Sunday, June 27, 2010

Building the Foundation - Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked!  They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. 
Psalm 1

Last week many of you wrote down what God was impressing on your hearts as where we as a church and as individuals need to go - where our Nineveh and Samaria might be, who our Levi might be.  I am still praying over the cards, but two things stick out to me.  One is that many of us have personal friends and family members who need Jesus. The second-most frequent response was the individual family members who you are reaching out to.  But first and foremost was the need to reach out locally, the understanding that our first mission field is the one right around us. 

I'm reminded of the sign above the door of the church I grew up in: You are now entering the mission field.

To adequately reach out to our mission field, we have to first build the foundation.  When we moved in to the parsonage, the back half of the kitchen was in bad shape.  It slanted down pretty sharply.  The windows were extremely drafty because they were off level by over an inch from front to back.  A lot of you did a lot of work tearing the back off the house and rebuilding it, and pretty quickly it became pretty obvious what the problem was.  The whole back section of the house - dining area as well as the sunroom above it - was sitting on small underground concrete piles, but those piles had settled, and over the years, they had basically fallen over underground.  So before they rebuilt the dining area and our upstairs bathroom and laundry room, they first dug and laid a foundation.

Our foundation is God's blessing.  It cannot be anything else.  Time and again, when God's people try to do things our own way, we find that it fails.  Adam and Eve decide that they can indeed eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they usher sin into a previously sinless world.  They are banished from the Garden of Eden, become mortal, and eventually die.  The people of Babel decide they can build a tower to heaven and can usurp God, and he confuses their language. Samson decided he wanted a wife and didn't consult God in his choice, and he ended up with a woman who betrayed him to his enemies. King Saul offers the burnt offering instead of waiting for the priest to do so, and he loses God's blessing.  Our job is to wait for God's blessing to move ahead, not to do it on our own.  And the Psalmist tells us "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers." (Psalm 1:1)

The first thing to remember when you're considering God's blessing is that God's blessing does not come from the wrong type of friends.  I'm not telling you to neglect or turn your back on your friends who don't know Jesus, because they need to have godly influences in their lives as well. I am telling you to beware.  We all have various levels of relationships with others.  Think of it as several concentric circles. 

The first group of people is outside the circles. These are people you don't have any real relationship or connection with (or perhaps people you intentionally avoid).  (every once in a while I get a Facebook friend request from one of these – maybe some of them are your friends or they’re just all about having a thousand friends; I’m not sure why they would add me).  There are all sorts of people you run into, even daily, who you don’t really know.  They are outside your relational circle.

When you get into the people with whom you have a relationship, the outer layer might be "good acquaintances" - people you don't hang out with much, and when you do, you can always have a nice easy small-talk conversation with them, but not much else.   They might be your co-workers or neighbors (depending on where you live) or some people from church – you know them and you don’t dislike them, but you’re not close to them by any means.

The next circle inside might be "friends" who you really like to hang out with and do things with.  When you throw a party, you’ll probably invite these friends, and you really enjoy their company.  You probably have something significant in common; maybe you are big fans of the same sports team or you have the same hobby.  Though these are your friends, they’re not your very closest friends.

Only your very closest, most intimate friends are in your “inner circle”. These are the ones you can share everything with. You probably don't have very many in this circle, maybe even only one or two.  They are the ones whose advice you always take.  They’re the ones who can tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it.  They’re the ones you immediately call when something good happens… or when something bad happens. You can tell them anything and you know they will accept and love you.  This is the kind of person you will vacation with… more than once, and on purpose.

It is a good thing to realize the different levels a friend might be on, and it is uncomfortable when someone puts themselves on the wrong level with you.  The person who wants a deeper relationship even when you don’t want one, or the person who you used to be best friends with but lately you’ve grown apart. 

But other times you meet someone for the first time and you almost immediately let them in, for good or bad.  Realize that when Jesus walked the earth, he had these levels, too.  There were plenty who were just faces in the crowd.  Some of them cheered on Palm Sunday and jeered on Good Friday.  5000 ate the food he provided, but when he taught hard teachings, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:66).

