Stuff Happens – Quote

FadedDoveStuff Happens – A Matter of Perspective

Life can be wonderful and beautiful. And, at times, it can be dark, fearful, and painful. Things happen in life. A milder form of a more colloquial phrase is ‘stuff happens’. Sometimes, how we face such events is, to some extent, a matter of perspective.

Spiritual Quote

“Some people complain because God put thorns on roses,
while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.”
~Unknown

This week we’ll explore our perspective on life, and our perspective of God’s role when ‘stuff happens’.

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship.

Potential Scripture

Psalm 9:9 & 10

  • Psalm 139
  • John 9:1 & 2
  • John 14:27
  • John 16:33

We Are A Community of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where All Are Welcome!

Mission Possible 2: Personal Mission Statements – Teaching

FadedDove

Personal Mission Statements – Introduction

Over the last two weeks we’ve explored our Purpose, and we’ve examined Purpose Statements and Mission Statements. Today, as we discussed last week, I’d like to expand on those discussions and explore our own, personal Mission Statements. We’ve all heard “love makes the world go round.” Our overarching Purpose Statement – “I am dedicated to being a living example of Christ’s love to everyone with whom I interact. Through my example, I am devoted to sharing the gift of abundant and limitless life I have found through Him.” – would support this thought.

However, our quote this week takes it one step further.

Spiritual Quote

“Love doesn’t make the world go round,
love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thoughts

In our human, physical existence, our lives can seem like one big roller coaster ride. We have ups and downs; at times life seems to move slowly, and other times it seems to be speeding out of control. Through it all, though, if we hold on to our purpose and our mission, God, along with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, will lead us through it all. Remembering back to our discussion last week, we spoke of two biblical characters, Moses and Paul. Each had the same overarching Purpose:

Dedication to being a living example of God’s (Jesus’ in the case of Paul) love to everyone with whom they came in contact; and a devotion to sharing the gift of life promised by God. And each had slightly different ways in which they would fulfill their Purpose – their own, personal Mission Statements.

The one we came up for Moses was: “I am dedicated leading God’s people and delivering them from a life of bondage into a life of freedom. Through faith and personal relationship with God, I am committed to teaching the people about God, His will, His ways, and how to worship (serve) Him.”

And the one we came up with for Paul was: “I am dedicated to delivering all people, Jews and Gentiles, out of the bondage of ‘the Law’ and into the freedom and fullness of life that is found in Jesus. Through travel, prayer, worship, teaching, and freely sharing my own experience, I will be a living example of Christ’s love to others; Jew and Gentile alike.”

Both Moses’ and Paul’s lives were just like ours – one giant roller coaster ride. They certainly had their share of ups and downs. Moses had to wonder through a desert, leading a group of unhappy, grumbling, scared people into a new life that would be based on the teachings and promises of God. The people often mocked him, derided him, and even threatened to kill him.

But still, he stuck to his mission. Even when it became evident that he himself would never see the Promised Land, he never wavered in his Mission.

Similarly, Paul had his share of difficulties. He was persecuted by his fellow Jews, and by the Romans. He was mistreated, tortured, and thrown in prison. Through it all, he never lost hope. Like Moses, he stuck to his mission – even if it meant his death, which ultimately it did.

Through all the ups and downs the world threw at them, they stayed the course. Especially in the “down times,” their purpose and their mission inspired them to persevere. And so it is for us. Expanding on our unifying, overarching Purpose, we each have our own personal Missions in the fulfillment of that Purpose.

Our Personal Mission Statements

Last week I committed to spend time during the week and to draft my own Mission Statement. Over time, I may choose to tweak it a bit, but…this is what I came up with:

“My mission in life is to serve God by being an agent of love. Whether by a kind word, lending an ear, giving of myself, sharing my blessings, offering support where possible, or through forgiveness – with every opportunity I will seek to do good to all people; and resist all temptation to do harm. With patience, humility, gentleness, and integrity, I do everything within my power to be an example of Christ’s love; and I continually strive to assist others in their spiritual journey, helping them to experience the fullness of life I have found through Jesus.”

