Sermon Notes

Invasive Species

The other day I was hacking some ivy back that was trying to take over an azalea plant in my backyard.  Our yard is pretty wild and overgrown.  We have a lot of trees and bushes that I am slowly learning to recognize.  Gardening has not been a huge part of our lives since we have lived most of our adult years in China and Central Asia.  Three quarters of those years were in apartments.  Now here we are back from the borderlands with house and garden.

As I was hacking the ivy, I thought I would take a swipe at this invasive species that has slowly been taking over one area of our yard.  It has been bugging me for a while, but I have mostly ignored it.  Everyone I’ve asked has recommended spraying it.  But since I have a lung condition that is probably environmentally related, and a little dog, and live near the Puget Sound where our run off water runs into, I haven’t done that. So I started pulling up the weeds one by one roots and all.  Bill saw what I was doing and joined the party.  We made a little dent in the problem.  Not major, but a start and if we keep at it we can maybe get rid of most of it and then be inspired to look around at what our next project can be.

So I started thinking, because I am always looking for meaning, messages and metaphors in life.  What if these invasive species represent evil? War, human trafficking, greed, violence, injustice etc, etc.  You name it. What if we just left it to take over? Ignored it? Even got used to it? The world would be a wild place and I don’t mean wild in a good way.

Thank God good people everyday are out there doing good every day keeping evil at bay.  They are fighting inertia and making a difference in families, neighborhoods, cities, countries and the world.

We can be overwhelmed with all the invasive species or we can find our place in the garden and get to work.  Whether it is cooking food for hungry people, making friends with our neighbors near and far, helping children, praying and blessing others, caring for the elderly or disabled, working for peace and reconciliation in the hot spots, or encouraging a friend or stranger.  There are so many ways to honor God with good works.  We all have a part of pushing back the darkness in our day and in our times.

Jesus as always is our example. He wasn’t fretting or frantic over the evil of his day or the evil of all days put together and laid on him.  He had work the Father gave him to do, a job at hand and he steadily did it, until His final hour. He was not overcome by evil but overcame evil with good.

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New beginnings

1/1/2012 New Years Day Sermon Notes

I love that God our Father gives us new mercies every day.  We don’t have to be stuck in yesterday. Or even be the same as we were yesterday.  There are always new beginnings for us. There are new chances to start over, to make things right, to begin again.  We even get to be born anew.  How cool is that?!  And the best of all He is making all things new: a new heaven and a new earth.

I am struck by the fact that we have a part to play in our new beginnings.  Our choice.  This is a gift that God has given to every person that makes these new beginnings possible.  It is the gift of choice, or the gift of free will.  It is a precious gift.

We can say yes.

We can say no.

We get to choose:

Light or dark

Life or death

The power or authority to choose is ours.

Every day we choose which path we are going to follow.  This is where we meet God.

He chooses us, we choose him.  He does not force us to love and follow him, but invites us.  Then the choice is ours.

He shows us the way – we choose to follow or not

He invites us in to the banquet – we choose to stay out in the cold or come in

Sounds easy right?  But why is it so hard?

Why do we struggle so hard to do the right things, to say no to the wrong things?

Jesus said some really strange words once:

Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.”

I am not sure I know exactly what this means but I get the sense there is some action on our parts to enter this kingdom. We have been given an Inheritance from our Father.  It is a gift to us.   Yet, we have a part to receive it.  We can think of it as a matter of a few legal issues.  Can you imagine the daughter or son of a very wealthy person who has just inherited all of her/or his Father’s estate?  I think there are few legal matters to take care of in order to claim that inheritance.  #1 Prove who you are. Yes, I can prove that I am the heir.  Sign a few documents perhaps.  It is not going to do you any good if you just point down the road to the property and say yeah, that is mine, and not do anything about it, to claim it.

I think this is where again we meet God with our free will.  He invites us to come into his kingdom and join his family.  We have a few things to do to claim our inheritance.

Agree to the adoption

We belong to Him.  He is our Father.

Leave our old house and come into his.

Sign up and follow him.

Back to the question why is it so hard?

