Saturday, August 24, 2019


Christians under construction: blessed are the pure in heart.
Carroll FUMC August 24 and 25, 2019


  Good morning fixer uppers. Back to work on the rehab project today.  Which means back to work on ourselves.  We are God’s rehab projects and remolding your heart is God’s favorite job.
We have talked about 5 of the beatitudes and you can almost see them as a process.
 The first beatitude tells us that we have to admit that we are poor in spirit, which means knowing deep inside that we are empty, powerless, and completely unable to save ourselves.
The second beatitude challenges us to begin to regret or mourn the ways we have hurt God and the people around us.
Meekness, which is the third beatitude, means that we voluntarily give up our right to direct our own lives in favor of God directing us.
  And then we develop a desperate hunger for God and God’s righteousness in the fourth beatitude.
Once we have been filled with God’s righteousness, the beatitudes start turning outward and talking about our faith in action like giving and receiving mercy.
  And today we come to purity of heart. Let’s say todays beatitude together. “BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.”

  Pure in heart… Let’s start with heart and we’ll come back to purity. 
The heart is a very powerful organ.
Physicists tell us that in one hour the heart works hard enough to lift a 150-pound man to the top of a 3-story building. In 12 hours enough to lift a 65-ton tank off the ground 1 foot. And in 70 years, a common life span, the heart has done enough work to lift the world's biggest battleship right out of the ocean. I defy you to create a machine that can work continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week year after year that does not need lubricating, adjusting, and does not even need to be tinkered with over the course of a lifetime.
Our heart is amazing. Of course, Jesus wants us to take care of it.  He is advocating a little cardio, good food and regular checkups, right? Was Jesus really ahead of his time with a degree in cardiology?  I don’t think so.

  When Jesus refers to the heart he is not talking in modern anatomical terms. He is using the ancient conception that the heart is the center of our being. The heart in biblical thought is the center of passions and emotions, thought and reflection, decision and will. It is the whole of our inner being from which come all our ideas, thoughts, feelings, desires, and decisions.  We might think of it as our REAL character. Jesus said in Matthew 15:18-20 that the heart is the source of the things that defile a person. 'But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a person'.
But wait… good things come from the heart too. What about good thoughts, generosity, faithfulness, truth, and praise? Yes, they come from the heart, but only a heart that is pure.  Only when our true character is not concealed by sin.  The selfish desires, the jealousy, all the hate, all the fear obstructs our view of life and God. … Only as our true character is cleansed from all these impurities, does goodness begin to seep out and then we can see God more clearly.

  So, let’s talk about purity for a minute.
The Greek word Jesus uses for purity is 'CA-THI-ROS'  Ca-thi-ros was used to describe clean drinking water, threshed grain, metals that were 100% a single metal. From it we get the words catharsis, catheter, and cathartic. Each one has to do with getting rid of stuff we don’t need.
Our hearts are like well water… it is indeed water but there are all kinds of minerals and solubles in it. You might like that the taste, but if you want pure water, someone has to filter it and distill it so there is nothing but H2O in your glass.  This is the essence of 'cathiros' is to subtract the bad stuff until there is only one thing left. To subtract all the minerals  from water until is 100% H2O. It is to chip away all the stuff in our heart that was not put there by God at our conception until our hearts are 100% the image of God.
What does it mean to be pure of heart then? 
Does it mean that we are sinless?
Does it mean that we are perfect?
Does it mean that we never doubt?
 No, it doesn’t. The emphasis here is not on PURE but on HEART. Let me explain.

You know that over and over again Jesus gets into trouble with the pharisees. There is a good reason for that.  The pharisees were most concerned about right action in order to stay ritually pure.  Therefore, they avoided pigs and dead bodies and a thousand other things. They ate only approved foods. They washed and bathed in ritual ways to make sure that they were ritually pure, and they thought that being ritually pure made them right with God.
These are the people Jesus called “whitewashed tombs,” pretty on the outside but dead on the inside. These are the people whom Jesus called a “brood of vipers” and asked “How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.” (Matthew 12:34)
It isn’t that the pharisees were really evil, but they wore their religion on the outside.
For Jesus, religion had to start on the inside. When Jesus says blessed are the pure in heart, he was pointing out that wearing your faith on the outside is not enough. It has to get inside you. Jesus wants to push us beyond outward religion to examine what is in the inside.
         A good pharisee would never commit murder. But Jesus says murder grows out of hate, which starts in the heart.
         A good pharisee would never commit adultery. But Jesus says, the sin doesn’t happen when you act on it, you have to trace it all the way back to the first lustful thought.  Who has never had a lustful thought?
         The pharisee would say, “I am pure because I am very careful to ritually wash my hands or even my whole body whenever it is necessary.” Jesus says, “fine, but no soap can get to the source of your uncleanliness. God looks at what is in the heart.”
Notice that Jesus is not emphasizing purity …the pharisees made a science of ritual purity.  He is emphasizing purity of heart over purity of the hands. Not purity in keeping the law but purity in loving, serving and forgiving.