He spoke to the crowds and accepted invitations to Levi and Zacchaeus' parties and he had many disciples and followers.  These were the outer levels. 

Then in the next level were his twelve disciples.  He poured his life into them and spent lots of time with them.  This level would probably also include Mary and Martha and Lazarus as well as Mary Magdalene and some others.

But in his inner circle were Peter, James, and John.  They were his best friends. They were the ones he brought with him to the mountain where he was transfigured.  They were the ones he invited to continue on with him in the Garden before he was arrested.  They were his inner circle.

Why do I tell you this?  Because the Psalmist makes it clear that who you hang out with, who you let into your inner circles, this has a lot to do with the blessing God gives you.  "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers." (Psalm 1:1).  This is a strong reminder to watch out what happens with our friends.  I said earlier that sometimes we meet someone and immediately let them in - but that's not how things usually go.  They usually progress like the Psalm.  First you walk by (walk in the counsel of the wicked) and hear something.  Then you stand around and listen.  Finally, you sit down to listen. You don't just one day decide that you're going to fall in with people whose ideas and practices are blatantly anti-Christian, but it happens gradually.  This is why it's important to evaluate carefully who is in your inner circle.  If you are a parent, you'll understand this from that standpoint.  You want to know who your children's friends are.  Not to judge them or keep them away from their friends, but to keep them in God's blessing.

But just keeping good company isn't everything.  The Psalmist goes on to say that instead of keeping bad company, his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

While keeping good company is important, more important is the status given to God's law. This was so important in some Jewish communities that they would have their leaders taking turns 24/7 studying the Word.  I wonder this: how central is God's Word in our lives? Many Christians don't even read the Word, let alone delight in it.  How about you - do you delight in God's Word?  Last Spring some of us made an attempt to read the entire Bible over 40 days.  That was the closest I've come to truly embodying Psalm 1:2, delighting in the Word, meditating day and night on it. 

If we are to take God's good news to our community, this is our foundation: delighting in God's Word and meditating on it all the time.  Otherwise we're not allowing God to speak clearly to us, let alone to others through us.  This is the foundation for everything.  

In Matthew 7, Jesus tells his followers that everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27.

Did you notice that the external circumstances didn't change between the wise man and the foolish man?  Both experienced the rain, rising streams, and the winds.  But hearing Jesus' words and putting them into action was the difference.  The Psalmist puts it this way: He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.  (Psalm 1:3)

This is beautiful imagery of a tree planted by the water.  Jeremiah 17:7-8 puts it this way: But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in the year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

These deep roots allow the tree to not merely survive, but to produce fruit!  Often we're running on empty, going from crisis to crisis, and we rely on those mountaintop experiences to sustain us in the valley.  It doesn't work.  Only the deep streams of Living Water, supplied by the Holy Spirit, can sustain us to the point of allowing us not just survival, but fruit.  The fruit we're talking about is the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

But those who do not delight in the Word of the Lord, who do not meditate on His word they have no foundation. The Bible refers to them as wicked.  Listen to these strong words: Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. (Psalm 1:4)  Do you know anyone who just seems to be blown this way and that?  They are constantly trying whatever the newest fad is, doing what feels good for the moment.  They are worried about what’s going to happen, about “worst case scenarios.” They build their house on the foundation of culture or emotion.  And because these are so shaky, the whole thing falls.  This is why the Psalmist ends this Psalm this way: Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. (Psalm 1:5) There is no foundation for the wicked to stand on.  And you can’t reach out effectively with Christ’s love with no foundation.  It’s kind of like when you’re in an airplane and the flight attendant tells you “in case of loss of cabin pressure, put on your oxygen mask before helping others put theirs on.” If you don’t have any air to breathe, how are you supposed to help someone else?  Our foundation is God’s blessing, and He gives His blessing richly, but if we ignore His Word, we aren’t welcome in the assembly of the righteous, those in right relationship with God.  Jesus was clear that those accepted in God’s family are those who hear His word and obey it.

