Saturday, April 6, 2019

When God calls your name: Joseph “I’ll do it my way” FUMC Carroll 4/6 an 4/7 2019

When God calls your name: Joseph “I’ll do it my way”
FUMC Carroll

 How many of you are like me and consider it an insult to have to look at the directions to figure out how to put something together? You know I’m smart enough that, like a 2-year-old, I can do this myself!
 I’ll admit sometimes I get in a little over my head and get something like this.
 And then there is GPS.  Does anyone else ever think, “Oh, I know where I am, I’ll just ignore the GPS because ‘I can do it myself?’”  A lot of times that doesn’t work out so well does it?
 I never cut my own hair but did any of you try this as a child?  Did it work out well for anyone?  Probably not.

 We must come to grips with the fact that sometimes we do not know best. And we never know better than God. God is very clear about that. Isaiah 55 says, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways’ says the Lord.”
The book of Proverbs says: “There is a way that seems right to us, but in the end, it leads to death.” (Prov 14:12, NIV). Now, contrast that Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6, NIV)

 In some ways I’m a “my way of or the highway” kind of guy.
I have never liked to do things the way everyone else did them. In school, a had a math teacher tell me, “You get the right answer, but boy you take the hard way to get there.”   Turns out my way is usually the hard way.
To this day, if I get an email that says this is a mandatory event all pastors are required to attend, I automatically dig in my heels and resist doing what I am told. I’ll be the first to admit that too often I still try to do things my way.
 But as I have grown in my faith I have come to see that there are two ways to do things, Not my way or the highway, but “My way OR God’s way.”   God’s way may not always be the easiest, but it sure creates fewer problems than my way.

 I take comfort knowing that I am not alone. The Bible is filled with examples of people who preferred their way over God’s way.
•            Adam and Eve? We all know what happened because they had to choose their own snack God forbade.
•            2 weeks ago, we talked about Sara and Abraham rushing God by a child through Hagar.
•            God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come out. Moses thought if speaking was good, striking the rock would be better. He did, and water came out. But God told him because you couldn’t follow directions you will never enter the promised land.
•            God told King Saul, to wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice on the altar. Since Samuel was late It seemed okay to the King to offer the sacrifice himself. He did. But God told him, I have now rejected you from being King over my people.
•            David thought he could ignore the law and follow his own urges with Bathsheba… his hole just kept getting deeper and deeper.
When God speaks our name, we must listen to all the directions. I vividly remember a test we were given in about 3rd grade. The instructions were to read the entire test before beginning. Those who did not, got an automatic “F” because the instructions at the bottom of the page read, “Write only your name on the top of the paper and turn it in.” We were taught an unforgettable lesson that day.  There is a good reason to follow the directions.
There is a way that seems right to us, but the Bible is very, very clear that it is GOD’S WAY OR THE HIGHWAY.

 Joseph was faced with a dilemma in today’s story.
Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel to announce to her that she would have a child.
Her fiancé, Joseph found out and he made plans to divorce her quietly.
It is hard for us to understand Jewish marriage customs. The bride and groom were not married until the groom took her to live in his house. The betrothal, however, as more than an engagement. If a man died before the wedding, his betrothed was still considered a widow. If a woman was unfaithful it was not fornication, or sex outside marriage, it was adultery for which Mary could be stoned to death.
The story says Joseph was a righteous man.  In other words, he knew and respected the law.  But it is also clear that he was a merciful man and cared for Mary very much. He did not want to publicly humiliate her, he did not want to expose her to public condemnation, he did not want to have her harmed in any way let alone stoned to death.
We are not sure what it would mean to “divorce her quietly” but it almost certainly means with as little fanfare and as little attention as possible. He just wanted to put this behind them and move on.
The thing is, don’t you suppose Mary had told Joseph about what happened? Undoubtedly when she told him she was pregnant she explained that she had not been unfaithful. She explained that this was an act of God through the Holy Spirit, but Joseph couldn’t hear that. If he heard it, he couldn’t understand it. She explained that she had never been with a man, but he couldn’t hear that either. She explained that the angel had come. She explained that this was a child of the Holy Spirit. She explained that this was God’s doing. She explained that this child would be named Jesus because “he would save his people.” She explained all of that, but Joseph couldn’t get around the thought that she had been with another man. I don’t blame him.  I can’t imagine that any of us would that thought differently.
Apparently, Joseph was not angry with Mary. I would think anger would have been natural. I kind of think that if he didn’t believe her, he might have been harsher with her, but maybe he believed what she said (at least on some level). If he believed her, it would explain why he didn’t want to humiliate her.  So, he made his own plan. He would quietly divorce her. 
OK, that’s the plan and he could wash his hands of the whole thing.

Or maybe not. Remember Joseph was a righteous man. He was a good man.  He was a faithful man. He knew that God spoke through dreams so when the angel came to him in a dream he listened carefully. “Joseph son of David do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”
The angel said, “She’s telling you the truth and are to be part of this.”

