I came home today after the end of a week of Vacation Bible School, and our first ever outdoor Worship Service/Baptism/Picnic at the park. Following this week, I experienced one overwhelming feeling...tired.
After a nap however, I began to feel something else. I felt like I had just won the Superbowl! Victory seemed like an applicable word considering everything that went into the week as well as its outcome. Suddenly, I felt something else creep in...guilt. "Why am I feeling victorious about something God clearly did?" I began to wonder if it was prideful of me to think I had done anything to create victory this week.
Then I considered the words of Jesus in Philippians 2:12-13: Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Through this I remembered that God is doing His work through His believers. Therefore, His victories are our victories. Even if I feel humbled to be on the winning team. I think about the backup players on a championship team. Most of them will not see one minute of playing time in the championship game, but they still share in the victory. That's how I feel. I may not have been the one making it all work out, but I feel proud to be on the team with that kind of play-caller.
In 1 Corinthians 15:57 we are reminded "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." See that? He gives US the victory through Jesus Christ. That guilt I was feeling about enjoying a victorious week of ministry was not of God. The enemy does not want me to recognize God's victories, let alone celebrate them. So, understanding God is the executor of our victories, but we share in them, I say "Congratulations Glenvar Baptist!"
Thank you to everyone who allowed God to work through them this week. From the VBS workers that led children, and crafted, and prepared food, and plotted games, and prayed, to those involved in today's special service: those that setup, and tore down, and sang, and were baptized. If you even attended you were a part of that victory. Look at the results:
Almost 30 children attending VBS each night
3 children making decisions to accept Jesus as Savior
A special service with 99 people (and 1 dog)
So yes...congratulations Glenvar. Enjoy the victory! It belongs to God, but He shares it with you.
- Pastor Matt
In this single, and shortest verse from the Bible we can glean so much.
What does it tell us?
Jesus, Savior of the world, who left the awesomeness of Heaven to be our sacrifice, had to first become like us.
The humanity of Jesus is shown as He weeps.
Because He weeps, it shows me that it’s okay for me to weep.
It’s okay for me to have a broken heart.
It’s not the end of the world.
It shows that when I weep, there is One that understands totally how I feel. Even when I feel isolated by my tears and brokenness, there is One who’s face experienced tears like mine. Jesus.
All this gleaned from two little words.
From nine letters.
3,566,480 letters in the Bible and these nine provide hope and promise.
What a verse!
How many of these sweet morsels do you think you could eat in one sitting? Three? Eight? Thirty-seven? Have you ever found yourself in front of a tasty treat like this and thought to yourself “I can have ONE of these. ONE wouldn’t hurt anything.” What happens next? Did you behave and have only one? Probably not.
How about this scenario: Have you ever found yourself in close proximity to a treat like these chocolate morsels and not really intend to eat any of them? Then, your mind wanders on things happening around you, conversations, etc. and before you know it, you realize you had been snacking on treats for some time now. Anyone ever been there?
It’s okay, this is honest time.
We have a love affair with these types of sweet treats. It is like crack to us. No, seriously, it has become our crack. Scientific research in France showed that intense sweetness – not just refined sugar, but also artificial sweeteners – surpasses cocaine as a reward in laboratory animals.
I know what you’re thinking: “I’m not a lab animal.” I understand, but does that make it any less true? Have you ever made a really healthy decision and later decided to “reward” yourself with some sweet treat? “It’s okay if I eat three slices of chocolate cake, I walked to the mailbox earlier.”
How wonderful would it be if you could eat all the sweets you wanted and never see any negative consequences? No weight gain. No pudgy belly or bulgy backside. No cavity-ridden teeth. No sluggishness. Wow, that sounds nice. Nice, but not true. We know about the consequences and yet still we indulge. Why?
We love sweet chocolate morsels.
I think God knew that. I think that’s why when He was comparing a certain addictive sin to something, He chose delicious morsels. What sin is compared to sweet morsels? I’ll give you a hint: it is a relationship-killer, a church-splitter, a feelings-hurter, a divider. It erodes a friendship slowly using the tears of the victims affected. In the “big picture” of our sin-labeling mind, we would consider this a “minor sin.” “It’s certainly not murder,” and yet it nurtures hate, which the Savior considered murder.
Have you guessed the sin? Gossip. In Proverbs 26:22, Scripture says “The words of a gossip are like delicious morsels; they go down into a person's innermost being.”
Wow! How could something as nasty as a gossipers words be compared to something as heavenly as sweet, delicious morsels?
Is it easy to commit yourself to only ONE sweet treat? “Yes,” we tell ourselves, “only one.” It’s the same with gossip. Most gossipers would not consider themselves gossipers. It all starts with that first, ONE, morsel.
Is it easy to not intend to have ANY of a tempting treat, and then become distracted and, before you know it, you’ve been consuming the sweetness without realizing it? Yes. This can be true for gossip. Maybe you sat down with someone having no intention to gossip. One conversation turns to another and, before you know it, you’re a part of the problem, not the solution.
How wonderful would it be if we could gossip about anyone, at any time, without any consequence? No hurt feelings. No resentment. No broken relationships. Sounds nice. Nice, but not true. We know the consequences of gossip and yet still we indulge. Why?
We love sweet chocolate morsels.
Maybe you’re the person that simply listens to the gossip but does not contribute. Notice that this verse in Proverbs was not necessarily discussing the gossiper, but the one listening to the gossip. “The words of a gossip are like delicious morsels; they go down into a person's innermost being.”
