Sunday, March 30, 2014

On Judgment

Fourth Sunday of Lent
On Matthew 7:1-6

• Jesus says “Don't judge, so that you won't be judged.
You'll receive the same judgment you give...” (Matthew 7:1-2).
Discuss amongst yourselves... What does “judge” mean?
Come up with three different meanings. Are they generally positive or negative? And what is the opposite of judge?

“Judge” has a strong feeling of condemn, rule against.
And it includes discern, decide, evaluate, weigh...
Against which do you judge Jesus is speaking?

Look at these other New Testament uses of “krino” (to judge): John 3:17-18. Luke 7:42, after tale of debts forgiven, Jesus says “You have judged correctly.” And Matthew 5:40, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, “if anyone would sue you (judge against you) for your coat, give them your cloak as well.” And later in Matthew 19:23 “You will judge the tribes.”
How's it all work together? “Judge not, lest ye be judged, and the judgment you use is the judgment you'll receive.”

You may have heard of a case of a girl who broke a school rule. Colorado. 9yrs. Shaved her head. Against the school's dress code.
Judgment? (What's yours?) Suspension until “hair grew back”.

Oh, dya know why she shaved her head? Her best friend lost her hair to chemo. Does context affect judgment? Should it?

You will be judged with the judgment you use.
Would you prefer to judge such a case with context and mercy,
or passionlessly hold to letter of law?

What about opposite? I thought perhaps “mercy”.
James 2:13 Mercy triumphs over judgment. No mercy in judgment for the merciless in judgment.

God desires mercy. Christ embodies mercy.

You will judge the tribes. World Vision. $2.8B relief organization. Child sponsorship. 45,000 employees. On Monday made a statement of how they would respond to denominations and states which recognize same-sex marriage (with 45,000 employees, there will be some that are in legal same-sex marriages). World Vision recognized the issue, and desired to leave the specifics to denominations. Neither an endorsement of SSM or rejection of traditional marriage.
(what do you think of their initial decision?)

Immediate backlash, sponsored children were dropped, and World Vision renounced, actually repented, asked forgiveness.
(what do you think of their decision?)

BTW, in West Virginia it is legal to fire, evict, or deny service to someone simply because of their sexual orientation... (what do you think of this law?)

Be slow to judge. Judge with humility, and judge yourself first.

Three things I judge from this passage...

1 Spend your efforts wisely. Don't spend your efforts condemning others in judgment.

2 Spend your efforts wisely (continued). Work on your own log first.

3 Spend your efforts wisely (continued). This is the part about dogs and pigs... you know there are folks you can witness to til you're blue in the face. Spend your efforts wisely. Seek other ways of reaching them. Let your interactions with others make them want to be with you again instead of them wanting to flee from you or attack you.

Glory to God.

Hymn 2149 Living For Jesus

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Third Sunday of Lent
On Matthew 6:24-35, Jesus says don't worry about what you eat, drink, wear... seek first the kingdom of God.

I visited an elderly church member in the hospital, she had a stroke Friday night. She's frail, has typical left-side droop, but she's joyful. I shared today's scripture reading with her. There comes a time when you face that what you eat or drink or wear is not really an issue. How to think, yes. 
Worry can kill, faith can sustain, 
and either way, the quality of one beats the quality of the other.
Enthusiasm. Possessing God, God within. There's a direction, a vector, an action like a God injection. And what do we get injections for?
Inoculation. Latin inoculare, to graft or implant. Inoculate against something like the flu, in which a strain of flu virus is deliberately injected into the body in a small enough dose that the body tags it, recognizes it, builds defenses against it, so that when you're exposed to it, your body is already ready for it.
Inoculation or vaccination (essentially the same thing, different history) eradicated polio from the world, it was thought.
Inoculation: strengthen body's defense by injection.
Enthusiasm: strengthen a person against the stresses and brokennesses of the world.
Did you know it takes five positive statements to counteract a negative statement? 
*** Studies conducted by Dr. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago have shown what he calls "the negativity bias" of the brain. Our brains are actually more sensitive and responsive to unpleasant news. It's like negative input 'weighs more' than positive input.That's why personal insults or criticism hit us harder and stay with us longer. It's why negative ads are more effective than positive ones—political or otherwise.
Not only do we have a built-in partiality toward negative information, but negatives increase disproportionately over positives. It's not a one-to-one ratio. In other words, one positive cannot offset one negative. When you tell your husband, "Thanks for giving the kids a bath, honey," and five minutes later say, "You forgot to take out the trash—again," the negative drowns out the positive.
Our brain needs a higher number of positive entries to counterbalance this built-in negativity bias. And several small, frequent, positive acts pack more punch than one giant-size positive. The size of the positive doesn't count; quantity does. It's strictly a numbers game. ***
Negativity bias... that's why we need regular doses of a variety of God injections of enthusiasm. Spiritual disciplines, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, study, fellowship, service, communion, worship... part of balanced diet against worry and worldliness.
Remember that controversial Cheerios commercial (May 2013)? Cheerios is part of balanced diet for good cholesterol. Part of. And don't worry about the mixed marriage or their child. You don't belong in their relationship. (same thing, Kindle commercial February 2013)
Keep near Christ & live in such a way that others are encouraged to do the same, enthusiastic.
Daily position yourself to be positively influenced by God.
And daily position yourself to be a positive influence unto others.