And if we aren’t in right relationship with God, how can we expect to share it with others?  Now I know that as humans, we are extremely resourceful, and we can “fake it” for quite a while, but we can’t fake it into heaven, and we can’t fake anyone else there either. 

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6). This is a great reminder as we prepare to reach out to the community, the reminder that if you have built your foundation on the rock, if you’ve delighted in the Lord and meditated on His Word, you can be assured that the Lord is watching your way, the way He has planned for you to go.  There is only one way of the righteous, and that way is Jesus Christ, who proclaimed himself the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)  Any other way is the way to hell.

So as we prepare to enter our mission field, remember that our first step must be to prepare ourselves by delighting in God’s Word and meditating on it day and night.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Due to an unfortunate error, I erased my sermon this week.  (I saved it only on a thumb drive and, thinking I had saved it on my hard drive, I deleted it from the thumb drive).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Tale From a Fish

There she was, obviously in pain.  Not physical pain, but emotional wounds that ran deep.  I didn’t know why she approached me; I was sitting in the corner of the laundromat, waiting for my clothes to dry, keeping to myself, reading an important book for a class I was in.  And she walked in.  I ignored her.  But she talked to me anyway, told me her troubles.  I knew I was supposed to pray with her, but I didn’t necessarily want to.  I didn’t even know how to breach that subject.  And she left.  I hadn’t done my job.  I hadn’t done what God told me to.  And I repented.  I told God, “If I get a second chance, I won’t blow it.”  I meant that the next time someone came to me sharing a burden, that I would pray for that person.  Out loud.  Right then and there. 

I asked God – could you let me know when I’m supposed to approach someone?  When you want me to pray for them?

I’ve often been skeptical when someone says they’ve heard God speak, but here I was, asking God to speak to me.  Today we’re looking at Jonah, who heard the word of God, but probably would have rather not.  We don’t know much about Jonah, other than that his father was named Amittai or that the word of the LORD came to him.  God gave Jonah a specific task: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2)

God told him to preach.  Wow.  I can relate to that.  Not necessarily with the content, but certainly with the call.  You’re probably thinking – of course you can relate to it; you’re a preacher.  But if you think sharing God’s good news is limited to the preacher, you haven’t been reading your Bible lately.  Jesus’ last words, as recorded by Matthew, are this: "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)

We have all been called to make disciples.  That is part of being a Christian – it’s who we are. Go and make disciples of all nations. God has chosen one means for spreading His good news: the church.  Not the church staff, but the church.  That means you and me.  So we might read Jonah 1:1-2 into our context and say, “The word of the LORD came to the people of the Millersport UMC: Go to…”

Where is God calling us to go? This isn’t a rhetorical question.  Where is God calling us to go?  I wonder what kind of Nineveh God is calling us to.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t believe God is calling you, there’s only one reason: because you’re not listening to God’s call.  Not every call is an overseas call; God did call Jonah to go to a faraway land, but God called Ezekiel to his own people. Go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them. You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel. Ezekiel 3:4-5. Sometimes missionaries are sent out.  But other times missionaries are called to stay home and spread the word here. 

I already told you Jesus’ last words as recorded by Matthew, but Luke records an additional encounter.  Immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven, he said, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8.

This is cumulative; they were first called to be witnesses in the city where they were.  Every one of us is called to this same ministry.  You are God’s witnesses.  This is why I’ve been pushing you to share your faith story; because we all need practice! When we share our faith, then others share theirs, and pretty soon, the Spirit grows God’s kingdom in mighty ways.

Jesus’ words to his disciples and God’s words to Jonah have something in common.  Something bad.  Jesus was sending his disciples to be witnesses to Samaria.  God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh.  In Jesus’ day, Samaritans were known as heretics.  They didn’t worship the right way or in the right place.  They were racially mixed.  It was so bad that good Jews wouldn’t even walk through Samaria. 