I also committed to identifying a couple of Scriptures that would help support my Mission. I’ve come up with three:

  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
  • Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people… (Galatians 6:10)
  • And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…(Hebrews 10:24)

So, there you have it. My own personal Mission Statement. Something I can look at, pray over, meditate on, and use to inspire me in the fulfillment of my Purpose. And, when I get stuck, I can turn to these three little Scriptures for support. My thought, at this point, is to create this into a frame-able document to hang in my office. I might even print it onto a wallet card that I can pull out and reflect upon, anywhere and anytime.

Time for Sharing

Last week, I also challenged each of you to give thought to and write your own personal Mission Statements; and to come up with a Scripture or two. Now that I’ve share my Mission Statement with you, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to share yours. Because these are very personal, no one should feel compelled or obligated to share. Would anyone like to share what you came up with?

[Here is what was shared.]

I am still weak in the mind and spirit. I cannot realize my purpose yet, how can I? I do have a greater purpose yet to embrace. By putting God first in my life, I know it will be revealed to me. I flounder with my faith (looking for it). I am a work in progress – but I am eager to strengthen my relationship with my Father and at the right time. There are people with disabilities that are given purpose that they will never know – yet they touch people’s lives in so many ways and never realize their purpose. It will all be made clear to me!
The purpose of a man’s heart are deep waters but a man of understanding draws them out. (Proverbs 20:5)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:16)

“My Mission in Life is to be kind to the people – friends and family and those I come in contact with. I am a child of God. He is my Father in Heaven and He wants me to always be happy. I always need to believe in myself – and as I go through life I expect to be respected and accepted for who I am. I am a daughter, a friend, a very proud lesbian; and I’m in love with my best friend. I have a Partner in Life that my Father in Heaven has lead me to to help me in my life. I have been given and been blessed with the Gift of Love, and to love in return. To always trust in God first and to be humble in all I do.”
Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he. (Proverbs 16:19 & 20)

“My Mission in Life…I would say my mission in life didn’t start until I was 19 years old. Before that I just was tethered by shackles of discord throughout my childhood. Until, at 19, my soul, my life, my everything was swallowed in the deep channels of lost souls. It was then through gasping pleas, and hands soaked in tears, I gave up the battle. At that moment I felt a cloak of warmth come over me; and for the first time in my life the shackles were broken, and I felt at peace. I found Love, because He found me.
My mission in this life is to extend my arms as a cloak of warmth to the ones in need.”
For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the word, but to save the world through Him. (John 3:16 & 17)
I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. he has put a new song in my mouth – Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

“My Mission in Life is to be of service to children and the elderly – to live my life in service to others. Before I can do this effectively, I must work to heal myself.”
Physician, heal thyself…(Luke 4:23)

Thank you for sharing such a personal part of yourselves!

Closing Thoughts

I know the last couple of weeks haven’t been what some would consider being traditional messages. However, part of what I hope our services to be is experiential. It is always my hope that those who join us for worship get more than just a ‘sermon’ – I hope folks walk away having shared an experience of God, of Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit being alive and at work in our lives. And, I hope that giving time and thought to how you might fulfill the Purpose of Love has helped you to experience God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit at work in your own lives.

We are all on this roller coaster ride that we call life. With God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit, our lives are filled with Love. As our quote says, it isn’t love that makes the world go round…it is Love that makes the ride worthwhile!

Scripture

  • Philippians 4:13
  • Galatians 6:10
  • Hebrews 10:24
  • Proverbs 20:5
  • Romans 8:16
  • Proverbs 16:19 & 20
  • John 3:16 & 17
  • Psalm 40:1-3
  • Luke 4:23

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, or even share your Mission Statement, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

Mission Possible 2: Personal Mission Statements – Quote

FadedDovePersonal Mission Statements – Introduction

Over the last two weeks we’ve explored our Purpose, and we’ve examined Purpose Statements and Mission Statements. This week, we’ll expand on our Mission Statement discussion by sharing and discussing our own, personal Mission Statements – and we’ll explore even further our Mission Possible.

We’ve all heard “love makes the world go round.” Our overarching Purpose Statement – “I am dedicated to being a living example of Christ’s love to everyone with whom I interact. Through my example, I am devoted to sharing the gift of abundant and limitless life I have found through Him.” – would support this thought. However, our quote this week takes it one step further.

