Wednesday, February 23, 2011

He is Here for Us...

I.                  Jesus washes his disciples’ feet… John 13:1-17
“It was just before the Passover feast.  Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, sin of Simon, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “You shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.  And you are clean, though not every one of you.”  For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that is why he said not everyone was clean.
When He had finish washing everyone’s feet, He put on His clothes and returned to his place.  Do you understand what I have done for you?”  He asked them.  You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

“You will be blessed if you do them…”

Peter said, “No, Jesus… You will not wash my feet.”
Jesus said that if he could not cleanse Peter’s feet, he could have nothing to do with him…
Peter replied, “Well if that’s the case, don’t stop at my feet..!!”

Jesus wants us to continue where he left off from his earthly existence to be with His Father, to continue to be brothers for each other, to continue to look out for each other and to spread his teachings to each other.

He wants us to treat each other the way he LOVES and treats us.

II.               How do we treat each other..?
Paul to Timothy:  1Timothy 5:1-2                                    
“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort (encourage) him as if he were your father.  Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

               How do we honor God..?
Paul to Timothy:  2 Timothy 2:22-25
“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  Don’t have ANYTHING to do with stupid and foolish arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And, the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

III.           We learned of Solomon’s “Wise Request”.  Solomon had an opportunity to ask of God to grant his wishes and desires and instead of asking for wealth and power, or for fame, or to have his enemies destroyed, he asked God for a discerning heart, for the knowledge to rule justly in his kingdom, because he realized his own limitations.

IV.            We need to know our limitations and ask God for the guidance to know and do His will.

Matthew 20:29-34 says,
“As Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him.  Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
Jesus stopped and called them, “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked.
“Lord,” They answered, “we want our sight.”
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes.  Immediately they received their sight and followed Him.

Can you see yourself as the blind man asking for God to “give you sight”?  Can you see yourself as the blind man, now that your eyes are wide open, getting up to follow Him?
Or, are you in the crowd trying to silence or push away the men who ask for the Lord’s mercy?

Challenge yourself this week and try to recognize who you are in different situations. 
1.     Are you willing to wash your brother’s feet?
2.     Are you willing to do for those less fortunate than yourself?
3.     Are you willing to stand up and do His will?  OR…
4.     Are you finding yourself turning a blind eye to the downtrodden?
5.     Are you finding yourself counting your pennies and examining the financial effect it might have on you if you give to someone in need?
6.     Are you finding yourself arguing over petty things with your brothers and sisters?
7.     Are you finding yourself forgetting He is there until you need something from Him?

If you honestly find yourself more willing to be selfless, then good for you, the rewards are great and plentiful.
If you seem to be more reserved and frugal and self-concerned, the good news is… there is nowhere to go but up… Search yourself, your heart and your mind… Realize that the desires and wants of the world pale in comparison to the rewards of His Heavenly Kingdom…

Pick a mantra and repeat it to yourself as a reminder that He is always here for us, not only in our time of need, but in every moment of our day to day journey in this life.

There are plenty to choose from in the good book, if you can’t find one that really jumps out at you, read through Psalms… Psalms is full of short, inspirational thoughts, such as…

“Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (8:1)
“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not be in want.” (23:1)
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (37:4)
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (46:1)

Just to name a few… mine is simple…

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (46:10)


Why Are We Here?

Why Are We Here?
I’ve been speaking, over the past several months, about becoming conscious to the fact that we are not in this existence, on our own.   I’ve been wanting to share with you my “awareness” that my friend, my father, God, is always within my grasp and yours, at any moment, during any day… when I need him and when I don’t.  And, I know that those of us gathered here in this chapel believe this certainty, it’s why we come together for fellowship week after week to thank Him, and to give praise to Him.  But, why are we here? 
And, by that, I don’t mean here in the chapel, right now, rather, why in this space and time..?
Why in this world..? 
Yes, this is a question that men have deliberated over… religious men… scientific men…
Experiments have been done, journeys have been taken, books have been written, think-tanks and consortiums have been assembled, arguments have been made and disproven, but even further than that, wars have been fought and lives have been lost over the particulars of some of the argument.
So, Why are we here..?
We are created for His pleasure. From the first page of Scripture to the last, that message is clear. We are created for His pleasure. Further, the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:16:

For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.”

