Having the Heart of Christ – LK 3:10-18

Gospel    LK 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

Thoughts

Key Words

Heaven | Hear | High Opinion | Have Heart for Others | Hardest | Holy Spirit | Habits

Heaven

Has anyone here thought about heaven? What do you think Heaven is like?

A place to worship God? A place where we get to laugh and smile all the time?  A place with great music? A place where we are with those we love and who love us?

We all want to go to heaven.  This was no different than in Jesus’ time.  When people were coming to the river Jordan to be baptized into a new life, they asked John the Baptist a simple question:

“What should we do?”

Because they wanted to be able to to to Heaven when the savior, the Messiah arrived. What do you think they wanted to hear?  I think they wanted to hear John say “You guys are set – I’ve baptized you – you are all good to go.” I think they wanted it easy. Because most of us (and I say us, because the people who came to John in this chapter are just like us – normal folks) have a pretty high opinion of ourselves.  We think we do good work. We think we are good people. We want Heaven, but don’t necessarily want to work for it.

Have Heart for Others

John’s answer to each of them spoke to where each person was personally.

  • For the tax collector – be fair in collecting taxes.
  • For the soldier – don’t use your power in ways you shouldn’t.
  • For the person with means – share your wealth with those poorer than yourself, so others are not without basic necessities.

John suggests each of us position our heart for serving others, where it is hardest for each of us. He wants us to be in the habit of thinking where we can use our power to make life better for others.

Remember last week when we spoke about John wanting to make it easier for people to get to God, by leveling mountains and filling valleys? Most of us think that the mountains and valleys that separate us from God are thing that are put in our way. What I want to suggest is that we each have our own self built mountains and valleys which separate us from having a heart that would reflect the Holy Spirit. And each of us has to figure out how to best “level the mountains and fill the valleys.” Or as my son Thomas noted – build elevators to get over the mountains and bridges to cross the valleys.  Not only do we have our own obstacles, but the way to overcome those obstacle will be different for each of us.

I have a challenge for each of you and myself as well. And it’s not original. Ask yourself:

“What should I do?”

Not necessarily to be saved or to get to Heaven. But what should I do to have a Heart like Christ. How do I build a habit to better serve those I have power over?

Serve Where It Is Hardest

Think about what is hardest for each of you to do. For me, one of the areas I know I can work on will be to be less reactionary to my boys and to try to understand their motivations in situations before I react.

Now, you might think – but I’m just a kid – I don’t have power over anyone. But you do. You have more power than you imagine. You have the power to make your mom or dad or grandparent’s life easier by helping in unexpected ways – sometimes just by saying please and doing something like bringing them a glass of water.  Maybe you and your sister get into arguments and you get angry – being kind and polite in disagreements can be a huge mountain you can get rid of.  Sharing that last cookie with your brothers could be a valley you can bridge. Just start by getting in the habit of thinking about others first.

Bringing someone a glass of water or sharing that cookie won’t get you into Heaven – we need to rely on Jesus for that.  But serving others with a a Godly intent sure puts our hearts in a place that makes it easier to accept his gift of salvation.

I’m going to close paraphrasing a line that a preacher wrote about this gospel that inspired me for this week’s message:

Participating in God’s kingdom is available to us where we are, requiring only the modicum of faith necessary to perceive the sacred in the ordinary.  It is, in short, entirely within our reach.

Posted in Kids Sermon | Leave a comment

Prepare by Practicing for Christ – LK 3:1-6

Gospel LK 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, 
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, 
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis, 
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, 
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, 
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Words

Prophet | Preach | Prepare | Path| Practice 

Lesson

John was a prophet and his message was simple:

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths  ….
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Who here likes to prepare for things? Sometimes its fun, right – we are waiting for something in anticipation of something great. 

Sometimes it is a lot of work to prepare for things. Do any of you prepare for tests?  You have to study hard, because you want to get a good grade. It can take a lot of work.

Do any of you practice for sports?  This is a different type of preparation. But again, it is something you work hard at because you want to be great.

During this time of the year, ballet companies are performing the Nutcracker. The dancers in the Nutcracker practice over and over to get their performance perfect.

What are we preparing for right now in Advent?

Christmas!  The birth of our savior!

But what do we have to do to prepare for Christmas?  Well, we have to buy presents, make meals, set up the tree, put up lights, ornaments, set up the nativity scene….boy, those are a lot of paths that need to be made straight! There are a lot of items to prepare.

