Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Shepastor: "Are You Willing to Fill the Pot?"

John 2:1-11 King James Version (KJV)
2 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, Jesus and the disciples are guests at a wedding. In that day and time wedding celebrations would last up to seven days. The wedding festivities were held at the home of the bride groom. It was the groom’s responsibility to ensure that there was ample food and beverage to meet the demands of his guests. To run out of food or drink was a tremendous embarrassment. Mary noticed that the wine at this wedding had run out. She must have been a friend of the family because her concern moved her to ask her son to do something about it. The text does not suggest that Mary asked Jesus to perform a miracle, per se, but her request suggests that she knew that he could do something to alleviate the problem.

Jesus seems almost to disrespect his earthly Mother and says, “Woman, what do I have to do with you…my time has not yet come.” Interestingly, Mary in turn ignores his response, turns to the servants and says, “Whatever he tells you to do, do!”
In the 1980’s the sports shoes and clothing manufacturer Nike came out with the phrase, “Just Do it!” They would show world renowned athletes wearing the Nike symbol on shirts, shoes, jackets, hats etc., running, pole vaulting, sweating, pressing their way through pain, weariness and struggle in order to reach their intended goal. “Just do it!” That slogan and campaign catapulted them into one of the highest and most successful earning brackets for sports merchandise of all times.

That phrase captured the essence of true grit…don’t make excuses, don’t over think it, don’t try and understand it…just do it! Relative to our text for today, Mary and her friends had a problem. The party had run out of wine. Now I imagine that that would still be a problem today at some parties! But in Jesus’ day, it was more than just a problem, it was a major embarrassment. It suggested that the bridegroom did not have the wherewithal to take care of or manage his affairs. Wanting to avoid this embarrassment, this problem, Mary turned to her son, Jesus.

Why did Jesus respond to her so gruffly? Why did he speak to her in this way? It is reminiscent of Jesus’ response to the The Syrophoenician Woman in Mark 7:25-30/Matthew 15:21-28, who asked Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus told her, “It is not right to take the children’s food and feed it unto the dogs…” essentially, calling the woman and the gentiles dogs! But just as in that case, where the woman bowed and humbled herself before Jesus and began to worship him…Mary chose to look past what appeared to be disrespect and instructed the servants to “just do what he says.”

Notice how Mary did not start arguing with Jesus, she didn’t start telling Jesus what and how he needed to do what she wanted done…she didn’t get discouraged and walk away. She knew that Jesus would honor her request. She simply positioned herself and the servants to receive the blessings to come. She was confident that Jesus could and Jesus would fix it.

So in confidence, Mary told the servants, “do whatever he tells you to do.” What would happen in our lives if we did like Mary and the servants, “Lord, here is my issue, here is my problem…here is my need and I’m going to do whatever you tell me to do to fix it!” So often, we are so busy fretting and arguing with the Lord about how our prayers are not being answered, how the Lord appears not to be paying attention to what we have said, seeming to ignore our petition etc., that we don’t present ourselves to Him, humble ourselves and say, “Lord, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.”

Now consider what Jesus tells them to do…They needed some more wine. Jesus instructs them to get the water pots and fill them up with water to the brim. Now understand, these were not necessarily decorative pots or receptacles that were set apart for drinking and food…these were the pots used to wash people’s feet and hands! These were the pots used for cleansing. These were not used for drinking…these were used for washing dirty, nasty, stinking, filthy hands and feet!!!

WHAT? You want us to use these pots? Isn’t it interesting how the Lord takes and uses vessels that we count as basically worthless and lowly to bless and supply what we need? Now if it were us, we probably would have begun to argue with Jesus… “Lord, you want us to fill up the kitchen sink or the bathtub with water and dip it out to give people to drink! That’s just nasty…that’s crazy!!!

“Lord, I have this need…” Ok, go down to that little church gathering…I have a word for you there.” I ain’t goin over there, they ain’t got nothing to offer me…” “Lord, I have a need…” Ok, go and work this job for a while…” “I ain’t going over there, they don’t pay enough…” “Lord, I have a need…” “Ok, start going to prayer meeting and Bible study and seek my face, get into my Word…” “I ain’t doin that, I’m too busy…” “Lord, I have a need…” “Ok, trust my Word and tithe and watch me open the windows of heaven…” “I ain’t doin that, I’ve got too many bills….”