Spiritual Quote

“Love doesn’t make the world go round,
love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship as we explore, on a personal basis, our Mission Possible.

Scripture

  • Philippians 4:13
  • Galatians 6:10
  • Hebrews 10:24
  • Additional Scripture as provided by service attendees.

We Are A Community of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where All Are Welcome!

Mission Possible 1 – Teaching

Mission Possible – Introduction

When we think in terms of having a purpose and having a mission, the two are often mistaken to be the same thing. Though similar, they are, in fact, quite different. All organized institutions such as corporations, small businesses, churches, and non-profits have a purpose, and they have a mission. We too, as individuals, have both – even if we haven’t given it much thought. In fact, they’re quite different. Last week we explored our Purpose. Today, I’d like to explore our Mission…our Mission Possible.

Quote

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished:
if you’re alive, it isn’t.
~Richard Bach

Thoughts

Purpose and Mission

As I mentioned, Purpose and Mission are often mistaken to be the same. Though a formal Purpose Statement may sound very much like a Mission Statement, if one reads them closely the subtle differences can be seen. In terms of business entities, the Purpose Statement defines the whatwhy does the organization exist – what’s its purpose? The Mission statement, on the other hand, explains the how…what will the organization do to accomplish its purpose?

Let me give you an example…using our own church’s Purpose Statement and Mission Statement.

Example

Our Purpose Statement reads:

We are a Christian ministry. Our purpose is to provide a place of peace where individuals can deepen and strengthen their relationship with God, the Divine Source of all Abundance. We are a place of Spiritual Growth, Healing, Fellowship, and Community that transcends the individual outward ~ locally, nationally, and globally.

God’s love is intended for all. We are devoted to providing an environment where all are welcome and feel at home. Through faith, worship, prayer, and meditation, God’s promise of an Abundant Life is made manifest.

And our Mission Statement simply reads:

We are a community of Love, Faith, Peace, Hope, Healing, and Compassion dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals and families through prayer, healing, and support.

So, our purpose…the what…is that we are a Christian Ministry providing a peaceful place in which people can deepen and strengthen their relationship with God in such a positive way that it moves not just the individual but the community at large. Our mission…the how…is by coming together as a community that is dedicated to the enrichment of individuals and families by the means of prayer, healing, and support – which would include all of the services that we offer such as Prayer Rooms, Workshops, Reiki, Support Groups, and our Community Give-back Program.

Now, I know you probably didn’t come to church today expecting a Business 101 lesson. But bear with me. But, stick with me…

Personal Application

Whether we know it or not, we as individuals also have a Purpose and a Mission. We might even have several over the years as our life unfolds. We might have a Purpose Statement and a Mission Statement that would apply more to our personal lives, with separate statements applicable to our business lives. For instance, when I was younger, I might have had a Purpose Statement that read something like: I am a devoted father providing a safe and loving environment in which my children can thrive and grow as individuals. My Mission Statement might have read: I am dedicated to enriching the lives of my children by providing love and support and being actively involved in their interests and activities. Through the setting of appropriate boundaries and my personal involvement, I enable my children to flourish; and to embrace the wonder and excitement of their individual journeys to the fulfillment of their dreams. Ok…so it could use some work; but hey, it’s just an example. Now, during this time I might have also had a Purpose Statement and Mission Statement as to what type of employee I wanted to be. So again, at any given time, we as individuals might have more than one Purpose and more than one Mission.

However, as we discussed last week, we all have an overriding, all encompassing Purpose: To share our gift, the gift we’ve found through Jesus – the Gift of Love and The Gift of Life. So, our Purpose Statement might read:

I am dedicated to being a living example of Christ’s love to everyone with whom I interact. Through my example, I am devoted to sharing the gift of abundant and limitless life I have found through Him.

Sure…it could use some tweaking. But, it’s not a bad start.

Now, is this just for us today, in our generation? I would submit…no. In the Old Testament, before Jesus came on the scene, the purpose would have been in relation to God. In the New Testament, the relation would have been to God through His Son, Jesus. Regardless, this same basic statement could be applied to such figures as Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul. Their Missions might have been different, which we’ll explore shortly. But, the overarching Purpose that applies to us applied to them as well…dedication to being a living example of God’s love to everyone with whom they came in contact; and a devotion to sharing the gift of life promised by God.

