Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mustard Seed Sized Faith

                                                                Luke 17:5-6
                                                                Acts 2:42-47



    I think there are many times when we are intimidated by our faith. The church's mission is to make new disciples in Christ for the transformation of the world, and we are the church. But, I know a lot of times we think to ourselves, How can I do this by myself, I am not very good at sharing my faith with others. What if people reject me, what can I offer, I am a sinner too, or do I even have enough faith to take on this task?

    Our call as Christians and the strong belief we have can seem overwhelming at times. I am just one person, what can I do? In Luke 17, the apostles are feeling the same way. When they were faced with what looked like an impossible task, they cried out to Jesus, "Increase our faith!" I know many of you have said the same thing, I know I have. And, I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

    When thinking about the call of discipleship, the apostles thought that they didn't have enough faith to accomplish the task ahead. So Jesus tells them, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this Mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you." Wait a minute, what ????

    If you held a mustard seed in your hand, you might not be able to see it. It is probably one of the most smallest seeds in existence. And sometimes, just like that mustard seed, we have problems seeing the faith that we have. When the going gets tough, or we are called to tell someone about Jesus, we have a rough time finding the faith to do it. But Jesus is telling us that the faith we need is already inside of us. All we have to do is to tap into it.

    Just look and see what happened to the apostles after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. That scared group of followers became empowered to stand up and proclaim with boldness, clarity, and conviction, "Let all of Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." "And when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said, what shall we do?" The answer, "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the Holy Spirit." We are told that "Those who accepted this message were baptized, and about 3000 were added to their number that day."

    So, do you think the disciples would have ever imagined that this was possible? Days before, they had locked themselves behind closed doors in fear of the people who became their brothers and sisters in Christ. And yet they let their belief and trust in God to use their mustard seed sized faith to save the people. They were ordinary people, just like you and I, but they were also the church, just like you and I.

    Right away the people dedicated themselves to the apostle's teachings, to their fellowship, their breaking of bread and prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were done. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their goods and possessions, they gave to anyone in need. They broke bread together in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of the people, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. And all they had was a mustard seed sized faith.

     You know, you feel it or see it. When we as a church, live our lives like this, we find that we have a little more spring in our step, sometimes to our own amazement or surprise. There might even be a new attractiveness to us, a new energy we have found as we celebrate God's generosity, by being generous ourselves. And that attractiveness is what draws other people in.

    This takes faith, and it must be done in the community of the church. We can't do it alone, we must do it together, that is God's plan. This is who and what we were made to be. So when the apostles said Lord, we are not strong enough, please increase our faith. Jesus responds by basically saying that you already have the faith required for what I am asking. All that you need is faith no bigger than a mustard seed.

    You See? What Jesus is saying is that we as the church, have enough faith to change the world for Him. Jesus tells us that, "It's half the size of a grain of rice, yet it grows into a bush so large that birds come and make nests in it." Meaning that other people come and find their home in the church which is built on faith, a faith that calls us forth and shapes who we are.

    We then become the body of Christ on this earth. We are empowered to continue Christ's ministry, which is what we are called to do. All it takes is trusting God to be God, all we need is God and each other, and all we have to do is just do it. We need to stop wringing our hands and act on that faith which lives in each of us. Jesus has given us the faith we need to accomplish these things for God's kingdom.

    The early church were doing these things, they were generous and committed. They were praising God by putting that faith into to action. They were enjoying the favor of the people, and God added to their numbers daily, those who were being saved. Of course they were, and of course He did. That is how it works, the Gospel hasn't changed. God's power hasn't weakened, and people still need to be saved. God has entrusted us with great faith, anything is possible. Are we ready to experience it first hand? All it takes is mustard seed sized faith. Amen.....

Friday, September 23, 2016

Love

    The Bible has a lot to say about love. It says that God wants you to love Him, it says God wants you to love your neighbors, but it also says that God loves you. There is so much written about love in the Bible that some call it God's Love Letter.

    At the time when Jesus was born all people cared about was the rules. Do this, do that, wear this, don't wear that, worship here, Rule after rule. There was a little love, but most people were only concerned about following the rules. But Jesus cared about love, He came down among us to show us how much He loves us. He loves us so much, that He died on the cross to wash our sins away so that we can live with Him forever and always.