 Have you ever really listened to the first two vows in the baptism of confirmation service… DO YOU RENOUNCE THE SPIRITUAL POWERS OF WICKNESS, REJECT EVIL POWERS OF THIS WORLD AND REPENT OF YOUR SIN? Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy?  But we know from the first beatitude that we can’t do it ourselves  so the second question is DO YOU ACCEPT THE FREEDOM AND POWER GOD GIVES YOU TO RESIST EVIL INJUSTICE AND OPPRESSION. Do you accept God’s help to have a pure heart?

You might say, I am “pretty pure”… I mean I would never murder, or cheat on my spouse, or steal, or any other obviously wicked behavior.  Sure, I might have a vengeful thought, or a judgmental attitude, or misdirected anger.  But I am almost pure.

If that’s what you are thinking you might be a little like the 10 year old boy who wanted to see an R rated movie.  His mom said, “No.”  The kid said, “Oh, there’s not a lot of bad stuff in it. There’s just a little bit of bad stuff.”  The mom said, “Fine.  First, I’m going to make you brownies.”  The kid was pumped. 
She went out in the yard, got a little spoonful of dog poop, mixed them in the brownies, made the brownies, and said, “Here you go.  But before you eat them, you need to know there’s just a little bit of poop in the brownies.”
“I’m not eating that.  That’s gross that’s gross.” She said, “No, no, no.  There’s just a little bit of poop in the brownies, just like there’s a little bit of bad stuff in your movie.”
Would you eat the brownies if they were “almost” pure?  Then why would you be satisfied with a heart that is “almost” pure.

 We’re back to  subtraction aren’t we?
Are you OK with your brownies being almost pure?
Are you satisfied with just a little bit of racism in your heart?  If not, you and God need to purify your heart.
Are you satisfied with just a little bit of greed, or hate, or anger in your heart? If not, you and God need to purify your heart.
Are you OK with having just a little bit of unforgiveness in your heart? If not, you and God need to purify your heart.
When I was in youth ministry, I used to tell the girls don’t wear a swimsuit if you would be embarrassed to show it off to your grandpa. Purity of heart is kind of like that. If there is anything that you wouldn’t brag about to God (or your grandma) maybe it needs to be subtracted.

Purity of heart doesn’t happen all at once… at least not for most of us.  It is a lifetime of searching out the stuff that isn’t brownie in the corners of our hearts and giving it to God. The traditional word for it is “sanctification.”
You can start right now. Close your eyes and imagine… Think about the last 24 hours of your life.  Or ,,,if you have a purer heart than I do the last week… and hold it up  to God.  Is there anything you would prefer God didn’t see?  Is there anything that makes you at least a little uncomfortable?
Now, sort out just that part of your heart that is not brownie, just the part you would prefer not God didn’t see.
Do you have it? Now… offer it to God.
Remember you are poor in spirit you can’t do this by yourself.
Hand the impurity to God.  And pray out loud after me.
“God, I give this to you. And I never want it back. Purify my heart so I never do that again. Purify my real character and help me to fill that spot with your joy, or your goodness, or your love.  Free the people sitting around me from their impurities so that together we will see you more clearly.  Thank you for freeing us.  Thank you for purifying us. Thank you for loving us. In the powerful name of Jesus, I pray… AMEN”




Saturday, August 10, 2019

Christians under construction Hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Carroll UMC 8/10 and 11, 2019


Christians under construction
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
Carroll UMC 8/10 and 11, 2019

Our fixer upper project will be half done today.
How are you feeling? Someone told me the other day that this series had been very “interesting.” I told them interesting is not enough. We need to move these beatitudes from our heads to our hearts so that we will be truly changed.
The question is NOT do you understand the beatitudes we have covered: poor in spirit, mourning, and meekness. The question is do you have them deep down inside.
 Do you feel your emptiness, your powerlessness, your weakness, your poverty of spirit before God? Do you feel like a hole in the bottom of a bucket? … not even the bucket, just the hole. Do you really feel your nothingness and know that nothing you do can ever fill you up? Do you really feel your poverty of spirit?
Do you grieve? Do you feel real pain over the things you have done or not done that have hurt others and God? I am not talking about “oops, sorry.” I am talking about feeling hopelessly heartbroken over the hurt you have caused and desperately wanting to do better. Grieving our brokenness. Do you feel like the bucket with the hole in the bottom? We can never extinguish the fires we have set because we leak out faster than we can be filled up. Do you mourn your sin?
Have you given up fixing yourself and are you ready to give up your own efforts to rely on God? Are you willing to give up the attitudes that cause pain in order to be filled with the mind of Christ? Are you ready to give up your self-sufficiency in order to feel that only God is enough? Are you willing to set aside your plans to be part of God’s plans? Are you willing to place your hopes under God’s hope for the kingdom which is both present and promised? For whom are you living? You or God?
When and only when we are keenly aware of our emptiness, deeply mourn the hurts our sin causes, and when we are wholly willing to trust our lives to God… then and only then are we ready for the next step, or the next beatitude.