The goal is that you want to make things just right

But I want you to think of the preparation for Christmas in a different light. Instead of trying to prepare for things in a material way, I want you to practice being like Christ. Instead of working to make things just right, in preparation for Santa Claus.  Instead prepare to make things just right for the Christ child.  

  • Practice kindness.
  • Practice humility.
  • Practice love.
  • Practice following Christ’s path.

Because when we do, we are helping to bring Christ’s kingdom to the world..

Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Just like John, Christ’s herald and prophet.

Think about the things you love to do in life or things you have to do to be successful. Who here has homework for school?  Why do you do it? Because we care about  it.

Prepare for  the coming of the Messiah.  Practice His ways.  

Posted in Kids Sermon | Leave a comment

Know the King and Know Truth! JN 18:33B-37

Gospel JN 18:33B-37

Pilate said to Jesus,
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Words

Arrested / Accused / Authority / Are you King? / Answer / Allegiance

Arrested / Accused

What was Jesus accused of that allowed the Romans to arrest him?

He claimed to be the Messiah!  How?

  • He came into Jerusalem on a donkey, with people waving palm branches as foretold
  • He claimed to know the “Father” and be one with Him
  • Claimed to be of the lines of David and the prophets
  • He claimed authority in teaching over the Rabbis

These were blasphemy to the Jews if it wasn’t true – and they didn’t believe it to be true.

Are you the king of the Jews?

Judas and many others wanted Jesus to be a military Messiah – a king who would liberate the Jewish people from the Roman oppressors. When Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, I think it was his way of trying to force Jesus’ hand to begin the revolution.  I believe his thoughts were “this will be the catalyst that will get Jesus to lead the Jewish people to overthrow their oppressors.”

Authority

The Jewish leaders were upset that Jesus was undermining their Authority.  This is why they wanted Jesus brought to trial under the Romans. But the Romans would not care if Jesus was undermining the Jewish leaders’ authority.  They would care that Jesus claimed to be king – under their laws, only Caesar could be king – so this would undermine their rule.  This is why they asked Jesus this question and why it was important.

Answer

What was Jesus’ answer to this question.  He didn’t answer directly, but he didn’t deny it.  The important thing was Jesus knew that if denied being king of the Jews, Pilate would have let him go.  He probably would have received whippings – which is what they did in those days – but he would have walked away alive.  But the Jewish leaders knew that his authority would have been destroyed. An authentic king would never deny his own kingship.

Jesus knew that affirming his kingship would lead to his death sentence.  Yet he did.

Allegiances

Jesus certainly was not a normal king.  In our world, our kings want to be honored.  We pay tribute to these kings.  Jesus was a king that wanted to serve.  To help those less fortunate. To be comfort to those in need. What a weird king.  By giving Jesus our allegiance, we are committing to these principles as well. The whole power structure is upside down.  Think of a pyramid – in our world, the king is at the top of the pyramid, on the backs of all of his subject.  In Jesus’ kingdom, the king is at the bottom, supporting all of his subjects.  And those closest to Jesus support many as well.

I think of Satan as a king of the normal pyramid type.  All his subjects are below him. Many people actually like this type of arrangement, because they have people under them that they control.  People who server out of fear and control.  These people like power, but not the type of power that benefits their subjects, except to the effect that the subjects have people below them to direct and control. These people look out for their own interests. It is a selfish type of power. My wife reminded me of the book by Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss. King Yertle was in control of everyone below him and directed everyone until it all fell apart.

Jesus’s authority comes from the greatest power in the universe – the fact that he is God.  At the bottom of an inverted pyramid, he gave his all to serve those who accept Him.

Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

The college I went to has a motto “The Truth Shall Set You Free”.  This is what Jesus’ kingship means and what He wants for us.  To be free from selfishness. Free from deceit. Free from jealousy. Free from sin. To desire the best for all those who depend on us.

This is what our allegiance to Jesus means.  Real freedom. Not freedom from rules – free to do whatever we want but a desire to only do what is right.

So testify to the truth.  Belong to the truth.  And know true freedom.

And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

 

Posted in Kids Sermon | Leave a comment

The Backstory of Faith – Mark 10:46-52

Gospel             MK 10:46-52

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.
Keywords
Bartimaeus | Blind | Beggar | Bothered | Busy| Bold |  Brave | Better | Backstory | Belief | Blessing | Belonged to Jesus’

Discussion

Son of Tholomew?