What water pot has the Lord told you to fill and you have refused? What assignment has the Lord called you to fulfill and you have refused? What places has the Lord told you to go and you have refused? But look at the Mary and the servants… “Whatever He tells you to do, do it.” Go get the pots and fill them to the brim…they did what Jesus said do and look at the results.

Jesus turned the water into wine. This was his first recorded miracle. But before the miracle happened, they had to fill the pots. In order for their need to be met, they had to trust Jesus and do what He said to do. Sometimes our needs are not being met, we are broken, embarrassed and left wanting because we refuse to do what Jesus said do. I am not suggesting that all who are broken and bruised are in that condition because of disobedience…I am suggesting, however, that there are times in our lives when we ignore the “way of escape” because it seems too hard or nonsensical. When we trust Jesus and do what Jesus says do and move as Jesus says move, not only are we blessed, but our families and our communities are blessed. Because Mary utilized her relationship with her son to help out her friends, the people saw and experienced a miracle.

How many miracles are we missing and causing others to miss because we won’t do what Jesus said to do? Wandering, looking, holding out, refusing to fill our pots to the brim…doing things in a half-hearted manner, arguing with the Lord about His guidance and instruction? Not only are you missing out, but those around you are missing out.

Jesus saves the best for last. The world gives you the “goods” upfront, just enough to lure you, to beguile you, to trick you…to pull you in until you are so lost you don’t realize where you are and how you got there. But Jesus sees you wounded, sees you wanting, sees you wandering and says, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Jesus offers us the best…the best of life…the best of love…the best of peace…the best of hope…the best of fulfillment…the best for our souls. But we’ve got to surrender and allow Him to fill us up to the brim.

What is holding you back from surrendering to the Lord? Are you willing to do what Jesus says do and “fill the points” he designates? Why not let all of that go and just do it? Just do it, just do it!

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Shepastor: “Questions for Reflection…”

As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19, NIV

Today’s Shepastor raises some questions for personal reflection…

- Each life speaks. Your life is speaking even now. Are you listening? What is it saying?
- When is the last time you’ve had a real conversation with God
- What is stopping you from letting “it” go?
- What hurt is claiming territory in your heart, soul and mind?
- What joy are you negating?
- Who stole your (fill in the blank)
- What three words describe your heart today?
- When you say your name, what do you hear?

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shepastor: "Why Did You Leave Me Here?"

Titus 1: 1-5 (NLT)

1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to[a] those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. 3 And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him. 4 I am writing to Titus, my true son in the faith that we share. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace.

Titus’s Work in Crete
5 I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you.

“Titus” is believed to have been written by the Apostle Paul, to one of his pastoral friends, Titus. Upon his release from prison in Rome for preaching the Gospel, Paul and several of his missionary friends traveled to the Greek Island of Crete to establish churches. Paul was a “church planter.” He didn’t stay places for very long. He was responsible, however. He didn’t just up and leave. Instead he mentored, taught and thoroughly prepared others to continue the work he began upon his departure. This Epistle, “Titus” encourages this young pastor, “Titus,” to lay a strong foundation of truth, through teaching and exemplifying what it means to live a godly and obedient life before God. Titus is one of the “Pastoral Epistles,” along with I & II Timothy.

But in our particular text, Paul tells Titus why he is leaving him there in Crete: “So that you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town...”as he instructed him.

“Why Did You Leave Me Here?”
Crete was a large Greek Island in the Mediterranean Sea. Although heavily populated by Jews, it was believed to be a training center for Roman soldiers. Paganism was a major influence in the region. Those who had been converted to Christianity had to contend with the lure, the temptations, the heavy sinful influences as well as plethora of false teachings that were prevailing in that day.

Paul wanted to ensure that Titus understood why he was leaving him there – “to straighten out what was left and to appoint elders in every town.” In other words, things were still in a mess in Crete. The church was planted, it was started, the foundation was being laid, but some things still needed to be “straightened out.” No doubt, Titus, a young pastor, still “wet behind the ears,” may have been nervous. He may have begun to doubt whether or not he had what it took to deal with all that was happening in the midst.

He may have begun to ask his mentor Paul, “why in the world are you leaving me here?” Paul’s answer, “to straighten out some things.” Have you ever found yourself asking, “why did you leave me here?” Why did you leave me to deal with this mess? Why did you leave me to handle these issues? Why did you leave me to try and teach folks that act like they don’t want to be taught? Lord, why did you leave me here? And The Lord says, “I want you to teach some things, model some things, spread my truth, show them the right way…I want you to straighten out some things!”