  Let’s read this week’s beatitude together “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
 Let’s start with something we all know. (Or we think we know.) Being hungry and thirsty. We all know the stomach growl that comes along with being late for a meal. We all know the cotton tongue when we can’t find water fast enough! Is that hungering and thirsting?... not quite. Most of us, thank God, will never experience real physical hunger. When people get really hungry, they are willing to eat out of a garbage can or off the streets. When people get really thirsty, they want to take a straw to suck the ocean dry. That is Getting closer to the hunger and thirst Jesus is talking about. Hungry enough to walk 10 miles (uphill both directions) for some food? What about drinking out of a water bottle you find on the street I hope you never have to. But Jesus point is if we get hungry and thirsty enough, we will do things we never thought possible.
Now translate that to our need for God. Translate that to a hunger for God. A passionate desperation for God to fill us. A deep loneliness that can only be filled by God. Jesus is talking about the strongest craving you have ever had. An insatiable need for something to more to eat or drink. The lifegiving sustenance of God.

 What is it that Jesus says we should hunger and thirst for? Righteousness. When people think of righteousness the only thing they tend to think of self-righteousness. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for self-righteousness several times calling them a “wicked and perverse generation” and a “brood of vipers.”
Jesus is not promoting SELF-righteousness. If we are paying attention it is exactly the opposite. We are spiritually poor, mourning, meekly trusting in God’s righteousness. Self-righteousness is a misnomer. There is no righteousness in us, but only in God.
Righteousness is being in line, being in the right place, living the right way. being in the right relationship with God.

 They say, "You are what you eat." Nutritionists tell us that our appetites determine our diet, our diet determines our intake, and our intake determines our health.
"You are what you eat" applies in the spiritual realm as well. Jesus challenges us to look at our spiritual appetite with the penetrating words of the fourth Beatitude: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6).
In this simple sentence, Jesus tells us that our hunger determines our spiritual health. In order to grasp its meaning for us, we need to explore two types of righteousness.

 First, there is the free gift of righteousness. I take that phrase from Romans 5:17. The passage reads
16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Paul basically says if we are judged on our own merits we are domed. But if we hunger for the free gift of righteousness in Christ, Jesus offers us his own righteousness, like putting a beautiful coat over our rag tag sinful life. So, when God sees us, he does not see our dirty old sinful rags. What he sees is Jesus’ beautiful righteous coat. This all happens by faith alone, which still amazes me.
It is a FREE gift, no strings attached, no gimmick, no tricks, just a free gift that comes by faith.
Colin Smith in his book about the beatitudes called Momentum,  says eople who come to Christ in penitent faith realize that they don’t have what it takes before God. (That is the point of beatitudes 1-3) That is why we come, and when we do, we receive the marvelous gift of Christ’s perfect righteousness, draped over us and counted by God as if it were our own.
              Righteousness is God’s free gift that works on our hearts molding them and shaping them into exactly what God wants us to be.

ON THE OTHER HAND…
On the one hand is the free gift of righteousness. On the other hand, there is the life of righteousness. Free righteousness changes us from the inside, shapes and molds our hearts. The life of righteousness grows out of our changed hearts.
Let’s look at the other places in Matthew in which the term righteousness is used.


Righteousness starts in the heart and changes a person from the inside out
Let’s start with the passage we read today, Jesus said, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20). The Pharisees had created a religious system built around attendance at the temple. It included hundreds of rules intended to keep people away from sin. While staying away from sin might create the illusion of righteousness, it does not make for righteous living. It was like wearing cheap perfume splashed on to cover up the truth that was in the heart. True righteousness starts in the heart and changes a person from the inside out.

Lived righteousness makes us different.
The 8th beatitude, which we will study in a few weeks, uses the word righteousness. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness" (Matt. 5:10).
Those who hunger and thirst to be right with God live righteous lives that make us obviously different from others around us. Which can draw criticism and even persecution.
The question is do we hunger and thirst for God enough to be different? Do we hunger and thirst to do the thing that is right before God, so much that you are willing to be criticized for it or even persecuted? Lived righteousness makes us different.