Joseph had a decision to make. This is where we often find ourselves. 
•            His heart said divorce the girl, the angel said marry her.
•            His head said there was no explanation besides her infidelity, but he kind of believed her and in his heart, he wanted to believe that the angel was right. 
•            His head knew that marrying Mary would mean that Joseph himself would be subject to public disgrace… you know, “Poor Joseph couldn’t even handle Mary before they were Married. Or maybe he did and maybe HE made up the crazy story to cover up the consequences of his decision to be with Mary before they were married.” Under these circumstances, that would have essentially amounted to rape. 
•            In public opinion, he was either a gullible doormat or a lying horndog.

 Which will it be?  When the voice of God calls your name… what is your response?
“Don’t worry God, I’ve got this under control.”
“No thanks, God, I have other plans for tonight?”
Maybe a whiney, “but God… I really want to do it my way.”
Maybe a stand your ground response… “Leave me alone, I can do it myself.”

When God changes your plans, it can be hard…
•            I have had some weeks when practicing the sermon on Saturday night it became painfully obvious that this was not the message God wanted the next day.  That’s hard to swallow.
•            I have known people who have their lives all planned out and God calls them into pastoral ministry. They were teachers, doctors, stay at home parents, and retired people who have all felt that call. It can be hard to say “no” to what we have in order to say “yes” to what God has for us.
•            I have known people who are quite comfortable sitting on their couch reading the newspaper while the kids are in Sunday school, but I’ll never forget the dad who came in and said, “I’ve never done anything at the church, but if you need help, let me know.” Little did he guess he was just the ticket for a hard to handle middle school class. Sometimes we don’t have any idea why we open ourselves up to something.
•            I remember every bone in my body telling me I couldn’t take a chance on this troubled kid begging to go on the mission trip. Thank goodness there was something about him that convinced me. Because God was working in him to call him into ministry.  Now he is a wonderful pastor.

 It comes down to a question. “Are we going to GET in God’s way or DO IT God’s way.” Are we going to insist on our way?  Are we going to submit to God’s way?
A Sunday school was putting on a Christmas pageant which included the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the inn.
One boy wanted so very much to be Joseph, but when the parts were handed out, the part was given to a boy he didn't like, he was assigned to be the inn-keeper instead.
He was pretty upset about this, but he didn’t say anything to the director.
He came up with a plan of what he could do to get even with Joseph.
Finally, it was the night of the performance, and here came Mary and Joseph walking across the stage. They knocked on the door of the inn. The innkeeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted.
Joseph answered, "we’d like to have a room for the night.
Suddenly the inn-keeper threw the door open wide and said,
"Great, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house!"
 For a few seconds poor little Joseph didn’t know what to do. But thinking quickly on his feet, he looked inside the door past the inn-keeper and then said, "no wife of mine is going to stay in a dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn."
And once again the play was back on track!

In a small way, the innkeeper tried to do things his way… but Joseph wouldn’t have anything to do with it.  He wanted to stick to the story the way God wrote it and he was flexible enough to stay faithful to the story.
How about you? Whose story will you act out? Whose sign will you follow? What will be your answer when God says, “Here do things my way?” 

Will you stand in God’s way or do things God’s way?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

When God Calls your name: Jonah- you can run but you can’t hide CFUMC March 24, 2019

 When God Calls your name: Jonah- you can run but you can’t hide
CFUMC March 24, 2019

Human beings have a fight/flight/freeze instinct. In dangerous situations, it can save our lives. If we are attacked by a lion we must choose between fight, flight or freezing. The wrong choice can be the difference between life and death.
Sometimes that instinct kicks in when it is not really a life and death, such as any new experience, a job review, or an emotionally charged discussion. Hearing God’s call is one of those times when fight/flight/ freeze is not necessary but sometimes it happens. Sometimes we fight, protesting, “Not me.” like Sara, or making excuses like Moses. Sometimes we just freeze as though we think if we hold real still maybe God won’t be able to see us and will go away. This week, however, I want to talk about the flight response. When God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh, he chooses flight: he takes off the other direction as fast as his legs will carry him.
The book of Jonah tells a story about an 8th century BC prophet named Jonah, who is also mentioned in 2 Kings chapter 14. Jonah is from a town near the sea of Galilee. He had it pretty easy as prophets go. Most of the prophets brought messages that no one wanted to hear. Jonah had a message that pleased people. He said that Israel would expand its borders in certain regions and Jeroboam II did just that.
Then Jonah’s luck runs out because he received a message that HE didn’t want to hear. “Go to Nineveh for their wickedness has come to God’s attention.”
That doesn’t sound so bad, but we need to understand a couple of things. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and the Assyrians were notoriously cruel in battle. They did things to their enemies that we can’t talk about before lunch. Let’s just say they enslaved, abused and tortured them. The Assyrians had not yet attacked Israel or Judah, but they were the greatest military threat of Jonah’s day. Jonah was frankly afraid of them.
He also hated them. The Assyrians were militantly pagan and forced their beliefs on conquered nations.
Finally, fear and hatred toward the Ninevites, Jonah had a bad feeling. He knew God was a God of steadfast love and mercy and grace. Steadfast love and grace is great until God offers it to those whom you fear and hate.  Jonah was afraid of the Assyrians, he was even more afraid that God might bless those wretched dogs. Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed.
So, Jonah came up with a plan… run away, run away.
Do you just want to run away sometimes? I don’t mean run away from dishes, and taxes, and house payments, and kids (or parents) … We all want to do that at one time or another. I am asking you to dig deep inside and tell yourself the truth, do you ever want to run away from God? Have you ever received a nudge from God and when you couldn’t ignore it, you ran away? If you say “no”, I think you could be the exception. Most of us struggle mightily with hearing and responding to God’s call.
Samuel, Isaiah, and others say to God: “Here I am, send me.” Jonah says: “There I go! Get some other chump!” Which will you be?

