Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What is Love?

Today’s message is on love, what is it? What are some things we can learn from our contemporary pop culture in regards to the subject of love?

One of the most popular subjects in song is love. One of the most popular bands of all time, if not the most popular band of all time is The Beatles. Here is a song mash of their songs by a tribute band that has 22 songs mashed in, all of them about love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y5KshXHB-E

While the Beatles sang a lot about love and we often talk about it, do we really know what it means to love and to be loved?

February is the Love Month and the Bible gives a perfect definition of love, I would say it is even the best definition, and anything outside of the definition, really isn’t love.

1 Corinthians 13

1) If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3) If I give all I possess to the poor and gie over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8) Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9) For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10) but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12) For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. We live in an age and time where divorce is rampant and people opt out of marriage to live together as opposed to being married. Yet, we know that the commitment made in marriage, especially when the vows are kept, is the ultimate form of love that a loving couple can share with each other.

Unfortunately, people rely on love or what they think love is. More often than not it isn’t so much love as lust that we base our emotions on. We think we know what will keep us loving each other but it is only from following the definition of love in 1st Corinthians 13 that we learn how love will keep us together.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G0sOA6hTg0

We often enter into relationships, whether a friendship, brother to sister type of relationship or a romantic relationship where we think we love one another, but we just aren’t sure. One thing I have learned in life, is there is a difference from thinking we are in love, or love each other, and knowing that we actually do love someone else.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJYSu2OVCGM

Each of us has to come to an understanding of what love it and love with our all. Barry White gives a good definition of love when he sings of; Our First, Our Last, Our Everything. While a song about romantic love, it is also a good description of how we should love God.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtwOeoeWhoo

We have to be at the place where we are given the option to love, either others as brothers and sisters, a loved one as a lover, and especially God as our father, where we give our best, we must give everything when we love others. Unfortunately, we tend to be selfish as opposed to loving others the way God would have us love, unconditionally with our all.

I have learned after 33+ years of marriage that there are times my love for my wife has to start over. We get into arguments, disagreements and so forth, I suspect it is that way for everyone whether a romantic relationship or a friendship brotherly, sisterly love. We have to be willing to start over with each other and sometimes, in our relationship with God.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6duFe_VnzY

Are we willing to admit our mistakes in life, especially when it comes to us loving others the way we should? Are we willing to take that definition given to us in 1st Corinthians 13 and apply it to our lives? If we want to experience the fullness of love, in our relationships with our friends and family, our loved ones, spouse, partners, etc…, even a love affair with God that allows us to experience His perfect love, maybe it is time we surrender and love the way God has instructed and shown us. Remember, out of faith, hope and love, there is no contest, the greatest of the three is without a doubt, Love!

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Blood

Sometimes I don’t think I have much on my mind to write about, then, out of nowhere I see something that moves me, gets me thinking and inspired. I have a dear friend, Mark Hollingsworth of Compassion International who has a way of writing things that get me thinking. There are others like Jim Palmer and various others, who do the same thing, I am grateful for those who remind me of the things I need to be reminded of.

This last weekend was kind of different. I spent time doing my regular weekend homeless outreach and came across a man that reminded me of my own story. Fortunately I have a reminder of where I have come from because I have Jesus. This man I was speaking with has crystal meth and outside of that, he doesn’t have much else. As we spoke he showed me the scars on his legs from shooting up. It was as horrid a needle track scar as I have ever seen. We spoke for close to an hour, I tried to convince him of where I had come from and the answers I had found which could help him. He believed my story but was reluctant to accept my faith because of what he had seen in his life. He had an appreciation of Jesus, but was reluctant to accept him because he saw Christians as self consumed and not really caring about a homeless drug addict. I can’t help but believe that my Lord weeps when he knows that despite what so many Christians may believe, many on the streets, many facing struggles sees Christianity in such a negative way because of the examples of some. We can throw a lot of blame around, but we must accept that many of us, many of our organizations have to start mirroring the concerns and life of Christ to those around us. I know some people are critical of the answers I have heard from people like this gentleman, but I know what I have heard because I have put myself in a place to hear what people have to say. I wish more people who says they follow Jesus would get out of their comfort zone to show the people around them that Jesus tells us to love, that they are in fact, loved.