Now, if asked to write his own purpose statement, each might have had a slightly different variation, but the general gist would be the same. But, what about a Mission Statement?

I think Moses’ might have said something like: I am dedicated leading God’s people and delivering them from a life of bondage into a life of freedom. Through faith and personal relationship with God, I am committed to teaching the people about God, His will, His ways, and how to worship (serve) Him.

And, while he had the same overarching Purpose, Paul’s Mission Statement, though similar, would have been slightly different. It might have read: I am dedicated to delivering all people, Jews and Gentiles, out of the bondage of ‘the Law’ and into the freedom and fullness of life that is found in Jesus. Through travel, prayer, worship, teaching, and freely sharing my own experience, I will be a living example of Christ’s love to others; Jew and Gentile alike.

Closing Thoughts

The basics of both missions were the same…Go. I’m sure the mission probably seemed like Mission Impossible to Moses; and at times, to Paul. But, through faith, each had a Mission Possible. The same is true for us.

Though it may seem difficult, even impossible at times, through our faith in God and in Jesus, we, too, have a Mission Possible. But first, we must come up with our own Mission Statement. Just as we discussed last week, the same is true for us…Jesus’ commission is to Go. But what that really looks like for each of us will be slightly different.

Personally, I can easily accept our Purpose Statement. My purpose is to share the gifts of love and of the fullness of Life that I find through Jesus. But, to be honest, until I started writing today’s message, I hadn’t given much thought to a personal Mission Statement…the how. You may not have given it much thought, either. That’s precisely why I chose this topic today. I think it would be a goal worth pursuing for each of us to give serious thought to our own personal Mission Statements. How, exactly, do we see ourselves fulfilling our purpose? My goal is to spend time this week in drafting just such a Mission Statement. Something I can refer back to from time to time in order to remind myself and to keep myself on track. I invite each of you to do the same. And, in the process, do a little research and come up with a Scripture verse or two that supports your mission. That way, when you’re feeling a little off track, you’ll have something that brings you back into focus. If you’ll agree to spend some time this week in creating your very own, personal Mission Statement, along with a Scripture verse or two, next week we can share them with each other. In turn, we can help and support each other in the fulfillment. Following our service next week, I’ll post our statements on the blog (anonymously) and perhaps they will also inspire others as they walk the path of their journey into a personal relationship with God and with his Son, our Lord.

And how do we know our mission is finished? As our quote says…if we’re still alive, it isn’t.

Scripture

No specific Scripture this week.

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

Mission Possible – Quote

FadedDove

Mission Possible – Introduction

It is commonly misunderstood that purpose and mission are the same. In fact, they’re quite different. Last week we explored our Purpose. This week, we’ll explore our Mission…our Mission Possible. We’ll review the meanings of Purpose and Mission, we’ll review the Purpose and Mission of our church; and we’ll discuss our own individual Missions.

Quote

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished:
if you’re alive, it isn’t.
~Richard Bach

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship as we explore and expand our relationship with God and His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Planned Scripture

None…there is no specific Scripture planned for this week.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Don’t Tell Me, Show Me – Teaching

I’m From Missouri – Don’t Tell Me, Show Me / Introduction

Many of us have heard the phrase, “I’m from Missouri.” Some, however, don’t get the reference. Missouri is known as the “show me” state. Hence, when someone says, “I’m from Missouri,” what they’re saying is — Don’t Tell Me, Show Me.

Many say, and rightly so, “Don’t tell me about Jesus…Show me.” We who have chosen the Christian path wish to share the love of God that we find through Jesus. We have found a great gift in our relationship with Him, and we want to share that gift with others.

Spiritual Quote

Life is a gift.
You have a purpose in life…
Share your gift.
~ Carole Johnson

For the most part, most of us talk a pretty good game. But, that’s all it is – talk. In reality, we fall woefully short of living up to our words. Today, I’d like to explore what it might look like to actually demonstrate our Christian belief and faith, rather than just talk about it. As the saying goes…”talk is cheap.”