 If you do want to run from God… we can learn some lessons from Jonah.
First, if you are going to run from God, you have to go further than the middle of the ocean. Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
 God calls Jonah to go 600 miles East to preach in Nineveh. (That is the House to the Gold star).
 Instead, Jonah traveled 66 miles to the South West in order to hire sailors to take him 4,714 miles to Tarshish in Spain. The only reason he didn’t go further is that he didn’t know about North America. 
God tells him to go east and Jonah sets off to the west and just for good measure, he goes 8 times further than God wanted him to go. That ought to be far enough don’t you think? You don’t think so?
You are absolutely right. No matter how far Jonah went, God knew exactly where he was. It is no fun playing hide and seek with a God who is everywhere and knows all things.
Psalm 139 helps us to understand:
 Where can I go from your spirit?
 Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
 if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
 If I take the wings of the morning
 and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
 and your right hand shall hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
 and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
 the night is as bright as the day,
 for darkness is as light to you.
 If you are going to run from God, you better go further than God can reach. The problem is God is Omnipresent… everywhere… God is Omniscient knows all things. So, you must go a lot further than in the middle of the ocean. Too bad Jonah didn’t hear this sermon first.

 Second, Jonah teaches us that If you want to run from God, don’t start praying when you get in trouble!
God meets Jonah’s ship in the middle of the ocean and sends a terrible storm upon it. The Sailors who were not followers of God prayed to their own Gods, they lightened the boat, they did everything good sailors knew to do. They finally woke Jonah to pray to his God and soon discovered that they are harboring a fugitive from God’s call. Jonah told them to toss him overboard and the storm would stop. Still, they tried everything they could, including rowing to shore, and nothing calmed the storm. Finally, they prayed to Jonah’s God for forgiveness, threw Jonah overboard kind of like human sacrifice, and the storm stopped. (incidentally, they soon began to believe in God.)
God provides a fish to protect Jonah. It doesn’t say whale like you might have been taught, but it says God prepared a fish. Now, I don’t know what it would look like in a fish stomach, but just consider it an educated guess that it wouldn’t smell very good.
After Jonah set up camp, (I love that picture)… After Jonah sets up camp, what does he do? Does anyone know? He prays… that’s right. The one who is trying to run from God… the one trying to play hide and seek with God… the one going out of his way to do the opposite of what God calls him to do… prays from the belly of the fish.
I understand. It is natural human instinct, to grab for anything we can if we are about to fall. It is natural to reach out to God.  But you can’t have it both ways.
Jonah prays…
  “I called to the LORD out of my distress, and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.
You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas,
 and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows
 passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again
 upon your holy temple?’
The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O LORD my God.
As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the LORD;
and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
Does that sound like someone trying to run away from God?  Let’s put it this way. You don’t set off fireworks when you are playing hide and seek. So, if you want to run from God make sure you don’t start praying when you get in trouble.

 Finally, If you want to run from God, you better hope God is merciful and lets you out the front door.
I look at it this way… There were only two ways out of that fish… When God had the fish spew Jonah out the front door he was being merciful. The back door would have been even worse.
In other words, if you are going to run from God understand that there will be consequences. Mostly you will be found because you can run but you can’t hide. But Along the way intentionally disobeying God never turns out well. You might not be eaten by a big fish… but you may run into all kinds of unpleasant complications in life. Until you finally decide to run toward God instead of away.  God will try anything he can to get your attention. Before it is all over you may think Jonah got by pretty easy being vomited out on the shore.