into prayer of confession, then Hymn 301 Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross

*** stolen from

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Another Day, Another Choice

Second Sunday of Lent
Text: Matthew 6:19-24... Collect treasures in heaven... You cannot serve God and wealth...

The story of the miser who went to heaven. St. Peter was showing him around, taking him to his new home. They passed mansion after mansion, until they came to his new home: a dilapidated shack. The man asked "We passed all those mansions, why don't I have one?
St. Peter replied, "We built the best one we could with what you sent us..." 
(aside: June M. died on Wed 3/12, her funeral today 2p. Speaking on 1 Cor 13 love is patient and kind etc... and the promise of heaven... now we see dimly, then we shall see clearly... June's life choices have been made, completed, &by grace and faith of JC she knows fully as she is fully known...)
Matthew 6:20 Collect treasures in heaven... every day choices
21 where your treasure is your heart is also...
Prov 23:26 My child, give me your heart, and keep your eyes on my path.
In Matthew the way to collect treasures in heaven is by almsgiving, providing material help for the poor. Almsgiving as spiritual discipline makes for healthy heart, and both loosens money's grip on me and my grip on money.
How will I choose this day to use the resources I have?
Who will be served by my choices? Who will be glorified?
Who will be lifted up, who will be ignored?
Principle in motorcycling that your bike goes where your eyes are... look through the curve, past the obstacle, ok. Look to side of road or at the obstacle, object permanence and fixation.
The eye is the lamp of the body... how you see affects how you live...
If your heart is in serving others your treasure is in heaven.
Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10)...
Almsgiving as spiritual discipline makes for healthy heart, and both loosens money's grip on me and my grip on money.
True religion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us. (James 1:27) Treasures in heaven.
Choose this day whom you will serve... God or money.
How do you draw that line about what is God service and what is material service? In a way, take it to the Lord in prayer...
Excerpt from Bringing the Imitation of Christ into the 21st Century, by William Menninger...
The LORD is speaking directly to my heart
in all the events of my life. Only let me pay attention.
Sometimes God cajoles, sometimes God whispers, sometimes God shouts. Often I let other cajolings, whispers and shouts drown God out.
This only happens when I permit it, but I can permit it so habitually that I become unaware of what I am doing. Let me begin now to listen to God's voice.

This is what God is telling me:
You are my child and I love you.
I want to be your source of contentment, your place of comfort and safety. Stay with me, abide with me, and you will find peace for your soul. I know the power that fleeting attractions have for you and wish you the good use of them. After all, everything that is was made to facilitate love. Only do not turn to them for what they cannot give. Use my gifts unto my service and to show your love for others, but never forget that
real happiness lies only in me.

Hymn 451 Be Thou My Vision

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An Audience of How Many?

First Sunday of Lent
continuing with Matthew: Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus talks about almsgiving and prayer and fasting.

• Notice the difference in translation of verse 6:1:
“Be careful that you don't practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention” (CEB) 
“Beware of practicing your piety before others” (NRSV) 
“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men” (NIV)...
Wait a minute, righteousness... we were talking about that not too long ago... in 5:20 your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees'...
Same word, dikaioSUne, the condition acceptable to God, approved by God.
We tend to be wrongly concerned... more concerned about what others think of us than our relationship with God.
I have a vegetarian friend who wrote a FB post about eating meat for a week to let her meat-eating friends know why she doesn't eat meat...
Which of your personal decisions do you need to justify?
She responded it was more of a personal test to satisfy herself than to justify herself to her friends.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whatever you do (eat or drink) do it for the glory of God.
How many are in your audience? Who are you living to please?