I often focus on Jonah’s unwillingness to go where God called him to go; wouldn’t it have been easier had he simply gone to Nineveh?  Didn’t God tell him to go there?  What kind of jerk does he have to be to refuse? But it was Nineveh.  The enemy.  If you want to put a face on it, saying “Go to Nineveh” in Jonah’s time would be comparable to saying “Go to the Islamic fundamentalist extremists” in our culture.  Nineveh is in current day Iraq, for what that’s worth. 

Yet many of us refuse every day, not to go to Islamic fundamentalist extremists.  Not to go far away, but to go to those right in our own neighborhoods. 

You might wonder how you are supposed to go and to whom you are supposed to go.  But don’t let any one of you leave here thinking you’re not called to go. In Galatians 5:16, Paul says: So I say, live by the Spirit… The Holy Spirit is the one who leads us to go, which is fitting, because it is he who gives us power.  In Galatians 5:25, Paul goes on to say: Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will be the one who leads us.

Nowhere in the Bible do we see Christians sitting back, listening to a message once a week and doing nothing about it. It’s a shame when this meeting is seen as the totality of Christian life.  For many, the goal is to get someone in church, to get them to maybe someday join a church. As United Methodists, we often have thrown our whole weight behind church membership, and we’ve made it easy to become a member of a church.  Did you know that most of our UMCs have a membership that’s about twice as many people as actually attend the church?  And for many, membership is a revolving door; they join, they hang out for a while, they don’t get connected, and they leave.

This is not biblical Christianity!  When we are led by the Spirit, we will do fantastic things.  Too often we get into our minds what we want, looking at things based on our own preferences or likes or dislikes, but the Holy Spirit might just have something else in mind for us.  This week at Annual Conference, we listened to a story from a gifted speaker, Rev. Janet Wolf.  She was appointed to First UMC in Nashville, a church founded in the mid 1800s, a church that had declined for years from their heyday in the 1950s.  Now there were only a handful of elderly people, no children, no young families.  Over the years, the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood had changed, and now, nobody from the neighborhood was participating in ministry at all.  This church didn’t want a pastor to lead them; they wanted a chaplain to be with them as they died.  That’s not what they got.  As Janet Wolf began leading and praying, the church started thinking about who they were being led to.  Where was their Nineveh?  Where was their Samaria?  They determined that it was right around them.  They started praying for children for their congregation, and boy, did God answer that prayer with children.  One thing they figured out pretty quickly is that doing Holy Spirit ministry is messy.  But it’s absolutely worth it.  Does anyone here have a friend or family member who is far from Jesus? What would you sacrifice if it meant that they would clearly hear the Gospel and respond in faith?  Would you sacrifice worship style?  Would you sacrifice worship time?  (don’t worry – I’m saying this to both services) Would you volunteer your time as a servant? Would you get out of the church building?

Going back to Jonah: God called him to Nineveh, the capital city of the enemy power.  He didn’t want to go.  Why?  Jonah 4:1-2 gives us the answer. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."  Jonah didn’t want to preach to Nineveh because he knew God’s character.  God would spare them.  Jonah would have been fine if God had simply gone all Sodom and Gomorrah on Nineveh.  Jesus’ disciples once asked if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan town that had denied them hospitality. But Jesus turned and rebuked them (Luke 9:55).

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to call down fire on your enemies?  But that’s not God’s style.  God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.  Jonah didn’t want to go where God called him because, knowing this about God, he knew that God would accept the dreaded Assyrians.  God would actually love the enemies of God’s own people.  This would mean something profound for God’s people… that they don’t always look like us.  They don’t always act like us.  And God has called us, his people, to go to them.

What does this mean for us?  Doing Holy Spirit work is messy.  The people God has called us to reach out to aren’t always well kempt.  They don’t always look like us; they don’t always use the same language we do. Some of them would never set foot inside a church building – they think they’ll be struck by lightning if they come in.  That’s a common joke, but the serious fact is there are people who feel unwelcome in the Church. 