    There were a lot of people who really liked Jesus' message of love, but there were also a lot of people who thought following the rules was the only thing that counted, but they forget that we are human and we make mistakes. Then what? One mistake? Is that it, and then it's over? No way people, Jesus came so when we make mistakes, He has saved us. It is such an awesome way to show how much He loves us.

    One day the rule followers tried to trick Jesus and asked Him which rule was the most important one to follow. Jesus said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind, This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is "Love your neighbor as yourself." All of the laws hang on these 2 commandments. Jesus turned all of those rules into just 2 simple ones. Love God, Love others.

    When you keep the Sabbath for Jesus, that is a way of showing Him love. When you honor your mother and father, that is a way of showing them love. Every single rule fits into Love God and Love others, every single commandment is about showing love. It's so simple if you just look. Jesus loves us so much that He forgives us when we forget to love Him or our neighbors like we should, but that is great news, because we could all use a little more love.            

Friday, September 2, 2016

We are all one in Christ Jesus

   

       Prejudice, Discrimination, Segregation, Stereotyping and Racism. Our Society needs to stand up and fight against these offenses.  God is color blind, are you?

      Prejudice uses a man's outward appearance to form an opinion of a man's character. Discrimination takes away a person's right to have. Segregation takes away a person's right to belong. Stereotyping takes away a person's right to be. Racism takes away a person's right to be born.......

      It seems ironic to me that the differences between races are exaggerated when people are labeled black,white, yellow, red, or any other color. Those very words cause us to separate into opposing groups, rather than emphasizing the closeness of us all, they make the differences in us more important than the similarities.

      Stereotypes lead to prejudice, stereotyping is a lazy way of lumping together a certain race, a certain class, or even a certain occupation, and then adding to each individual the same characteristics of the group. Just because some in a certain group have the same characteristics, doesn't mean everyone in that group share them. Stereotypes like all blondes are dingy, all men are pigs, or all women are bitchy, do not demonstrate careful, calculated observations. What they do show is laziness of judgement, and blind acceptance as some generalization as to being the rule for all. Scripture says that those who judge according to outward appearance are foolish, that we do not see people the way God sees them, for the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

       Prejudice is very ugly, it separates people, isolates people, and it excludes people. Prejudice is the thought of an ignorant mind that sees itself as better. It thinks it understands a person or their actions without having any first hand knowledge, or before obtaining all the facts. Prejudice comes from ignorance, and leads to more ignorance. Prejudice is blind, after Jesus had given sight to a man that was born blind, He sharply points out the Pharisee's prejudice, And Jesus said, for judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may be made blind. Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words and said to Him, Are we blind also? Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you say we see, therefore your sin remains. (John 9: 39-41) Prejudice is never neutral, it reacts very strongly for or against someone or something without knowing the facts. Sometimes, it is confused with conviction, but there is nothing noble about Prejudice.

      Racism is not new, It goes all the way back to Biblical times. It uses crude, ugly descriptions of people, that are demeaning and offensive. Such ugly slurs should never be spoken by people who are bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is used for necessary edification, that it may impart Grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
Racism is a small minded man's way of elevating himself by putting others down and stepping on them. (Philippians 2:3-4) Racism is foolhardy and arrogant, one race is no better than the other because we all came from the same blood, the same ancestors. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of this earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation. (Acts 17:26)

      Racism is a sin of pride, One thinks he is better than another because of the color of his skin. For if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:3) God must think that racism is an important sin to overcome, because He performed a notable miracle to dispel the Jewish prejudice against the Gentiles. Peter's first hint with his vision of the animals descending from Heaven upon a great sheet. The conclusion of all those events(Acts 10:1-23) was unmistakable, God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean... In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and work righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:28, 34-35)

      Prejudice, and racism, will blind us to the truth, and cause us to believe a lie. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice and do nothing out of favoritism. (1 Timothy 5:21) You see? Race means nothing to God, He shows no favoritism to any race, God is color blind. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)