If we accept that all this is true, and that any other answer is both illogical and devoid of hope, then the next question to ask is - what do we do about it? Or, more to the point, what do you and I do about it?

So, Why Am I Here?
Understanding that we exist to please God, the challenge becomes personal. What do I do about it? How can I, one person, possibly please such a big, huge, infinite God? The Bible gives us those answers too. For now, we can rest in this truth – none, not one of us, is here by accident.
We were planned and wanted by our Heavenly Father from before the beginning of time.  Just look at Psalm 139.
Psalm 139

1 You have searched me, LORD,
   and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[
a] God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
   they would outnumber the grains of sand—
   when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
   Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
   your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
   and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
   I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.

I want to take a few minutes and look at a bit of a documentary:
So, I think that’s a bit too much over-evaluation…
I’ve been seeing a certain phrase an awful lot lately… actually, a single word really…
I’ve seen it on T-shirts, on welcome mats, on billboards, in commercials, on bumper stickers, and I think it resonated with me the first time I noticed it, causing me to see it everywhere I looked… I think some might refer to this type of event as Divine Intervention.  I like to think that He and I were having a conversation and at that point I was thinking about what I wanted to say and wasn’t paying as much attention as I should’ve been…
The phrase or rather, the word is SIMPLFY…
I believe this is how we need to approach the question, “Why are we here?”
And, I think the answer is just that, simple…
We are here for each other…
He is here for us and we are here for each other…
Every December 25th is an annual event we have that celebrates His choice to come to us in order to show us how to exist for one another.  He came and led by example and gave us a message of love and understanding that we might go forth and do the same.
Yes, you go to the store and on the way there, some nincompoop decides, without cluing anyone else in, that he or she NEEDS to be directly in front of you in that instant AND that that lane (the fast lane) should really only be traveling at 50mph and not 70mph, like it was a minute ago.  Having held your tongue, your hand (and all your fingers) back, you arrive at the store and find the parking lot packed and at every turn there’s someone just pulling into a spot right before you can.  So, you park ¼ of a mile away and make your trek into the store only to find all the usual “positive” stimuli; the long lines at Starbucks, the Deli, the bakery, the Seafood Dept. and the registers.
You arrive at the office early to get your favorite parking spot but, of course, there’s an “earlier bird” that got that worm.  You go inside and there’s a new pile of “Job Security” on your desk which, of course, you busted tail to clear away the evening before.  Then you look down the hallway to the office that should’ve been yours were it not for the current occupant who took a handful of your ideas and passed them off as their own.
You walk into your home and find it “less full” than it was when you left in the morning and there’s a note on the counter explaining why.  The silence is deafening.
You get laid-off and, as hard as you work at fixing that situation, things start getting “turned off”.
Yes, disasters do occur in our lives and others can be hard to understand, let alone, accept or even further, love, but these are man-made disasters that he is always prepared to help with, if we let him and, we are talking about our brothers and sisters.  No matter what poor decisions they choose to make, as hard as it might be, we are supposed to have their backs, unconditionally.
And, when we fall short of that, we have to ask his forgiveness and for strength to put our best foot forward the next time and every time it is needed.
This is why, as physically demanding as Kettles tends to be, it is my favorite time of year, as well as, my favorite project to be a part of.  Officers and kettle folk from other corps look at me like I’ve got a third eye on my forehead when I say that but, I get to interact with some of the most caring and selfless people one could meet.  I also get to interact with some of those who benefit from the programs and I get to experience their overwhelming gratitude.  
I want to end this short conversation with a few words by some writers that I enjoy…
First, in reference to “The Answer” to “The Question”…
“Love is the answer
At least for most of the questions in my heart
Why are we here and where do we go
And how come it's so hard
It's not always easy and sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing
It's always better when we're together.” ~Jack Johnson

Second, in reference to How do I “Be There” for others…
“I've learned that people will forget what you’ve said and that people will forget what you’ve done, but people will never forget how you’ve made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou
Third, to answer just how easy life can be…
“Life is like playing a violin, in public, while learning the instrument as you go.” ~Samuel Butler



Sympathy..? For the Devil..?
Sunday Service
February 20, 2011

I. Who/What is the Devil?/How did the Devil come to be?

The Rolling Stones wrote,
“Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and faith

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made dang sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.”

