Monday, August 31, 2015

5 Points of Faith & Encouragement

  1. God Loves You – 
    “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” – John 3:16 (Message)
  2. God Is On Your Side –  
    “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? ” – Romans 8:31 (Message)
  3. God Is With You – 
    “Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” – Hebrews 13:5 (Message)
  4. God Will be there for You – 
    “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” saysGod, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times” – Psalm 91:14-15 (Message)
  5. God Will Provide – 
    “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19 (Message)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Persecuted Church: What is it, who is it, are we it, and why do we care?

Church.... We, as Christians in the United States of America, are not persecuted.  We aren't.  Period.  We are privileged beyond belief.  We don't even know hardship, let alone "persecution".  But, there are places in the world that do.  Places where being a Christian will get you fired, your possessions seized, you throne in jail, beaten, tortured, or even killed for the case of Jesus Christ.

Most Christians know ISIS most infamously for the 21 Christians in Egypt who were beheaded on the beach in the orange jumpsuits.  A “Message signed in blood to the Nation of the Cross” a “Hostile and offensive” church. 

The 21 walked out, they didn’t run, they didn’t fight, they didn’t beg, they didn’t scream…moments from death They chanted.   “The Lord Jesus Christ” 

In this picture, this man’s dying breath was “Yeshua!” JESUS!

ISIS Said this was a message to all those people “Carrying around the cross illusion in their heads”
It was to sow fear.  To scatter Christians.  To be rid of the message of the Cross.

3 days later, people walked the streets of Egypt with soot crosses marked On their heads because they wanted ISIS to know that the it was no illusion, it wasn’t in their heads, and they weren’t afraid to show it On their heads.

That’s what persecution looks like Church.

We all heard about that,  how many of you heard about this?  These 7 have what looks like rope but it’s actually explosives so that when the terrorists stepped back and detonated it decapitated the men.                          

-- hear about that?—

Or this one where they handcuffed them inside this car, stepped away, and shot the car with an RPG

*SLIDE* Or these, where they locked  men inside a cage and slowly lowered them into the water (they then switched to underwater cameras, then hoisted back up and swapped back to this view to show their demise).

In June of this year they began offering kidnapped Christian girls (GIRLS) sex slaves as “prizes” for those who “mastered the Koran”.  They also sell the girls.  
When funds got low and a price increase was necessary, they posted this (which the UN has verified)
“Islamic State in Iraq.  In the name of Allah most Gracious and Merciful, we have receieved news that the demand in Women and Cattle markets have sharply decreased and that will affect Islamic State revenues as well as the funding of the fighters in the battlefield.  Therefore we have made some changes.  Below are the prices for the Christian women slaves.
40-50: $43    30-40: $75    20-30: $86    10-20: $130 
        1-9: $172
Costumers are allowed to purchase only three items with the exception of customers from Turkey, Syria, and Gulf Countries.  Obey and follow the rules and laws of Islamic State or you be killed.”

You see, originally my sermon was to be about how we were NOT the persecuted church and how we needed to shut up and get over that because of how RICHLY spoiled we, as Christians are in the United States – and we are!
But as I worked my way through the persecution of the world the words of Paul to the church at Corinth broke my heart…  1 Corinthians 12:26 says 

We are one body - 
“If One member suffers, all members suffer”

then you have the words of Paul, and Timothy, Peter, and Silas, all of them asking for Prayer while they were imprisoned and persecuted, saying that they Knew the prayers of the saints were what would save them.
We, the part of the church in the US, are Not persecuted, but our church doesn’t stop at the US, God’s church is worldwide, it is universal, and it is ONE body –
so while I am not persecuted, if my sisters and brothers in North Korea are persecuted, than our Family is persecuted – our Family hurts – our Family weeps for one another – our Family HAS to pray for our brothers and sisters who ARE persecuted. 

Pray that their cup would pass, that there would be another way, but that if it’s not the Father’s will for the cup to pass,
if there is no other way, than we pray strength, and courage, patience, fearlessness, and joy, we pray they are purpose filled and spirit filled.  We pray for them the Peace that passes all understanding.  We pray for them because they are our family.  We Are One With Them.

Tertullian said
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”

I want you to think, what would you do if you knew you only had 21 days left to live?  What would you use your time for?  Who would you talk to?  What would you say – if you had Nothing to fear?

This is a call to Live like we are dying.

That message that ISIS sent out about those 21 Egyptian men on the beach was addressed to “The People of the Cross” = the “hostile and offensive church in Egypt”
Here’s my question I want to leave you with, people of the Cross:

If tomorrow you woke up and the world had magically changed overnight and Christianity was illegal in the USA and you were arrested and put on trial for being a Christian… would there be enough evidence to convict you?