Righteousness is not for showing off how religious we are, but rather to honor God.
In the third use of this word in Matthew, Jesus said: "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matt. 6:1). The Pharisees loved to pray in public - loudly! They loved to dress up in fancy clothes and make a show of their offering. They would do anything to get attention and praise. The key words here are “to be seen by them.” It was like smoke. It could be seen but there was nothing to hold on to. The purpose of living righteousness is not to show off, but to honor the changes God has made in our hearts. True disciples don’t care what others think, they only care that they honor God.

 Righteousness causes us to seek to honor God above everything else
The fourth occurrence might be the best known: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you" (Matthew 6:33). This passage pushes us to consider the priorities of life. Are we seeking approval from others, wealth, security, respect, happiness? Those are all OK, but they should not be our number one priority. Or do you seek above all things to honor God. Seeking the kingdom of God means being willing to be different because we are shaped by God’s righteousness in our hearts. It means that we don’t behave differently in order to get attention, but only to honor God above everything else.

 Put these four passages together and what do you have? Righteousness is being changed from the inside out to live a truly Christian lifestyle, not in order to please the preacher, or show up your neighbor, or prove your goodness, but only… only… only to honor God.
In short, Righteousness is being changed from the inside out to live a life that honors God.
 You can live this life. In fact, Jesus plainly says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” That means anyone who wants more than anything else in the world to live the good life of the kingdom of God will be blessed. Anyone who wants more than anything else in the world to live the good life of the kingdom of God will be filled.
Filled With what? Food? No. Money? No. Long life? No. Promotion? No. Happiness? No. A perfect family? No. A trouble-free life? No. What then?
You will be filled with God’s self.
In spirituality, if you want it enough, if you hunger and thirst for it… God wants to give it to you.
You want a deeper spiritual life, you can have it.
 If you want to be more like Jesus, you can.
The truth is that most of us are about as close to God to now as we want to be.
For the most part, you are where you are right now because that's where you want to be.

If you want to badly enough, you can do God's will.
If you want to badly enough, you can grow spiritually.
If you want to badly enough, you can change deeply-ingrained habits.
If you want to badly enough, you can break destructive patterns of behavior.
If you want to badly enough, you can have a close walk with God.
If you were hungry for something better God wants you to have it.
What do you want more than anything?
May your hunger lead to being blessed by God.
May your thirst lead you to being filled with God.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Christians Under Construction Humility and trust FUM Carroll 8/4/19 Saturday evening sermon


Christians Under Construction
Humility and trust
FUM Carroll 8/4/19


Jack from the video has some work to do on himself, doesn’t he? He’s got quite an attitude, but at least Tom has him thinking.
To be honest, I guess I have a lot of work to do on myself too. Maybe you do too.
That’s OK though. For these 8 weeks, we are a construction zone. I don’t mean like you had here two years ago. The beautiful remodel of the church was nothing compared to the remodeling we need in our hearts and lives.
We could just go slap some paint on our attitudes or throw some cold patch in the potholes of our hearts or prop up our precariously leaning love for others. But God is not in the patch it up, cover it up, prop it up --business. God is in the life makeover business of making us new creatures in Christ. Paul writes, “So if anyone is in Christ, (if anyone is a Christian) they are a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
Hear that? Everything has become new. We are God’s fixer-uppers.
The problem is that we are a mess. Years of neglect and decay have taken their toll. The bad news is that Chip and Joanna Gaines will not be here to help us. So, God has some heavy construction to do. Let’s strap your tool belts on and let’s get to work.

2 First, let’s build the foundation. A “beatitude” is a literary form that was used in other ancient documents. These 8 beatitudes are original to Jesus, but they rely heavily on the Old Testament which Jesus and his hearers knew inside out.
“Beatitude” means blessing. Some Bibles translate the beatitudes using the word “happy.” Happiness, however, is based on outward prosperity or comfort and therefore is temporary. Some have suggested the word “lucky” … That is an unfortunate translation because luck has a certain randomness to it. There is nothing random about God’s blessing. No, blessedness is an inward and lasting joy or contentment in our relationship with God.
I want us to think of blessedness as “divine assurance.” Maybe we could call it “holy confidence” in God. It is an assurance in God’s provision, God’s goodness, God’s love, God’s grace, and that God is enough. Biblically we can see this kind of assurance in Romans 8. “When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”  It is by the blessing of the holy spirit in our lives, that we can have full confidence in God. To be blessed is to know …that we know… that we know that God is… and that God is enough.
Fanny Crosby says it better than I could ever say it.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
0 what a foretaste of glory Divine!
Heir to salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His Blood. —
Blessed Assurance is foundational to all the beatitudes. They all start with “Blessed are.” So, as I studied each beatitude, I was looking for the quality that Jesus was lifting up that would help us to experience contentment or assurance that God is enough for us and we are enough for God.