This man used The Virtual Pew cell phone to call his former landlord several times. He recently had a meth rage and did a lot of damage to his apartment. He was kicked out and worried about his violation of parole. He is looking at another 6 or 7 months of prison for the violation and is on the run. He has been spending the night wherever he can find. As I met with him, he was sober, but I was praying, praying he would get caught, praying he would turn himself in. I suggested that he turn himself in and get some help, but to no avail. We spoke for awhile before I gave him a ride to another part of town, encouraging him to turn himself in, to get into a detox center. I am concerned for this man, he is close to death, I won’t be surprised to get a phone call from someone informing me of his death because I gave him my card. He promised he would contact me if he needed to. I pray he will. Sometimes the answers seem so easy from the comfort of our easy chairs, but on the streets, in the reality of life, those easy answers are not always easy, and not always possible. Then again, we will never know that as long as we choose to live a life that provides ease to us, that provides what we want, as opposed to living a life where we give and become the hands and feet Jesus wants us to be to those who suffer.

I wonder sometimes, for those that say they follow Jesus, why are they not consumed with doing the same things he did? We say we love him, we say we follow him, but Jesus never seemed to care so much about obtaining a comfortable life as he was in serving those who were desperate for love. Many of our churches have become an example of everything that seems to be in direct contrast to the teachings of Jesus, and we wonder why we don’t have the impact on the lives of people any more than we do. We wonder why our lives don’t feel fulfilled. I can’t help but wonder, when meeting God face to face, will some of us be those that say we did all the right things only to hear the Son of God say, ‘Depart from me I never knew you.”

I have the same reminders of those who aren’t much different than me except for one thing. I have and know Jesus, I have accepted the blood that was shed and poured out for me. There is an old adage among many of the old time religious folks that talks a lot about the blood Jesus shed on the cross. They remind me of the adage that there is no forgiveness of sin outside of the blood. I am reminded by old songs like, Nothing but the Blood, or There is Power in the Blood, or even The Old Rugged Cross. There was a price to pay to provide me the forgiveness and life I now have.

The blood Jesus shed on the cross was so valuable. The author of Hebrews in the Bible tells us how important it is:

Hebrews 9:13-15 (Contemporary English Version)

(13) According to the Law of Moses, those people who become unclean are not fit to worship God. Yet they will be considered clean, if they are sprinkled with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a sacrificed calf. (14) But Christ was sinless, and he offered himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God. That's why his blood is much more powerful and makes our consciences clear. Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death. (15) Christ died to rescue those who had sinned and broken the old agreement. Now he brings his chosen ones a new agreement with its guarantee of God's eternal blessings!


In the Old Testament people had to offer sacrifices. In fact, in many cultures around the world, their religions stress the importance of blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. So is the case in the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions, yet in Christianity, we have an answer that solves this problem. We have a solution to the problem because Jesus was perfect, and without sin. He offered his own life up as a sacrifice, not just in a symbolic way, but in a real and literal way. I love the wording in this Hebrews passage here, Jesus rescued us from our mistakes, from the things we did wrong. But he had to shed his blood for us to have this opportunity which this passage says, guarantees us of God’s eternal blessings.

Some often ask me where I get my strength. It is from the wonder working power, the wonderful power of the blood provided by my forgiver and leader also known as my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. I realize there is nothing more powerful I could introduce my dear friends to than the blood provided and poured out in the purest love ever known. The truth is, the blood, the love of Jesus has never failed me. I am confident, if giving him a chance, it won’t fail you either. Is the total surrender to Jesus worth it? It is worth it every day and will be worth it until the day I share an embrace with my Forgiver, my Leader, but not before I spend time on the ground, weeping at his feet, thanking him for all he has done for me.

I am amazed and know I will be weeping for a number of reasons. One of those is I know that Jesus knew what the cost of forgiveness was before he even made the sacrifice. He spoke about this the last day he was with his followers prior to his being taken into custody, beaten, stripped, and ultimately killed and crucified. Read the following here to see his own understanding.