One of the reasons I like to write these reflections on the gospel is that I enjoy learning all sorts of interesting tidbits and facts.  Bartimaeus – a name I would have just shorted to Bart, really means something more.  Back in Jesus’ time, it would have been broken up into Bar-Timaeus, where BAR means son – so son of Timaeus.
So the people around Jericho knew this blind beggar as the son of Timaeus. Imagine how hard it must have been 2000 years ago for someone who is blind. There was no support structure for him. There was no braille which would allow him to read. Who knows if his father, Timaeus, was still alive and able to help him.  All we know is that Bartimaeus was sitting on the his cloak on the side of the road, unable to see and totally dependent upon the generosity of those passing along the road to give him money to buy food.
As the throng of people following Jesus pass by, Bartimaeus could likely view this as a huge windfall. Lots of people mean lots of shekels which might be given to him. But instead, what we hear from Bartimaeus isn’t “Jesus – will you as well give me some money? Will you tell your followers to give me money if they really care about the poor?” What we hear is Bartimaeus crying out for Jesus. The crowd tries to silence him, saying that Jesus cannot be bothered.  This echos the disciples telling the children to leave Jesus alone. But Bartimaeus boldly continues to call for Jesus, over the objection of the crowd. Imagine how brave he had to be – people were likely shouting at him and pushing him to be quiet, and truly Bartimaeus is the least powerful of all people. Yet he continues to cry out until Jesus notices him.
When Jesus speaks to him, he asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus says , “Master, I want to see.”
One of the things our priest, Father Alex, has us say in our prayers is,
“Thank you Lord, That whatever we ask for, according to your will, will shall receive.”
Apparently, Bartimaeus’ request was according to God’s will, because Jesus’ reply was, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” and the son of Timaeus had his eyesight restored.
It’s a nice story about faith, persevering, and blessing, but I think there is a backstory that is pretty important here, that we aren’t told directly.
There used to be a radio broadcaster named Paul Harvey, who would lead off with a short story that sounded mundane – a basic everyday story.  Then we would tell “The Rest of the Story”.  The Backstory. And all at once, this everyday story would become extra-ordinary.
Being blind, Bartimaeus probably didn’t move too far from his home and stayed near the road where people were travelling on the way to Jerusalem. One of the things we hear about blind people like Bartimaeus is that their other senses are heightened.  There is even a superhero named Daredevil, who is able to sense the world better through bat-like radar, because he is blind. So we might imagine that Bartimaeus is really good at listening. We also might guess that he speaks to the travelers passing to get the latest news of what is happening in the world.
In the past three years, he has likely been hearing some incredible things from people travelling along his road.  Some dude turning water into wine. Then healing of sick people and lepers.  Feeding 3000 people with a few loaves and fish. Raising a dead girl from the grave. At first, he probably thought they were just stories. But as more and more stories came through, it likely started to sound more probably. At some point, someone who Bartimaeus knew and trusted said that he had experienced Jesus’ miracles firsthand.  This person might have even suggested to Bartimaeus that Jesus was the Messiah.
Evangelicals call this a Credible witness.
At this point, or maybe after praying about it or speaking with other credible witnesses, Bartimaeus probably decided that Jesus was the Messiah. That he believed in his coming Kingship.  So when Jesus passed by, Bartimaeus’ heart was already primed.
He would not be shouted down by a crowd.  He wanted to see his Messiah.
And when Jesus gave him what he asked for, did Bartimaeus say thank you and go his own way?
No  – he followed Jesus on His journey.  My guess is all the way to the cross.
And now you know, (perhaps) the rest of the story….
Posted in Kids Sermon | Leave a comment