Sometimes God deliberately places us in the midst of some mess because He wants to use us to help straighten it out. Sometimes God places us in situations that are dark so that His light can shine brightly through us. Sometimes God places us in situations that are filled with lies so that His truth can shine forth. Sometimes God places us in situations where there is hate so that through us, His love may abound.

The other day I heard a music artist talk about how God used some people in his life to teach him the real meaning of godliness and unconditional love. He said that he lied to them, borrowed money that he never intended to pay back, used them and in his words, abused them. But they never stopped showing him unconditional love. He said the fact that they continued to show him the love of Christ, drew him to the Savior.

I am not suggesting that you should allow yourself to be abused, but there will be times a Christian, Jesus said, that we will have to love those that hate us and pray for those that despitefully use us. Titus was left in Crete – a paganistic, hedonistic, wicked place to teach the truth of the Gospel. Jesus said they that are whole don’t need a physician, but they that are sick. The Lord sometimes leaves us in places to “set some thing straight.” Somebody needs to know that God’s love is real. Somebody needs to know that there is a bright side somewhere. Somebody needs to know that we can be more than conquerors, that we can be overcomers that we can rise up above our situations and circumstances and somebody has to be left to tell folks so!

Lord, why did you leave me here? You are “here” for a reason. God wants to use you to teach the truth of the Gospel – that Jesus is not dead, but He is alive. That he can take you just as you are. That He doesn’t care about how many times you’ve messed up, how many times you fallen down, how filthy and dirty you may be – Jesus loves you. Jesus died for you. Jesus is coming back for you! Jesus is real!

God has you where you are to be a living epistle.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shepastor: "Trusting a Sacred God Over a Sacred Economy..."

Now after these things, God put Abraham to the test, and said to him, Abraham; and he said, Here am I.
2 And he said to him, Take your son, your dearly loved only son Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and give him as a burned offering on one of the mountains of which I will give you knowledge. 3 And Abraham got up early in the morning, and made ready his ass, and took with him two of his young men and Isaac, his son, and after the wood for the burned offering had been cut, he went on his way to the place of which God had given him word. 4 And on the third day, Abraham, lifting up his eyes, saw the place a long way off 5 Then he said to his young men, Keep here with the ass; and I and the boy will go on and give worship and come back again to you 6 And Abraham put the wood for the burned offering on his son's back, and he himself took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them went on together. 7 Then Isaac said to Abraham, My father; and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, We have wood and fire here, but where is the lamb for the burned offering? 8 And Abraham said, God himself will give the lamb for the burned offering: so they went on together.
Genesis 22: 1-8

“Trusting a Sacred God Over a Sacred Economy…”

What was happening there on Mount Moriah? One of the patriarch’s of Israel was being tested at the core of his being. What was happening there on Mount Moriah? A father and his son were making a journey of a lifetime…a journey after which neither father or son would be the same. What was happening there on Mount Moriah? God was allowing broken, bruised, sinful humanity to catch a glimpse of what would happen centuries later on Calvary.

Abraham was being asked to sacrifice his only son – Isaac. We are tempted to rush past the power, the profundity, the agony in these first few verses of the text. Abraham, with this one act of obedience was surrendering all of his hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations for his future. This treasured son for whom he’d waited for the better part of his life. This son – the promised son who was supposed to carry on his heritage, his lineage…this son in whom lay all the promises of the Nation of Israel – this son was to be sacrificed on the altar. What kind of cruel game was God playing with Abraham? The text does not reveal Abraham’s frustration, only that he was obedient.

We do, however catch a glimmer of insight into Abraham’s thinking in verse 5 for he declares to those traveling with them,
“Keep here with the donkey; and I and the boy will go on and give worship and come back again to you.”

This verse suggests that He trusted the heart of God even when it looked like God was giving him a raw deal. He moved forward in faith, willing to make the sacrifice. Why? Because that which he held sacred, his relationship with God the father took priority even over that which he held dear and loved to the utmost – his son. His relationship and his faith were sacred, they were holy…they took priority over everything else in his life. His relationship with God and his faith in God governed his life. And because God sat upon the throne of his heart, because God was truly the head of his life – God not only stopped him from sacrificing Isaac, but he made his off-springs innumerable.

