“ March forward”

Guest Minister -Rev. Caesar J. David, Pastor, Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa

Video of service

Scripture Lessons:

Psalm 116

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Matthew 9:35-10:8

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

“ March forward”This passage from Matthew contains the account of Jesus calling and sending out the Twelve Apostles. When we read further in the passage (v. 16ff), Jesus lets them know that it is not an easy task that they have been given. They will have to face persecutions and hardships.
It is like soldiers being sent out to battle. And talking of battles an d soldiers, we have a very beautiful Hymn that you will be singing in this service. It’s called “Onward Christian Soldiers”. It’s a sort of controversial hymn.
The hymn began as no more than a simple processional song, something for children to sing as they crossed the village of Horbury Bridge to the parish church (Yorkshire, England). The author, Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924) who was a school master, later became a Pastor, in writing this hymn set the scene for the spiritual conflict between Jesus and the devil. It became controversial because of the perceived militarism in text and music (“St. Gertrude” which is the second tune used in an arrangement by George Sullivan in 1871). Now, we won’t get into the details of the Anglican / Roman Catholic ecclesial understanding of the states of Church – the Church Militant, Church Penitent and Church Triumphant, but let’s just say that history had some chapters like the Crusades, holy wars and other wars and so on. And it wasn’t easy to ignore the nationalistic and militaristic overtones of this Hymn.
It comes as little surprise, then, to learn that “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was initially to be excluded from The United Methodist Hymnal (1989). The decision was picked up by local newspapers and national broadcasters, unleashing a wave of protest from across The United Methodist Church (some eleven thousand pieces of mail were sent to the hymnal committee).
The restoration of the hymn resulted from a course of healthy debate over the use of military imagery, and recognizing its biblical and early Christian origins. People still thought that it may be dangerous in perpetuating the acceptability of religious warfare — metaphorical or otherwise.
Professor of Preaching Emeritus Thomas Long’s 2012 article in The Christian Century, “The absurd in worship,” suggests another meaning to the hymn — not in viewing the church as an entity able to militaristically destroy its enemies, but as one that “makes no advance except that of love, and has no enemy but that which undermines God’s hope for human flourishing.”
Today, if we are to consider ourselves as soldiers – Christian soldiers that are at war, it would not be incorrect, for we are indeed at war. Of what kind? Let’s see. The theme of spiritual warfare is deep in the Bible. Many Christian denominations still speak of “The Church Militant”. The Methodists define it as those “engaged in constant warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil…Ephesians 6 talks about the battle gear! It says ‘put on the whole armor of God’ and it goes on to mention (Ephesians 6:10-20):
 Belt of Truth.  Breastplate of Righteousness.
 Feet fitted with readiness to proclaim the Gospel of Peace.
 Shield of Faith.
 Helmet of Salvation.
 Sword of the Spirit — The Word of God.
Notice who we’re fighting. Eph 6:12 says: For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Coming back to our text (I want to focus on Matthew 10:8), Jesus sent out his Apostles with very specific instructions:
Mat t 10:8a – Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
No doubt, Jesus also healed physical ailments and expects those He sends on His behalf to do the same, but there’s a deeper spiritual dimension to this and we need to understand that in the larger, scheme of Jesus’ teaching and ministry about justice, gender-justice, peace, equality, affirmative action, call to faith and service, affirmation of the Reign of God, socio-economic sensitivity and so on – what these might further mean.1. Cure the sick.
One of the main signs of being sick is being weak. And it works both ways: weakness can lead to sickness, and sickness can lead to weakness. In any case, there is a close connection for us to know that the people who are weak are sick or close to being sick. Going beyond the physical affliction and understanding it metaphorically as well, we can see that people can be weakened in the sense of being disempowered and disenfranchised. People can be divested of their power to make choices, weakened to the point of subsistence or even substandard living, or forced by circumstances to not have the strength or opportunity to make changes to lift themselves out of those circumstances.The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a great comfort in seeking to address these struggles. The Good news is that God is interested in our affairs and struggles with us for justice and peace.As people ‘called out’ and ‘sent’ to heal and cure the sick, we need to l ook at how we may bring healing to the lives of the people afflicted in every way, not only physical, but spiritual, social and economic too. Our efforts to do that may take us into the area of charity, social justice, advocacy and focusing on people in the margins of our society. It’s not easy and we may find ourselves indeed contending with the ‘powers and principalities’ of this world.2. Raise the dead
There is the obvious message for people ‘dead’ in sin – so mired in sin that this condition has removed people far from the source of life and light. If we are in that state, we can rejoice in the hope we have in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ that gives life.When we see others in this condition, we need to reflect and shine the light of Christ in a way that they are brought to the saving and life-giving knowledge of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ.We may also be dead in the sense that we don’t feel anything – nothing moves us. We lose our sensitivity, our conscious is dead. If we find people around us in that state, may be, our efforts could be towards building awareness so that we would all be alive and alert to what ails us as a society and what our responsibility should be to contribute to the health of our society and world.
If we have become dispassionate or come across apathy, let’s make efforts to reignite the passion for the kind of life that God meant for us all to have as His created beings. The Good News of Jesus Christ includes abundant life for all.3. Cleanse the lepers
We know that lepers were considered unclean. They had to live on the outskirts of the town. They were not allowed to use the same resources as other people. Today, we may or may not have people around us that are afflicted with the disease of leprosy, but in our social treatment of some people we certainly have ‘social lepers’ – people that we keep far from us. And we’re not talking only about the redlining of neighborhoods. This can perhaps educate us about those that are ostracized, marginalized and relegated to live in shame or fear on the periphery of our mainstream society. Who could these people be? May be those that are of a different orientation, or people with a different skin color, or a certain race / nationality, may be disabled, may be those that hold a different ideology, and so on. When we observe systems and people that discriminate and exclude some people from mainstream activity, we must counter that with actively building up inclusive, democratic and participatory processes towards a more egalitarian society. That will cleanse the leprosy and there won’t be lepers. Can we understand that as as we do a social reading of the Gospel message?4. Cast out demons
A demon-possessed person was a person in the grip of an evil power; he or she was no longer in control of himself/herself and of their actions. The various manifestations of evil can be seen in the diabolical crimes and atrocities we see committed. For example, there are crimes against women and children, violence and injustice that are really demonic and represent forces of evil, death and destruction. When we make efforts to root out these evils, we’re participating in building up the Kingdom of God, because then we’re replacing these dark things with the Reign of God – replacing hatred with love, revenge with tolerance, selfishness with compassion, suspicion with trust, greed with caring and so on. We can bring faith, hope and love to counter the demons of our society.I hope that we are able to see what an important task we have in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken world that really needs it. As we understand our responsibilities as followers of Jesus and as His apostles, we will have a sense of being at war. It indeed is! We have been given authority. We have been equipped. Let’s march in faith. Let’s march in His love and His strength. Onward Christian soldiers!God bless you.