(Post-resurrection Jesus and Peter, do you love me? Peter: What about John? Jesus: what about him? Don't you worry about him, pay mind to you and me not him and me. John 21:20+)
Not our job to worry about others' righteousness but mind our own.

Picture of a guy with spiky hair, eyeliner, jean halfway around butt; caption “Unless you're attracted to me why should you care how I look? Or why should I care what you think about how I look?”

I like to look decent but to an extent it doesn't matter except to one: my spouse, &I want to look good for her, I want to please her, she's the one whose opinion I care about... How many are in your audience?

1 Peter 2:12 Live so honorably among the nations that though they call you evildoers, by seeing your good works they may glorify God when he returns.
Pay no mind to what they they think; live so that they see and glorify. Audience of One (AOO).

Jesus mentions three examples of righteous behavior that is to be between us and God: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Does not command that we do them, rather assumes that they're a part of our lives, you might say part of the balanced diet of our spiritual lives. Balanced in that we do them, and in that we do them AOO.
Almsgiving. It's good for those in need. It's good for us to show that God is our priority not our money. It's righteous (dikaioSUne, acceptable & approved by God.)
Prayer. In verse 6 in private, yet LP is plural, corporate prayer.
Confession or statement of faith. This is who we are.
Fasting not merely abstinence from food, but as an act of devotion. Not point to you but you mind God, you fix your attention on God. &again, your righteousness is your business, theirs is theirs.
1 Peter 2:12 Live so honorably among the nations that though they call you evildoers, by seeing your good works they may glorify God when he returns.
Pay no mind to what they they think; live so that they see and glorify. AOO.
And 1 Cor 10:31 whatever you do (eat or drink) do it for the glory of God. AOO.
Hymn 452 My Faith Looks Up to Thee

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My Way or the High Way?

Transfiguration Sunday
on Matthew 17:1-9
A young professional asks his mentor the secret of success: "Right decisions," responds the elder.
Well how do you make those?
"Experience," says the mentor.
And how do you get that?
"Wrong decisions."

My hope is that through the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, and even through First Church, more and more people would make more and more right decisions.

Why do people come to church? 
Because they've received a personal invitation. 
Why do they return? 
Connection, belonging, the touch of Jesus.

Today's reading is about "the Transfiguration," Jesus glows with the light of God and is changed and blessed on the mountain. There is much we could talk about.
For example read Exodus 24 and 34, and note all the parallels to Moses...
Or contrast with Matthew 27 (crucifixion) which has many opposites...
instead of being glorified, Jesus is cast low
One thing about the Transfiguration is God's divine approval of person and ministry of Jesus, attaboy.

I want to talk about the change we see in Peter.
 Chapter 17 starts out with “Six days later...” 
Stop right there...
In chapter 16 Peter has confessed Jesus is the Christ, Jesus has been explaining that the Christ must suffer & die.
Peter rebukes Jesus, Jesus rebukes Peter & says “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me... Whoever wants to save life will lose it, whoever loses life for me will find it...” (16:24-25)
Peter wants to go “my way.” Like Frank Sinatra.
Jesus takes Peter up on the mountain (the high way), where Jesus is changed.
In the supernatural appearance of Moses and Elijah we get the combined witness of the law and the prophets, the appearance of two men of God who were initially rejected by people, men who also had supernatural experiences with God... we get the divine affirmation from God a la the baptism of Jesus...
And Peter & others freak out, fall to ground in terror...
And Jesus touches. Says don't be afraid. 
Jesus is with them. 
And prolonged exposure to the Son changes them.
They may not change overnight, but they are being changed by God, maturing into what God would have them be.
Jesus is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6)
& as we're exposed to Jesus, we imitate him (Ephesians 5:1) and he increases in us (John 3:30) and we mature.

UMH 259 prayer for Transfiguration Sunday

Holy God, upon the mountain you revealed our Messiah, who by his death and resurrection would fulfill both the law and the prophets. By his transfiguration enlighten our path that we may dare to suffer with him in the service of humanity and so share in the everlasting glory of him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever. Amen.