 Maybe running from God is not such a good idea. I guess when you consider that God is all present, all knowing, all seeing, and all-powerful running doesn’t seem like a very good idea.
Nonetheless, I kind of like Jonah – I like his story. He’s real – and he struggles with issues I struggle with:
*What do you do when you don’t want to do what God wants you to do?
* What do you do when you know what’s right, but that’s just not the path you want to travel?
* What do you do when God’s plans and your plans just don’t match?
* What do you do when you don’t know if you can trust God?
* Perhaps the worst struggle of all – What do you do when God asks you to do something… you know God asks you to do something… you have heard God’s voice… and it is undeniable… but it is something that you resent, or fear, or don’t believe you can do… What do you do?
These are Jonah’s dilemmas. These are my dilemmas. Are they yours? I suspect there’s a little of Jonah lurking in the heart of every one of us –our human will is locked in a power struggle with God!
If you listen carefully enough and long enough eventually God may say, obey!
And you may say, “No way!”
You would not be the first. Names that immediately come to mind are Noah, Sara, Isaac, Moses, The Israelites in the desert, David, Daniel, Hosea, Joseph, Peter, Paul… get the idea… and me too. It’s OK to add your name to the list of those who have tried to run from God, but notice we all end up running right back into God’s arms.
You could run from God… or you can try… but you can’t hide!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Revolutionary Joy... in temptation February 23 and 24, 2019 First UMC Carroll

The weather forced us to cancel services on site this weekend.  We broadcast on facebook. 

Temptation is as old as time. Adam and Eve faced temptation and they didn’t do so well.
Jesus faced temptation and won (but he was a special case)
Paul faced temptation. Think about his life; all the hardships from beatings to shipwrecks, to hunger. How tempting would it have been sometimes to just throw up his arms and walk away. Don’t forget that Paul was a pastor. You know two of the greatest temptations as a pastor? They are pride and discouragement and they go hand in hand. One moment we think, “Everyone should think this is am important as I do, just because I am the pastor and I say so.” And the next moment is “No one cares about this. Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.” Now you know the tug of war in my head. If they are honest, every pastor is sandwiched between those two temptations and I’m pretty sure Paul was no different. He faced temptation too.
And we have talked about the conflict in the Philippian church. You know how you react to conflict. Some people are tempted to jump in there and fight even if they are wrong. Others are tempted to turn tail and run, even if they are right. And the Philippians were just human. They faced the same kinds of temptations as we do; from materialism, to alcohol abuse; from lying to stealing; from overeating to laziness. They were tempted just as we are.

 Let’s just be honest. We all face temptation. Mine are likely different than yours. Maybe for you it is chocolate cake, maybe a wondering eye, maybe “borrowing” something that isn’t yours, being judgmental, speaking evil, alcohol, racism, looking at things you shouldn’t look at; going to places you shouldn’t go, to associate with people who aren’t good for you.
We all have temptations and they are not fun. When I talk about joy in temptation I’m not saying that we ought to seek out temptation. I’m not saying that we ought to celebrate temptation. Nor am I saying that temptation is fun.
Strangely enough, though, Paul does find a reason for Joy in temptation.
I know, right now your greatest temptation might be to say, “The pastor has gone crazy!” But please fight that one off until I explain myself, OK?

Let’s look at the text for today.
  Therefore, let’s stop right there. This passage is connected to the preceding passage that we we talked about last week. Remember, Jesus humbled himself and God exalted him for our salvation.
THEREFORE, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence. Up to this point, Paul says, I have been able to guide you in how to live your new faith. He knows he will not be able to do that for long, however.
He continues,  now you will have to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
There might be different ways to understand this, but I think Paul is saying that salvation is a gift from Jesus. Discipleship is figuring out how to live into that gift. And the Philippians will have start doing discipleship on their own.
Becoming a Christian does it come with an instruction book. No. Ultimately, for good or for bad, we are responsible for living out our new life in God.
So far this is not anything to be joyful about is it. Essentially Paul is saying, “soon you will have to do this without me!” But wait. Paul continues.

For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Aha. There’s the joy! This is the good news here.
We work out our own salvation, but God is working in us.
This is called sanctification. SANCTUS is the Latin work for holy, so sanctification is “holification” or making us more and more like Jesus.
 God’s work doesn’t stop with forgiving your sin. God does not abandon you. God is at work in you transforming you. God is at work in you making you better than you were. Hopefully better today than yesterday. Hopefully more like God next week than you are this week. God is at work in you. And taking it one step further, God is at work “enabling you to both to will and work for his good pleasure.”
God is working to change your will or desires. And
God is working to change your work or your actions.
God is working on both the temptation and your resistance to temptation to make you more like Jesus each and every day.
God is working to take away the power and the danger of temptation.

Why is that so exciting? Because all of that is for God’s good pleasure!
Because every time you win over temptation, saying “NO.” God wins a victory making you a little more like Jesus.
Every time you struggle with temptation and ultimately say, “I’m not going to do that.” God wins a victory making you look a little more like Jesus that day.
Every time you don’t pick up the bottle, every time you don’t look at that person or those pictures, every time you don’t lie, every time you don’t get discouraged or don’t beat yourself up, or don’t hold a grudge. God wins a victory making you more and more like Jesus.
That is worth an AMEN isn’t it? That is worth some celebration! That is where the joy comes in. Not because you were tempted, but because God is working in you to win victory over temptation.

Let’s jump to James and we see the same thing.
   No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it.
           OK? Got that the same message as Philippians. God offers salvation, but we still must struggle with temptation.
Then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.
 Do not be deceived. Temptation is not the sin. It is when we act on the temptation or cave in to the temptation that we sin. And that is not OK.
The good news is that, God is working in us to give us power over temptation and therefore over sin.
  James writes, every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.
           That’s sanctification. Every time we win against temptation it is a gift coming from God. Every time we win against temptation we participate in the fulfillment of God’s purpose of making us more and more like Jesus. Praise God! That is worth some joy.
  I will be the first to admit that we don’t always win over temptation. Things don’t always go our way. Paul, in fact, is sitting on death row and he says if I get out of here I rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” If this doesn’t work out the way I hope I still “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” Paul rejoices in the Philippians and their becoming more like Jesus. “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice” Paul says, win or lose, rejoice! Resist temptation or fall flat on our face, rejoice! God is at work in you whether you blow the temptation off like a feather, or wrestle it in a cage match to the death. Rejoice because God is at work in you to make you more and more like Jesus so “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice”.
Does that make sense? Do you still think I am crazy talking about joy in temptation?

Do you see how wrestling with temptation can actually be a joyful thing? It brings to light the victory that God is winning in us. Day by day, temptation by temptation we are becoming more and more like Jesus.
Occasionally we hear a story about an alcoholic who finds Jesus and is never tempted to take another drink. Occasionally we hear a story about a person who is immediately and miraculously freed from the bonds of some troubling compulsion or habit the day they meet Jesus. I pray that a beautiful thing like that happens to each of us.
But usually the process longer. Usually the process of sanctification is slower. Usually the work of making us holy is more difficult, but just a beautiful. And along the way while God is making you more beautiful “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice”.
So, I leave you with Paul’s words of beautiful encouragement from the message version of Philippians.
  Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof … of God’s power in you and the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Revolutionary Joy in humility February 17, 2019 Carroll FUMC

Revolutionary Joy in humility
February 17, 2019
Carroll FUMC

 Oh Lord it's hard to be humble (sing with me)
When you're perfect in every way
I can't wait to look in the mirror
Cause I get better looking each day

 To know me is to love me
I must be a heck of a man
Oh Lord It's hard to be humble,
But I'm doing the best that I can.[i]

I will say, for all my shortcomings, that is not one I struggle with. I have never been tempted to believe I am perfect in every way.” Far from it, my personal tendency is to dwell on my shortcomings and faults.
Pride comes in a lot of different and sometimes sneaky flavors.
The psychologist Tracy Robins distinguishes two types of pride. [ii] AUTHENTIC PRIDE represented in words like accomplished and confident. It is a positive characteristic in which we REALISTICALLY recognize our effort, hard work, and accomplishments as having value. It has to do with our self-esteem. There is nothing wrong with that. One of the keywords being REALISTIC. Humility stems from the Latin word “humus” meaning ground.  Humility is being grounded or having our self-image firmly planted on the ground. Authentic pride is not the opposite of humility. In fact, the realistic assessment of ourselves is part of humility. The opposite of authentic pride is hubristic pride.
 HUBRISTIC PRIDE is related to words like egotistical, bigheaded, conceited, vain, smug, and arrogant. Hubristic pride is an UNREALISTIC belief in the superiority of our talents, abilities and positive traits that make us SUPERIOR to other people. The key words being UNREALISTIC and SUPERIOR TO OTHERS. This hubristic pride is the opposite of humility.
Sadly, you may recognize hubristic pride in others, but it can be hard to see it in yourself. If you are not sure if you have hubristic pride, ask your spouse or best friend what they think. If you have trouble thinking of anyone besides yourself that is smart enough or good enough to answer your question…you may have hubristic pride.
There is another word we need to push off to the side.  Related to humility is HUMILIATION. Humility is not humiliation.  Humility is giving up our unrealistic pride of our own free will. It makes us better people. Humiliation, though, is having even our actual or realistic pride stripped from us involuntarily and unrealistically until we stand unfairly exposed for all the world to mock…

There are several flavors of hubristic pride.…
·        Self-reliance. Being too proud to accept help or charity even if you really need it.
·        Snobbishness. You know, people who have the attitude that says, “You are lucky I am not charging you money for the privilege of being in my presence, looser.”
·        Stubbornness. Being too stubborn to admit you are wrong or back down on an argument even when you know you are wrong. It is unrealistically believing that you can never be wrong.
·        Spite. When everyone knows you can’t do something, (and you know you can’t do something) but you stick to it just to try to prove them wrong.
·        High Expectations. (UNREALISTIC) When you throw away a chocolate cake you made for the family because it tastes great but isn’t quite the perfect shape you expect.
·        There is indignation, which says bad things can happen to other families, but they aren’t supposed to happen to me or my family.
·        Intellectual pride… if you know Sheldon Cooper Big Bang theory… that’s all I have to say.
·        Perfectionism you must deliver the perfect product that meets everyone’s expectations, so others don’t see how imperfect you think you really are.[iii] I saved that one for last because I didn’t like it much.
Can I confess something without making you uncomfortable? I’ll confess, when I started preparing this week I thought I was pretty much in the clear. I didn’t think pride was one of the many sins with which I thought I struggled. But when I read about this flavor of pride called perfectionism I saw myself all over it. I was convicted that the workaholism with which I have struggled even when I was in high school (what some have perceived as a perfectionism) might really be a kind of pride. Could it be that I am too prideful to let others see my imperfections? Is it possible that I am so pridefully insecure that I feel like I have to work twice as hard just so no one knows that I don’t feel like I am as good as the next guy? It is a little twisted, but that is how pride works.
Can you see yourself in any of these? Can you see some way that you might be prideful without having realized it?
Turning to the book of Philippians, it is clear that they are dealing with some kind of conflict in the church. See if this sounds to you like Paul is lecturing the Philippians on pride.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” That kind of sounds like a lecture about pride to me.  
There may be another clue in chapter 4 verse 2
“ I urge Euodia (ye-od-ee-ah) and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
We can’t tell for sure what’s happening, between these two women but whatever competition or conflict they have sure sounds like pride.
·        Maybe relational pride like “I’m better than you because Paul likes me better.”
·        Maybe stubborn pride, Maybe Euodia (ye-od-ee-ah) says, I’ll never admit that I am wrong because I am not playing second fiddle to that garbanzo bean, Scynthe”
·        Maybe intellectual pride, “step aside and let a real Christian tell you what Jesus meant.

Whatever the cause or flavor, it sure seems that the church at Philippi was infected with the sin of pride because Paul lectures them about humility.
If there is any Jesus in you, any love, any spirit, any compassion, any sympathy…make my joy complete by “regarding others as better then yourselves.
As an aside, That is not the way I would define humility. Rather than “regard others as better than yourselves.” I would say “Do not think of yourselves as better than others.“Do not think of yourselves as better than others…” neither puffing yourself up nor tearing them down. Making them smaller doesn’t make you bigger. But being in Jesus, in love, in spirit, in compassion, and in sympathy makes our joy complete.  
 When Jesus is teaching that there is “no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend,” in other words to get outside our own pride and humbly offer ourselves to others he says, “I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” [iv]Being trapped in protecting our pride is joyless… but Jesus says his joy is in us and our joy is complete when we give up the petty ego or pride games.
No one likes to be around conflict, especially when it is born out of two competing egos. Being together in Christ without prideful competition makes Jesus’ joy, Paul’s joy, and our joy complete.

 Paul knew about humility. He had to leave his pride behind at his conversion. Paul was the great persecutor of Christians, gladly killing the Jesus following scum at every opportunity because he as a Pharisee had a corner on the truth. Suddenly Paul was knocked off his horse, blinded and the Jesus whom he persecuted was calling him to work for the other side. He emptied himself of his pride and his hatred and became a humble evangelist for Jesus. And he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.”
Paul knew humility; stripped, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked and all the other suffering I mentioned last week yet he counts it all Joy because it was for Jesus.
Paul knew humility, even while he was in prison, others carried on the gospel and for that he was joyful.
If you want to look beyond Paul to the perfect example of humility, look at what Paul wrote in Chapter 2 of Philippians.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
Wow, perfect humility.
Think about it. Jesus Christ was the pre-existent, all creating, ground of being, all knowing, all present, all powerful God, King of all that there is. Clearly God is without any doubt, better than all of us added together.  God is perfect…Jesus is perfect…  yet Jesus is also perfectly humble.
Notice there is no humiliation here.  Jesus did it voluntarily. He emptied himself of that. He EMPTIED himself. Poured himself out. Left divinity behind to became incarnate… literally “with meat” … God with meat on. Talk of humility… becoming one of us… a baby who needs diapers changed… a child subject to the discipline of the parents. An adult who actually feels pain, struggles with right and wrong, and ultimately experiences death.
And listen to the soaring heights of joy about which Paul writes.  God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Is there a more glorious or joyous passage in all of scripture? I don’t think so.
·        In God’s kingdom economy pride begets trouble, but humility begets joy in heaven.
·        In God’s kingdom economy there is great joy in heaven over a humble disciple pouring himself or herself out for another person.
·        In God’s kingdom economy there is no place for humiliation but in humbly pouring oneself out for the sake of another is the most joyful thing we can do.

We sit here in various degrees of pride and every bone of our body wants to hang on to that. Every instinct we have says that if we give up our pride our fragile egos will just crumble. Every little voice inside of us is saying, “don’t do it. It is too risky”
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except one.
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except the voice of Christ which says empty yourself and humbly follow me.
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except the voice of Christ which says you must give up your life in old to gain life in the kingdom.
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except the voice of Christ which says If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except the one who taught “Blessed are the pour in spirit… blessed are the meek.”
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except the one who said, “do not take the most honored place at the table but take the lowest seat.”
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except the one who said, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except the one who said, “Let the little children come to me.”
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except the one who spoke to the lepers, the foreigners, the slaves, and the prostitutes.
Every voice inside of us says don’t do it, except THE ONE THAT COUNTS… JESUS.
There is great joy in humility.
You know what… I could stand up here on my safe comfortable chancel area and tell you to be humble.  Or I can step down of my pedestal, empty myself and show humility.
I need three people willing to demonstrate humility with me.
---------------Wash 3 people’s feet.----------------
After I have washed one person  
After he washed their feet, Jesus said “Do you realize what I have done to you? If I have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
After I have washed the second person start the loop
How can you humbly pour yourself out for others? Watch for a few ideas on the screen to get you started.

Go find joy in being a humble servant of Jesus.



Admit that you might not be the best in everything.

 Recognize your faults.

Be grateful, not boastful for what you have.

When you are wrong, admit it.

Avoid bragging.

While having a conversation, be more considerate.

Appreciate others.

[i] Mac Davis 1974
[ii] Tracy, J.L., Robins, R.W.: Show your pride: Evidence for a discrete emotion expression. Psychological Science 15, 194–197 (2004)
[iii] Inspired by
[iv] John 15:11

Revolutionary joy in the face of suffering February 10, 2019

Revolutionary joy in the face of suffering
February 10, 2019

I have kind of a natural aversion to suffering.  I’m pretty sure you do too. None of us seeks out pain, or sorrow, or misery, or suffering. But none of us can avoid it either, can we?
We all suffer. Now it seems to me that some folks suffer more than others, I guess some of us are just more fortunate than others.
Others suffer cancer. Jessica Melore suffered a massive heart attack, heart transplant, and leg amputation by the time she was 16 years old. Then there was a lump on her neck and she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  She fought that to remission with chemotherapy and radiation.  6 years later another lump appeared and she found herself fighting for her life again.
Kechi Okwuchi is a Nigerian woman who at the age of 13 was one of two survivors out of 109 passengers in a plane crash, but she suffered massive burns over most of her body. She has undergone over 100 surgeries repairing the burn damage.
Rev. Richard Wurmbrand was jailed for 14 years for speaking out for his faith. He was beaten on the feet daily until his feet were permanently damaged.  He was tortured, beaten, starved, and his family was threatened. His wife was sent to a work camp where she hauled rock in the icy cold with no shoes. He and his wife both were taken away from their children and it was illegal to provide care for the children of prisoners. The whole family suffered because of their faith.
I am pretty sure that each of you has suffered in one way or another, to one degree or another, at one time or another in your life. Your suffering may exceed, or it may seem trivial compared to the suffering of these folks. But when you are the one in pain, or facing bankruptcy, or being abused, or addicted, or losing everything in a fire or tornado, or watching someone you love die, or experiencing chronic pain, or mental illness, or any other suffering… when it happens to you the pain is very real.

 Unfortunately, there has been a lot of bad teaching about suffering in the church.
Preachers have taught, “If you have enough faith you won’t suffer” WRONG! One preacher who taught this had the unfortunate experience of his wife being diagnosed with cancer. He had to choose between sticking with his “if you have faith you won’t get sick” teaching and supporting his wife.  He chose his teaching and publicly rebuked his wife for faithlessness.  Sometimes these bad teachings cause their own kind of unnecessary suffering.
Preachers have taught God causes suffering. NO. God doesn’t cause suffering. Some come as a consequence of our bad choices, other suffering – like tornadoes- is obviously completely random.
Others have taught that we suffer because God is powerless… or doesn’t care. NO. Suffering is not beyond God’s reach.  God will often redeem what is horrendous to bring something good from it, but God does not cause it. As Joseph said in Genesis, “What you intended for me was evil, but God used it for good and the saving of many lives.”