 Let’s say the first beatitude it together… “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
We know that those who are poor in spirit will receive “blessed assurance.” So, what is “poor in spirit? Like any fixer-upper project, we have to start with demolition. We have to start by getting rid of the stuff that keeps us from experiencing blessed assurance. That’s why I have the sledgehammer and crowbar. To be Poor in spirit we have to get rid of the illusion that we are rich in spirit.

Our culture says
'Blessed are those who are always right.
Blessed are those who are strong.
Blessed is the popular person'.
Blessed are those who get what they want at any cost.

 In order to be poor in spirit, we have to knock down our stubborn self-reliance.
We must pry lose the “I am my own boss” attitude.
We must rip out our need to always be right.
To be poor in spirit, we must smash the illusion that we are strong enough.
We must blow up our need to get what we want at any cost.
It all comes down to, “we have to get over yourselves!”

It is only in getting over ourselves and acknowledging our spiritual poverty that we can receive the blessed assurance from God.
Obviously, in order to get over ourselves, we may have to tear out some walls, pull up the carpet and maybe even get all the way back to the framing of our lives.

The engineering problem with that is we may have to take out some load-bearing walls. If we take out load-bearing walls the weight of the roof and the upper stories will come crashing down on top of us.
  We need to be very careful not to prop up our house of faith with the sane kind self-reliance which has held us back for so long. Fortunately, the beatitude for this week does just that. Read with me, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Meekness may be the exact opposite of what you think.
We think of meekness as weakness. We think of meekness and being a doormat. We think of meekness as gullibility.
Not so! Meekness is being strong enough to set aside our own rights for the benefit of someone else. Notice I said “strong enough” … being strong enough to set aside our own rights for the benefit of someone else.
That takes real strength, real faith, real trust, to be meek in a culture based on our individual rights, in a nation that has a history of protecting the rights of the individual.
In our every day lives, we might see meekness as we set aside our plans for the day to help our spouse or children with what they need to do. We might see it in business if you work for an organization that says the customer is always right. You might see it in the church when we make a change in order to make some group comfortable even though we really liked the way we were doing it.
Spiritually, of course, what Jesus is talking about is meekness before God. Once we humbly acknowledge that we are “poor in spirit” or empty and powerless, we set aside our own lives for the benefit of the kingdom of God. We set aside our own plans for God’s plans. We set aside our own needs for the needs of the least of these. We set aside our own concerns to care for the hurting and hopeless in our community.
 That takes real trust! Spiritual meekness is demolishing the wall protecting our rights which limits our willingness to serve God and replacing it with a wall built entirely out of trust in God. We trust God to set the boundaries We trust God to set the direction. We trust God to set the priorities. We trust God to set the agenda for the day.

I believe it was the famous pastor Eugene Peterson who taught that ministry is found not so much in our plans but un the interruptions to our plans. I think that is true for all of us. A life lived for God is found not so much in our plans as it is in accepting the surprises God has in store for us. If we are too fixated on our own plans and rights. We will miss those surprises.
To be meek means to trust God in all things and place your, rights, plans, hopes dreams, and life entirely in God’s hands.
Perhaps meekness is best expressed in John Wesley’s covenant prayer that we prayed a few months ago. I invite you to pray it together.
  “I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
 I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

 Blessed are the poor who understand needing God --and blessed are the meek who are willing to trust the leading of God.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Christians Under construction Building hope First UMC Carroll- 7/27 and 28, 2019



I have a friend who has made a few mistakes.
My friend had a good life, good job, huge house, and beautiful wife. You will see that he is a little selfish, and impulsive, and kind of a schemer. 
One day my friend noticed that from one corner of his deck, if he leaned over and stepped up on the toe klick, he could see right in to his neighbors’ hot tub.  Over and over again he would stretch out to see what he could see. Finally, he saw what he was looking for. He watched his beautiful young neighbor as she came out for a soak in the hot tub.
Immediately, my friend says he had to have her. So, in spite of the fact that he was married, he cooked up a scheme to get her to come to his house. Her husband was deployed with the national guard, so he would never find out. When she arrived, he immediately took advantage of her.  I am trying to keep the R rated story PG-13!
I don’t know if that happened more than once but at any rate, she soon texted him that she was pregnant. Remember her husband was deployed, but I said my friend was a schemer. He had friends in high places and had the neighbor man sent home on leave. For some reason I don’t know, nothing happened between the husband and wife. My friend was still on the hook for the baby and now he was hopping mad.
Going back to his connections in high places my friend arranged to have the husband sent to the most dangerous region of the war, and further arranged for him to be killed and made to look like it was killed by enemy fire.
The man was killed in action and given a hero’s burial at which his wife wept uncontrollably but turned around to mary my friend with whom she had the affair. 
Did I say my friend was a “little selfish, and impulsive, and kind of a schemer?”  OK, sometimes he’s just plain sleezy.