His Name? He is mentioned with many titles:
1. Satan                              6. Angel of the Bottomless Pit
2. Beelzebub                      7. Liar and Father of Lies
3. Abbadon                        8. The Wicked One
4. Apollyon                        9. Great Red Dragon
5. Ruler of Demons         10. Serpent

Whatever you choose to call him, know that he is dissatisfied, angry with God and obsessed with the downfall of man.  As a former Angel of White Light, he questioned God’s love of Man and consistently tried to degrade Man’s existence as imperfect and ridiculous.  God became tired of the incessant barrage of ridicule towards His beloved creation and banished Satan, and the angels Satan had convinced to join him, into Hades to remain bound for a thousand years.  Ladies and Gentlemen, that thousand years has been up for quite some time. 
Revelation 12:7-10
“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven”
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”

As we, the people of the world continue to become friendlier to evil and to the desire for more and more of the earthly pleasures through whichever avenue, whether it’s material goods, wealth, technology, pleasures of the flesh or any number of temptations, it is extremely important for us, as God’s children, to be able to recognize and understand the ancient ways of the Devil.  He has successfully used the same strategy from the earliest times right into today. In Heaven, in the very presence of God, the Evil One was able to convince one third of the angels to follow him as he rebelled against God. Even as Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day, in the Garden, the enemy was still able to deceive Eve and so cause Adam to rebel against the one thing God said not to do. Still today the enemy continues to successfully apply his evil strategy and deceive so many every day.  The Devil has a way of making a lie look like the ultimate truth and make sin look holy. After all, he still has the ability to present himself as an Angel of Light.
Think about this, in the history of humanity, only one person has really given Satan a true beat down! Although, many of us win our battles with the Devil on a daily basis, only one person has ever really beaten Satan in his own game. Only one person took all of the Devil’s weapons and not only came out victorious, but he did not even break a sweat…That’s right, Jesus Christ!  
The amazing thing about this fight was that Jesus (God) entered into this fight outside of His own element, as He took the form of a normal man, with all the natural limitations of our being.  It was like a brilliant Pay-Per-View heavy weight event… Can you imagine the angels in heaven, on the edge of their seats, chomping popcorn and getting ready to watch the greatest battle in the history of existence. They had to be thinking, “This is gonna be brilliant!” Now, they knew that the Archangel Michael gave Satan a beat down for the soul of Moses, but they were about to witness God do battle as a human!!  And, if you’re curious about the details, check out Matthew 4:1-11, it’s all in there.

We, as Christ’s followers, face a couple of big dangers when considering what the Bible says about Satan. The first danger is to accept everything without any thought or consideration.  Some churches blame everything on the Devil, teaching that every sickness and disease is caused by him and that every bad thought needs the ministry of deliverance. That belief allows for foolishness.  It’s also a pretty good way to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions, since we can blame our behavior on an evil entity.  “The Devil Made Me Do It..!!”
What we need is a revival of some balanced, biblical teaching on the Devil. Those of us who blame everything on him ought to take a lesson from Jesus, whose practice was not to talk about the menacing rule of Satan but the joyous rule of God.  Jesus does not take on idle speculations about the nature of evil. When he meets those who are subject to Satan’s rule, he makes an appeal to faith in God and confronts evil with the power of love.
When Paul wrote, he did not speak of evil as some philosophers might, neither can we. We are waging a war for the hearts of our children. It is a war of worship. Who will THEY worship? Satan still wants to be the center of worship. He was willing to give Jesus the kingdoms of the world, something Jesus came to earth to obtain, if Jesus would just worship him. It is difficult to understand human history and its unending brutality and war without being aware of the power of the Devil. Paul felt it and wrote, “We are not contending against flesh and blood.”
II. What power does he have over me or over you?