Thoughts

Jesus is our ultimate gift. He is, and He gave to us:

  • The Gift of Life
  • The Gift of Grace
  • The Gift of Mercy
  • The Gift of Kindness
  • The Gift of Forgiveness
  • The Gift of Love

Indeed, love was His ultimate teaching, and His greatest gift. Let’s take a look at a few scriptures…

Mark 12:20 & 31 tell us, “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

John 13:34 & 35 say, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Think about this for just a moment. It all comes down to one thing…Love…period. Regardless of everything else, we are supposed to love. That seems easy enough, right? But, is it?

Let’s think about how well we actually fulfill Jesus’ commandment – what does it really mean? Perhaps it’s letting our actions do our speaking. Remember, talk is cheap – I’m from Missouri.

Don’t Tell Me, Show Me

Sometimes I think we Christians are our own worst enemy. Many who profess to be Christian behave in the most un-Christian ways. We are, in many ways, like the Pharisees and Sadducees – hypocrites.

Romans 2:21-24 says, “You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (ESV)

Not me, you say? I don’t steal, I don’t commit adultery, I don’t rob temples. Ok…let’s take a look at some examples and go a little deeper. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’m guilty of some of these…maybe you’ll recognize yourself in some of them to.

Do we claim to be pro-life and yet support the death penalty? One cannot honestly say, “I value all human life” while at the same time supporting the taking of a human life.

Do we proclaim Christ’s love and yet cause hurt, grief, and despair by picketing a funeral and carrying signs that say, “God hates (fill in the blank)”?

Well, I don’t do those things, you say. Ok…good. We’re off to a good start. What else does scripture tell us?

Romans 12:17-21 says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (ESV ) and Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (ESV)

Hmm…now we’re getting somewhere. Not so easy to live up to this one. How often as someone wronged us or hurt us in some way, and our response is one of anger and revenge? We can always ‘justify’ our response – but, he did this; or she did that! What he or she did may be awful, horrible, hurtful – and we may feel fully justified in ‘getting back at them’ – but, that’s not how we demonstrate Christ’s love.

Continuing on…

What about envy? Do we rejoice in someone else’s good fortune? Or, do we secretly harbor resentment and envy because “it should have been me?”

And, what about gossip? Gossip means “to indulge in idle talk or rumors about others; spreading of sensational stories.” Gossip is very subtle, and not always easy to recognize. We can often cloak it in the guise of “concern.” Sometimes our conversations may seem innocent enough…but are they, really? As a general rule…if you’re betraying a confidence, or talking about others in a less than favorable way, it’s probably gossip. What’s the intent? Are you trying to build yourself up by making others look bad? Are you “showing off” that you have some secret knowledge? Are you revealing embarrassing details of someone else’s life – without their knowledge or approval?

And here’s a favorite of mine…swearing – using profane language. This one, I have to admit, I will still sometimes fall into. I’m better than I used to be – by far. Remember, Colossians 3:8 says, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk (profane language) from your mouth.” (ESV) Many feel as long as we’re not actually cursing – blaspheming God’s name – they’re just words, right? I would submit…not so much. Profane language is defined as that which is abusive, obscene, or vulgar. Using vulgar or obscene words has become very commonplace in our culture today. It’s more or less ‘accepted.’ But, if we’re truly going “show others” rather than “tell them,” we need to strive to be a better example.

As Christians we are called to love…that’s it, just love. We don’t have to love the actions or behaviors of others – but we are called to love God and to love others. As Jesus said, “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Love…period.

1 John 4:20 & 21 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (NIV)

And, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 13) he says:

  • Even if I can speak in the tongues of men and angels, if I don’t have love, I’m just making noise (sounding brass or clanging cymbal)
  • Even if I have the gift of prophesy, and I understand all the mysteries and all knowledge, and I have enough faith to move mountains, if I don’t have love I am nothing
  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind
  • Love does not envy
  • Love does not boast
  • Love does not behave rudely
  • Love does not dishonor others
  • Love is not self-seeking
  • Love is not easily angered
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs
  • Love does not take pleasure in injustice or unfairness
  • Love rejoices in truth
  • Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres
  • Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things

And finally, in verse 13, Paul writes, “And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Closing Thoughts

It’s not enough to simply say we’re Christian. If we simply tell others about God and about Jesus, loudly proclaiming our faith without living up its fundamental principles, we are, as Paul said, noisy gongs and clanging symbols.