Sheep and Shepherds

John 10:1-16

1. “I can guarantee this truth: The person who doesn’t enter

the sheep pen through the gate

but climbs in somewhere else

is a thief or a robber. 2. But the

one who enters through the

gate is the shepherd. 3. The

gatekeeper opens the gate for

him, and the sheep respond to

his voice. He calls his sheep by

name and leads them out of

the pen. 4. After he has

brought out all his sheep, he

walks ahead of them. The

sheep follow him because they

recognize his voice. 5. They

won’t follow a stranger.

Instead, they will run away

from a stranger because they

don’t recognize his voice.”

The person who doesn’t enter

the sheep pen through the gate

but climbs in somewhere else

is a thief or a robber. 2. But the

one who enters through the

gate is the shepherd. 3. The

gatekeeper opens the gate for

him, and the sheep respond to

his voice. He calls his sheep by

name and leads them out of

the pen. 4. After he has

brought out all his sheep, he

walks ahead of them. The

sheep follow him because they

recognize his voice. 5. They

won’t follow a stranger.

Instead, they will run away

from a stranger because they

don’t recognize his voice.”
6. Jesus used this illustration as

he talked to the people, but

they didn’t understand what

he meant. 7. Jesus emphasized,
“I can guarantee this truth: I

am the gate for the sheep. 8.

All who came before I did

were thieves or robbers.

However, the sheep didn’t

respond to them. 9. I am the

gate. Those who enter the

sheep pen through me will be

saved. They will go in and out

of the sheep pen and find food.

10. A thief comes to steal, kill,

and destroy. But I came so that

my sheep will have life and so

that they will have everything

they need. 11. “I am the good

shepherd. The good shepherd

gives his life for the sheep. 12.

A hired hand isn’t a shepherd

and doesn’t own the sheep.

When he sees a wolf coming,

he abandons the sheep and

quickly runs away. So the wolf

drags the sheep away and

scatters the flock. 13. The hired

hand is concerned about what

he’s going to get paid and not

about the sheep. 14. “I am the

good shepherd. I know my

sheep as the Father knows me.

My sheep know me as I know

the Father. 15. So I give my life

for my sheep. 16. I also have

other sheep that are not from

this pen. I must lead them.

They, too, will respond to my

voice. So they will be one flock

with one shepherd.

Sheep and Shepherds

I don’t know much about sheep and I’ve never been a

shepherd. I grew up in Iowa,

where agriculture is king. I’d

venture a guess that most of

the land is in some row-crop

like corn and soybeans. But

there are plenty of farms and

corporate farms with cattle,

both beef and dairy. Oh yes,

hogs! “Smells like money.” 2nd

in the nation in hogs!

Chickens, layers and fryers are

everywhere on small scales

and large factory farms. But

Sheep? Ì can only recall seeing

sheep in the agriculture

buildings at the state fair. My

impression? Stupid, stinky

animals.

and I’ve never been a

shepherd. I grew up in Iowa,

where agriculture is king. I’d

venture a guess that most of

the land is in some row-crop

like corn and soybeans. But

there are plenty of farms and

corporate farms with cattle,

both beef and dairy. Oh yes,

hogs! “Smells like money.” 2nd

in the nation in hogs!

Chickens, layers and fryers are

everywhere on small scales

and large factory farms. But

Sheep? Ì can only recall seeing

sheep in the agriculture

buildings at the state fair. My

impression? Stupid, stinky

animals.

Since I personally know so very little about sheep, I asked

Google. On a site called

very little about sheep, I asked

Google. On a site called

Modern Farmer and one called

An Introduction to Sheep

Behavior

I found these fun facts.

  • Contrary to what I have
    thought, sheep are not
    stupid. They rank just below
    the pig and on par with
    cattle in intelligence among
    farm animals. (I know that
    is not a ringing
    endorsement of
    intelligence, but they are
    smarter than I previously
    thought.)

  • it’s estimated their field of
    vision is between 270 and
    320 degrees; compair that to
    humans average about 155

  • sheep don’t walk in a
    straight line to make use of
    that 320° degree field of
    vision, and walking a
    crooked path, they can see
    behind them.

  • Sheep see in color

  • They have poor depth
    perception

  • Sheep can’t right themselves
    if they’re on their back.

  • They can literally die of
    fright due to a copper overdose that they produce
    in their brains

  • Sheep have excellent
    hearing. their ears can
    swivel to better detect from
    where a sound is coming

  • Loud and clanging metal
    noises scare them

  • if one sheep will move then
    the entire flock will follow.

  • Sheep have an excellent
    sense of smell (which is
    unfortunate because they
    stink). But I suppose it it’s
    sweet perfume to them.

So, all in all, sheep couldn’t be designed any more perfectly to

be eaten by predictors unless

they had no legs at all.

designed any more perfectly to

be eaten by predictors unless

they had no legs at all.

They have no real defensive weapons in their arsenal, no

claws, fangs, nor horns. Their

only defence is avoidance.

weapons in their arsenal, no

claws, fangs, nor horns. Their

only defence is avoidance.

When attacked, their only means of survival is to run

from danger and to band

together in large numbers for

protection. They huddle into a

group and face the enemy so

they can, as a group, avoid the

predictor. But the fact is,

without a shepherd, at least

one sheep is going to get eaten.

means of survival is to run

from danger and to band

together in large numbers for

protection. They huddle into a

group and face the enemy so

they can, as a group, avoid the

predictor. But the fact is,

without a shepherd, at least

one sheep is going to get eaten.

And Jesus calls us sheep! No compliment there. Helpless

human sheep. We like to think

that we are at the top out the

food chain. But in the spiritual

food chain we are at the

bottom, totally defenceless

without the Good Shepherd.

compliment there. Helpless

human sheep. We like to think

that we are at the top out the

food chain. But in the spiritual

food chain we are at the

bottom, totally defenceless

without the Good Shepherd.

Now let’s talk about shepherds. If Jesus’s calling us sheep

sounded demeaning to you, he

wasn’t elevating his status by

claiming to be our shepherd

either.

If Jesus’s calling us sheep

sounded demeaning to you, he

wasn’t elevating his status by

claiming to be our shepherd

either.

If the image in your mind’s eye of a shepherd is of sheep

peacefully eating in a lush

green pasture while the

shepherd daydreamed in the

shade of a tree, think again.

They were rough, weather

beaten men who spent their

lives in the vast wilderness

exposed to the rain, the wind,

and the ever present sun.

of a shepherd is of sheep

peacefully eating in a lush

green pasture while the

shepherd daydreamed in the

shade of a tree, think again.

They were rough, weather

beaten men who spent their

lives in the vast wilderness

exposed to the rain, the wind,

and the ever present sun.

Maybe it would help to equate them to something more

familiar to our American

culture. Think of them as the

cowboys of the old west,

without the horses, hats, guns,

and spurs. No, not the idolized,

sanitized, clamorized

Hollywood version of Roy

Rogers and Gene Autry, but the

actual men who ate the dust

riding behind beef cattle as

they herded them up the

Chisholm Trail from San

Antonio to Abilene. Always on

guard against dangers to the

animals and themselves.

them to something more

familiar to our American

culture. Think of them as the

cowboys of the old west,

without the horses, hats, guns,

and spurs. No, not the idolized,

sanitized, clamorized

Hollywood version of Roy

Rogers and Gene Autry, but the

actual men who ate the dust

riding behind beef cattle as

they herded them up the

Chisholm Trail from San

Antonio to Abilene. Always on

guard against dangers to the

animals and themselves.

Shepherds were pretty low on the social standing ladder.

They were uncultured,

uncouth, unaccustomed to the

niceties of civilized society.

They were as far removed

from priesthood as the east

from the west. And this is

where Jesus placed himself on

that social ladder.

the social standing ladder.

They were uncultured,

uncouth, unaccustomed to the

niceties of civilized society.

They were as far removed

from priesthood as the east

from the west. And this is

where Jesus placed himself on

that social ladder.

Jesus did not come to humankind to lead the people

in elaborate rituals or to

preach beautifully crafted

sermons. He did not come to

stand apart from or above his

flock. He came to be in the

midst of his flock, warning

them, guiding them, and

educating them by simple

stories to which they could

relate.

humankind to lead the people

in elaborate rituals or to

preach beautifully crafted

sermons. He did not come to

stand apart from or above his

flock. He came to be in the

midst of his flock, warning

them, guiding them, and

educating them by simple

stories to which they could

relate.

Jesus made promises for us, his sheep:

sheep:

  • He opens the gate

  • He teaches us his voice

  • He calls us by name

  • He leads us

  • He goes before us

  • Those who enter through him will be saved.

  • He knows us

  • He died for us

And guess what friends. Jesus expects us to stop being sheep.

We are in training to be

shepherds. That is what meant

in Matthew 28:19-20

expects us to stop being sheep.

We are in training to be

shepherds. That is what meant

in Matthew 28:19-20

“Therefore go and make

disciples of all nations,

baptizing them in the name of

the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit, and teaching

them to obey everything I

have commanded you. And

surely I am with you always, to

the very end of the age.”

So, I’ll send you out from this worship service not as sheep

or cattle, you no longer are. I

send you, my friends, into the

world into the herd to round

them up, to protect them, to

guide them to the heavenly

coral, and most of all to make

them disciples. In the name of

the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

worship service not as sheep

or cattle, you no longer are. I

send you, my friends, into the

world into the herd to round

them up, to protect them, to

guide them to the heavenly

coral, and most of all to make

them disciples. In the name of

the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Long Sabbath

THE LONG SABBATHExodus 31:14-1714. “‘Make the Sabbath a special day. If someone treats the Sabbath like any other day, that person must be killed. Whoever works on the Sabbath day must be separated from their people. 15. There are six other days in the week for working. But the seventh day is a very special day of rest. That is the special day to honor the LORD. Anyone who works during the Sabbath must be killed. 16. The Israelites must remember the Sabbath and make it a special day. They must continue to do this forever. It is an agreement between them and me that will continue forever. 17. The Sabbath will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever.’” (The LORD worked six days and made the sky and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and relaxed.)I know that many people myself included, if we remember the Ten Commandments at all, we remember the “short” version.