Matthew 26:27-29 (Contemporary English Version)

(27) Jesus picked up a cup of wine and gave thanks to God. He then gave it to his disciples and said, "Take this and drink it. (28) This is my blood, and with it God makes his agreement with you. It will be poured out, so that many people will have their sins forgiven. (29) From now on I am not going to drink any wine, until I drink new wine with you in my Father's kingdom."

There are a lot of things we can read into this passage, but can you see where Jesus talks about the shedding of his blood so that people can have their sins forgiven? Again, remember, he is saying this prior to his own sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Jesus didn’t just go there though, he went beyond this, struggling, having difficulty with what was going to occur. We sometimes forget that while Jesus was fully God, he was also at this point a man. A man, who felt pain, knew of the events that lay ahead of him. One of the ways we can see this struggle is by what occurred when he went into the Garden after that last supper with his disciples. He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and seek direction from God. Look at what occurred here:

Luke 22:43-45 (Contemporary English Version)

(43) Then an angel from heaven came to help him. (44) Jesus was in great pain and prayed so sincerely that his sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood. (45) Jesus got up from praying and went over to his disciples. They were asleep and worn out from being so sad.


We need to remember, Luke the author of this was also a physician, he knew of the medical aspects of what was occurring. It was a process that occurs due to there being webbed blood vessels around the sweat glands. Under great stress the vessels constrict and ultimately dilate until they rupture. While rare, this process known as hematohidrosis does naturally occur.

While praying over this message, while spending time in it, I realized that where many of us believe the shedding of blood begins with the cross, I realized that it actually begin with the prayers of Jesus. He was praying, realizing the sacrifice he was making for us. While this created a tremendous amount of stress to cause this phenomenon to occur, it was out of his love for us. While many may choose to not accept that love, it does not negate, or change the reality of the love Jesus offered. I often wonder due to my own weaknesses, have I really contemplated and reflected on that love. A love that was so pure the blood started to flow out of his concern for me and his willingness to put himself through the upcoming events, even prior to the cross, Jesus offered this love.

The following are passages that can help us understand the gift Jesus offered a little better. They can also help us appreciate the importance of the blood Jesus offered.

Romans 3:24-26 (Contemporary English Version)

(24) But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins. (25-26) God sent Christ to be our sacrifice. Christ offered his life's blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God. And God did this to show that in the past he was right to be patient and forgive sinners. This also shows that God is right when he accepts people who have faith in Jesus.


In the above passage, understand that verse 3:24 shows us that God treats us much better than we deserve: The Greek word charis, traditionally rendered “grace," is translated here and other places to express the overwhelming kindness of God. Whether we accept that kindness or not is not a point of question, the reality is it was offered, to not accept it may not be appreciated, but it doesn’t change the heart of the one who offered this tremendous gift. Other verses follow:

Ephesians 1:6-8 (Contemporary English Version)

(6) God was very kind to us because of the Son he dearly loves, and so we should praise God. (7-8) Christ sacrificed his life's blood to set us free, which means that our sins are now forgiven. Christ did this because God was so kind to us. God has great wisdom and understanding,


Of course on the above, we have to accept that gift if we want to receive the hope, and ultimate freedom offered by Jesus.

Ephesians 2:12-14 (Contemporary English Version)

(12) At that time you did not know about Christ. You were foreigners to the people of Israel, and you had no part in the promises that God had made to them. You were living in this world without hope and without God, (13) and you were far from God. But Christ offered his life's blood as a sacrifice and brought you near God.

(14) Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body.

We so seldom see the lack of hatred in many who call themselves followers of Christians. It is one reason that living out the message is so important, it becomes evidence that the sacrifice offered by Jesus can provide hope and change in a life where both hope is needed. We have to understand, our actions have an impact that will help others accept the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. So many of us are so much more focused on things like politics that the message of the cross, the message of the blood shed on the cross is lost. I can’t help but wonder, who is doing more damage, those of political tenancies we may disagree with, or those who forget about the purpose of the cross or at the very least, by their words and actions, take the focus of the forgiveness and liberation of the sins of the world away from the true liberating power, the blood shed on that cross? Let’s all keep in our focus, the power of the blood and the eternal consequences of the acceptance or rejection of the one offering his blood.