Christ gave us the gifts of Life, Grace, Mercy, Kindness, Forgiveness, and Love. Our purpose in life, as Christians, is to share His gift – our gift. Not just to those we think deserving, but to everyone. When we can faithfully answer His call – when we can “show them” and not “tell them” – we will turn our world upside down!

It won’t always be easy. We’re going to be faced with circumstances that challenge our faith all the time. Sometimes, in horrible, painful, unspeakable ways. Remember, Christ was challenged, too. He was persecuted, ridiculed, tortured, and executed. Through it all, He loved – period.

I’d like to share an example to reflect on when you’re faced with those challenging moments. It’s an example of what living Christ’s call to love truly looks like.

Many of you have heard of Matthew Shepard, the young man who was brutally murdered in Wyoming simply for being gay. One could easily understand how Matthew’s parents would want the young men who murdered their son Matthew to reap the ultimate punishment – the death penalty. But…they didn’t. They actually encouraged a plea deal in which the death penalty was taken off the table. When addressing the court, Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father, said this, “I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney…However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt…Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”

Now, I don’t know whether Dennis Shepard and his family are Christian. But, I can’t think of a better example of living up to Christ’s teachings of mercy.

When we proclaim a faith in Jesus and our actions don’t live up to our words; when we proclaim His love and then spew angry, hateful, hurtful words; we are, like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, hypocrites. Remember, scripture also tells us “show me.”

Matthew 5:16 says, “As Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (NKJV)

And finally,

James 1:22 and 2:14-24 says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. …” (ESV)

Scripture

  • Mark 12:20 & 31
  • John 13:34 & 35
  • Romans 2:21-24
  • Romans 12:17-21
  • Ephesians 4:31 & 32
  • Colossians 3:8
  • 1 John 4:20 & 21
  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Matthew 5:16
  • James 1:22 and 2:14-24

Join the Discussion

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it with others.

A Community of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where All Are Welcome!

Don’t Tell Me, Show Me – Quote

I’m From Missouri – Don’t Tell Me, Show Me

Many of us have heard the phrase, “I’m from Missouri.” Some, however, don’t get the reference. Missouri is known as the “show me” state. Hence, when someone says, “I’m from Missouri,” what they’re saying is, “Don’t tell me, show me.”

Many say, and rightly so, “Don’t tell me about Jesus…Show me.” We who have chosen the Christian path wish to share the love of God that we find through Jesus. We have found a great gift in our relationship with Him, and we want to share that gift with others.

Spiritual Quote

Life is a gift.
You have a purpose in life…
Share your gift.
~ Carole Johnson

For the most part, many of us talk a good game. But, as the saying goes, “talk is cheap.” This week, we’ll explore what it might look like to actually demonstrate our Christian belief and faith, rather than just talk about it. As the saying goes…”talk is cheap.”

Potential Scripture

  • Romans 2:21-24 (ESV)
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)
  • James 2:14-24 (ESV)
  • Romans 12:17-21 (ESV)
  • Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)
  • James 1:22 (NKJV)

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship as we explore how we can share this wonderful gift we’ve been given.

A Community of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where All Are Welcome!

We Shall Overcome – Teaching

Journey From Darkness Into Light: We Shall Overcome!

Introduction

Superstorm Sandy hit the Eastern U.S. on October 29, 2012. New York City took a massive hit from the storm. So did New Jersey, and other coastal areas to the north and south—and even cities far west, such as Cleveland, Ohio.

The storm plunged huge parts of major American cities into darkness…darkness that lasted, in some cases, for weeks…darkness that claimed lives…darkness that may well scar some individuals, families, and communities for many years to come.

Some of us know what that’s like. We may have escaped Sandy. Our electricity may be reliably constant. But we have all experienced darkness nonetheless – deep, crippling, lasting darkness.

But that can all change today, if it hasn’t already.

In celebration of Easter, this week we conclude our series based on the mini-series The Bible. It is through our faith in our Lord Jesus that we journey from Darkness into Light. And, it is by embarking on this wonderful journey, and by His Name, we boldly proclaim – We Shall Overcome!