  1. You shall have no other Gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourselves an idol
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not give false testimony
  10. You shall not covet

The short version is easier to remembered and to forget.Now, wait a minute, let’s back up a might. But not all the way to Adam and Eve, just to Abram. You will remember God told him to leave his home and go where God would lead him.Because Abraham loved God, and because God loved Abraham, He made an eternal convenient with him. “I will give you and your descendants the land in which you are immigrants, the whole land of Canaan.” (From Genesis chapter 17)God promised a goodly size chunk of real estate to Abram and his descendents. Way cool, huh? All Abraham had to do was wander around on it for awhile ~ well, the rest of his life actually. Kind of like the earliest settlers did round about here. They just rode around pointing at stuff and saying, “That’s mine, and that’s mine, and so’s that.” Sort of like a dog or cat marking their territory.Anyway, there was this land without any clearly defined boarders, that his descendents did indeed live on. There weren’t really enough of his kin to call them a nation. There were barely enough to call them a tried. Mostly, they were just an extended family.What’s that I hear? Did someone out there just mumble, “What’s all this got to do with a long Sabbath?” Trust me, I’m getting there. And it’s a straight line too.Okay, where were we? Oh yeah, Abraham’s heirs were living together occupying a chunk of land, not yet named Israel. Maybe it was about the size of a large ranch. They raised livestock sheep, goats, camels, and possibly cattle. And they did okay until a drought hit the land.Then in one of those bad luck turned to good luck things that God loves to use, (start reading in Genesis chapter 37 for that story) they moved to Egypt. They were welcomed to Egypt and even given a fair size peace of land on which to live.Time went by, a lot of time. The family grew. This once beget that one, who begat another, and, well there was a whole lot of begeting going on.A new pharaoh came to power who recognized that, what had been a family, had grown into a separate nation within his boarders. And he didn’t take kindly to them. They were enslaved.Moses comes along and leads these descents of Abraham out into the dessert. Now God is ready to forge these former slaves into a true nation. And the first thing they need is a set of laws on how to behave toward God and toward themselves. And right about the middle of these laws is God’s gift to His followers. This is the law of the Sabbath.You were beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get back to that, weren’t you?God felt that this law was so important that He put some “teeth” in it. His people were to observe a day of rest once every seven days. On this day They were/are to honor God.How many of you seasoned citizens remember when most businesses closed on Saturday and Sunday? Families went together to church. Perhaps the Sunday midday meal was something special.Something happened. Some business decided he could squeeze out an extra dollar if he was open on Sunday. His competitors couldn’t let him get ahead of them. So They started being open also.This meant that dad or mom or dad and mom were working instead of worshipping together. Organized sporting events for the children and the professionals proliferated.We lost our Sabbath, our God given ~ God demanded ~ day of rest.I will not echo things I’ve read online that claim this pandemic is a plague caused by God. But I will suggest that God can use this time of withdrawal and isolation as a L-O-N-G Sabbath. A time to draw back from the busyness of life, to reconnect with family and with God.Amen.

Also visit my other blogs

  • Tom and Ella’s Daily Journal of Our Lives

http://TomAndEllaJournal.com

  • Visit my devotions blog new devotions every day (nearly)

Halakha (Jewish law), especially the Talmud tractate Shabbat, identifies thirty-nine categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat (Hebrew: ל״ט אבות מלאכות, lamed tet avot melakhot), and clarifies many questions surrounding the application of the biblical prohibitions. Many of these activities are also prohibited on the Jewish holidays listed in the Torah, although there are significant exceptions permitting carrying and preparing food under specific circumstances.

There are often disagreements between Orthodox Jews and Conservative Jews or other non-Orthodox Jews as to the practical observance of Shabbat. It is of note that the (strict) observance of Shabbat is often seen as a benchmark for orthodoxy and indeed has legal bearing on the way a Jew is seen by an orthodox religious court regarding their affiliation to Judaism.

Time to Grow Up”

“Act your age!  Will you just GROW UP?”

Have you ever had that said to you? Have you ever said it to someone? Why is it so hard to grow up?

Do you remember Peter Pan singing, “I won’t grow up, I don’t want to go to school.  Just to learn to be a parrot, And recite a silly rule.  If growing up means It would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,  I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up.  Not me!! I won’t grow up, I don’t want to wear a tie.  And a serious expression In the middle of July.   And if it means I must prepare To shoulder burdens with a worried air, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up Not me.”

Brennan Waits:  wrote a song by the same title that contains the lines, “And I don’t wanna grow up. I don’t wanna have to shout it out. I don’t want my hair to fall out. I don’t wanna be filled with doubt. I don’t wanna be a good boy scout. I don’t wanna have to learn to count. I don’t wanna have the biggest amount. I don’t wanna grow up.”

