Sunday, July 21, 2019
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Monday, July 8, 2019
Sunday, July 7, 2019
Monday, July 1, 2019
[About Our Speaker: Dave Bayless serves on our church’s Leadership Board, is one of our several small group facilitators, often helps to lead our worship services, and is an engineering professor at Ohio University. We are especially blessed when he has the opportunity to speak and share God’s Word with us. Thank you, Dave!]
Our scriptures today remind us in different ways that being ready for God is not something we – as a people – are very good at doing. Oh we may love God and we may earnestly want his Kingdom to come, but we, okay maybe me, but I don’t think I am alone – so “We” are so not ready.
Like the Psalmist whose mind may know of the greatness of God, but whose soul refuses to be comforted by God, we are not ready.
Like the Samaritans who were not ready for Christ, we are not ready.
Like those that professed they would follow Christ, but… we are not ready.
Let us pray.
Lord, help us to be ready for you. Help us to be more like Elisha and less like the Samaritan villagers. Help us to be active seekers of the path you want us to follow. In Jesus name we pray – Amen.
So, today I’d like to ask you the question – Are you ready? But, that seems vague. So, what is that we should be getting ready for? I bet a lot of you answered this
Are you ready for the return of Christ?
What a great question. And what a great sermon that could be. We could read Matthew Chapter 25 versus 1-13 about the bridesmaids that waited for the groom, but only half of them were ready with additional oil for their lamps. But that is not what I am going to talk about. Because frankly, that is way above my paygrade to do it justice.
So how about another great, but maybe easier spiritual question – are you ready to follow Jesus? Right, we are here today, so the answer must be yes – at least to some degree.
To answer it, speaking as an engineer, we’d have to identify some tangible metrics by which to assess that we were indeed ready to follow Christ.
Let’s dig into the bible and get those metrics on a spreadsheet (long, long list) and viola. We will know if we are ready to follow Christ.
Okay, it looks like the Bible has a lot of things that could guide us to be better followers of Christ. Let’s do what all great engineers do when overwhelmed with data – we make assumptions and simplify.
If we had to pick, from Jesus’ own words, for what we need to do, why not start with the two commandments Jesus said were the greatest and ask ourselves “are we ready to obey his two greatest commandments?”
… to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?
… to love your neighbor as yourself?
That is easier, right? Love God. Love your neighbor. Okay
But now, if we really reflect, we get down to some uncomfortable places in ourselves when we answer if we are ready to follow those commandments.
I know that for me, I have not loved God with all my heart, soul and mind. Much like the rich man, who had been doing good things in Matthew 19, who could not give up his bountiful possessions, the threshold Jesus set for following Him. Like that rich man, I have tried to do good. I have tried to love God, but I will admit with much shame that I have put earthly things in front of God. I have worshipped my own false idols. I have failed. But I am up here today and you know why?
God forgives. He wants us to keep trying.
And that is the first key takeaway I hope you will remember – keep trying. Love is an active verb. It is not enough to just realize that the Holy Spirit is in it us. As Pastor Robert taught us two weeks ago – we have to embrace it, listen to it, love it. You have to work for that connection – for loving God.
What about love your neighbor? Hold on. That is not really the question. If we are to be correct, Jesus is asking us to be ready to love our neighbor as ourselves.
So, are you ready to love yourself?
Tough question, right? Let’s figure out what it means to love yourself, because if you hate yourself, you are likely to hate your neighbor. Have you ever heard the saying that “hurt people hurt people?” It is true.
I am not talking about love yourself as being selfish, being egocentric, hopping on Twitter to pronounce just how awesome you are and that everyone should know you are really, really, the best. In fact, that kind of behavior is anything but self love.
I would submit that loving yourself is being happy with your true self. Knowing yourself and living in the light – or what we call in leadership training circles – being authentic.
Are you ready to be authentic? With yourself? With others?
How can you love others when you don’t love yourself enough to be authentic? Lies, even white lies, are corrosive. Jesus didn’t say “And the truth shall set you free, except for those little lies you tell when you think you are protecting someone.” Or those little lies you tell yourself.
Here is takeaway #2 for the day: God wants you to be authentic. As Paul taught us, be authentic but DON’T be cruel about it. That is what I interpret as being authentic with empathy. And as Paul taught us, being authentic and holding each other to authentic behavior is absolutely necessary to be closer to God because alone, we are weak.
To be closer to God, to be ready for Him, we must embrace His way. And those false faces we put on are barriers between us and others, especially God. He wants us to be in relationship with Him and with others. A relationship cannot be real if it is built upon falsehoods.
How can we be ready to love ourselves and others if we are not ready … to accept forgiveness? You might ask “What kind of person would not accept forgiveness?” I would answer – humans. Sometimes it feels good to hold onto the hurt, as if we are paying for our sins. Don’t get me wrong – we need to really feel. We need to connect to the pain we cause. Remorse requires it. But we can hold onto the shame and the pain way past the point where we are remorseful and why do we do this? I don’t know, but I think a lot of us have something in our past, something we did that corrodes our love for ourselves. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Takeaway #3: God has given us the path out of that shame and slavery to sin. Jesus, cut off from God, took all the sin for us. All we have to do is authentically ask for forgiveness and authentically accept God’s infinite grace.
And how can we be ready to love ourselves and other if we are not ready … to forgive? Oh, this is one so familiar to me personally. I cling to anger of injustice. The anger that our world rewards the liars and cheats. The anger that our world too often rewards those who hate and those who are evil.
You see Evil doesn’t just hurt those it directly affects. The injustice of it erodes usall when we hold onto the anger, pulling us farther from God.
It is not what God wants. He knows that we need to forgive – not forget – but forgive. Because you see, the hate we hold only hurts us and keeps us from being closer to God. Easy words to say, but hard words for me to live by.
Takeaway #4: Being ready to forgive is what we need to reject the hate, the evil, the greed, the hurt and the sin.
So you may be saying – that sounds really awesome and I try to do all those things. But then ask “How can I be a better Christian – more ready for God than I already am?” You may already read the bible, or pray, or go to bible study, or serve others in His name. What else can you do to be more ready for Him?
Well, that is really good question. Honestly, I don’t have all the answers and only God knows the exact path that is right for you.
But I do know these things
A small group shares your struggles, you journey, and your spiritual needs. I am not saying they have all the answers, maybe they are not any more ready than you. But you know what, they are willing to share God’s love, be authentic and help you be authentic, help you forgive and accept forgiveness, and help you be ready for Him.