One of the speakers at Annual Conference last week, Jorge Acevado, said this:

Spiritual malpractice is offering Jesus as the healer but not offering the safe places, spaces, people, and processes for people to heal.

Here’s the thing: what would happen if we actually began to intentionally reach out to the kind of people that the Holy Spirit might lead us to?  The Ninevites and Samaritans?  Who are our Ninevites and Samaritans, who God loves enough that he sent his Son to die for? 

How can we a safe place where healing can happen?  What kind of processes do we have for messed up people to heal?  The fact is, we’re all messed up and in need of God’s healing and grace, but sometimes the processes we have are only the ones that we need, they’re only safe places for us.  But everyone needs God’s church.

So where might the Holy Spirit be leading us as a church?  This is our task.  God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, and he didn’t.  He went the opposite direction.  I think it’s fun that we have the whole VBS thing going on here with the ocean theme – because Jonah jumped in a ship going the opposite direction. 

I wonder sometimes if we haven’t gotten in a boat going the wrong direction… or not gotten in a boat at all.  Think of it; while Jonah was running away, I get that.  But some of us aren’t moving at all.  God was able to get to Jonah through a fish.  But before he ended up in the fish, do you know what Jonah was doing?  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god.  And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. Jonah 1:5.

The outsiders were frantic – they were doing everything they could.  But Jonah was asleep.  And I think this accurately describes most of us.  While the world around us is in terrible turmoil, we’re asleep.  While there are desperate people all around us, we’ve gone below deck for a little siesta.  What will we do?  It’s time to wake up, to listen to God’s voice calling us to our Ninevehs, and go to them.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jude, a Letter to the Church, Page 4

While Jesus told his followers that they would be known by their fruit, Jude calls these troublemakers “fruitless.”   He says they are useless, even a burden on the church.  In the face of destructive false teaching, Jude warns the church to build their faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  We looked at that briefly last week, but I want to reiterate it because there was so much in last week’s message that this part might have slipped by you.  Building yourself up in your most holy faith is extremely important.  Don’t just accept someone else’s faith – not my faith, not your parents’ faith, but build up your own faith.  Did any of you share your faith stories this past week?  How did it go?  Did any of you listen to anyone else’s story? If you were here for the Baccalaureate service, you got to hear some powerful stories of faith from our grads.

Faith is rarely built when it isn’t tested.  One of my friends recently complained that his running times aren’t dropping.  He wants to be able to run a certain pace, but he’s not able to.  I responded to him that he’s going to have to run faster if he wants his times to drop.  Kind of obvious, isn’t it?  But it’s not always that easy.  In fact, to drop time, he’s going to have to run faster, but shorter.  We call that “interval” running.  That will train his body to run faster.  Likewise we have to do intervals for our faith.

How does that work?  Stepping out in faith isn’t easy anytime, but when you’ve become accustomed to doing so, it becomes easier, less foreign.  When I was a kid, I thought the only way to step out in faith was to volunteer to become a missionary to Africa.  Funny, I never even thought of becoming a pastor; that never even crossed my mind.  But it’s a huge step to go from just sitting in the pews to the African mission field.  So instead of getting frustrated that you “can’t” make a huge step, take a small step!  I wouldn’t counsel any of you who have never run a step to sign up for a marathon; I would tell you to start small; maybe with walking.  Likewise with stepping out in faith.  Your first step can be to tell your faith story to someone “safe.”
Before you start building up your faith, it’s good to remember the big picture, however, and Jude’s benediction might help you with this.  It’s a rather complex sentence: did any of you learn diagramming when you were in English class?  I tried to diagram this sentence, and it’s pretty much impossible.  But the main emphasis is clear: it points to God. 