Hearing that story probably makes most of us feel pretty good about ourselves.  At least I am not THAT bad.  At least I haven’t done THAT.  At least I am not a pervert, or an abuser, or an adulterer, or a conniver, or a manipulative so and so, or a murderer.  Well, that’s something, I guess.
In case you’re wondering I still keep in touch with my friend. His name is David and his story is in the Bible in the second book of Samuel.  Most people call him King David. And the woman’s name was Bathsheba.
Did David get off scot free? Well, no. He anguished over what he had done for a long time.  He mourned over what he had done. He mourned over the death of the son he had with Bathsheba. Then he mourned over the loss of his kingdom and mourned again at the public humiliation of his wives.
Hmm. What does todays beatitude say about those who mourn?  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” David had plenty to mourn.
In today’s scripture reading from Psalm 51 we see the depths if David’s mourning over his past sins.
That is what Jesus is really talking about in the beatitudes when he says, “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” When I started this sermon, I really wanted to preach about the grief process and the hope of life after life. As I studied, however, I couldn’t do that with integrity, because I became convinced like never before that this beatitude was about something else.
Let me say I do think Jesus promises comfort to those who mourn the loss of loved ones, or abilities, or pets, or things. There is nothing wrong with using this scripture to comfort ourselves or others at the time of a loss.
·         Paul tells us to “weep with those who weep”[1].
·         Jesus was moved to tears His close friend Lazarus death.
·         He had compassion on a widow who had lost her son (Luke 7:12-13).
·         God weeps with us as he wept at this own son’s suffering and death.
·         And I believe that God does promise comfort to those who mourn loss. But that is a different sermon

Look at the other beatitudes. They don’t describe any life circumstances like the death of a loved one. They describe spiritual qualities that reflect God’s kingdom: poor in spirit, meekness, purity of heart, mercy, righteousness, perseverance, and peacemaking. If Jesus had been talking about grief, the other beatitudes would be things like,
Blessed are the malnourished,
Blessed are the lonely. 
Blessed are the homeless.
Blessed are the mentally ill.
But they aren’t. No, Jesus is clearly talking about spiritual mourning in this second beatitude. What is spiritual mourning?  Very simply it is mourning because our prayer “Thy kingdom come, they will be done” has not yet been answered. When the kingdom comes God’s will, will be perfectly done on earth… until then we mourn over pain, and death, and deceit, and injustice, and war, and poverty, and our own sinful selves. 
It is only a small step from admitting that we are “poor in spirit” which means we know that we need God, to admitting that we are sinners in need of God’s help.  We mourn because we know that without God our choices and behavior often harm ourselves, others, and even God. God has given us the gift of guilt, shame, and regret so we know when we have done wrong and to brig us to a place of mourning and repentance.
Blessed are those who mourn for the wrong they have done.
Blessed are those who mourn for the wrong suffered by others.
Blessed are those who mourn the harm done to God when we sin.
Let’s look at David’s mourning prayer from Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.
David is admitting that he is poor in spirit. I can’t do it myself I need your mercy, your love, your washing and your cleansing. He specifically asks for washing and cleansing. He knows that a ritual cleansing as Jews often practiced it, would not do it.  David was so stained by sin that he asked God to wash him thoroughly. Actually, the literal translation is “Multiply to wash me.” Wash me over and over again.
                                    For I know my transgressions,
Notice David does not try to make any excuses, shift blame like “you know, God, she was trying to lure me on purpose.” No rationalizations, no reasons, no explanations.
“I know my transgressions” is the purest kind of confession.
To transgress is to cross the line God has created. To trespass on God’s laws. And by using the word transgression David is admitting that he hurt God as well as himself and others.
                                     and my sin is ever before me.
David did his best to ignore it, deny it, go on living as though nothing had happened, but he just couldn’t get it out of his head.
Notice it was not his punishment that was on his mind.
It was not getting caught, because he was the law of the land.
It was not his reputation.
What was before him was simply the fact that he sinned.  He was mourning his sin.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
In a way that was not true. David had sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, their families, his family, his kingdom, and in a sense even against his own body. But the fact that he let God down was more disturbing to him than all the rest added together. The earthly guilt begins to fade away when we realize how our sin breaks God’s heart.
Again, David expresses his regret, his morning, essentially saying, and I did it all right in front of you God. And I made you watch. It is one thing to be burglarized, it is another to be tied up and watch the burglar take all your things. David takes full responsibility for the way he has hurt God.
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.
David says “I throw myself on the mercy of the court. Whatever you do I deserve. Whatever punishment you dish out, I will take.  I have been a sinner since birth, and I am deserving of punishment.”
David is not trying to blame his mother or the way he is brought up or original sin. That is not the point. The point is he understands the depths of his sinfulness.
             