The Juxtaposition of following Christ – MK 10:35-45

Gospel   MK 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Words
Jerusalem – Journey – James/John – Jump Ahead – Just – Juxtaposition
Discussion
This is another story from the disciples final trip to Jerusalem. Remember, this is the last trip the disciples made with Jesus. All along the way, Jesus was telling them that he was going to be killed and his death would be the sacrifice that would redeem humanity, but the disciples clearly didn’t get it. In their minds, they were going to Jerusalem and Jesus was going to be crowned king.  That’s what the messiah is supposed to do, right?  He will storm in like a hero and after he overthrows the Romans, will sit on a thrown to rule justly.
So with this in mind, James and John approach Jesus. Have you ever asked your parents if they would say yes to your next question, trying to trap them into letting you do something? This is what James and John do. It’s actually pretty childish. Then they ask if they can jump ahead of the other disciples, and sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in his kingdom. But it is understandable – we all like to jump ahead. My family just went to Disneyland and we got the Super Max Fast Pass. This allowed us to jump the line to the front, ahead of everyone who was waiting in line. It was great!
Has anyone waited in a long line?  It was boring, wasn’t it? Imagine you could jump ahead to the front in everything in life. No waiting ever again! Sit in the front middle seat at your favorite concert! You would always get your food served first! No more lines of cars or traffic. It would be awesome…well – awesome to you at least. What about everyone you cut ahead of? James and John were really only thinking of themselves, not of everyone else. And their fellow disciples felt didn’t think it was right that Jesus might put them in positions of power when they didn’t earn it, so they got angry.
The disciples thought you should have to do the work to win. Study. Train. Exercise. Win people to Christ. It wasn’t fair for James and John to try and trap Jesus into giving them positions of power.
Have any of you ever had someone cut a line in front of you? How did it feel?  Has anyone had someone beat them in something because they cheated? There are people who take drugs to cheat to be better at sports. Others put motors in bicycles to win at races. But nobody likes to feel like someone else got to the front of a line or won because they had an unfair advantage over them.
But this is where Jesus throws a curve ball. He says:
“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
There is this great word – Juxtaposition. It means two things being placed together with contrasting effect. What Jesus tells his disciples is that it may look like James and John are asking for positions of power and that they are jumping ahead, the Christian life is not always what it appears.
Lets look at the verses line by line and see the juxtaposition.
To be first, be last.
To be powerful, serve.
To rule over all, be willing to die.
James and John are oddly asking to be the servant of all – and they don’t even recognize it. What Jesus is saying is that to be great in the kingdom of God, there is no escaping the fact that we have to do the work. Because that is what it really means to be a Christian.
Study well – so you can teach.
Train hard – so others can follow your lead
Serve others – so you can be an example to others
Jesus gives us an example of the Christian life, where the end goal is not greatness, leadership or salvation, but by our service to others, this is given to us by his grace.
Posted in Kids Sermon | Leave a comment

Should Employees Work On The Boss’s Personal Projects?

This question was asked in a security forum and I thought my reply worthwhile to add here.

Three things come to mind:

1. Company journey: If your employees know how hard you work, see you working alongside them, and you share your company journey with them, they will not begrudge you having nice things. If your employees are treated fairly, they will celebrate with you that you have achieved some success and they by their efforts as well are helping make the company successful. And why wouldn’t the boss want the best crew possible – HIS – working on his home?

2. Company culture: If you have employees who would begrudge your success, is this really an employee you want working for you at all? If you have this type of employee, I would argue that they should be let go immediately as they would be toxic to the company culture in other many areas.

3. Separation of Interests: My feeling is that you should absolutely personally pay your company to have work done. It might feel like like paying yourself, but it allows you to keep the interests of the company separate from the interests of the ownership. Lots of company owners play loosey-goosey with having their employees do work on their personal projects. As a C-Corporation, my understanding is that this is unethical – I’ll leave the legality of it to the lawyers. I’m not sure how this works with S-Corp or LLCs.

Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

Who is the Greatest? Gospel MK 9:30-37

Gospel MK 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Overview

This gospel is kind of a double feature.  We have part 1 where Jesus and the disciples are walking together and Jesus is teaching them. Part 2 has the disciples arguing over who is the greatest among them.  I’m going to focus on the second part, but I just want to say one thing about this part 1 first.

Part 1 – Gobblygook to Gospel
Jesus is saying some pretty difficult things on the walk through Galilee.  And the disciples don’t understand. How often have you heard a teacher say something that you didn’t understand? Does it sound like gobbleygook ro perhaps Charlie Brown’s teacher?

Image result for charlie brown listening to teachersHow about your parents?  I’m not speaking of not wanting to listen to your parents here – but when they say a word you don’t comprehend or speak about a difficult subject. When you don’t understand something, the worst thing you can do is not as questions.  Sometimes, you are afraid of looking stupid or you get embarrassed.  But I guarantee you, that if you don’t understand something, most of the rest of your kids around you have similar questions. Be brave and be the one who wants to understand what is going on and clarify the message. Just as Jesus wanted his disciples to understand, all of you teachers are there because they want you to learn.

Part 2 – The Greatest
On their walk through Galilee, the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest amongst them. Remember, a few lessons ago, Jesus had sent them out in pairs to perform miracles in His name. I can imagine their arguments.

  • “I mended a broken leg”
  • “Well, I cured the man with Leprosy”
  • “That’s all? I replenished a well that had gone dry”
  • “I outdid you all – I healed a whole sick family”

It would have been a series of oneupmanship, where each person is trying to be better than the previous. It doesn’t sound like a very giving attitude – each disciple was trying to somehow diminish the other to enhance your own grandeur.

In many places in the world, people try to identify who is the greatest. Who are some of the Greatests that you know of?

Albert Einstein, some say, was the smartest guy around.
Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player.  Or is it now LeBron James?
David Beckham is the greatest soccer player. Or maybe Ronaldo?
Who are some of your favorite Greatests?

They even have a funny name for this – GOAT.  Does anyone know what that means?  GOAT – Greatest Of All Time.

.Image result for images goat Greatest of all time

But you notice, as soon as you have a new GOAT, someone else is now lesser? The guy who used to be THE GREATEST, is now #2. And everyone down the line is diminished, because somehow they are not as great as the #1.

I don’t think God wants us to work this way. In economics, this is called a Zero-Sum-Game.  One winner, other losers.  I think the way God wants us to work is to try to be the Greatest You Can Be. The person who gives of himself to lift others up. The person who helps others grow; who guides them from places of darkness to places of light. He says – be a servant to be first.  That is Great.

Jesus then brought forth a child. and said “whoever receives this child, receives Me”. We are supposed to give of ourselves to those less capable – guide them in their paths.  How does this work if you are already a kid?  Well – find littler kids and see how you can help them. Be a good friend. Look to see how you can serve them and help them grow – In knowledge – In strength – In Faith.

Jesus wants our path to always try to be the Greatest – not so we can improve our own standing, but to raise up those around us. To make them be the best they can be.

Remember how we were speaking earlier about the Greatest in each category.  One of my greatest is a scientist named George Washington Carver. He found more than 100 things you could do with peanuts, back in the 1800s.  There is a nice quote attributed to him.

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”
– George Washington Carver

If you want to be the Greatest in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all. Leverage your strengths to be the person who:

  • Gives of himself to lift others up
  • Helps others grow in their faith and personal strengths.
  • Who guides others in Godly paths.
Posted in Kids Sermon | Leave a comment

Being Steadfast when the Crowds Depart – JN 6:60-69

Gospel                  JN 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Keywords

Savior | Superhero | Something else | Shock | Skedaddled | Simon Peter | Steadfast in Truth

Discussion

In the past few weeks, we have been speaking about Jesus attracting a crowd around him.  They were attracted because they were looking for something.  What were they looking for?  Pretty simple:

A Savior!

What do you think the Jewish people were looking for in a Savior/Messiah?

Well, they wanted to crown him king and have him overthrow their oppressors, the Romans.. They wanted a military/political hero like Joshua. And, as it turns out Jesus’s name originates from a rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua, which is how they said Joshua.

Who remembers what Joshua did?

  • Led people out of wilderness
  • Destroyed Jericho
  • Overthrew all of the land of Israel for the 12 tribes

Sounds like a superhero to me! Lets go back to what recently happened with Jesus.

  1. Jesus cured a man crippled for 38 years
  2. He said he had the power over life and death
  3. He fed 500 from 5 loaves and 2 fish
  4. He walked on water
  5. He said he had bread that would fill them forever

If I were looking for a superhero to help me overthrow the Romans, Jesus has all the credentials.  Imagine, your army is fighting another army.  But anyone on your side who gets hurt can now be healed.  Anyone killed, brought back to life. No worries about bringing food – just bring the kid with 5 loaves and 2 fish and the army is good for food. Need to run away?  Just walk across the water where your enemy cannot follow. This guy was the superhero of all superheros!  Better than Spiderman, better than Superman! This is who they were expecting for the Nessiah – the guy who would save them!

But after showing all of these amazing “powers”, what did Jesus do?

He told them he was something else entirely. He said he was the bread of life.  He said that he was one with the Father. That he had the keys to everlasting life. And to gain eternal left we had to eat of his body and drink of his blood. He also told us that the Son of Man would suffer and die before he came again in his glory. This was not the superhero talk the people wanted.