You’re listening to this gossip, or “disturbing news,” or “important information,” or “prayer request” (yes, I went there), and you’re consuming every delicious morsel.
It travels into your ears, your brain processes the information and locks it away safe into your heart (your innermost being). You likely form an opinion on the information and either share your opinion (furthering gossip), or you marinate on it for a while. Maybe you feel better for having consumed the information, more informed, perhaps pridefully-powerful having retained this wealth of goodies.
After enjoying a diet of these morsels one day you wake up 60 pounds overweight, your energy level is almost non-existent, and your self-esteem…ha! What self-esteem? No one respects you because you no longer respect yourself and you perceive that few people love you. The only thing that would make you feel better is….a sweet, delicious, comforting morsel.
Gossip will leave you feeling similar after a while. You continue to tear others down, carefully behind their backs, assuming they will never hear, but making sure those around you have “all the information.” Until one day you will wake up with the negative consequences. Who would trust someone like you? Are you the great “keeper of the confidential?” No. You are their “dealer.” The one they come to when they need another sweet, tasty morsel for themselves. Sounds okay, but that’s not love.
What’s the alternative for you listeners? Simple in word, tough in action. What do you do when you find yourself like me: a life of too many sweets, but determined to take control before you die at 55 years old from heart disease? When the morsels are coming around you simply state kindly “No chocolate for me please, it’s killing me.”
No more for me. Say it....live it.
Do you remember Amelia Bedelia? She was a character in children's books since the 1960's. She is famous for taking instructions literally. For example, once Amelia was tasked with baking a "date cake." In following instructions Amelia cut dates out of a calendar and mixed them into cake batter. Another time while cleaning a house she was instructed to draw the drapes. Eager to help, Amelia took out her sketchbook and drew a picture of the drapes. Everyone reads it and laughs hysterically. "Oh Amelia...what shenanigans you get into."
Truth is, God wants Amelia Bedelia Christians. Believers who faithfully obey exactly what God has asked of them. God does not send mixed signals. He desires absolute obedience. "What kind of God would be so demanding?" The same kind who wants to keep us from getting into troublesome shenanigans of our own. Just like a parent who desires obedience from a child to "not play in the street." "Why wouldn't mom want me in the street? This is fun!" We all know why, but we question God the same way children question parents.
Let's strive to be more obedient, like Amelia.
The lost art of listening. Rarely do we get a story that involves so much listening. Jesus was an excellent listener. We could certainly take a lesson.
People really do love to talk. We loved talking so much we needed something invented so that we could talk even when we weren’t physically together. The telephone brought us that. Then we needed that taken further so if we weren’t at home we could talk, they invented the pay phone. Then we decided we needed to talk if we were in the car. They invented the cell phone. Then we decided even that wasn’t enough so they invented text messages. Now with the internet, people have whole websites where they can just talk about anything and everything.
We do a lot of talking. How much listening do we do?
In John 2, Jesus is attending a wedding feast. A miracle takes place, but not before some listening takes place. Jesus listens to His mother, the servants listen to Mary, and then the servants listen (and obey) Jesus. In fact, most of the story is spent in listening.
How many great things could we accomplish if we did a little less talking, and a little more listening.
A woman caught in the act of adultery. The door is busted down, she is dragged kicking and screaming, naked, and ashamed outside.
A crowd is gathered around Jesus the Messiah. The men who busted down the door now drop her carelessly in front of Jesus.
She sits in shame, naked and broken in the middle of the town. Men and women she calls friends. Children whom she has cared for on other occasions. Everyone knows her name. Now they know her shame. Now they know her sin. Some are shocked. Some are disgusted. Some are broken-hearted.
The men proclaim the charge. “This woman was caught in the middle of the act of adultery.”
She was. She knew. The shame was there. She had been caught. “The law of Moses says she should be stoned” the men cry out to Jesus. They were right, mostly.
It didn’t matter to her that her sinful partner was not there prepared to die as well. It did not matter to her that by not bringing the man to be judged, these accusers had also not fulfilled the Law of Moses and were guilty themselves as well. What mattered was…they were right. She was caught. Time to pay.
She would be thrown into a shallow ditch, and the men from town whose wives she was so close to, would then lift large heavy rocks and drop them down upon her. Her bones would be broken, her blood would be spilled, and she would die naked and alone in a hole, as a sinner.
Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them. The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt. Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?” “No one, Master.”“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”
Christianity has gotten a rep of being laden with hatred and judgement these days. As Christians we have become great at telling you what we’re against. We have not done so good at telling you what we’re for. Let me do that:
My name is Pastor Matt King and I am for:
1. Confession. It makes the soul feel clean.
2. Repentance. Admitting you’re wrong is only as good as your decision to not make the same mistakes.
3. Forgiveness. I have been forgiven by everyone that matters in my life. My wife, my children, my Creator.
4. Love. The most overused word in the English language. My son uses the word to describe his relationship with McDonalds. Taylor Swift uses the word to describe every relationship she’s ever had. The Beatles said it’s all you need, but I don’t think they understood the power behind that thought. All you need is the right love, God's love. When you look for "love" in all the wrong places you end up hurt (see previous thought on Taylor Swift).
5. Hope. Hope reminds you that even though the world may seem bad... no matter what, the world is not the final answer for life. It'll get better. Stay focused on what's important.
I just thought it was time to share some things I, as a Christian man, believe in.
If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth; and whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, it falls. He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.
Ever spend some serious time and stress worrying about what might happen. Specifically the things out of our direct control. Need to let it go. "Wherever the tree falls, it falls." Can't change where it lands.