You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
Because David was poor in spirit, he knew that he could not do this himself.
Look at this… You desire truth in the inward being; therefore, teach me wisdom in my secret heart. David knows that God wants us to live in truth and wisdom… in the image in which God created us. God knows who we are and knows what a mess we make of ourselves. But God is always seeking to get us back in touch with the basic image of God in which we were created.
Then the request for forgiveness. Purge me. Actually, the Hebrew word there means to de-sin or to un-sin.  Take all the sin away as the priest would do with hyssop. Washing was a critical part of the Jewish ritual practice. In fact, baptism like washings were frequent in the Jewish tradition. So, David says wash me whiter than snow.
After the request for forgiveness. David offers a song of hope.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.
David’s heart was stained.  No bleach in the world could get it clean. He wanted God to give him a whole new heart. When he said this, he had a glimpse into something that would be written much latter in Ezekiel I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
The word “create” here is specifically related to God’s creation in Genesis1 and 2. It is the ability to create something out of nothing. David wants God to do a new act of creation in him.
And then do not take the Holy spirit from me, restore me, sustain me with a willing spirit. All to say, help me not to do it again. Knowing that we are poor of spirit, David knew that we must rely on God’s power to resist evil and temptation.

            And that is what we need too. We need to be those who mourn our sin, brokenness, transgression, and failures … and fall back on being poor of spirit so we too can pray.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.

As we prepare for communion today, I call you to complete honesty.  I doubt that many or any of us could one up David in his sins with Bathsheba.  But that doesn’t make my sins or yours any better. Any sin… any brokenness… any failure to live up to God’s image in us hurts ourselves, others, and God. 
So, I call you to complete honesty… which is hard with ourselves … let alone with God. But then again God won’t be surprised at anything because he already knows it all.
 Complete honesty. Lay your sinful and stained heart open to God. Own your sinfulness, own your stains, own your brokenness before God. Mourn your sinfulness, mourn your stains, mourn your brokenness before God.
Then I invite you as you come to communion today to pray out loud Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. We will leave it up on the screen for you. As you pray that prayer, I will place the body of Christ in your hand to remind you that in him you ARE a new and forgiven creature.
Let’s say it once together… Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.



[1] (Romans 12:15; see also 1 Corinthians 12:26)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Christians Under Construction Humility (Poor in spirit) FUM Carroll 7/21/19


Christians Under Construction
Humility (Poor in spirit)
FUM Carroll 7/21/19
In the weeks to come we will be seeing Jack and his family every week. Jack has some work to do on himself, doesn’t he? He’s got quite an attitude, but at least Tom has him thinking.
To be honest, I guess I have a lot of work to do on myself too. Maybe you do too.
That’s OK though. For the next 8 weeks our church is going to become a construction zone. I don’t mean like you had here two years ago. The beautiful remodel of the church was nothing compared to the remodeling we need in our hearts and lives.
We could just go slap some paint on our attitudes or throw some cold patch in the potholes of our hearts or prop up our precariously leaning love for others. But God is not in the patch it up, cover it up, prop it up business. God is in the business of making us new creatures in Christ. Paul writes, “So if anyone is in Christ, (if anyone is a Christian) they are a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
Hear that? Everything has become new. The problem is that our old self gets in the way a lot. Paul writes, “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”  Does that sound like you… I can sure identify with it.
We all have a lot of work to do on ourselves. That’s why I called this series Christians Under Construction. In a way we are all God’s fixer uppers. The bad news is Chip and Joanna Gaines are not going to help us. The good news is that God has a great blueprint for your fixer -upper project. And God has provided a wonderful general contractor called the Holy Spirit, and the perfect carpenter, Jesus.
So, strap your tool belts on and let’s get to work.

2 First, let’s build the foundation. A “beatitude” is a literary form that was used in other ancient documents. These 8 beatitudes are original to Jesus, but they rely heavily on the Old Testament which Jesus and his hearers knew inside out.
“Beatitude” means blessing. Some Bibles translate the beatitudes using the word “happy.” Happiness, however, is based on outward prosperity or comfort and therefore is temporary. Some have suggested the word “lucky” … That is an unfortunate translation because luck has a certain randomness to it. There is nothing random about God’s blessing. No, blessedness is an inward and lasting joy or contentment in our relationship with God.
I want us to think of blessedness as “divine assurance.” Maybe we could call it “holy confidence” in God.  It is an assurance in God’s provision, God’s goodness, God’s love, God’s grace, and that God is enough. Biblically we can see this kind of assurance in Romans 8. “When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”  It is by the blessing of the holy spirit in our lives, that we can have full confidence in God. To be blessed is to know …that we know… that we know that God is… and that God is enough.
Fanny Crosby says it better than I could ever say it.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
0 what a foretaste of glory Divine!
Heir to salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His Blood. —
Blessed Assurance is foundational to all the beatitudes. They all start with “Blessed are.” So, as I studied each beatitude, I was looking for the quality that Jesus was lifting up that would help us to experience contentment or assurance that God is enough for us and we are enough for God.