We forget we are in a battle.  One of the areas the enemy strikes us at is at our will.  He wants to get us to lay it down.  It is very dangerous to him when we use it to choose the things of God: The good, the light, the life.  It pushes him right out of the picture. He lives in evil, in darkness, in death. He tries to get us to believe we can’t do it.  Anybody ever hear voices like this in their heads: “It is just too hard.  Or you have failed before why even try?  You have messed up this far, might as well keep going.  It doesn’t really matter.  You’re never going to be able to change.”  We have heard them so much that we start agreeing with them.

On the contrary: “We can do all things through him who strengthens us!”  We can! We are able.  We have the gift of free will.  We have authority. We just need to learn how to use it.

Titus 2:11-14 “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,  while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

Another reason it is hard.  Between choosing and receiving our promises there is often a space called waiting. We don’t like to wait.  We pretty much want everything now. It is an important part.  The waiting is a preparation for the gift.  Sometimes we aren’t quite ready for it.  When we wait we get stronger.

Isaiah 40: 28-31:  “Do you not know? 
   Have you not heard? 
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. 
He will not grow tired or weary, 
 and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, 
 and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope (wait for) in the LORD 
 will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
they will run and not grow weary, 
 they will walk and not be faint.”

One more verse to help us with our resolutions:

Hebrews 12:12-13 “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

You see we have a part in our healing.  We strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees….then we wait. In that  waiting and strengthening our Healer comes.

This is really good news.  Everyday is new. Everyday we have the opportunity to walk more into our inheritance. We get to choose to say yes to our Father, hoping in Him and waiting for all that He has promised us.

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What Counts? Sermon notes from Galatians or Part 2: Seeds, Fruit and a New Life.

What counts?  What is important? What is God looking for from me?  How do I get there?

Paul is clearly concerned for the Galatians.  He is astonished, perplexed.  After he had spent time teaching them the Good News that faith in Jesus the Messiah was what was required, they were turning back to Jewish Laws and rituals.

5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

6:15 “Neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything: what counts is a new creation.”

Circumcision represents keeping the Jewish law.  Circumcision was the Old Covenant Marker.  It showed who God’s people were. The males were circumcised.

What is the New Covenant marker?  (God made a New Covenant with us in Jesus)

Ephesians 1:13: “And you also were included in Christ, when you heard the word of truth the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.”

Keeping the law, or a set of rules or regulations is not what counts.  It’s a new life of faith (which comes from believing in Jesus) expressing itself through love that counts.  This new life is the Spirit’s work in us.

How do we get to this new life?  Does it just happen?  Do we need to do something?  Yes!  We work together with him.  He does the hard part of transforming our lives.  We cooperate with him and this is how.

Here is where seeds and fruit come in.

What are these?  Seed packets!

What happens when I plant these in my garden and the conditions are good?  Good soil, water, sun, etc…. They grow!

If I plant a tomato seed will I get a thistle?

Seeds: 6:8: “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction, the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

What are we sowing?

What are the choices we make?

What do we say yes to?  What do we say no to?

These are seeds.  Our choices are these seeds.

 Fruit: 5:19-23: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.  I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such thins there is no law.”

These fruit grow out of the seeds we plant. Good fruit or bad fruit depending on what seed is sown!

This fruit produces life or death in us. It produces life or death in our relationships.

Listen to some words of Jesus about fruit:

Matt. 7:16: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?”

John 15:8: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

People marked by the Spirit of God are bearing good fruit! Our lives tell who we are!  Our words??? Do they match our lives?  Our lives count.  They show God’s glory.

In order to get fruit of love, joy, peace…… we make choices everyday to sow seeds that will grow these fruit into our lives.

We choose to forgive, rather than hold a grudge: peace and love grow.

We choose to help our stressed neighbor: kindness grows.

We choose to not react to the driver who cuts us off:  patience and self-control grows.

We choose sit on the beach and enjoy a sunset: peace grows.

We choose to comfort a crying child:  gentleness grows

It’s not easy but we start developing new habits and new habits grow and become a new life and that is what counts.

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