Humanity has always sought to have or to identify something to hold sacred. In antiquity, men worshipped nature because they stood in awe of the sun, moon, stars, oceans, desserts, volcanoes, hail storms and drought. They constructed temples, pyramids, massive stone and marble carvings, idols to which they bowed down and worshiped because they longed to fulfill that place in their being designated for the sacred, the holy, the divine.

Today, people are not constructing pyramids and stone carvings to worship. However, they have displaced that which is truly holy and sacred for another god – the god of economics – the god of capitalism. Whereas wealth has always been a rival for men’s heart and souls, in each age, the insidious greed and all consuming desire for gaining wealth at any cost has greatly ravaged the soul of our community.

Listen to this statement made by Dell Dechant, a professor at South Florida University regarding the religious nature of the economy:

“Religion in postmodern society is that collection of culturally embedded phenomena that mediate individual and collective relationships with the sacred power of the Economy through acquisition-consumption-disposal. It is not enough to simply acquire and consume objects and images. One must do both and one must also dispose of the objects and images for the sacred to be experienced. The entire process must be completed, for only then (in the cyclical manner that is elemental to cosmological systems) can the process begin again. The quicker the process is completed and then begun again, the greater is one’s experience of the sacred, and hence the greater one’s power in the socio-religious system. For this reason, popular culture venerates the person who is able to keep up with the trends in fashion, who is able to acquire a new car every year (perhaps this explains the recent success of automobile leasing), who buys a new house, replaces appliances on a regular basis, installs a new lawn periodically, acquires the most innovative type of computer, and so on…

…The role of the Economy in postmodern culture is every bit the same as the role of nature in primal and archaic cosmological cultures. Its order and process are beyond my grasp, or anyone’s for that matter, including the CEOs of giant corporations and the Chair of the Federal Reserve. Its ways are at times capricious, ruthless, sudden and uncompromising; it cannot be controlled. Its interest in me is indifferent at best; it colors all of my activities, even if I am not immediately aware of it. It tells me who I am, what I am, and what I am able to do.” (Dell Dechant, The Sacred Santa: Religious Dimensions of Consumer Culture, The Pilgrim Press, 2002. Pp. 38-39)
If I look through the eyes of society, the economy tells me who I am, what I am and what I am able to do. Interpreters of the economy make sweeping generalizations, determining at once who is worthy to attend certain schools, receive certain benefits, be treated with certain drugs, receive certain kinds of medical treatment, obtain certain kinds of housing, determine my life span, expectancy – the economy, the almighty dollar – says society governs all of these things.

Yes the economy and those who worship at its altar said to those who did not fit their description of “the worthy,” “Give up. We won’t loan you money from our banks. Give up. We won’t sell you homes in our neighborhoods. Give up. We won’t allow your children to be educated alongside our children. Give up. Go back to share cropping. Give up. Be ashamed of what you are and who you are.”

But I hear the voices of those who have overcome, trusted God, sacrificed and served and paved the way for a better day… “Let us sacrifice. Let us put God first. Let us come together.” I hear them saying, “If God be for us, who can be against us!” I hear them saying, “Be still, God will fight your battle!”

In my mind’s eye, I see them standing, looking over the banister of eternity, whispering in our ears, “Walk together children, don’t you get weary… Sacrifice, serve and if need be, suffer in the name of Jesus. Sacrifice and don’t be swallowed up by consumerism. Sacrifice and put the credit card away. Sacrifice, tithe and then put some money in the bank. Sacrifice and help some boy or girl realize the dream of attending college. Sacrifice and support one another’s businesses. Sacrifice, get up and go give God praise on Sunday morning instead of rushing out to play golf! Sacrifice and put God first in your life!”

And when we learn what our forebears knew – when we learn not to allow others to use us against one another, when we learn that driving a Lexus and wearing a Rolex watch and dressing in the finest of clothes does not define who we are, when we learn to sacrifice, pool our resources, stand together and lift one another, we’ll see the Lord’s provision.

We like to shout about the ram in the bush, but Abraham didn’t see the ram in the bush until he was willing to make the sacrifice. Once we worship God, the Lord Jesus Christ as the holy and sacred and not the economy, not the almighty dollar, we will find that the sacred God - the only true and living God gives us our name, gives us our "somebodiness," gives us our purpose, gives us our reason for living, gives us our hope and our us the courage to be.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris