Category: Sunday Sermons

Clear and Present Danger

Sunday Sermon 4.10.21

Our title phrase came from the American Sedition Act of 1918 and not the 1994 movie with Harrison Ford that may have first came to your mind. However, it vividly describes our current situation in the world today.

When the phrase was first used, it ultimately was viewed as the government overstepping its bounds of First Amendment freedoms. Again I say, that vividly describes our current situation in the world today.

But this blog today, is our weekly Sunday sermon, why the “political” opening?

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the churches and believers in Rome wrote these concerning words –

” And now, dear brothers and sisters, I’d like to give you one final word of caution: Watch out for those who cause divisions and offenses among you. When they antagonize you by speaking of things that are contrary to the teachings that you’ve received, don’t be caught in their snare!”

Romans 16:17 – TPT

In the midst of the huge Roman Empire and its extensive influence and power, Paul was warning believers to WATCH OUT for the clear and very present danger of divisions, offenses, antagonizing words and tearing down of valued teachings. Again, I say, doesn’t this vividly describe our current situation?

It is vital for us to be on guard and watch out for those things that cause divisions. From every corner of our society, we see and hear the evidences of a divided nation. The Greek word used here for divisions means, “dissension, division and sedition”. It would not take long to list those things that are causing us dissension, division and sedition, would it?

But we are told to watch out for them. In other words, according to the Greek, “take aim at them”, to shoot them down! Don’t swallow them, accept them or promote them. Watch for them as a spy (the original meaning) and take them down!

In addition, we are to watch out for offenses (TPT) or obstacles (NIV) that are put in our way. The picture is clear, someone or some thing has put a K-rail, an obstacle in front of us to stop our forward motion. This not only serves as a divider, but also as a barrier to make us stop. Paul is emotionally urging believers to be on guard for such things!

What is the barrier trying to stop? What forward momentum is being pressed against?

Paul’s words, “obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching that you have learned.” NIV

Well, what have I learned? What values was I taught from childhood and onward as I grew? Here are 20 things that immediately came to mind:

  • God loves everyone the same
  • color of your skin doesn’t make anyone better than another
  • respect authority
  • hard work pays off
  • nations have laws to obey
  • obeying laws is right
  • all people are flawed
  • everyone’s voice matters
  • don’t quit
  • money isn’t everything
  • relationships matter
  • choices have consequences
  • be truthful
  • there is good and evil
  • character counts
  • I am responsible for my actions
  • don’t follow the crowd
  • America is a great nation
  • America was founded on noble values
  • in a republic, the voters make policy

What values have you been taught?

Is it possible that there are obstacles being put in place to stop the advancement of these?

Geesh! We could list all kinds of moral values, religious values, human values. What about American, constitutional republic values? There are all kinds of things and values that we have been taught.

Paul is urging believers to KEEP AWAY FROM THESE OBSTACLES! Don’t allow them to stop what you have been taught. Don’t allow the K-rails to derail truth.

Here are some Godly truths that we have been taught: (or I hope we have been taught)

  • In the beginning God created
  • God created male and female in His image
  • God is no respecter of persons
  • God is love
  • God gave His son for our redemption
  • God does not condemn
  • We are all sinners
  • We have eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ

These truths put us all on a level playing field. Therefore, it is altogether fitting for us to say “we are all created equal” because equality comes from God and not man. Wasn’t that the cry of Dr. King?

1 Corinthians 1:9-10 tells us to keep yourself steady and strong. Live in unity with one another and put to rest any division that attempts to tear you apart.

2 Samuel 23:10,12 reminds us of 2 different men who STOOD THEIR GROUND and to whom God brought a great victory.

The clear and present danger we are facing is one that is seeking to divide us and get us to abandon the things that we have been taught.

Humans are designed for change. America is equipped to change. But the kind of change we allow is up to us.

Are we willing to stand our ground and “fight” for the values that matter to us? Or are we too lazy to confront those enemies that are attacking the very values our life is built upon? This is an urgent cry! Not only from the elder statesman – Paul, but from the call of the Spirit.

This is a very clear and present danger to you, in your sphere of influence.

You have been taught about your rights as a citizen. You have been taught of your rights as a believer. What are you allowing to stand in the way of the forward advancement of those? What will you allow to divide you from another human?

One of the characters from 2 Samuel 23, Eleazar, fought so hard to defend his territory that his hand froze to his sword. He didn’t stop until the job was done, victory won and his hand had to be pried from his sword. Will we stand against the antagonization, against being silenced and cancelled until our Sword has to be pried from our hand? Will we allow the roadblocks to stop the advancement of what we have learned?

I believe we must stand our ground to see these values and truths not be lost, watered down, removed, or devalued. It is incumbent upon us to be on guard for divisions and obstacles and “fight” against them, just as unyielding as Eleazar.

In 1967, vandals broke into the Capitol building and slashed along the bottom canvas of the 20 x 30 foot oil painting called, “Signing of the Constitution”. It was subsequently removed and repaired in 1968 and eventually returned to the Capitol where it continues to hang.

In my humble opinion, I see what happened to that historical painting in 1967 as a foreshadowing of what is happening now to and in our nation and its constitution. Attempts are being made to slash away at it, damage it, and remove it.

The cornerstones of that document, free speech, free exercise of religion and freedom of the press are being slashed. K-rails are being installed to keep these things that we have learned from advancing. Obstacles have been placed in our way causing divisions and antagonizing speech has been leveled incessantly at those who hold to such values.

Scriptures calls to us to WATCH OUT. KEEP AWAY FROM THEM (such things), because there is a clear and present danger for all of us. BEWARE.

Scriptures calls for us to keep steady and strong against all forces that seek to bring division and tear us apart. Scripture empowers us to “fight the good fight of faith”. Scripture warns us of such a clear and present danger.

Will you heed the call? Will you “fight” for what you have learned?

I pray you will and are…

Go with God.

Convincing Proofs

Easter Sunday Sermon 4.3.21

Happy Easter!

There are many instances when believers must trust and have faith- you know, that tangible substance of something unseen.

But the resurrection of Jesus is not one of those instances; for we have more details, and historical evidence regarding the few days before and after Jesus’ death and resurrection than any other figure in ancient history.

“On this, the greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith alone, for there exists overwhelming evidence, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring a verdict that the resurrection story is true.” Former Chief Justice of England, Lord Darling.

Jesus death and resurrection stands with historical factuality, not faith alone.

Luke, one of the disciples wrote of these facts and evidence –

” Dear friend, I am writing for you, … an orderly account of what Jesus, the Anointed One accomplished and fulfilled among us. Several eyewitness biographies have already been written, using as their source material the good news preached among us by his early disciples, who became loving servants of the Living Expression (Jesus).

But now I am passing on to you this accurate compilation of my own meticulous investigation based on numerous interviews and thorough research of the story of his life. It is appropriate for me to write this, for he also appeared to me so that I would assure you beyond any shadow of a doubt the reliability of all you have been taught of him.”

Luke, the Physician, disciple of Jesus, chapter 1, verses 1-4

The NIV translation puts that last phrase this way – “so that you may know the certainty of the things that you have been taught.”

Luke, the doctor in Jesus discipleship group, was a detailed historian who documented the events of Jesus’ life and left them for us in the gospel that bears his name.

Additionally, he documented the events of Jesus resurrection, ascension and the day of Pentecost when the disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit and Jerusalem was rocked by that power. We find those complete details in The Acts of the Apostles, yet another book that he wrote.

As he states, his writing is based on his own first hand, eyewitness experiences, his interviews with other eyewitnesses, and his own thorough research and investigation of primary sources. The man was there and interviewed others who were also there. They are primary sources.

Luke is telling us that we can be absolutely certain, beyond any shadow of a doubt that Jesus’ death and resurrection really happened!

“After His suffering he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”

Acts 1:3

It is important to note that in this text, Luke is using a legal term (in the Greek), that is the strongest type of legal evidence; he is making a legal declaration of convincing proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ; implying the weight of evidence in a trail to prove a case.

But we need not take only his word as convincing evidence, please consider these documented, primary sources, who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection:

  • Mary Jn. 20:16, 18
  • other women Jn. 20:9-10
  • Disciples Jn. 20:19
  • Thomas Jn. 20:24
  • 2 men on the road Mk. 16:12-13
  • Peter Lk. 24:34
  • 7 fishermen Jn. 21:1-23
  • 500 eyewitnesses 1 Cor. 15:6
  • James 1 Cor. 15:7
  • Stephen Acts 7:55
  • Paul Acts 9:5
  • John Rev. 1:10

Again, not just the empty tomb, but the actual, physical body of Jesus was seen by hundreds of people in the days following his resurrection. Firsthand, eyewitness accounts, people who spoke with him, ate with him, and watched him ascend that invisible escalator into heaven. They were staring at him, wide mouthed and in awe when the angels said to them,

“Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way.”

Acts 1:11

On this Easter, 2021, know for certain that Jesus really, actually did die and come to life after three days – JUST AS HE SAID HE WOULD. You can be certain, beyond any doubt.

The importance of the physical resurrection of Jesus is paramount to Christianity. Jesus pointed in advance to his bodily resurrection, he foretold it would happen. John 2:19 – “Destroy this temple (his body) and in three days I will raise it up.”

Dr. Norman Geisler says, ” if Christ did not raise in the same physical body, then the resurrection loses its value as evidence of proof of his claim to be God.” Jn. 8:58; 10:30

If Jesus resurrection is not historic fact then the power over death remains unbroken, sin is not atoned for and we are without hope.

But because the resurrection is an event in history, we have new life and hope in this life and the one yet to come. Consider these factual and historic events:

  • Jesus was an actual man that lived with family and friends for over 30 years
  • Pontius Pilate literally sentenced Jesus to death
  • Jesus was killed by crucifixion
  • Jesus was placed in Joseph’s literal tomb and wrapped in grave clothes
  • his followers were dejected
  • a stone, large enough to be rolled by 20 men was placed in front of the entrance
  • the seal on the tomb was the imperial seal of the Roman government and was witnessed and affixed by the guards
  • the guards themselves (10-30 of them) were trained in military discipline and punishment for quitting a post was death
  • the disciples went their way
  • the tomb was found empty
  • the grave clothes were folded and left in the tomb
  • the seal had been broken
  • the guards were dishonored
  • the disciples were elated
  • post resurrection appearances to hundreds as listed above
  • transformed lives through over 2,000 years
  • establishment of the Christian church
  • establishment of Sunday services
  • establishments of sacraments like, Communion, and baptism
  • the martyrdom of most of the disciples (why if Jesus hadn’t been raised?)
  • the martyrdom of thousands of Christians through the ages

Each of these are actual, and real historical events. Each speaks to the tangible evidence of Jesus resurrection. Each provide for us convincing truths and undeniable evidence that what Jesus promised came to pass and if that be the case for his resurrection, He can and should be believed in all other matters.

Interestingly, Christianity as one of the four major religions based on personalities rather than philosophies, is the only one that claims an empty tomb for its founder.

Judiasm – Abraham has no resurrection claims

Buddhism – the Mahaparinibbana Sutta tells of Buddha’s death with utter finality

Mohammad – the Pali tells us that he died June 8, 632 AD at the age of 61 at Medina

Christianity – Jesus tomb is empty

It is safe to declare that without Jesus’ bodily resurrection there would be no Christianity. Christianity in fact hinges on the belief in Jesus resurrection. This fact, this hinge is solid and completely supported by evidence that would stand in a court of law. Your belief in Jesus’ resurrection need not be in faith and trust alone.

In fact, (without all the detail that excites me), we can say to those who doubt the historical accuracy and dependability of the New Testament as our source that they are totally misinformed! Here are the facts:

  • ancient literature’s authenticity is tested by 3 basic principles, 3 criteria
    • bibliographical test – how many and how reliable are the manuscript copies
    • internal evidence test – does the document support itself from within
    • external evidence test – does external evidence support the document
  • the bible when tested by these same criteria stands head and shoulders above every other ancient work, including Homer’s Iliad
  • Iliad has 643 manuscript copies with a 400 year gap between the original and the first copies
  • The New Testament has 5,366 copies with a 225 year time gap between the original and its first copies

Plato’s writings have only 7 copies over a 1,300 year gap, and Pliny the Younger 7 copies with over 750 years as the time gap.

What does this tell us?

Scholars accept the trustworthiness of these ancient classics that were copied long after the original, therefore it is clear that the New Testament’s reliability is overwhelmingly sufficient and can be rendered authentic. The sheer volume of manuscripts alone would be enough to provide convincing proof but that coupled with the short gap between author and copies is a total “drop the mic” statement.

You can stand confidently, without any doubt that your New Testament is reliable, historical and factually accurate. The evidence presented by the circumstances and the primary sources, the manuscripts, and the criteria for testing ancient documents all point to CONVINCING PROOFS of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.

You can be certain of the things that you have been taught.

We have presented you with many convincing proofs so you can celebrate His resurrection with renewed assurance, enthusiasm and conviction.

He is Risen indeed! Happy Easter.

Go with God.

Palms, Cloaks and Artichokes

Sunday Sermon, Palm Sunday, 3.27.21

Nearly 2,000 years ago, as hundreds of thousands of travelers gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, Jesus Christ entered the city, riding on a donkey, as the victorious King of the Jews. The crowds shouted, “Hail to the King”, “Hosanna”, and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” as they waved palm branches they had cut down and carpeted the road with their cloaks.

This is recorded in all four of the Gospels in the New Testament. Without exception the crowds are characterized by waving palm branches and spreading their garments on the donkey and on the road along the procession. With passionate shouts they hailed Jesus the victorious one who they hoped would save them from Roman oppression.

In their celebration some preceded the Christ with palms and cloaks and shouts of praise while others followed in the same manner, with palms and cloaks and shouts of praise.

Here were men and women, removing not only branches from the palm trees but also their garments. Yes, their outer garments, but they willingly removed their cloak, or robe – perhaps the only clothing they owned, to pay honor and respect to Jesus Christ.

These crowds as participants in the processional, recognized who Jesus was. They acknowledged who he was with their ruckus praise and extravagant expressions. They realized this coming king was coming to bring God’s kingdom influence. They waved their palm branches in approval symbolizing His goodness, victory, joy and triumph.

The removal of their cloak too, was an expression of highest regard for Jesus Christ. This left them exposed and uncovered their lowly state. This removed their layered defenses and protections and left them with little to hide behind.

They had shed what people see in order to honor Jesus Christ and they chose to wave a palm branch as a sign of surrender to the victorious One.

This Holy Week, as we again reflect on Palm Sunday, (Good Friday and Easter,) what can be gleaned from it? We should ask ourselves these things, we should recount the events, and reconsider the fresh impact on our life. These stories are for us, for today. They have value for our everyday living, and are not just ancient history and outdated, irrelevant events.

So I offer you this, an artichoke.

Consider this thistle that we cultivate for a yummy food; it’s edible portion is the fleshy section at the base of the leaves and heart or choke at the center. Dip the leaves in butter, place in your mouth, scrape down with your teeth to remove the flesh, discard the empty leaf and start again.

Over and over and over again leaves are removed, layers peeled away, flesh is torn, and sustenance gained until the heart is revealed.

That artichoke is like those people on Palm Sunday. Like us today.

By removing their cloaks, they were peeling away at those layers that people see, their outer leaves if you will, and revealing their heart. What covers us, our cloaks must be removed, our fleshly ways must be shed to expose our heart.

Those things that we cover ourselves with and hide behind must be shed before we can join Jesus’ victorious parade. As we shed those “leaves”, a layer at a time, our heart too is laid bare and exposed, and there He finds joy in the true expressions of our heart and brings victory, joy, goodness and triumph to us.

We are living in a season of exposing the heart. He is wanting to reveal the heart of the issue, the heart of the problem, the heart of man. He is peeling away layer after layer, leaf after leaf, removing flesh and exposing the heart. Revealing what is hidden behind layers of defenses, cover ups and artificial protections.

He is revealing the heart of praise, the heart of abandon to Him, the heart of devoted passion and extravagant worship. The heart that doesn’t care what man sees, because that heart is all about reverence to the victorious king.

The heart that openly and publicly honors Him above all, lavishing praise, glory and respect to the King.

So you see, that first Palm Sunday crowd, you and artichokes share a thing or two.

I’ve heard said that God peels away at us a layer at a time, like an onion.

I submit a better analogy may be He peels away a layer at a time like an artichoke, because He wants to reveal our heart.

So, Happy Palm Sunday, and don’t forget the palms, cloaks and artichokes…

Go with God.

What do you do when you’re displeased?

Sunday Sermon 3.20.21

First off, you probably don’t even use the word, “displeased”, right? For those of you that do, KUDOS! You get a gold star in Vocabulary for the day

Although not difficult to figure out, here is it’s meaning –

“feeling or showing annoyance and displeasure.”

Oxford disctionary

This is the biblical text that got me evaluating what I do when I am displeased –

But when they said, ” Give us a king to lead us, this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.”

1 Samuel 8:6

Other translations put it this way –

“Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance.”

NLT

” When Samuel heard their demand … he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.”

The Message paraphrase

” And the thing was evil in the eyes of Samuel… and he prayed to the Lord.”

The Septuagint

When I read it again this past week, I seriously thought, “Wow! Without the slightest hesitation, when Samuel was displeased, He prayed.” And of course, I began evaluating myself and my first reactions and responses. If we’re keeping score here, Samuel wins this one over me! How ’bout you? What’s your first response when you are displeased?

The Hebrew meanings of these words about Samuel’s response actually mean that he was “broken up, with an expected violent reaction. Figuratively, fear.” In other words, Samuel was so upset with what was happening, it broke him up, He was truly ticked off and in fear.

For Samuel, he was dealing with a political situation. He was the leader of the nation of Israel, and the people were now asking to have a king, “like all the other nations”. Israel had never had a king because The Lord, Jehovah wanted to be their king. But here the people were asking to be like every other nation. They wanted a king.

This is what caused Samuel such displeasure. He couldn’t believe that the Israelites were turning their backs on Jehovah God and denying His authority over them. This tore him up, and in fact it caused him fear. He was afraid for the nation. He was afraid for what it would become apart from God. He was afraid of what would become of it. He feared for the nation.

What do YOU do when you are displeased?

Without missing a step, we see Samuel taking his whole load of displeasure in prayer to the Lord. It’s like it was his go to, basketball pivot – receive displeasure = pivot and go to prayer. As quick and smooth as a Kobe move, receive the hit pivot to prayer.

I am not quite that quick. Kobe’s pivot picture makes me a laughingstock.

The truth here is this. Our displeasure, whatever the cause, can and should be taken to the Lord in prayer.

Whether it’s a displeasure that crushes us or a displeasure that incites fear within us. Be it a displeasure that angers us or confounds us, pivot and take it to the Lord in prayer.

Other choices are to let that displeasure out on another person, or to allow the anger to simmer and boil over into other areas of our life. Or maybe do or buy something stupid, or simply throw up your hands and succomb.

We do have other options for how we handle our displeasure.

But today, this is a spiritual and biblical blog, therefore the option we advise is prayer.

Samuel, in his hurt, questioning, and fear, took it all and poured it out in prayer to the Lord.

What does that mean?

Prayer is simply talking to the Lord. There are alot of different kinds of prayers, but here’s what the Bible says:

” Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. “

Ephesians 6:18

” Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2

So, we can pray for any reason, on any occasion. We can talk to God anytime, anywhere, for any reason.

But what Samuel did, his kind of prayer was a little different. His prayers actually intervened for Israel, By that, I mean, His prayers stood in the gap for Israel. Israel was on one side of the valley and God was on the other side of that valley. Samuel’s prayers made a bridge, across that valley, and connected Israel with God. He literally intervened to connect Israel with God again.

That is called intercession, when one intervenes in a relationship to bring two together.

Isn’t that what Jesus did?

He came to earth to bridge the gap between God and man. He interceded. That is why the scripture says,

“… Christ Jesus who died is at he right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

Romans 8:34

Jesus threw himself across that chasm between God and man at the cross. He intervened.

Samuel did similarly. Confounded at Israel’s choices and stubborn refusal to follow God’s ways, afraid for what lay ahead for them, he threw himself between God and Israel in prayer. In his displeasure he immediately pivoted to prayer. Intervening for them all. Standing in the gap for the nation. EVEN THO’ HE WAS DISPLEASED.

Are we any different from Samuel? 2,950 years have passed since he prayed in his displeasure for Israel.

Undoubtedly you have faced displeasure over something recently in your life. If not, Hallelujah. Be prepared tho’, it is coming, because that is the way of life. That displeasure is meant to draw you into a place of prayer with the Lord. A place of interceding for others, intervening on their behalf to the Lord.

You don’t have to be a great spiritual leader or pastor to intercede; all you have to do is lift up that one to God in prayer. Stand before God, in prayer, on their behalf. Stand in the gap for them. Create that bridge across that valley for them.

You can intercede for another. You can make a difference. Your prayers matter. The one you’re praying for needs your prayers and the Lord will hear your prayers. Whether it be for an individual, a family or a nation. Do not hesitate to pray, intervene and intercede. Do not hesitate to pivot and pray.

In your displeasure – pray.

Go with God.

I Am Your Oasis

Sunday Sermon 3.13.21

This is the route you’ve chosen, mile after mile of hot, dry desert sand carrying a heavy load bundled on your back or beast. Water and provisions are low, strength is vanishing, and no relief is in sight. No oasis is near.

Scattered over these Saharan desert sands are over 90 major oasis and for the largest desert in the world (about the size of the continental US), that means traveling between them will take days. Merchants and traders make the trip totally dependent on the promise of replenishment and rest that the oases provide.

An oasis is a fertile area that has a freshwater source, surrounded by a dry and arid region. They are irrigated by natural springs underground and vary in size from a small cluster of palm trees to a city with crops. Visible above ground, are date palms and other lush vegetation. Dates, cotton, olives, figs fruits and corn are commonly found in oases. In some places full cities reside in them with hotels.

The underground water sources are called “aquifers”. Sometimes a manmade well is dug to tap the aquifer and will provide more water for the city. In many settlements, the wells have been flowing and maintained for generations and centuries.

Oases became important stops along trade routes through many countries of the world. Some of the most beautiful ones are in Egypt, Israel, Brazil, Niger, China, Peru, Libya and Tunisia. Even the United States cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Palm Springs could be considered outgrowths of Westward expansion and merchants traveling along the oasis route. (The oasis outside of Palm Springs is still there, I took my son once.)

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I am gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”

Matthew 11:28-30 TPT

It is easy to visualize these verses in light of our oasis construct, isn’t it?

Jesus was speaking to weary travelers who were burdened with their loads from life. His offer, come to me, I am your oasis.

This is the only time in scripture where Jesus says, “Come to me”. Often He said, “Come after me”, or “Come follow me”, but only in this context does He say, simply, “Come to me”. The message is clear. He recognizes the fatigue, hard work, and heavy load of the listener. Nothing else is needed at this time, only rest, refreshment and replenishment. Coming to Him, The oasis, will provide just that. It’s that easy, and He knows it.

In Him we find rest. In Him we are refreshed. In Him we are resupplied to carry on. We are free to travel on when we are ready.

Although this is a temporary rest stop, He offers more than a temporary seat, He offers permanent rest for our raging soul.

A permanent supply is promised when we join our life with His. The picture Matthew gives us is one of taking on a yoke, and stepping into the yoke with Him. Living in the place of being teamed up with Jesus in all we do. Learning His ways and listening to his direction as we walk together in the yoke.

The work is not the only focus, it is the union with Jesus.

United with Him we learn and begin to understand that He is gentle and easy to please. He doesn’t get all worked up or stressed out. He doesn’t freak out. He is peaceful, kind and humble. Yoked together with Him, we learn these traits too. Our thoughts and feelings begin to change as we learn His ways.

When we lean on our own understanding, it hurts, we feel the rub. We are aware He is not leading or leaning that way. We lean His way and find it easy.

It is from this union with Jesus that we find a permanent rest for our soul, not just a refreshing drink. A fountain flowing from deep underground, a spiritual aquifer for all time and every generation. The best thirst quencher and big gulp ever. Imagine having a spiritual aquifer attached to your big gulp cup, anytime you need refreshing. (minus the calories and sugar even)

This is the route you’ve chosen, mile after mile of hot, dry desert sand carrying a heavy load bundled on your back or beast. Water and provisions are low, strength is vanishing, and RELIEF IS IN SIGHT. I see The oasis!

Stop. Unload your burden. Rest. Drink deeply from The oasis.

Realign your yoke as needed. For some, you need to step into it and team up with Jesus. Join forces with the Maker of the Universe. What a deal!

A temporary resting spot or permanent rest and refreshing is yours, because Jesus said, “I am your oasis.”

Drink deeply.

Go with God.

Healing From What We Are Harboring

Sunday Sermon 3.6.21

Recently in my reading, I was struck with a phrase that has been reverberating through my spirit, mind and soul. It was this:

Because you harbored an ancient hostility…”

Ezekiel, the Prophet, chapter 35 verse 5

Other renderings put the same phrase this way –

  • because you kept this age-old grudge. The Message
  • because you kept eternal hatred. NLT
  • because you cherished perpetual enmity. ESV
  • because you maintained perpetual hatred. CSB

The challenge to me was to inspect within myself, those areas that may be harboring any type of grudge, resentment, or bitterness; those unresolved, concealed or secret hurts, or offenses. God was calling me to identify them for what they are – hurts, painful events, and to let them go by allowing Him to uproot their poisonous taproot of resentment and bitterness.

I believe this same experience is what He would have for all of us. He is wanting to completely heal us of all of our grudges, bitterness and resentment. He wants us to be whole and unhindered by negative, past feelings, memories and experiences. Letting go of the anger, bitterness, hurt and pain of the past allows us to focus on the present.

“When we hold on to grudges and resentment, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.”

Piedmont Healthcare, Angela Buttimer MS, NCC, RYT, CPC

In the book of Hebrews, we find this very same issue being addressed:

“Make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many.”

Hebrews 12:15 TPT

The Apostle Paul adds this piece of insight to this whole issue of anger, bitterness, resentment and grudges:

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV

It is apparent that unresolved anger leads to poisonous roots growing in our heart, and yields a place for the devil with his toolbox of sins to grow.

One last quote and then we will look at a story.

James, the brother of Jesus, who wrote the book of James, and also knew a thing or two about envy, and selfish ambition left us this piece of wisdom: (geesh, can you imagine dealing with the envy, bitterness, resentment, and misunderstanding in this home between these brothers??!)

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts….such wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, demonic…”

James 3:14 NIV

All of us have had conflicts from which grudges have grown. Those grudges sorta become our consolation prize- we were wronged and now we get a grudge. It seems to serve as a way to compensate for our negative feelings.

A perfect example of this is found in the story to which Ezekiel was referring in our opening statement about harboring ancient hostility.

The story begins in Genesis 25, where we see Rebekah about to give birth to twin boys who we now know as Esau and Jacob.

Even from the womb these boys were jostling, wrestling and competing. Gen. 25:22 As they grew, they developed very different likes and lifestyles. Esau was an outdoors, hunter kinda guy, while Jacob was a stay at home, cooking in the kitchen type. Esau and his Dad were close, Jacob and his Mom were close. Gen. 25:27

The first glimpse we have of growing tension between Esau and Jacob is when Esau comes in from a long and exhausting hunt and is famished. Cooking in the kitchen, is guess who? Yep, Jacob. Esau asks Jacob for some of his yummy, red, stew, so Jacob finagles a deal – food for your first-born birthright. Esau easily caves and swears an oath to Jacob, stew for my birthright. Genesis 25:34 says that Esau hated his birthright.

Esau had given up his firstborn position in the family. Some would say Jacob tricked Esau out of it. What do you think?

Either way or both ways, Jacob was now considered the firstborn son with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. And so it begins, the grudge holding, bitterness and resentment.

Some years later, when Isaac, Esau’s dad was old and blind, he asked Esau to hunt him some game and prepare him a meal, because it was time for Isaac to pronounce his Fatherly blessing on his son. Overhearing this request, Rebekah called for Jacob and told him to fix up Dad’s favorite venison meal. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob was cooking in the kitchen.

Making a long story short, Jacob and Rebekah hatched a plan that worked and one in which the Father’s firstborn blessing would be pronounced upon, you guessed it – Jacob!

When Esau returned to Dad and heard that Dad’s blessing had been given to Jacob, all were shocked and surprised! This was not a happy family. Esau’s grudge was now exploding and all of his pent up anger, bitterness, resentment came cascading from his lips and life. Jacob was gonna be toast if Esau had his way. This was no small grudge anymore, this was a pot boiling over with hatred, hurt and blame.

“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Genesis 27:41

When Rebekah realizes the depth of Esau’s anger and seriousness of his threats she arranges for Jacob to steal away and live with her brother in a distant city “…for a while, until your brother’s fury subsides… when your brother is no longer angry…and when he forgets…” Gen. 27:42-45

Pausing here, we can see clearly that Esau is harboring hostility toward his twin. Who knows how many years these wounds had been festering and infecting Esau and his relationships with his family members, as well as others that he related with.

It is no secret that holding onto grudges and negative feelings affects your health and your relationships with others. In fact, as you play over and over those negative, wounding, bitter memories, your brain doesn’t know what is real and what is imagined, so your body reacts as if you are having the same experience over and over.

“Living in this chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increases inflammation and the stress hormone – cortisol.”

Piedmont Healthcare

Esau was in a very unhealthy state. His blood pressure was elevated and he was now at risk for heart disease. His prolonged feelings of resentment were also impacting his metabolism, immune response and organ function. He was probably even dealing with symptoms of depression and anxiety. (Facts from Neurocore)

Esau’s choice to harbor hostility was certainly not a safe harbor.

What Esau harbored during all those years growing up and following Jacob’s departure to Uncle Laban’s, ate away at not only himself, but he passed it on to his descendants, his sons, grandsons, and eventually to all of his ancestry. His offspring through time became the kingdom of Edom. In the kingdom of Edom, each had been programmed with the ancient stories of Grandpa Esau (or Great Granddad Esau, etc.). They were well versed in what happened between Grandpa Esau and Uncle Jacob. They all knew about the loss of the birthright and the blessing. They all had learned to:

“harbor an ancient hostility…”

Ezekiel 35:5

Although Jacob and Esau’s grudge holding match lasted twenty years, (which to me is a long and serious grudge) before they reunited with gifts, tears, humility, hugs and favor; (Gen. 33) the affects of that grudge on their family was centuries long!

It is quite scary to think that as a parent, my unresolved grudges as well as my resolved grudges impact my family. They have heard stories, seen reactions, and formed opinions. They have partaken of my poisonous resentment. Even after I resolve with that family member, the root of bitterness has been planted in them.

Additionally, that twenty year period of my grudge holding (or whatever the length of time in your life) has allowed the taproot of bitterness, anger, resentment, blaming, hatred, anger and hostility to sprout and even blossom. The poison has permeated my life, my thoughts, perspective, and relationships. What I have been harboring needs healing and uprooting.

That infection in you, God wants to heal. That sensitive area that you guard is what He seeks to puncture and drain. Those inflamed emotions and memories, He will restore to health.

God has the cure for what you are harboring.

In releasing it to Him, you are not excusing anyone’s behavior and you may not forget what happened, but it will break its hold on your life. Then you and the Lord will face that pain and walk through it together. He will empower you to live a life free of poisonous grudges and bitterness. He will free you from those ancient hostilities.

He will provide full healing for what you are harboring.

Go with God.

Set

Sunday Sermon 2.27.21

Seized through the night with this word “set”, I awoke, pondering, reflecting and eventually investigating it more deeply. So let me begin by asking you, the same way I began, in what ways do we use the word set? Go ahead, think about it and begin your mental list. DON’T READ ON ’til you’re finished, k?

cement setting

Here are my “set” phrases and uses:

  • you set stones
  • in volleyball you set the ball
  • racers get set for a race
  • cement sets
  • jello sets
  • as do other desserts and foods
  • prisoners are set free
  • you can set your heart (or face) on something
  • decision, plans are set
  • broken bones are set
  • sails on a boat are set
  • then I went to the dictionary…..

How did you do? Wish I could hear your list.

That word, as you guessed is our focus today, because it is the call of the Spirit to you and me and everyone else on the planet. Seriously, everyone.

What is it that we have set our hearts on?

This setting represents a locking in on, fixing on; like a broken bone or ring setting; similar to jello but stronger and more permanent, like cement.

Set” is used 695 times in the Bible and is interesting in each setting, but in the form that we are using it, let me share this powerful verse.

  • Isaiah 50:7 – because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like a flint and I know I will not be put to shame.

In Isaiah’s image here, we have a picture of someone who, supported by the help and power of the Lord, has lasered their focus and cemented their course, as hard and sharp as the flint rock, and will not be deterred! Nothing is going to distract them, pull their focus or sidetrack them. Their face and heart is SET. Period.

It is worth mentioning that flint is a hard rock used to make hammers, chisels and knives. It is also used to start fires, because when flint hits a piece of steel or another hard object it produces sparks.

flint

So, to set your face like flint honestly means, that no matter the hard opposition in front of me, I am firm in my resolve and let the sparks fly, I am flint! The Lord is helping me and I am set, focused on Him.

Daniel set his heart, too. Scripture tells us that he “purposed in his heart”. This is the same type of setting your heart that we are discussing here. Other situations where setting occurs are:

  • Jacob set his pillow (where he dreamed of angels on a ladder) as a altar (of commitment and remembrance)
  • Moses set the laws before them
  • The serpent was set on a pole for all to look at for healing
  • Israel was to set their heart on all of His words
  • The Lord set a plumb line among His people

The call of the Spirit throughout history has been for a people to set their heart on the Almighty Jehovah. To set their faces toward Him, His Words and His ways. To set their desires on Him, to set their hope in Him and to set themselves like flint, immovable and firm on God, no matter what.

I find in interesting that the last Old Testament verse using our word “set” is in Amos 7:8:

“And the Lord asked me, “What do you see Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

Amos- the prophet

A plumb line is a measuring device used by builders to assure the wall is perfectly vertical, and is at maximum load bearing capacity.

plumb line on a wall

So the Old Testament closes with the Lord’s challenge that He is setting a measuring device up, and he is now measuring just how vertical related His people are and if they are able to bear His load, weight, and yoke.

Why?

Because the New Testament begins with the setting of a city on a hill.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid”

Matthew 5:14

Jesus’ coming to the world, brought light, life and the plumb line to bring us into vertical alignment with the work of the Spirit here on earth. He wastes no time, for in Matthew 25, he does this –

“He will set the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.”

Jesus, teaching the parables

Let’s regroup. The question is, what is your heart set on? It is being measured, the plumb line is hanging beside us revealing our vertical connection and setting.

Scripture is clear there will be those who’s heart is set on abominable things, committed to idols, and have not set their heart on God. There will be those who actually set their face against God, and set themselves to worship at shameful altars. In those cases, scripture is also clear, that He (God) will set His face against them. THAT is a fearful place to find yourself in.

I believe we are living in the days of preparation. Kinda the “Ready, Set, Go” days. The Spirit of God is calling us to ready ourselves, measure ourselves, judge ourselves, and to get SET. Set our hearts on Him and His Kingdom alone, set our faces like flint, immovable and with sparks! It is time to check what our hearts and faces are actually cemented, set on. If it is anything other that Him, if we don’t change, judgment is coming. Time are shortening. The plumb line is speaking and we must check our set.

Digest these truths about our set, its purpose and power:

  • Acts 13:9 – the Holy Spirit set his eyes on him and said come out of him you child of the devil
  • Acts 13:47 – He has set you to be a light and to bring salvation to the world
  • Colossians 3:2 – set your affections on things above not on earthly things
  • Hebrews 6:18 – take hold of the hope set before us
  • Hebrews 12:1 – let us run the race set out before us
  • Revelation 3:8 – He has set before us an open door
  • Revelation 4:2 – there is a throne set in heaven

The Lord wants people’s hearts set on Him. Not because He is an egomaniac, but because He loves them and always has their best interests on His heart. He alone can bring the lasting happiness and fulfillment they each seek. He also wants no one to perish. He wants all to be included in His eternal home in heaven around His throne.

These are serious, spiritual introspection and evaluation days.

Check your set. What is your heart set on?

He wants you to be set on Him.

Go with God.

Transformed

Sunday Sermon 2.6.21

No, not the amazing story of Remi Adeleke and his unlikely path to becoming a Navy Seal. (although it is worth the read, 2019), and definitely not pertaining to alien pods arriving in Hong Kong as portrayed in the 2017 movie.

Sorry, Chris Brown, this is not about your song “Transform Ya”, nor a spin off of Michael Bay’s movie franchise “Transformers”, either.

Transformed, it’s what is expected of believers, those choosing to walk with Jesus. Transformed, it is what happens to make a lowly grasshopper into a powerful swarm of locusts. Let’s put them together to get a picture of what could be happening in these days in the lives of those who are pressing into what God is doing. They are being transformed.

God’s Word is clear that if any person is “in Christ”, that is, wrapped in His love and forgiven of their sin, that person is a new creation. They are still human, of course, but they are now a spiritual creation not just a physical creation. They are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone and the new is come. 2 Cor. 5:17

The Word further tells us, that the new creation involves a transformation, one in which our mind is transformed, our thoughts and worldview is changed. Rom. 12:2

Keep reading- the grasshopper, locust part is coming up and very cool.

It is clear throughout the Word that Christians (those in Christ) are expected to grow, change, and mature in their relationship with Jesus. We become born again, start like babies, but then need to grow up to spiritual adulthood.

  • 1 Cor. 3:1 -infants in Christ
  • Heb. 6:1 – move beyond the elementary teachings… go toward maturity
  • 1 Pet. 2:2-3 – like newborn babies crave spiritual milk
  • Heb. 5:12-14 – solid food is for the mature
  • Col. 2:6-7 – rooted and built up in Him

As Christians, our mission is to be like Christ, that is the transformation that we seek. To be transformed into His image. This cannot happen with the waving of some magic wand and poof, we are miraculously transformed. It is a daily process of choosing and deciding to do what He wants, live His way, rather than our own.

In doing so, we are transformed, “metamorphoo” – changed into another form, inwardly, permanently by the work of the Spirit, all the while our daily, earthly, transformation is preparing us to take flight with Him one day to heaven, where we will see Him face to face, because we will be like Him – transformed.

Now onto the grasshopper and locust, because there is a connection, I assure you.

I don’t know if I knew and forgot, or didn’t know (age has it’s drawbacks), but grasshoppers and locusts are related. In fact, Wikipedia tells us that there is no taxonomic distinction between locust and grasshopper species. What?? The basis for definition is whether a species swarms or not.

grasshopper

Locust are grasshoppers that have entered into a migratory phase, swarming phase. Grasshopper and locust look alike but their behavior is different.

Why is this important to me, you ask?

Well, 1,400 years before Jesus, a report was given in which God’s people were said to be like grasshoppers in the eyes of their enemies; and in fact in their own eye site. Numbers 13:33

God’s people saw their enemies as giants, and they were right, (they were over 9 feet tall!), but they saw themselves as grasshoppers and therefore projected that view onto their enemies.

700 plus years later, the people of the earth are described as grasshoppers. Isa. 40:22

Later in Joel, 600 years before Jesus, we read about a locust army which God calls “his great army.” Joel 2:25

And the prophet Nahum, another 63 years after Joel, talks about guards and officials being like swarms of locusts. Nahum 3:17

locust

To clarify – God’s people are compared to grasshoppers and locusts. Not just the Israelites, as in Old Testament days, but believers today. All of God’s people.

If that is so, then what in the world do we as believers, new creatures in Christ have to learn from these invertebrates?

Transformed. That’s what.

Big groups of grasshoppers, prompted by drought conditions, actually transform into migratory locusts, which have developed a new brain chemistry, by having rubbed together when crowded on grass. Their bodies harden, they eventually develop wings and fly off in a swarm a billion strong.

a swarm of locust

They are transformed into a new creature.

In a crowded place of limited grass, the grasshopper shifts from “solitary life” to a group lifestyle called the “gregarious phase”. In the solitary phase, he doesn’t collect in groups, has a low metabolic rate and is sluggish. During the gregarious phase the grasshopper gathers in large groups, has a high metabolic rate and is active and nervous. He transforms many times in this state -first to a non-flying nymph or hopper, molting 5 times until he transforms into a strong, flying adult and ready to join a swarm.

The solitary phase is normal for the species. The gregarious phase is a physiological response to “violent fluctuations in the environment”. Reread that. He transforms from solitary to gregarious in response to the violence in the environment. (I feel like a locust now.)

This massive group of now mature, gregarious flying locust become a swarm. A swarms size can pack into a 1/2 square mile, but are as large as 40-80 million locusts. Locust can eat their weight in plants daily, so a swarm could eat 423 million pounds of plants every day. They have been known to devastate countries in Asia, Africa and the middle East.

locust swarms

So swarms of locusts are serious business.

The locusts ability to transform in response to serotonin being released is amazing. That serotonin triggers their Central Nervous System and the process of development from a solitary grasshopper, to strong flying locust swarm is mindboggling. For over 4 hours, the back legs of the grasshopper rub against the others in that packed space until eventually his entire inward system is transformed. He has become gregarious, no longer solitary. He is no longer a hopper but can fly, albeit not yet strong. Talk about a transformation?!

A gregarious locust/grasshopper will continue to mature and become stronger and larger and eventually join a band.

Terms worth mentioning about locust. When the gregarious bands get together, they are called outbreaks. And when outbreaks join together that is an upsurge.

These bands, outbreaks and swarms do not form where growth is favorable, no that would be too easy. Instead they actually grow where suitable habitats are scarce. When the bands expand, individuals are actually forced into marginal areas. (Are you seeing parallels here?)

Additionally, the sound of a locust swarm is deafening. The humming is overwhelming and in itself is an alarm that they are on the move. You hear them before you see them.

It is important to point out that locusts navigate using the sun. When individuals at the front edge of the swarm settle to feed, others fly past overhead and settle in for their turn leading. The whole swarm moves like a rolling unit with an ever changing leading edge, following the sun.

No wonder King Solomon said, “the locust have no king, yet they advance together in bands.” Prov. 30:27

Finally, at any point a grasshopper can become gregarious, if the conditions are right. Additionally, their transformation can be reversed or persist, and be passed on to their offspring. It all depends on the conditions. Now think about that! Wow!

Putting this all together.

I believe God is calling His people from the solitary, sluggish, grasshopper phase of being small in our our sight and only seeing insurmountable giants. He is calling us to grow, change, mature and be transformed into a gregarious, active, swarming and powerful Body of believers.

This transforming, maturing process has not been in favorable circumstances, but dry and violent ones where we have been pressed together and rubbing against one another. But in it and from it emerges a new creature seeking to follow the Sun as His mighty swarming army.

And the sound of His mighty army, is a sound of praise, and worship; the heavenly sounds of humming, singing and praise to our God. “The sounds of many rushing waters”.

The Kingdom of God is about to explode on the earth in outbreaks and upsurges. I feel it, I sense it, and by faith see it. That is why we are being transformed during these “unfavorable” and dry times.

Will you be a hopper or a flyer?

It’s time to be transformed.

Go with God.

Word Pictures for 2021

Sunday Sermon 1.31.21

At the beginning of a new year, I suspect most of us do some sort of evaluations, projections and/or goal setting. For the last couple of years, that process for me has gone a bit differently and I’d like to share it with you.

Last January, (2020) when out walking and praying I saw a very unusual sight along my path. So, of course, I took pictures. Here’s what I saw:

Trail sign post cement foundation
Foundation up close

Here on the trail I was walking was a cement sign post foundation totally dug up, uprooted and laying exposed rather than firmly planted.

It’s job was to hold signs and point the way but the foundation had been dug up and it was no longer functional.

Trail sign post

The Lord used these images the rest of my walk to help me see what my purpose was to be in 2020. I was to be one who re-established the long lasting foundations and pointed the Way.

Now, as I look back over last year, I realize what I saw on that path last January was not just for me, but was a picture of our nation. Our foundations would be uprooted and signposts broken down in an attempt to remap America’s course. As you reflect on news images of tearing down statues and the like, isn’t that what we saw?

So this January, when I had the same sense that the Lord was speaking to me with pictures, I really paid attention. Could it also be that what He was showing me was a bigger picture for 2021? You decide, as I share.

Last week, I was in prayer, asking the Lord to show me His heart, and help me to see things the way that He does. Later that day, while at work, my glasses broke. The frame snapped and I caught the lens in my hand. My boss was on hand and assisted with the magic of super glue. I have since had to reglue the frame and see the eye doctor for new glasses.

Broken eyeglass frame

But within seconds of my frame breaking, I had the definite sense that He was telling me that He was breaking my framework of seeing things and replacing it with His framework for seeing things. I knew then and there, standing at Art Sea in Dana Point Harbor, that the Lord was wanting to break my way of seeing things. He was indeed answering my prayer to see things the way that He does. He wanted me to get new glasses, and I’m sure a new set of eyes altogether.

That very same week, I went to the boat to cover the dinghy in preparation for the coming rains. As I approached Lady Debra, I realized she was moving about the slip more than normal. I opened her up and then inspected her to find out what was going on.

Walking around the bow it was obvious that she was not secured tightly. The bow pulpit was bobbing and nearly bumping into the dock box. As I turned to the port side, I clearly saw why.

dock line, perfect curl

Do you see why?

Broken dock line, coiled perfectly, up close

How bout now?

Brocken dock line, obvious

The dock line had been broken in the high winds that we had just gone through. I had to replace it.

Dock lines are meant to be attached to the dock at one end and to the vessel at another end. Like this:

Red white blue dock line

Several days after the dock line incident, following a personal time of singing, “Take Me Deeper into You”, I had that sense again. That sense that the Lord was using this picture to speak to me. The message was, if you want to go deeper Debbie, you have to remove the dock lines.

If I want more of Jesus, more understanding of His Word and ways and more walking in obedience to Him; if I want to go deeper in my Christian faith and walk, I have to leave my comfortable slip in the safe harbor and “launch out into the deep.” Luke 5:4 I must cast off my insecurities and trust His direction out in the unfamiliar waters. I must release my dock lines, those things that keep me tired down to the safe and predictable Christian life.

Four dock lines have to be released before Lady Debra can leave her comfortable and safe slip. In my life, I am sure that there are those things that I hold to, believing they are my security; when all the while they need to be broken or released in order for me to launch out deeper into what God has for me.

These two visual experiences, the broken glasses and broken dock line are my personal word pictures for 2021. They will fuel me, challenge me and remind me of what I believe the Lord wants of me through this next year.

But could it be, that they are for US, too?

I am convinced that everything that can be shaken in 2021 will be shaken. Hebrews 12:27 That means, things that we don’t need will be broken off of us, whether we like it or not. The way we see things will change and and our lens must adjust. He is truly wanting us to see the world and all its people, plots and plans as He does. So we need a new framework.

Could it be that we need a new framework, a new way of seeing things because he is taking us to a place we have never been before. He is taking us out of our comfortable Christianity, where we have lived within the safe confines of our home or church and He is pushing us out into the deep, unknown, exciting life on the high seas of the Kingdom of God. Is He breaking our secure attachments so that we will trust Him while voyaging the unknown?

I do believe that 2021 will be another, different, rollercoaster ride, and for believers will be an even greater sifting time. What and how we see coupled with staying comfortable is up to us. Hot, cold, or lukewarm is our personal decision and one we will be held responsible for. Revelation 3:16

2021 will be exacting. I do not believe any of us will be immune to the Call of the Spirit to come closer, see from His perspective and move freely in the depths of His love, purpose and joy.

I’m in.

I’ve lived 66 years and I know that the best is yet to come. God is up to something fantastic and I want to be a part of it. These word pictures have helped to reaffirm that to me, even if I must leave my comfort zone.

I hope they have helped you too, visualize truth for 2021.

Go with God.

“Us verses Them”- A Time-tested Solution

Sunday Sermon 1.23.21

The nation I live in is changing and I don’t recognize who we are any longer and I wonder where we are headed.

There are terms and words and descriptions and ideas I don’t understand; words like- woke, intersectionality, gas light, call-out culture, and microaggressions, to name a very few. I have been learning a great deal and trying to make sense of it all.

Perhaps that is why, over the holidays, upon the recommendation of my son, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, “The Coddling of the American Mind“. (G Lukianoff, I. Haidt) In the book, the authors address many of these terms giving their foundational meanings, as well as submit what they call 3 great “Untruths”. These untruths, according to the authors, are well intended, but bad ideas being prominently promoted in academia, our culture, society and law for the past many years.

One of their ideas, using my summarization is, “Us verses Them”.

Listening to and watching events of recent months in our nation, “us verses them” is clearly visible. We are never without someone or group raging against another group. One set of beliefs is criticized and mocked by another point of view. “Us verses them” is at play.

We have been segregated into groups based on immutable qualities and characteristics that we did not even choose because they were beyond our control. We have been pitted against one another in an effort to divide us even more. “Us verses them” is at play.

But today, I want to offer a time tested solution to “us verses them”, and in doing so reaffirm a much needed foundation for not only our personal lives but our nation. For when we build on sure foundations, our security is guaranteed no matter the blasting “us verses them” winds that blow.

What foundation is that?

God made all of us.

Without exception, we were all made in God’s image, each unique in design, purpose and destiny. What God makes is good! He don’t make junk or second class citizens. Genesis 1-2

He breathed life’s breath into our lungs and as a proud parent, took joy in his design and marveled at our likeness. Created in His image, God’s idea, His child – that is who I am. I am because of Him, He made me. I had nothing to do with it. He loves me just the way He made me. Psalms 139; Psalm 71:6; Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15

All 7.8 billion people on the planet right now can make the above proclamation. God made each one of them, delights in each of them and loves all of them equally.

Please review these ancient verses:

  • Genesis 1:27 – God made man in his image, male and female he created them
  • Deuteronomy 10:17 – He does not show partiality
  • Acts 17:26 – From one man he made all nations
  • Acts 10:34-35 – God shows no partiality
  • Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:11 – Here there is no Gentile nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all
  • Acts 10:28 – But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
  • Malachi 2:10 – Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us?

God, through Jesus death on the cross, erased forever any lines of segregation, prejudice and “us verses them”. Talk about inclusion?!

As new creations in Jesus, we are given His identity, and that identity has nothing to do with religious, ethnic, cultural or socioeconomic features. Galatians 3:26-29

Our challenge then, is to keep putting off our old identity and way of referring to others and put on the new man which should be without distinction. Colossians 3:8-11

We are reminded that upon Jesus death, when the veil in the Temple was ripped in half, it represented the destruction of barriers and all dividing walls of hostility, thus making one new humanity, in peace and reconciled to God. Ephesians 2:11-22

These and other ancient scriptures remind us of the basic foundation of the oneness of mankind. All of us made by God, in His image, for His pleasure. All. of. us.

But what happens is we forget. And when we forget, we inevitably end up sitting in judgement of others. Isn’t that prejudice? And what results is an “us verses them” mentality, or perspective. Voila, that’s where we are today.

Not one of us is without guilt here. We are not perfect and yet, we still need to strive to live by our foundation(s). That is the beauty of walking with Jesus; he loves us enough to stick with us as we change and to allow us to fail as we grow along the way. But he loves us so much He will not allow us to remain the same. Made in His image, we have our work (actually His work in us) cut out for us, right?

Jesus walked with Pharisees, tax collectors, fishermen, men, women, Jews, Greeks, soldiers, prostitutes, thieves, lepers, Samaritans, the demon possessed, rulers, peasants… you name it. Jesus not only associated with but loved equally everyone. He even took flack from others that He did so.

His heart was always driven by love and mercy. His heart was free from prejudice and favoritism. He was not partial. He is our example. In Him there is no “us verses them”. He loves us all and expects us to do the same. He told us so in John 13:34, “Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

This foundation of love for all, because we are all made in the image of God, is for both personal and national stability. It is time-tested. It is sure.

Therefore, it is incumbent on us to re-fortify this foundation in our lives. To fight against the tendency to see things as “us verses them”, but rather to show mercy, love, and grace for all – period.

So, as I am learning these new terms and labels in our society, I will also seek to live without them and stand firmly upon the time-tested solution of love, mercy, and grace for all.

Lord, please help me, help us – all.

Go with God.