God is first described as able to keep you from falling.  Did you notice that it doesn’t say he will keep you from falling?  Just that he is able.  We have free will, and we can turn our backs on him whenever we want.  Like the Israelites whom God delivered from Egypt, who later rebelled against God.  They never entered the Promised Land.  Not even Moses. 

But if you let him, God will keep you from falling and will present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.  To rightly understand this, we need to understand God’s glorious presence.  When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God responded: you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live. (Exodus 33:20). When Isaiah saw the Lord, he cried out I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). When Ezekiel saw the likeness of the glory of the Lord, he fell facedown.

I grew up with a respect and love for God and Jesus, but sometimes we forget how mighty and fearsome God’s presence is.  He’s not just our “buddy” who hangs out with us. He will not tolerate sin in his presence whatsoever.  This means if we have sin in our lives we cannot come into God’s presence.  This is why James tells us to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16). It’s not the confession itself that frees us from our sins; it’s the state of our heart that admits we’ve done wrong and allows the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross to be effective against our sin.  Then and only then does the Holy Spirit usher us into God’s glorious presence, without fault.  Jesus atoned for our fault, and now when we enter into God’s presence, we are faultless! And great joy comes with it, because this is the relationship we were meant for.  This was how God meant things to be when he created Adam and Eve, when he spoke face-to-face with them and walked together in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day.

Jude wants to be sure that God gets the proper credit, that all glory goes to God.  This was one of Paul’s areas of focus in his letter to Rome.  In fact, he opens with a stinging rebuke: people who knew God neither glorified him as God or gave thanks to him.  Because of this, he gave them over to their sinful desires.  Romans 1:18-32 can be summarized as God basically saying, “If you want to be like this, then be like this. I won’t force you to worship me, to acknowledge me.  But if you choose your own way, know that you are apart from me, and you’ll have to deal with your own sins.”

There are some really tragic moments in the Old Testament.  When God comes walking through the Garden of Eden to enjoy time with Adam and Eve and they are hiding from him because of their sin – that’s a tragic time.  When God’s people decide they need a king because all of the nations around them have one, when they all “do as they see fit”, that’s tragic.  But terribly tragic moment you might not have ever focused on comes in Ezekiel 10:18, when the glory of God departed from over the threshold of the temple. 

God won’t put up with sin!  This week I heard it said this way: God’s not playing.  When Jude says “to God be glory” – the big question is who will give God glory?  When Jesus was coming into Jerusalem some of the Pharisees told Jesus to quiet his followers down.  Jesus responded, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  (Luke 19:40).  In other words, if God’s people don’t give Him glory, the earth itself will.  Will you give God glory, church?  Will you do everything you can to make sure that when people look at us, they see God, and when they see God, they love who they see?

Jude also commands us to give to God majesty, power, and authority.  These go together, comprising God’s role as King.  Would you ever think of just sauntering into a King’s presence, doing whatever you want, whenever you want?  There are all sorts of customs that go into how one acts in the presence of a King.  Like, if you were eating with a King, you wouldn’t start eating before the King eats (and wouldn’t ask for something else other than what the King’s servants put on your plate).  Coming into God’s presence with the proper respect is more than just being quiet and reflective.  It’s more than just dressing up nicely.  It’s more about the posture of our hearts than what we look like on the outside.

Honestly I think we sometimes forget who’s got the power.  We treat God like a genie in a bottle; whenever we want something, we rub the bottle and demand the genie come out and satisfy our every wish.  How ridiculous is that?  Who do we think we are to shake our fists at God and demand our way?  God is the one with the power and authority.  This is why Jesus instructs us to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Even Jesus Himself prayed that way: “Not my will, but yours be done.”

And when we realize who is who –that God is God and we are not, the things that God will do are awesome.  It’s kind of like what Robert Yates said: “It is amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares about who gets the credit.”  But better said: it’s amazing what God will accomplish when He gets the glory.

And God proves that He deserves the glory through Jesus Christ our Lord, through his teaching, his perfect life, his death, and his resurrection.  And our command is to listen to him and obey his words.