    There is an appropriate name for this condition, The Peter Pan Syndrome.  Although it is not considered to be a psychopathological disorder, an increasing number of adults are presenting emotionally immature behaviors in Western Society.  They are unable or unwilling to grow up and take on adult responsibilities, and even dress up and enjoy themselves as teenagers when they are over 30 years old. It usually affects dependent people who haven’t developed the necessary skills to confront life.  

    Characteristics of this disorder are the inability to take on responsibilities, commit themselves or keep promises, excessive care about the way they look and personal well-being and their lack of self-confidence, even though they don’t seem to show it and actually come across as exactly the opposite. (Edited Source: Science Daily May 3, 2007)

   

    Personally, I remember in my late twenties having the fear that people would find out that I was still just a kid pretending to be an adult.  You don’t have to raise your hands, but am I the only one who experienced that? I must not be because I keep seeing Facebook posts about adults who want to put on their jammies and build a blanket fort into which to retreat from the adult world for a while.

    Why is it so hard to grow up?  Or why don’t we want to grow up?

    Really … do we have to?  I mean Jesus did say that unless we became like little children, we couldn’t enter heaven. Matthew 18:3 & Mark 10:15  Yes! Jesus was speaking of children’s ability to believe instantly and without doubt.  That is the kind of belief that Paul speaks of when he writes, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

    Paul also writes to the church in Corinth, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.  But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11  Undoubtedly Paul realized the necessity to grow and mature in our faith.  When he wrote to them and said, “I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food for you were not yet able to receive it.” 1 Corinthians 3:2

    As babies, we start life so helpless and so self centered.  All a baby really wants is to be warm, full, dry and held. We cry over anything that makes us uncomfortable.  When we are cold or hot, wet or hungry, or lonely; that gives us a reason to cry. Soon, we learn that crying works very well.  Cry and someone comes and changes us. Cry and someone feeds us. Cry and someone comes to hold us. We cry and someone comes and makes the discomfort go away.  Ta Dah! We have learned the secret of the universe: how to be content: Cry!

    Then we grow and begin to toddle around on our own.  We discover all kinds of new things as our world expands.  Sometimes we discover great new things like how to wiggle between the couch and the wall and have our own secret place.  Or how to unroll the toilet paper all over the bathroom floor. And how to climb up onto the couch and turn the lights on and off.     Sometimes we also learn hurtful things like the edge of the table has sharp edges at just the right height to bump our heads.  We learn that walking gets us around faster. We learn that falling skins our knees. And worse yet … we begin to be told, “No.”  There are things that we are not allowed to do. We might even get our hands spanked as we reach for the stove. How dare they treat us like that!

    And we begin to learn (hopefully) that crying doesn’t always work.  Sometimes instead of being held, we are patted on the back and told that, “It will be alright.”   

    We come into our teenage years and begin to learn that, not only are there things that we are not allowed to do, there are things that we are expected to do.  We have chores that need to be done. We learn that if we want something, we have to give something in return. We might have to earn the money to purchase something that our parents cant’ or won’t buy for us.

    As we mature we become less self centered (hopefully) and more others centered. We learn to give, not because we want something in return, but because someone else needs it.  We learn that a well balanced adult should have a balance between these two: self and others.  

    Newly born again Christians are a lot like new born babies.  We want God to hold us, to feed us, and to keep us safe from the cares of the world.  And God does.

    Learning experiences also happen to us as “toddlers in Christ”.  We discover new joys in the Lord like how to be alone with God in prayer even in a crowded place.  We learn to begin flexing our spiritual muscles and sometimes we find joy and sometimes hurt. God is there to tell us, “I am with you always.”  We begin to learn that there are some worldly things that, for our own good, we need to avoid.

    As “teenage Christians” we also learn that along with the “Thou shalt nots!”  there are “Thou Shalt do’s”. God begins to give us “Go and Do” commands. We learn that though we are still trusting in Him to provide our needs, we also need to step out on faith.