Hebrews 9:11-13 (Contemporary English Version)

(11) Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are now here. He also went into a much better tent that wasn't made by humans and that doesn't belong to this world. (12) Then Christ went once for all into the most holy place and freed us from sin forever. He did this by offering his own blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls. (13) According to the Law of Moses, those people who become unclean are not fit to worship God. Yet they will be considered clean, if they are sprinkled with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a sacrificed calf.


We can’t look at how good or bad a person is. While we tend to think that people are limited by their situations, by their conditions, the reality is, the power of the blood of Christ has the power to provide more, more of everything. While we may be limited by the situations we live in and face on this earth, we have to be reminded again of that word, hope, hope of eternity provided by the blood of Jesus.

1 Peter 1:18-20 (Contemporary English Version)

(18) You were rescued from the useless way of life that you learned from your ancestors. But you know that you were not rescued by such things as silver or gold that don't last forever. (19) You were rescued by the precious blood of Christ, that spotless and innocent lamb. (20) Christ was chosen even before the world was created, but because of you, he did not come until these last days.


We tend to have so much confidence in the material possession of life. Yet when we look at this verse the Greek word used here often, though not always, means payment of a price to free a slave or prisoner. I am reminded, as a former lifeguard, those that need rescued are destined for doom. In fact, one who thrashes, who fights the rescue normally quickens their doom. They have to submit, surrender to the one doing the rescuing. Jesus was the ultimate lifeguard. He is the one who provides salvation for this life, but more importantly, for all of eternity. Again, salvation provided by what? The blood!

I realize I am no one special, if the Son of God loves and give so much to me, I know he has done it for you. Accept it, receive it, express gratitude for it, in all ways, and in all manners, then once you enter that special place where you can do this gladly, you are at a point of worship that will produce and give more than you ever imagined, not just in the things you receive, but in the glory, honor, and praise you give to the creator of the universe.

I am grateful, that despite my own failures, I have forgiveness and salvation offered by Jesus through his blood and my acceptance of him. I realize I have done wrong, I realize I will do wrong, but I also realize the perfection of the blood shed by Jesus and what that blood has done for me. The one who loved me, and loves you, freely offered that blood that life, so we can all have a relationship with God that will last forever. Not just one day a year, week, or two, like so many seem to observe at Christmas or Easter, but for all of eternity. Think about the following in this regard:

1 John 1:6-8 (Contemporary English Version)

(6) If we say that we share in life with God and keep on living in the dark, we are lying and are not living by the truth. (7) But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus washes all our sins away. (8) If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn't in our hearts.


The truth is, all of us need the blood of Christ to wash our sins away, to correct the wrongs we have done. Jesus, even before the cross, offered himself for us, he did this out of love. Yet we sometimes lack showing that love to him. We have to understand, an amazing thing in this; we show our love to Jesus, to God, by loving others. It is a part of what Jesus meant when he said that loving God, loving others is the greatest of all of the commandments. When we have kept these two, we have kept them all. It is a part of what the Bible means when it says we will know who is, and is not followers of Jesus by their love of others.

Now read the piece from Mark Hollingsworth that challenged me today. Mark can be found at MySpace and Facebook, after you read the section from Mark, I challenge you, to watch and listen to the videos in the order they are provided with your eyes closed, in prayer contemplating on what Jesus has done for you. Now the article from Mark:

Ever looking for music that will help you contemplate or pray? Or perhaps even just set the tone for your day? Here is such a piece that has provided tremendous solace and perspective: “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.” It is a continual seventy minute piece of an aging English vagabond’s heartfelt declaration of love and acceptance in the form of an old hymn. He sang it in twenty-eight seconds. But artist Gavin Bryars then took that simple prayer and looped it with tender layers of orchestration that is, at turns, both reassuring and uplifting.

Tom Waits became a fan of the piece, which was circulating as an underground cassette back in the mid-70s. He claims it is his favorite piece of music ever. Tom played his copy so often that he wore the tape out, and through much research, was able to finally track down Bryars to ask for another one. Gavin kept Waits’ enthusiasm for the project in mind, and approached Tom in the early 90s about re-recording the piece with his voice added in to the final 20 minutes…singing as a duet with the elderly homeless man. The result is, to my ears, the most moving Tom Waits singing ever recorded. I’m sure the fact that Waits spent time on the streets and riding the rails as a hobo for a time earlier in his life only added to the pathos.