Jesus started off this gospel saying his teachings were hard – really hard.  So hard, in fact, that the people were shocked. Jesus just told them to be saved they needed to “eat my body and drink my blood” to be saved.

DRINK WHAT? EAT WHAT?

That’s crazy talk! And more – Jesus didn’t want to be king?!?! Neither of these were what the Jews wanted in their Savior. They wanted a Super-Savior to lead them. And what do people do when something doesn’t meet their expectations?

They Skedaddled!

Imagine – a huge crowd shows up for a concert, expecting an earth-shattering rock and roll band something bigger than the Rolling Stones. The crowd was expecting lights, thundering sound, and spectacle. Instead Jesus pulls out a Ukulele and starts strumming Somewhere over the rainbow.

This was not what the crowds were here for. Just imagine everyone streaming towards the exits. Skedaddled means to “depart quickly”.  Imagine an entire amphitheatre empty in 5 minutes.

Jesus, on stage, finishes his song and looks at the empty stadium. He then looks back at his bandmates, the 12 disciples, and asks, “Will you leave too?”  Simon Peter answers for all of them. Let’s look back at the text again here:

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Simon Peter nails it! Even Jesus was surprised by this answer. Jesus says that the Father revealed this to Simon Peter.

What is the lesson we take away from this?

Well – sometimes the truth isn’t easy. But when you learn truth, you need to be strong in your belief of it.  You need to be steadfast in your defense of it.  Simon Peter was called the ROCK because he would steadfast in his defense of Jesus’ message in time to come.

There are going to be times in your life where people are going to challenge what you know to be true. Some people are going to say “Look how many people have left the Church, how can it be true?” What Simon-Peter shows us today is that we regardless of how the crowd is skedaddling, we have to be steadfast in our beliefs, because only Jesus has the “words of everlasting life”

Because life will challenge our beliefs. People will not want to be around us because of what we profess. We too, need to be steadfast  – a ROCK for Christ.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can’t have God Our Way – JN 6:41-51

Gospel         JN 6:41-51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven, ” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Keywords

Complain | Crowds | Courage | Convictions | Clarifies | Claim | Control God | Come to Jesus

Overview

Does it feel like we have read this exact story for the past few weeks?  We keep coming back to Jesus being the “bread of life” for the world. We started out with Jesus feeding the crowd with the loaves and fish.  Then the crowd followed him, because they wanted more from this guy who could create something from nothing.  Remember – they wanted to crown him king which Jesus refused. Now, that they see Jesus is not what they envisioned the Messiah to be, they start to turn on him. Jesus clarifies his mission and claims His right as the one who came to save us through His crucifixion and the cross.

Complaining Crowd

Do you ever notice that people are different when they are in groups than they might be individually? Especially when discontent is rising. The crowd was not happy already because Jesus refused to become their king. Now, someone in the crowd popped up and brought up the fact that they knew Jesus as he grew up – and that they knew his father and mother.  It probably made this person feel powerful 0 knowing something that might make Jesus seem less important. And when a group of people starts grumbling and complaining in this way, it only grows.

Courage of your Convictions

It takes a good deal of bravery for someone to stand up to a crowd like this, from inside the crowd.  Whenever I think of standing up against a crowd, I think of a story I read once of Alexander Hamilton, facing a mob in the dead of night, set on tar and feathering a man. The mob could have easily turned on Hamilton, but he stood firm in his convictions. Ultimately, he was able to delay the crowd from entering the building long enough for the man to escape. Notice, we don’t hear of any actions by the disciples and anyone else stepping up to defend Jesus.  Remember, many of these folks saw miracles of healing themselves. Most ate at the feeding of the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Others experienced when Jesus cast demons out of people.  If anyone had stepped up, this story might have gone very differently. So Jesus, hearing the growing discontent of the crowd, takes their grumbling and complaining on head first.
  • “Stop murmuring”
  • “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him”
  • “Whoever believes has eternal life”
  • “I am the living bread that came down from heaven”
By standing up to the crowd and proclaiming his convictions and message again, Jesus stifles the mumbling.

Jesus Clarifies His Claims

Specifically, with the statements above, Jesus clarifies his claims to be the Messiah. He also speak of how His way will not be the way that we want. Jesus’ way will not be specified by how the crowd wants him to act. It will be in a way that shall show the Father’s will.