And I’ll tell you, just coming to church on Sunday and plopping down in a pew doesn’t make you “hostile” or “offensive” … or “dangerous” or even “noticeable”.

So, If you were in Egypt when ISIS came looking for Christians to make an example of, would they have known to come for you – would you have been on their radar?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Millennials, Overscheduling, and the definition of Success

Millennials.  The designation is given to people born during a roughly 20 year span by some (1980-2000), however I think, whatever you want to call them, the real designation is 1980-1987 or so.  What that means is that Millennials are your current parents-of-young-children (age 28-35).  Why does any of that matter?  Well, a little background information is necessary to understand the issue at hand (whether you fall into that age range or not).  I digress.

What you need to know:
More Millennials are working than any other generation in American history.  The number one response in Millennials to the age old question of "how are you?" has changed from "good" (as has been the standard answer for about the last 60 years) to "busy!".  
Research shows that relationships within Millennials (across the board) have taken a hit due to extremely limited face to face time and that that face to face time is then spent in competition.  
The number one thing they are said to (actually) compete over and try to "one-up" on:  being the busiest.  The analogy among business research is that "a full outlook calendar has replaced the sports car as the number one status symbol".  This analogy doesn't just stop at the parents either.  Even when both parents work full time and keep their schedules maxed out (often times the way the competition of being busy is won is judged by who has missed the most planned events/activities), they equally over extend themselves in shuttling multiple children to multiple sports in multiple cities (full well knowing they can't make them all and that it will cause even more stress on all other activities and relationships).  

Speaking of stress, depending on your survey of choice, Millennials report that over 20% of them live in a constant state of "Extreme stress" and 50% self identify as "medium-high stress".  Even with those figures, nearly 70% of those who identify themselves as high stress or above say that their stress increases each passing year and they're being stretched thinner and thinner.

In politics, Millennials don't vote.  Often times they're very passionate about politics, talk politics, listen to politics, even volunteer in the political process and yet statistics show they Still Don't Vote. The reasons?  Non-committal.  Sort of.... they view it as a waste of time (1 match in a forest fire) and that it takes too much time and effort to go vote just to accomplish nothing.

In the business arena, volumes are being written about how to manage Millennials in the workforce.  
The top points coming out of all the research:  
They value relationships and want to work with their friends and want who they work with to be their friends (this is more valued in Millennials than in any other generation of the past).
They are the busiest generation ever, and above anything else they value flexibility (and hate mandatory time slots and will burn out and leave your company if work _schedules_ interfere with their busy schedules outside of work). Right.  

Speaking of schedules...  Schedules are crazy. 
Again, "Success" in business And family is defined by who has the most over-scheduled GoogleCalendar (Outlook... Lawl). "Downtime" is the few isolated weeks a year that you have time to catch a breath between activities. Christmas "break"? Forget about it. Summer "break"? You're kidding.  The first week of back to school? LOL!!!!
The first week back to school, as most are in now or are currently preparing for with the same panic induced voracity of a doomsday prepper on the History Channel, is pure unadulterated pandemonium
Phrases like "be still" and "quiet time" are thrown in the box that includes other equally likely statements such as "fly to Pluto" (is that a planet again or are we still broke up?) and "eat breakfast with a TRex" (and no, the kid you're currently getting ready for back to school doesn't count. Technically). 
So... What do we do?  We're literally too busy to breathe.  So, we perform (daily) scheduling triage.  But... how's that working out for you?  When you lay your activities on the chopping block, (be honest) what gets cut, how do you choose, and why?  

"Be still" before people can get the question out of their lips of 'what does that even mean?' their brain interrupts with 'Yeah, Right!'  "Be still"?  Really?  Still?  

What's at play in these internal wars we wage?  (false) idols of convenience, being good enough, buying time, buying love, success, being the status quo, anxiety and control (oh the damning cycle that control and anxiety perpetuate)

Here are OUR answers
(because like everything else I write and every sermon I deliver, this is a #Note2Self )

Even if you've read these a hundred times, even if you could recite them without clicking on the link to read them, click on the link to Read them in the message and here the imploring love letter from a God who loves you, wants you to have peace, and wants to offer Rest.

  1. Psalm 23
  2. Psalm 46
  3. Isaiah 40 (pay special attention to verses 27-31)
  4. Matthew 6:25-34
  5. Philippians 4:6-7
  6. and **Matthew 11:29-30