 

    We reach a level of Christian maturity where we have learned to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Then, Jesus announces that we should be far more other-centered.  We are to not only be our brother’s keeper. Galatians 6:2 & Matthew 25:35  We are to be our brother’s servant. 1 John 3:17 And if that weren’t enough, we are to even love those who hate us and do evil things to us. Romans 12:17-21   We are to love and forgive as God has loved and forgiven us. Ephesians 5:1& John 13:34

We are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

We, like Paul, have not achieved and possess perfection.  But we are to constantly strive for it. Philippians 3:12

    Many … maybe too many … Christians view their salvation as “fire insurance.”  It is true that we were saved FROM something … our sins … or, as I understand it … we were saved from ourselves.  But salvation is more than “fire insurance”. We were also saved TO something. We were saved to SERVICE. Here is a short list of duties that we are told to perform:

Feed the hungry Matthew 25

Heal the sick Matthew 25

Visit the prisoner Matthew 25

Give drink to the thirsty Matthew 25

Clothe the naked Matthew 25

Make disciples Matthew 28:19-20

Teach Matthew 28:19-20

Baptize Matthew 28:19-20

Preach 2 Timothy 4:2 & Matthew 10:7

Correct 2 Timothy 4:2

Rebuke 2 Timothy 4:2

Encourage 2 Timothy 4:2

Instruct 2 Timothy 4:2

Be Evangelists Ephesians 4:11

Be Prophets Ephesians 4:11

Be Pastors Ephesians 4:11

Be Teachers Ephesians 4:11

Do works John 14:12 meJannes 2:14-26

Study 2 Timothy 2:15

    I could go on listing things that we Christians are commanded to do.  However, you need to ask God to give you your personal orders. Trust me in this … He has a job for you.  And it maybe a job that no one else can do. Whatever you are called to do, He will provide the path and the power to achieve it.

    The real question before us is, “Where are we in our journey toward Christian maturity?” 

    Our world is full of distractions that can stunt our Christian growth.

Certainly the culture outside our circle of Godly friends and family can get our attention and direct us away from the goal that God has in mind for us.  Work and/or school can sap our energies and occupy our minds. Financial and health issues can wear us down. Games, sports, television, internet, and others can be a welcome relief from the duties and demands of life, but can also pull us away from spending time with God.

    I don’t know how “old” you are in your walk with God.  I do know that, if we wish to continue to grow, we have to set aside some time to study God’s word and prayerfully open ourselves to God’s guidance.  Take time to pray. Remember, God already knows what you need. So pray from your heart without trying to make a fancy prayer that men will praise you for. Matthew 6:5-15  Jesus said that whatever we ask of him He will do. John 14:13  If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14  If you lack wisdom, ask God. James 1:5  Pray, pray, pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

    Remember when you pray that it is a conversation with God.  So, take time to listen for His response. Here are some things that I know God has to say to us:

  • You can do all things through Him who gives you strength. Phillippians 4:13
  • As you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 10:7
  • Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. Mark 10:43
  • Make your speech, behavior, love, faith, and purity an example for other believers.1 Timothy4:12
  • You are Christ’s representatives, and through us God is calling you. 2 Corinthians 5:20
  • You received a gift from God. Now I’m reminding you to fan that gift into flames.. 2 Timothy 1;6
  • Wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.. Matthew 28:19
  • Always be spreading the Good News. God trusts you to do this because you passed his test. Don’t try to please people but God, who tests your motives.1 Thessalonians 2:4
  • Devote yourself to praying and to serving in ways that are related to the word. Acts 6:4
  • You will be his witness and will tell everyone what you have seen and heard. Acts 22:15
  • The Lord requires of you to seek justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. Micha 6:8

    These are the paths to maturity.  These are the paths that will lead you to the goal God has for you.  These will help you to grow up. Amen

©2020 Thomas E Williams

Also visit my (mostly) daily devotions blog. Www.musingsdevotions.WordPress.com

Q & A


Matthew 21:23-32Then Jesus went into the temple courtyard and began to teach. The chief priests and the leaders of the people came to him. They asked, “What gives you the right to do these things? Who told you that you could do this?” Jesus answered them, “I, too, have a question for you. If you answer it for me, I’ll tell you why I have the right to do these things. Did John’s right to baptize come from heaven or from humans?” They discussed this among themselves. They said, “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ he will ask us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘from humans,’ we’re afraid of what the crowd might do. All those people think of John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus told them, “Then I won’t tell you why I have the right to do these things. “What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go to work in the vineyard today.’ “His son replied, ‘I don’t want to!’ But later he changed his mind and went. “The father went to the other son and told him the same thing. He replied, ‘I will, sir,’ but he didn’t go. “Which of the two sons did what the father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. John came to you and showed you the way that God wants you to live, but you didn’t believe him. The tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. But even after you had seen that, you didn’t change your minds and believe him.