Spiritual Quote

Helen Keller, herself no stranger to obstacles, put it this way:

Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of overcoming it.
~Criminal Minds Episode

Thoughts

In our worship experiences these past four weeks, we have seen how the redemption God offers to all of us can lead us from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from victim-hood to victory, and from religion to relationship.

And today, we conclude this memorable journey with the peak, the summit, the climax, toward which all those stories ultimately point.

It begins with Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion; a series of incidents that took his friends and followers by surprise. They had seen Him perform miracles and cross all the barriers and boundaries imposed by the existing culture. Yet, just days after He had entered the holy city, and cleansed the temple as a prophet, He was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed as a criminal.

When that happened, in Matthew’s words, “darkness came over all the land.” (Matthew 27:45b, NIV) And it came over them – a thick, dark cloud of loss, confusion, and despair – over their hearts, minds, and spirits.

Many, if not all of us, know what that feels like. We’ve experienced that level of deep, dark, seemingly never-ending grief and despair. Maybe some of us are even feeling that way today. Or, we might know someone who is.

But…there is hope – as the clip we’re going to watch depicts. Remember, each of the Gospels tells the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection in a slightly different way. The clip is based on the story as it is told in the Gospel of John.

[View Clip – Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene]

Our Great Salvation

Let’s explore that scene, and two other scenes that follow, to see three aspects of the “great salvation” we’ve been exploring throughout this series, in the light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

The first aspect, or facet, of the salvation that comes through faith in Jesus is:

1.        We are saved from the darkness of confusion, and enter into the light of a new commission.

According to the Gospel of John, Chapter 20 verse 1:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. (NIV)

Now, close your eyes for a moment and think about Mary’s probable state of mind that Sunday morning. She had to have been grief-stricken. The man in whom she had placed so much hope, and for whom she had developed a deep love and respect, had been tortured and crucified. He had suffered unspeakable acts of violence; the images of which she probably couldn’t get out of her mind, and would probably never forget. Can you imagine what feelings and emotions she was experiencing?

We’ve all experienced the loss of someone close to us, someone important to us. We know all too well that grief doesn’t go away overnight. It lingers. Sometimes, it even festers. Mary had to be in deep, dark grief and despair.

Maybe some of us can identify with her right now. Maybe not to the level of Mary – but in a deep, dark place just the same.

But look what happens next. Verses 14-18 go on to say:

She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her. (NIV)

She sees Jesus, but at first doesn’t recognize him! In fact, she thinks he’s the gardener!

Now, maybe, as the video clip portrayed, the morning light, and maybe even the radiance of his appearance played tricks with her eyes. Maybe her vision was clouded by tears. Maybe she didn’t look directly at him, but just noticed someone there. Maybe she just felt His presence so strongly that she ‘knew’ He was there with her. We don’t really know; it could have been any combination of things.

But in any case, her initial confusion disappeared when she heard Jesus call her by name. Her grief evaporated like the morning fog. Her darkness lifted, and in its place…excitement and joy.

And then, notice what happened next: She was given a commission. Jesus told her to take the news of his resurrection to others. In that moment, according to the writer of the Gospel of John, Mary became the first evangelist of the resurrection in Christian history. Imagine, given the culture and status of women at that time in history, the experience of Jesus was so profound that this Gospel writer boldly proclaims Mary to be the very first Christian evangelist! And her grief was abated.

And so it is with you and me. We may be downhearted, confused, even depressed about many things. But, if we have invited the risen Christ into your heart and life, many things become clear. His resurrection tells us, among other things, that THIS life is not all there is. It tells us that death is not the end. It tells us that if we hope in Christ, all our hopes can be revived. It tells us that our Savior has triumphed over the worst this world can throw at us.

And, like Mary, the soul that has trusted Christ is given the same commission: to spread that news. Jesus’ word to Mary is the same as His word to us – Go!

I would submit the darkness of confusion actually lifts, not in the hearing, but in the going. Like the ten lepers Jesus healed, who were healed as they went, as they obeyed his words, so I think our confusion lifts as we go. The darkness is dispelled in the light of a new commission, a new purpose.

But that’s not all. Another facet of the salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ is:

2.        We are saved from the darkness of fear, and enter into the light of a new presence and peace.

Turning to verses 19–23:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV)

Those verses say the disciples were gathered behind locked doors. Why? “For fear.” Think about that for just a minute. Peter, James, John, and the other disciples were cowering together in a locked, dark room – out of fear.