Here is an edited version to give you a taste:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMZVZ5NBkpw



Seventeen years ago, not long after its formal re-release, I was introduced to “Jesus’ Love Never Failed Me Yet.” Part of the liner notes penned by Bryars gives more back-story…

In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song--sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads--and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet." This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song--13 bars in length--formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realized that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism.

Taking Bryars’ cue, while I ran my management company back in the 90s, I would often play this over our sound system each morning, and it became a favorite of my staff. It brought a calm and intention to our work. Over the years, it has also served as a great refreshment to me in times of want, as well as a serenade in peaceful devotion. I have loaned it to many, and they have always become fans of the piece, too. We are not alone--as it has quietly sold over a million copies worldwide with no radio airplay, no glitzy marketing ploys, and no recommendations from Oprah.

It is a miraculous treatise that transcends art and becomes something even more rewarding to the soul. “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” is one of those God-breathed creations that are good medicine for any who are in need of its healing. Maybe you will become yet one more who succumbs to the curious affection emanating from this good news.


I want to thank Mark Hollingsworth for letting me share this. Mark recently lost his father, and as mentioned earlier he has been a real friend. This last year he was there for my wife and me when I lost my mother. I only pray that others will be blessed by this message, which was inspired by a dear friend who has been there for me and so many others over the years.

Now for something a little different: I am going to ask you again to watch in a prayerful, meditative state the following videos. You don’t have to watch, you can just sit back, listen and prayerfully ask God’s Holy Spirit to help you understand and contemplate on the meanings of the words to the songs.

To watch the videos just click on them, if they don’t appear, click on the link provided, I ask you to go through each video though, even though the first two may seem like duplicates, listen to them all in order:

Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMZVZ5NBkpw



Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Longer Version
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZZPMPPD2cI



There is Power in the Blood
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVKF7gt3Cak



Nothing but the Blood of Jesus
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhtppff37pY



The Old Rugged Cross
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-JyapQ9Ba4



Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMZVZ5NBkpw



Revelation 1:4-6 (Contemporary English Version)

(4) From John to the seven churches in Asia. I pray that you will be blessed with kindness and peace from God, who is and was and is coming.

May you receive kindness and peace from the seven spirits before the throne of God.

(5) May kindness and peace be yours from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness. Jesus was the first to conquer death, and he is the ruler of all earthly kings.

Christ loves us, and by his blood he set us free from our sins.

(6) He lets us rule as kings and serve God his Father as priests. To him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.

Asia was in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and is present day Turkey.

Revelation 12:10-12 (Contemporary English Version)

(10) Then I heard a voice from heaven shout, "Our God has shown his saving power, and his kingdom has come!

God's own Chosen One has shown his authority.

Satan accused our people in the presence of God day and night. Now he has been thrown out!

(11) Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives.

(12) The heavens should rejoice, together with everyone who lives there. But pity the earth and the sea, because the devil was thrown down to the earth.

He knows his time is short, and he is very angry."

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

What Does it Mean To Be Meek?

I was asked a good question today at church as we looked at and talked about the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. The question had to do with the beatitude in Matthew 5:5 ~ Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

The question came up, what it means to be meek. There was discussion of the meaning of the word and I looked in my Bible and saw that it had been translated humble. After some dicsussion I said that it is what it said in the Greek and that to argue that point would be something that would have to be taken up other places. Well my answer was a little quick, even though my bible translated the word that way, (which I think is a good and appropriate translation) and Vines also translates one of the meanings of the word as humility.

That said, I thought I would do a posting today related to this Beatitude. Let’s think about this saying by Jesus which in some ways was meant to shock the hearer, but to also challenge us, as does the rest of the Sermon on the Mount to take our faith and our walk a little more seriously.

Taking the Sermon on the Mount seriously and applying its content was as difficult for the people hearing it during Jesus time as it is now. It is intended, some would say, to challenge us in our walk with God. Part of the sermon is to challenge us to live out the concepts of the teachings and laws of the Old Testament and to be as much like Jesus as humanly possible. I don’t believe as some theologian’s do that the Sermon on the Mount is not for us, or that it isn’t intended to be taken literally. I believe God inspired both Luke and Matthew to record the sermon, it was placed in the Bible, and the concepts of it, while difficult, are possible to live by, with practice and a submissive spirit. That said, let’s look at the word meek a little more.

