Glory to God!
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” – Matthew 23:23-24 (Jesus telling the Pharisees what’s up!)
There is a point where religion gives way to faith. In order for this to occur there must come a point in time where God becomes real. To us. Where His kingdom begins to break in all around us. It is a pivotal moment. A crucial moment.
Maybe it comes about in a moment of victory. Maybe it’s in a moment of defeat. Maybe it comes about through the words of God in Scripture. Maybe through the words of a friend. Certainly the Spirit is involved, softening our hearts. Whatever it is that brings it about, we must come to a point in our lives and in our faith when a decision is made. God is either God, or He is not. Jesus is either Lord, or He is not. The life-saving work of Christ is either everything to us, or it is nothing to us. Relationship with God is either a get out of jail free card at the end of this physical life, or it is the transformative covenant that it is intended to be here and now.
Somehow, too often, discipleship is divorced from faith. As if that’s possible. As if that’s biblical. As if that’s acceptable! The call is to follow Jesus (faith). Not simply a system of belief (religion). And too often we find ourselves straining out the gnat but swallowing the camel.
What is discipleship? Taking up our cross daily and following Jesus (Luke 9:23). Where does religion end and faith begin? Only, only, when we follow Him.
If we understand anything from the cross, anything from the resurrection, anything from the design of the Gospel, it is that half-hearted Christianity is a hollow shell of existence, and nothing compared to the overwhelming greatness that comes from living a life defined by Jesus.
Only when we willingly, intentionally give our whole selves over to Him will we begin to live into the fullness of the Kingdom. And only when we are defined by Christ, will we begin see life with the clarity that only He provides.
Until then we swallow the camel one suffocating chunk at a time….
Glory to God!
Happy Birthday, Love.
You spent your 18th birthday helping my parents move… at the time, I was so busy thinking how cute you were, I am not sure I recognized how much you sacrificed for me. You have not stopped. When I think about our life together, I feel nothing but overwhelming adoration. Your commitment and love for me and our babies are a gift. I praise God for our relationship, for your heart that seeks true intimacy with God, for your faithfulness, your strength, your arms that hold me tight at just the right time, your eyes and sweet, crooked smile (and all the different things that smile means),for how important my heart is to you, for your love of coffee, for your sweet texts, for how you protect me, for how you can make me blush with just a look, for how we cry together and laugh together, for how beautiful you are to me, for how you love me imperfections and all, for how smart you are, for your muscles! You are my hero hottie of a husband and I love you. So, to that sweet boy, who kissed me goodnight on the porch I say, Happy Birthday! Love, Tiersa
So it’s your birthday, wow you’re getting old! I’m sorry I’m not gonna be able to be with you today, but I get to see you next week! Thank you so much for being such a amazing influence in my life and for always being there and for giving me your all. I love you and I hope you have a great birthday!
Happy Birthday, Cracka!!
Thank you for putting up with me even when I am not that nice at times <3 I love you and I hope you have a great day! and enjoy your coffee.
I want to start out saying that if someone said “I have the best dad in the world” I would nicely say that I was sorry, but my dad is probably a lot better that theirs! I love you and thank God in prayer for you. You and me go everywhere together. Even if it is 6:00 in the morning you would let me go to your bible study. Thanks, Dad. Happy Birthday! I love you!
Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. You are the best dad in the world. You are slow to anger and are understanding. Thank you for every burnt meal, every sip of coffee, spoonful of cereal, and get out of a spanking free card you have given me. I’m glad you’re my dad.
One month from Sunday is Friendship Day. February 19th. A day that we’ve set aside as a church to encourage anyone and everyone to come and be a part of what we are about here at West Erwin, at whatever level they are willing. Working toward a day like this provides opportunity. It provides opportunity for others to come and experience the ways in which our God is at work in and through our fellowship. It also provides opportunity for us to be working together toward an exciting goal!
Whereas we anticipate God at work in everything that we invest ourselves in as believers, centering our immediate energies toward a day like Friendship Day holds limitless possibilities for our God to reveal Himself in amazing ways. Transforming lives. Changing hearts. Connecting us to Himself and to one another. Convicting us. Shaping us. Instilling and solidifying faith and faithfulness within us.
We’ll have worship that morning. A catered lunch immediately following. And small groups later that evening. Our hope is that those who come will not only be encouraged, but will desire to connect with what God is doing in this place. That we might foster connection and relationship with God and connection and relationship with His people.
For the next several weeks as we work toward this time together I ask two things of you….
First, I ask that you be in prayer. Intentional prayer. That we would pray for our Father to absolutely blow us away by what He does on that day. Having no idea what that looks like, but trusting that He is able to accomplish immeasurably more than we could possibly ask or imagine.
And secondly, that we would be proactive. In our efforts. In our actions. In our inviting others. Perhaps you can think of those who have never stepped foot into our fellowship that are in need of seeing the love of Christ revealed in His people. Seek them out! Or perhaps there are those that you can think of that have at one time been a part of West Erwin but for whatever reason are no longer plugged in. Give them some encouragement as we anticipate our day together!
And not only should we be seeking to be very intentional in our reaching out to those outside of our fellowship, but that we would also hold one another accountable as we approach February 19th. Certainly those of us who call this church our home should make every effort to always be a part of what God is doing here, but to be especially intentional in our seeking to make this day all that it truly can be.
God honors faithfulness. I firmly believe that! He’s proven it over and over throughout the history of mankind. I am confident that in a little over a month our God is going show up in a wonderful way through the hearts and lives of His people here in this place.
Anticipate what God will accomplish. And seek to play an active part.
“Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord. Praise His name. Proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations. His marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise!…” (Psalm 96:1-4a).
Glory to God!
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”
- The Beatitudes: Matthew 5:1-12, the opening lines the Sermon on the Mount, from Eugene Peterson’s The Message
Glory to God!
If you have gotten anything at all out of following our Lord, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care at all – then please, do something for me: Be united with one other, love each other, be one in spirit and purpose. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t con your way to the top. Get over yourself, put yourself aside, and help others get to know Jesus. Don’t be obsessed with getting your way. Forget yourselves and see to it that others see Jesus alive and at work within you. – loose paraphrase of Philippians 2:1-4
As our children grow we give them instruction and advice and guidance. We discipline them, but for the greater purpose that they will themselves become self-disciplined people. They make mistakes, we help them through. They make good choices, we praise them for it. All the while with the objective that they would become mature adults.
Certainly we never cease to be mom and dad to them. I joke and say that my goal in parenting is to work myself out of a job! But Tiersa doesn’t like it when I say it at all, so forget I said that…. :) We’ll never cease to be our children’s parents. But the goal is that they would think for themselves. That they would develop a healthy, mature perspective of life. That they themselves would become God-honoring, Spirit-filled, Christ-centered adults (and if we ourselves are not God-honoring, Spirit-filled, Christ-centered how can we expect them to be?). That they would see that the world is bigger than themselves, but that they play a significant, God-ordained role.
Scripture calls us to a big-picture view of God, but also to an objective view of ourselves. To a mature way of processing life. To seeing life through a Christ-like lens. To having Kingdom insight and Kingdom vision.
The goal is one of spiritual depth. Spiritual maturity. To seek out and search for avenues in which our Redeemer might reveal Himself to others through us. To demonstrate unity amidst diversity. Love amidst conflict. To get over ourselves but to be unable to get over what God has done through Jesus. To put ourselves aside for the greater purpose of the Kingdom. To not be obsessed with getting our way, but rather, to forget ourselves and see to it that others recognize Jesus in us.
To learn to: “Think beyond me.”
Glory to God!
Jesus tells the story of a man who plants a field of wheat. But while everyone is sleeping an enemy comes along and plants weeds all throughout the wheat and then slips away in the night. As the first green shoots begin to appear the two look the same. But as the grain begins to form the workers soon realize the field is also inundated with weeds.
The farmer immediately recognizes what has occurred and that an enemy has planted the weeds right along side of his wheat. The farmhands are quick to ask if they should pull the weeds out from among the wheat but the owner knows what damage it would cause. “Let them both grow until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn’” (Matthew 13:30).
And Jesus says, “This is the Kingdom.” “The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field….”
He explains the One who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man, and those who belong to Him belong to the Kingdom. And the one who sowed the bad seed is the evil one. “The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Matthew 13:39).
But here’s my question: Where do we fit in to all of this? If this is a portrait of the Kingdom – What’s our role?
To be wheat!
Do we uproot? Do we tear down? No! How much damage would that cause? How much damage has it already caused? No, our calling is to be wheat, in a field that is full of both weeds and wheat. To be wheat, and to show the field what wheat looks like.
And the amazing thing about the message of Christ is that the Gospel provides the way that a weed can become wheat. A complete metamorphosis. A change of state. A change of being.
In reality (if I’m not taking this parable too far) when it comes to being a part of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel should confront us of our own weediness (it’s not a real word but I like it!). The Gospel by design compels us to reckon our own weedy nature. Without the Good News of Jesus it is impossible to become or to be wheat.
The Gospel is designed in such a way that the message itself should and must compel us, and convict us, and radically alter our worldview so much so that we seek to live like the wheat we are called to be, in a world that so desperately needs to see what wheat looks like. The message of Jesus allows for the opportunity for weeds to become wheat!
Glory to God!
Suppose you had a seventeen year old son who began to go bad. He rejected your counsel and wanted to take things into his own hands. Suppose he joined up with a young stranger from another part of the city and they got into trouble. You were called down to the police station. Your boy and the other boy whom you’ve never seen before both sit there in handcuffs. How would you feel inside? You would be sorry for the other boy but you don’t love him because you don’t know him. But with your own son your grief would penetrate to your heart like a sword. Only love can grieve.
And if those two boys were sent off to prison you might pity the boy you didn’t know, but you would grieve over your own boy. Why? Because you love him. A parent can grieve because they love. If you do not love you cannot grieve.
When the Scripture says, ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:30) it is telling us that God loves us so much so that when we insult Him, He is grieved; when we ignore Him, He is grieved; when we resist Him, He is grieved; and when we doubt Him, He is grieved.” – AW Tozer (The Counselor, p49).
Glory to God!