I’m sure most of us know what that’s like. Some of us here today are, at least mentally and emotionally, behind locked doors. We are cowering in fear…

  • Fear of losing our job.
  • Fear of losing someone’s love.
  • Fear of being hurt again.
  • Fear of messing up again.
  • Fear of any number of things.

But notice what happened next in those verses we just read: Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

He banished their fears with his presence…and His peace. According to this Gospel, that was when they received the Holy Spirit – by whom His presence would continue with them – even after His ascension into Heaven.

Their story can be our story, too.

Salvation in Jesus Christ saves us from the darkness of fear; and brings us into the light of His presence and peace. His word to His first followers is his word to is, too: PEACE.

Finally, there’s one more facet of the salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ I invite you to consider:

3.        We are saved from the darkness of doubt, and enter into the light of a new beginning.

One more part of the resurrection story, is found in verses 24-29:

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the same house again; and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (NIV)

According to this Gospel, Thomas hadn’t been in the room when Jesus appeared to the other disciples. When they told him the news of the resurrection, he wanted more than words. He wanted stronger evidence than that. So the risen Christ appeared, and removed all doubt.

Closing Thoughts

Let’s take a closer look at the story of Thomas.

Notice that Thomas had vowed not to believe until he touched Jesus’ hands and side. Where in those verses does it say that Thomas actually touched Jesus’ wounds?

The text says that Jesus appeared to them. It says he spoke “peace” to them. And then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.” But it does NOT say that Thomas actually touch His wounds! The very next thing it says is, “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”

In that moment, Thomas realized he didn’t need to touch the wounds. He only needed to see Jesus, in his heart of hearts, for himself. The same is true for all of us. We may think we need proof before we can believe – something tangible, something irrefutable. But we really don’t. All we really need is to see Jesus with the eyes of our heart.

A fresh vision of Jesus will dispel the darkness of doubt, and give all of us a new beginning. It was true for those first followers of Jesus. After first gathering behind locked doors, they soon took to the streets of Jerusalem, where Peter preached perhaps the most successful sermon in history, where he and John healed a blind beggar outside the Jerusalem Temple, and where, despite the threats of the chief priests, they refused to be silent.

When we read the book of Acts, we might find it hard to believe that these are the same people who ran away when Jesus was arrested, and who cowered behind locked the doors “for fear” of the Jewish leaders. And, in a big way, they weren’t the same people. Their experience with the life, the resurrection, and the spirit of Christ lifted the darkness of doubt and replaced it with the light of a new beginning. They were – born again.

It can be the same for us today. We can be saved from the darkness of confusion, and enter into the light of a new commission. We can be saved from the darkness of fear, and enter into the light of a new presence and peace. We can be saved from the darkness of doubt, and enter into the light of a new beginning. We can be born again.

It all happens when the scales over our eyes are lifted and we are open to the power and the mystery and the experience of the risen Christ; when our hearts open to Him; when we do as Jesus urged Thomas: “Stop doubting and believe.”

Jesus’ word to Thomas is his word to us, too: Believe!

I hope that is where we all are today. I hope we will all open our hearts and lives to the risen Christ. I hope we all let him guide us from darkness to light; from confusion, fear, and doubt to a new commission; and to a presence and peace in our lives; and a to a new beginning.

When we do, the Bible says this about us, and about our journey with Him:

1 Peter 2:9, NLT – You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

John 8:12, NIV – When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV) – For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

And finally…

John 16:33, NIV – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Do we all have dark times? Yes. But in and by and through Jesus, we have a light. His light is our light. His strength is our strength. His peace is our peace. His love is our love. On this Easter day – as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, remember…No matter what comes our way – in our Journey from Darkness into Light – with Jesus at our side, we can say with confidence…We Shall Overcome!

Scripture

  •     Matthew 27:45b, NIV
  •     John 20:1, NIV
  •     John 20:14-29, NIV
  •     1 Peter 2:9, NLT
  •     John 8:12, NIV
  •     Hebrews 13:5-6, NKJV
  •     John 16:33, NIV

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