Satan has all the power over me that I allow him to have!  He has all the power over you that you allow him to have!  He has all the power over our lives that we volunteer to give him!  He has no more power than this and, certainly, no less…

God has given us the gift of Free Will, the will to choose how we will live our lives.  But, as wonderful as this gift is, it’s not an easy freedom to command.  Although I can choose to live my life in, through, and for God and my brothers and sisters in Christ, there are pitfalls I have to pay very close attention to:  Temptations, Greed, Desires of this World, Wealth, Power, Desires of the Flesh… just to name a very few.

III. What power do I have over the Devil?

I, you, we have the power of Almighty God..!!!  Simply choose to wield that power, because it HAS been given to you.

Luke 10:18-20
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

James 4:7
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”

IV. How do I recognize the Devil?

Satan works through every  man… This is where your senses come into play.  You are created with an innate sense of right and wrong, good and evil… Pay attention to your gut feelings, your intuition, your senses… If something sounds wrong, if it feels wrong, if it is unsettling to you, if it could possibly hurt another in some way, or sounds too good to be true, no matter how beneficial it might appear on the surface, it’s probably a good idea to second think it… Talk to someone you trust not to steer you down the wrong path…
If you are not cautious and alert he will take every advantage to throw his strings around you and use you like a puppet.  He is the Master of Puppets.

 And, know this, Satan will never repent; Satan will never change, Satan will never be restored and Satan will never be saved from the Hell that he is banished to. But one thing is for sure; Satan will bow down to God, just like everybody else. His knees will not be able to offer resistance to the power and authority of Jesus. In John 10:10 Jesus gives us Satan’s job description:
                   “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”
Without a doubt, Satan has remained faithful to his call! As many of us doubt our call and find ourselves in many ups and downs; Satan knows how to stay focused on what his job is.  Look into a persons’ eyes, feel their spirit, heighten your senses, get to know one another… Jesus says in:

Luke 6:45
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

What are some of the Devil’s tactics? What are some obvious signs he is at work around you? Well, history shows some of his favorite tricks.

You can look for The Devil to attack you today in one of 5 ways:

1.By trying to keep you out of the church
2. By trying to get Christians back into Man’s world
3. This is a good one, by trying to render Christians useless
4. By trying to disrupt or corrupt worship & doctrine
5. Causing trouble & division among brethren (church fellowships, family members, friends, etc…)

V. What do I do to defeat the Devil’s attempts on me?

I’m going to tell you what Jesus told his disciples to do and what he wanted them to teach to us.  I’m going to read from Luke, chapter 6… Remember, these are commands from Jesus’ own lips…  He says in:

Luke 6:27-36
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other as well.  If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And, if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ do that. And, if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners’ expecting to be repaid in full.  But, love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“…because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

And, therein lies the Sympathy… even to the “ungrateful and wicked.”

It is further written in:
Luke 6:37,38 that Jesus says,
“Do not judge and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

And in:
Luke 6:41,42
Jesus is telling his disciples a parable, He says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you, yourself, fail to see the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

And, if you want to keep the Devil away like ants at a picnic…  Like flies at a BBQ… I have a suggestion that can be as effective as a can of Raid or a bug zapper hanging over your patio…

Be as brilliant and radiant in God’s presence as he created you to be… In other words, recognize how amazing you are, realize the talents you’ve been born with and utilize them to their fullest and give him thanks in all things at all times… Because, when you’re in His presence, you are in the Light… And, when you’re in the Light, Satan can find you so, Satan can’t get to you…

I’m going to share with you something I shared with the amazing counselors at Camp Swoneky this past Summer during one of our Vespers meetings…

 “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are
powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens
us.  We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’
Actually, who are you NOT to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small
doesn’t serve the world.  There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
 people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the Glory of God that is within us.
It’s in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission
to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence
automatically liberates others.”
~Marianne Williamson