Q & A

Our message begins on a typical Sabbath morning. Jesus had gone into the temple to do what he had been doing all His life (being about His Father’s business). Here he was teaching and explaining the Law and the Prophets when the chief priests and the leaders of the people came up to him.
They asked, “Dude, who do you think you are? WE are the teachers here. These people pay US to tell them how WE interpret the scriptures. WE spent years studying with a respected rabbi before we were allowed to teach. What right do you have to do these things? Who gave you this authority? Where is YOUR diploma?”
Now I know that the Bible doesn’t say that Jesus had a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his lips when he answered, but I believe He did when He said, “I have just one question to ask you. If you answer it, I will tell you where I got the right to do these things.
Can you see the fear on these priests and leaders faces? You know they were not used to being challenged; not here in the Temple. This was their home turf. I can imagine them starting to sweat and beginning to back away. Then Jesus asked the question, “Who gave John the right to baptize? Was it God in heaven or merely some human being?”
Oh man! They knew it! He was setting them up! They thought it over and said to each other, “There is no way we can answer Him. We can’t say that God gave John this right. Because then Jesus will ask us why we didn’t believe; and there is no way we can defend ourselves there. On the other hand, these people think that John was a prophet, and we are afraid of what they might do to us. That’s why we can’t say that it was merely some human who gave John the right to baptize.”
So these religious leaders did a quick huddle and decided to play it safe. So they told Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Okay, so you won’t be honest with me. Well then I won’t tell you who gave me the right to do what I do.”
Now right here at verse 28 the story appears to take a sharp right turn. It almost appears that Jesus is changing the subject. But hang on; He knows where He is going with this lesson.
Now Jesus, while he has these leaders’ attention says, “I will tell you a story about a man who had two sons. Then you can tell me what you think.”
Oh yeah! I’m sure that they are looking forward to THIS quiz. After all, they had done so well on the last one!
Jesus began the story, “The father went to the older son and said, “Go work in the vineyard today!” His son told him that he would not do it, but later he changed his mind and went.
The man then told his younger son to go work in the vineyard. The boy said he would, but then he didn’t go to work after all.”
Okay, the parameters of the story have been explained. Now Jesus asks, “So, teachers, which one of the sons obeyed his father?”
The chief priests and leaders answered, “The older one!” Wow! This test was easier than they thought it was going to be! This was not near as tricky as they had feared. The answer was so obvious! The one who obeyed was the one who obeyed, even though he had at first refused. Simple, really, when you thought about it.
Then Jesus told them: “You can be sure that tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you ever will!
What? Why? We answered your question correctly! We know we did!
“Because, when John the Baptist showed you how to do right, you would not believe and follow him. You were the son that said you would but then refused to follow. By your own tongues you have judged yourselves.
But these “evil” people, the tax collectors and prostitutes, did believe. They may have been disobedient at the beginning but then they repented and changed. And even then, when you, priests and teachers of the Law, saw what they did, you still would not change your minds and believe. What good is to say ‘yes’ with your lips and ‘no’ with your actions?”
Now it is our turn to answer Jesus. We sing on Sunday morning; “Follow, I will follow thee my Lord”, “Where he leads me I will follow”, or dozens of other hymns that speak about our obedience to the Lord.
Are we just moved by the music and mouthing the words without thought? If so, how many lies do Christians sing each week? Can we better defend ourselves to Jesus questions than did the “religious” people of His day?
If we can’t do better than they, then what makes us think that Christ will be any easier on us for our disobedience?
We are good people! We know we are. However, the chief priests and synagogue leaders were also ‘good people’. For the most part they were trying to do what they thought was expected of them. They said all the right words, just as they had been taught.
It was their actions, or their lack of actions that was getting them into trouble with Jesus. It is what can get us into trouble with Jesus.
We hear, we listen, we nod our heads in agreement and may even shout, “Amen!” But to what avail if it has caused no change within our lives?
James 1:22 says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Sometimes James is misunderstood as saying that people are saved by their actions. He only says that the proof that they are saved is the changes it makes in their actions.
If we have been changed, if we are new creatures, then those around us should be able to notice. I pray that when we sing, “Where He leads me I will follow” we will be singing the truth of our hearts.
Amen.

God bless

  • Visit my devotions blog

https://musingsdevotions.wordpress.com

All content (except quotations) ©2011Thomas E. Williams

Originally posted on Saturday, August 20, 2011