 So what is the Christian attitude toward suffering? There is a lot in the Bible about suffering.  1/3 of the Psalms are songs of lament where God’s people are groaning and languishing under suffering. There is a whole book of Laments we call surprisingly enough Lamentations. There is Jeremiah, and Jonah, and Job. 
This week, however, we are going to continue our study of Philippians and learn about suffering from the  Apostle Paul.
To understand Paul's credentials to speak about suffering let’s turn back to 2 Corinthians. Paul writes, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, fellow Christians of the affliction we experienced in Asia, for we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.”  He goes on to say, “ We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,   By great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger,… through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise, we are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and not yet killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
Later Paul writes “ 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.” 
On top of all that he talks about his thorn in the flesh that he has prayed 3 times for it to be relieved and it persists.
I don’t know about you, but I think Paul has some pretty good credentials to talk about suffering.
Now to the letter to the Philippians. Paul came to Philippi and started a church. It wasn’t easy. He was arrested and imprisoned and was miraculously released by an earthquake.
11 years later, 4 years after Paul had last been in Philippi, Paul now sits in a Roman jail awaiting execution. The Philippian church heard that their dear friend and pastor was facing the possibility of death So, they did what we do when someone needs help, they took a generous offering. They gave it to a trustworthy man, named Epaphroditus and they told him, “Go find Paul in prison. Tell him we love him, we care for him, we’re concerned for him. Give him this generous gift so that he can have food and whatever else that he needs, and bring back to us a report of how our pastor is doing.”
Along the way, Epaphroditus himself had become sick and was facing the possibility of his own death. God miraculously healed Epaphroditus. He was allowed to continue on his mission. He ended up finding Paul, giving him the generous gift from the Philippian Christians. And, in response, Paul sat down in his dirty jail cell and he wrote a letter with his own hand to the church at Philippi to his friends. That letter is Philippians.
Hearing all of that, is there anyone who can doubt that Philippians is written by a man who knew suffering?  He might not be the world’s foremost expert, but he is close.
So we read Paul’s words in chapter 1:12.“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.” 
Paul explains that because of his imprisonment the gospel is now known through the whole imperial guard. Those are the emperor’s personal guards.  In other words, he has taken advantage of the opportunity afforded him by having an elite roman guard chained to him 24 hours a day. It was intended that Paul couldn’t escape, but from Paul’s perspective the guard couldn’t escape either. So he shared the gospel with them.   One by one they came to know the gospel of Jesus and many accepted it for themselves.
Secondly, he writes that “some brothers have been made confident and bold by his imprisonment.”  He  explains that his imprisonment has given others courage to stand up for their faith. Perhaps they want to continue Paul’s work in his absence.
You see, Jesus is being proclaimed in a lot of ways to a lot of people either because of or in spite of Pau’s suffering and in that he rejoices… he has joy.
Down in verse 25 he says “whether I live or die I will continue in the joy of the faith.”

What Paul is doing here is showing us that there is a way of suffering as Christians so that our suffering is purposeful. Not that we seek out suffering… that would be some sort of mental illness.  But that we can suffer for nothing, or we can suffer in a way that God is glorified. Three are three aspects of purposeful suffering.
 First. When we suffer… we never suffer alone. Jesus suffered terribly for our sake. Hebrews tells us that Jesu said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” In Matthew Jesus said  “ Lo I am with you unto the end of the age” and Romans 8:38 says “"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  You know that is a favorite of mine… but there is also Joshua 1 “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  With the presence and power of Jesus our savior and our mighty God, we never suffer alone.
 Second, when we suffer, (not if but when) We can look inward and see ourselves as victims or we can look outward and ask “what is God  going to do in me” in this time of suffering. How will God change me? How will this suffering help me to be more compassionate? How could this suffering help me to be more patient? How can this suffering help me to trust in God more fully? How can this suffering help me to rely on God more completely.  We can be victims wallowing in our self-pity, or we can become victors by allowing God to perform a mini resurrection in our lives.   Job Is an example of this. Job may have suffered as much as any person in history.  He rails against God for 37 chapters.  God lectures Job for 4 chapters, and it ends with Job recognizing his pride and is becoming humble before God. When we suffer we will be changed… the question is will we be changed into victims or victors transformed by the redeeming power of God in the midst of suffering.
   Finally, when we suffer we have 2 options. We can  say “I am in pain.” We can let that become our identity and use that an excuse to do all kinds of unloving things. Or we can say “I am in Christ” and look for ways to live out that identity in whatever the circumstances of our lives might be.  We can ask “how can I be witness? How can I encourage or inspire or teach someone else?”  You may have access to people you would have never met. You may have a story that inspires someone to action. You may have a spirit that oozes love and grace as a witness to what God has done in your life.  We can chose to let the suffering define us, or we can chose victory over suffering in the name of Jesus Christ.

Yes, there is suffering but there is also great joy is knowing that we are never alone.
Yes, there is suffering but there is also great rejoicing at the opportunity to draw nearer to God. 
Yes, there is suffering, but there is a whoop and a holler that comes from heaven someone rises out of suffering to make a witness to for God’s goodness.

 Remember Jessica Melore from the beginning of the sermon. Heart attack, heart transplant, an amputation and two bouts with cancer. She is now an internationally traveled motivational speaker and vice president of the Lymphoma and leukemia society. Her suffering has taught her so much about herself that it has given her the opportunity to be an inspiration and mentor to millions.
Kechi Okwuchi the plane crash survivor, you may recognize her as the girl with the golden voice who got the golden buzzer on Americas Got Talent. She is now (besides a beautiful vocalist) an inspirational speaker telling millions about the image of Godinside each of us that has nothing to do with how our skin looks.
Rev. Richard Wumbrand jailed for his faith founded Voice of the Martyrs now ministering to millions of Christians around the world who live under persecution. NO one will ever know how many lives have been changed for Christ because Richard found a way to use what could have been personally life destroying to be life giving to so many others.

            You see joy is not a feeling. When I talk about Joy in the midst of suffering I am not talking about feeling happy. I am talking about a way of living, not for ourselves, but for Christ who “for the JOY set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” There is no feeling that can even begin to compare to the joy of life in Christ. And there is no suffering that can take the joy of Christ away from us.