We don’t Control God

This is important. We don’t control God. God is eternally consistent. God is the great I Am. Too often, we want God to be a certain way.  How many times do we say this is how I believe God should be? We say things like.
  • I believe God is Love.
  • I believe God is Nice.
  • I believe God doesn’t judge us.
  • I believe God wants us to be happy.
We want a Burger King Style God. But we can’t have Him our way, like we might a hamburger. We can’t hold the ketchup and have extra mayo.

Come to Jesus

What God tells us is this:

“Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him, comes to me”

Pretty simple.  Be humble and realize, we aren’t God. Listen to His word in the inspired Word of God – the Bible and learn from His teachings. And ultimately, Come to Jesus. As Jesus shows in today’s Gospel, He is not at all about what we want Him to be. He is one with God the Father. He came in human form to save us from our sins. He says whoever eats of the living bread that came down from heaven, will live forever. He tells us exactly who He is and he wants us to come to Him. And by coming to Jesus, we accept the gift He has given us through His Crucifixion on the Cross. That’s a great way to end this lesson.  Our directions from Jesus are clear.
  • Listen to His word – by reading the Bible.
  • Learn from His teachings – by studying his Word.
  • Come to Jesus – just as we are.
  • Accept His GIFT of salvation – bought on the cross.
Fin.  
Posted in Kids Sermon | Leave a comment

Loaves to get Attention – JN 6:24-35

Bread from my favorite local San Diego bread shop, Bread & Cie

Gospel     JN 6:24-35

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you are looking for me not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them,”I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Key Words

Love of Food | Lasagna | Food never Lasts | Loaves to get Attention | Looking for Jesus | Food that Forever Lasts

Love of Food

Who here has ever walked into a kitchen and smelled something cooking and had their stomachs growl?  (ask what the kids smelled) The other day I walked outside my favorite local bakery, Bread & Cie, and the delicious smells almost pulled me inside!

Who here has a favorite meal that they always love to eat?  (ask the kids for their answers)  In my case that is an easy answer……Lasagna.

Big wide noodles. My own home-made sauce. Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Ricotta. Lots of extra fennel thrown in. Layers of fresh spinach cooked in. Man – it just makes my mouth water thinking about it.

Food never Lasts

So when we think about what we hunger for, the obvious answers is always food. Every few hours we want to eat something. If you are rich, you still get hungry at meal times.  And I’ve read of people who are very, very poor, where hunger is described like an ache in their belly that never goes away.

Regardless, hunger for food is a constant in each and everyone of your lives. And no matter how much we eat at any meal, it never lasts.  We always long for more to eat.

Loaves to get Attention

Jesus said to those people who followed him “you are looking for me not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5000, not because it was paramount for him to provide food, but because He knew that feeding them would get their attention. Just like the smell of KFC or of Lasagne grabs your attention, Jesus wanted to grab their attention long enough that he could teach them about what they really needed in their lives.

Looking for Jesus

This is really what Jesus wants from us.  He wants our attention.  He wants us to be looking for Him. But this search should not be something that happens and when we find Jesus, we move on to the next thing.  Jesus wants us to hunger for Him and His word. He wants us to have that ache in our belly to know more about His teachings. Just like after a meal, we might be satisfied for a short time, we know we will soon enough get hungry again. And truly, how terrible would it be if after I ate Lasagne, I was forever full – never to be hungry again?

We should think of Jesus’ teachings a bit like this. Every lesson we learn about His word, we might have our spiritual hunger satisfied for a short time. Hopefully, after Church, you think about the teachings a bit and let it percolate in your brain.  Hopefully – sometimes it gives you a few “ah-ha” moments where it brings you closer to a better understanding of your faith. But what Jesus wants is that we are hungry for His word the next time we go to church.  And the next time we learn more about God. And the next. and the next. There is so much to learn from the Word of God, that we can never be filled.

Food that Forever Lasts

So what do we make out of this last sentence in the said by Jesus? “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Unlike hunger for food and hunger for learning, Jesus is speaking about the big hole in our lives. The hunger and the thirst in each of us that only the divine God can fill it.  This hole is where we need God to dwell personally with us. This is where we hunger for meaning for our lives and thirst for a connection to something bigger than our lives.  This something is God – Jesus, God in human form. He is the bread of life, whose sacrifice for our sins gives eternal meaning to our lives and provides us with a personal connection with the Father. Jesus is the answer to filling this emptiness that we hunger and thirst for.

Posted in Kids Sermon | Leave a comment