 Let’s say the first beatitude it together… “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
We know that those who are poor in spirit will receive “blessed assurance.” So, what is “poor in spirit? First, we should note that the beatitudes are presented in both Matthew and Luke. There are differences between the two. Luke has 4 Matthew has 8. Luke adds woes, Mathew does not. And in this particular beatitude Matthew says, “poor in spirit” and Luke says “poor.” Some argue that Luke is original to Jesus because it is simpler, and Matthew embellished. Others argue that Luke had a social agenda for the poor and outcast.  That would give Luke good reason to remove “in spirit” from this beatitude and make it about economics.
However, I ask why isn’t it possible that Jesus preached the beatitudes more than once and maybe in different forms? This is not only a possibility, but I think likely and we may just be reading accounts from two different occasions.  So we shall stick with Matthew’s “poor in spirit” since that is the text in front of us. 
So, what is “poor I spirit?” Let’s think back to the video by the First Church Players. Tom wrote in his letter  "The preacher likes to quote a verse from the Bible -in the book of Matthew, I think. He says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ You know, it's kind of funny, big brother, Jesus had to take away everything I had and put me here in jail, so that I could find Him and share a part of all the riches He has to offer.”
I don’t think Jesus has to take away everything we have… but just like a fixer upper show we must start with demolition. That’s why I have the sledge hammer and crow bar.
 We have to knock down our stubborn self-reliance.
We have to pry lose the “I am my own boss” attitude.
We have to rip out our need to always be right.
We have to smash the illusion that we are strong enough.
We have to crack open the lie that money make the man, woman or child.
We have to flatten our need to be popular or pushy
We have to blow up our need to get what we want at any cost.
It all comes down to, “People get over yourselves!”
Obviously, in order to be poor in spirit (and therefore blessed to be part of the kingdom of heaven) we must demolish the illusion that we are rich in spirit. If we are to be poor in spirit, we may have to tear out some walls, pull up the carpet and maybe even get all the way back to the framing of our lives.

 The Greek is a word Jesus used that we translate “poor in spirit” means “to cower, to cringe like a beggar, to crouch, to bend, to be ashamed, to wretchedly beg for money.” It describes someone who cannot survive on their own, someone who cannot be self-sufficient, one who cannot earn a living, one who begs for whatever they need. It could be literally translated 'beggarly poor', 'Blessed are the “beggarly poor,” for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. And if you take this meaning of the word and you combine it with 'in spirit', 'poverty in spirit', Jesus is saying…
Only people who know that they are powerless can experience God’s power and be blessedly assured of their place in the kingdom of heaven.
Only those who are aware of their own weakness can experience God’s strength and be blessedly assured of their place in the kingdom of heaven.
Only people who give up their tight grip on money can experience wealth and blessed assurance of the kingdom of heaven.
Only people who can live without popularity or prestige can experience our amazing God and the blessed assurance of the kingdom of heaven.
Only those who give up on their own strength, their own goodness, their own worthiness, will know the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who know that they are completely spiritually bankrupt because only then can we understand that God’s generously, gracious, loving help is our only hope for seeing the kingdom of heaven.
We are not blessed because being poor in spirit earns God’s favor. That is pride.
We are blessed because when our hollowness is exposed, when our pride is proven, when we admit our weakness, and acknowledge our powerlessness, God can lift up and fill us with Himself. Blessed are you, when Christ is poured into your emptiness... blessed are you when your emptiness is filled with the Spirit of God… Blessed are when you have nothing because Christ will be your everything.   
Blessed are you when you admit that you are desperate for God.
Blessed are you when you confess that you are lost without God.
 Breathe
Michael W. Smith
This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me
And I I'm desperate for you
And I I'm lost without you
This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me
And I I'm desperate for you
And I I'm lost without you
And I I'm lost without you
And I I'm desperate for you
And I I'm lost without you
I'm lost without you
I'm lost without you
I'm desperate for you
I'm desperate for you
I'm desperate for you
I'm lost without you
I'm desperate for you
I'm desperate for you
I'm lost without you
I'm lost without you
I'm lost without you
I'm lost without you
I'm desperate for you