesus Christ is the gallery I am supposed to play to, if you will, because He has given me the example to follow, and He is there cheering me on. Saying, They don't need to go away, you give them something to eat. Take from what you have, that I have given you, and give it to those that are in need of it.

      But, in Vs. 17-18 they said to Him, we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish, and He said bring them to me. You see? Right there, Jesus tells us that we bring Him what we have and allow Him to bless it and use it. When was the last time you took a look at what you have and prayed, Lord this is what I have and it is Yours to use as you desire to touch the life of someone else? This is not a prayer that immediately jumps to our lips when we see the need that someone else has. We, like the disciples try to figure things out in our own minds. We fall back on what we think we know, on what we are used to. Being a disciple of Jesus requires a radical shift in thinking, a drastic alteration of our view of the world and how it operates. If we truly believe that we are indwelt by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, then when we are there, Jesus is there. How would Jesus respond?

      In Vs. 19-21 it says, Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the 5 loaves and 2 fish, and looking up towards Heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. There were about 5000 men who ate, besides women and children. As the messiah promised to Israel, Jesus would provide for all of their needs. He was well aware that the sick and lame needed healing, He was even more aware that every man, woman, and child present that day needed the redemption that the promised Messiah really came to give. That is always the deepest need of every man.

      In this last portion of Matthew's account we see a pattern instituted that has been continuing on since that very day. Jesus gave to the disciples that which He blessed, and they in turn give it out to the people. This is the pattern for all those who minister for Jesus Christ. Not only do the miracles of Jesus testify as Him being the Messiah, they are His way of demonstrating the depth of His compassion fro those in need. He can provide for every need, and He will. Our focus is to be on His Kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus Christ requires that we care more about the health and well being of others than we care about our own. He will care for us, we are to care for others.

      Do you believe that this is what Jesus requires of us? Do you believe he really meant it. Do you belong to Him, or do you belong to you? Do you believe in Him, or do you believe in you? Do you see through the limited vision of the flesh or are you asking Him to open the eyes of your heart and let you see as He sees? Jesus promises that if we give, it will be given to you. Do we believe Him, or are we like the disciples and believe only what we have known, only what we see, or only what we can imagine? The message here is that all of us have an opportunity to give sacrificially to others, and we need to take that opportunity when it presents itself. It is time for everyone of us to step out of the box, step out of our comfort zone, step out of the church setting and really be Jesus Christ to this world. What do you have to lose? Nothing, it's all His anyway. We just have to live like we really believe that what we believe is really real.

      A man named Peter Ustinov once said, "Charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible. compassion is time consuming......Amen



     

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Smile

I think too often we underestimate the power of a smile, which has the potential to turn around someone's day, or maybe even more. That smile you give out might even make your day or week better.

I can honestly say I have seen the softening of the hardest heart with only a smile, and a lot of the time it is my own smile that is doing it. I heard someone say, or maybe I read it somewhere, A smile is the key that fits the lock to everyone's heart.

Think about it, that one simple smile has the power to calm someone's fear, anxiety, hurt, or insecurities. A single smile, one that is true, has within it the power to change the world because it can be shared no matter what language you speak. Smiles are also contagious, so when you smile at someone, you are passing on all the good things smiles can do.

God has given us the power to change attitudes, to change lives, and all you have to do is start smiling. Use your smile to break down the walls of indifference, to show you care, to share God's love with the rest of the world. Mother Teresa said " Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."

 It truly is a gift, a gift of God's love, sharing the Holy Spirit with someone through that smile. Mother Teresa also said "Peace starts with a smile. " So maybe, instead of shooting and killing each other, we should start smiling, and we might get closer to true peace.......

Monday, April 23, 2018

"Those People"

      This is probably going to piss some people off, and they will probably get mad at me and ignore me and walk away when they see me. But, I think it needs to be said. I have heard too many times people who attend my church refer to the homeless and poor who attend our community supper as "Those People". As in we don't want "those people" in our church. "Those people" are dirty and smelly and that doesn't look very inviting to new people coming into the church. Even though Jesus clearly tells us throughout the New Testament that that is one of the most important commandments in the bible.  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." If you are not sure who your neighbor is, the parable about the good samaritan is a good place to start (Luke 10:25-37).

       If you have heard my first sermon or read my blog, you would know that I was for most of my life one of "Those People". I was shunned by the church my whole life, told that I was no good, and I would never amount to anything. After being told that so many times you begin to believe it and just give up. Instead we should be sharing God's love, letting them know that God does love them, that someone in this messed up world cares for them as a brother or sister in Christ. Knowing that someone cares, knowing that God loves them, that they are children of God can do miracles. I know first hand, because if it wasn't for a certain pastor, on a Christmas eve 8 years ago, I would not be a Christian today, I would not be writing this blog, or even trying to share God's love to as many people as I can. I wouldn't be a Stephens Minister, or a mentor at my daughter's school, or mentoring homeless and fatherless children. This all happened because that one pastor told me that Jesus loves me, that He was born in that manger and died on that cross for me. If you would have told someone I know, family or friend, that one day God would put me up in front of people and use me to share His promise of love, they would have laughed in your face. 

      I know first hand what it's like to have to ask for help. I know first hand what it's like to have to stand in line at some food bank. I know how demeaning it is to not be able to care for yourself. I know what it's like to go to school with last years fashions. I know what it's like when "Christian" people stand up and tell you that "We don't want you here", because your not worthy. Well guess what. Neither are they. But God gives it to everyone freely, no matter who you are. That is the message we as Christians need to be sharing. So, when you are talking about "those people," I take that as you are talking directly to me. And, If you don't want them in "your" church that means you don't want me in "your" church. But, I know Whose church it really is. Praise be to God.....