The following is taken from Vines Dictionary of the Bible and uses the Strong’s Concordance of the Bible in looking at the Greek definition.

Meek, Meekness: an earlier form, denotes "meekness." In its use in Scripture, in which it has a fuller, deeper significance than in nonscriptural Greek writings, it consists not in a person's "outward behavior only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; it is closely linked with the word tapeinophrosune [humility], and follows directly upon it, Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; cp. the adjectives in the Sept. of Zep 3:12, "meek and lowly;" . . . it is only the humble heart which is also the meek, and which, as such, does not fight against God and more or less struggle and contend with Him. This meekness, however, being first of all a meekness before God, is also such in the face of men, even of evil men, out of a sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict, are permitted and employed by Him for the chastening and purifying of His elect" (Trench, Syn. xlii). In Gal 5:23 it is associated with enkrateia, "self-control."

The meaning of prautes "is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity to a greater or less extent, whereas prautes does nothing of the kind. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find a rendering less open to objection than 'meekness'; 'gentleness' has been suggested, but as prautes describes a condition of mind and heart, and as 'gentleness' is appropriate rather to actions, this word is no better than that used in both English Versions. It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was 'meek' because he had the infinite resources of God at His command. Described negatively, meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all.

"In 2Cr 10:1 the Apostle appeals to the 'meekness . . . of Christ.' Christians are charged to show 'all meekness toward all men,' Tts 3:2, for meekness becomes 'God's elect,' Col 3:12. To this virtue the 'man of God' is urged; he is to 'follow after meekness' for his own sake, 1Ti 6:11 (the best texts have No. 2 here, however), and in his service, and more especially in his dealings with the 'ignorant and erring,' he is to exhibit 'a spirit of meekness,' 1Cr 4:21; Gal 6:1; even 'they that oppose themselves' are to be corrected in meekness, 2Ti 2:25. James exhorts his 'beloved brethren' to 'receive with the meekness the implanted word,' 1:21. Peter enjoins 'meekness' in setting forth the grounds of the Christian hope, 3:15." *
[* From Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 294, 295.]


In some additional study of the word meek I was somewhat surprised at the teachings and beliefs that I came across. For example, this passage is considered by many as the "gateway of nonviolence taught by Jesus." This is especially true when looking at translations outside of the English. The sense of humility, gentleness and more are looked at in some detail here. In Spanish translations we see the translation of “los mansos,” meaning mild, in French we see “doux,” meaning sweetness. Even in German we see various translations such as Luther’s “Sanftmutigen,” which means sweet, and the ecumenical translation of “Einheits Bibel,” which translates to those who do not act with violence and are in fact, non violent. Even the English translation of the word “praius,” which generally translates to “the gentle.”

It is easy to see why some take the position they do regarding the concept of being meek. It is also easy to understand why some struggle with the concepts presented by Jesus, both here and in other areas of The Sermon on the Mount.

As I stated in church this morning, I am not telling people how to think, or what to think, I am just challenging them to think. For those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, we must take seriously the teachings of Jesus. We cannot, we must not, come to the conclusion we want regarding Jesus’ teachings, in fact, we should, we must, try to understand and accept Jesus’ teachings for what they are.

Dr. Margaret Dorgan states: “’Blessed are the meek.’ In English, the word meek derives from the Anglo-Saxon and carries an aspect of timidity. Actually, the Greek word used by Matthew is meant to convey gentleness, humility, a level of courtesy and considerateness in dealing with others. It does not signify a kind of cowardly or submissive surrender.

We live in a competitive world. We are encouraged to forge ahead even at the cost of wounded relationships. Jesus has a very different message. “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” And where will His lesson lead us? “Your souls will find rest.” (Mt 11:29). The heart of Jesus wants to help us establish our own hearts in a peace that surpasses human understanding. We don't give up responsibility to improve the circumstances in which we find ourselves. No, we forge ahead with energy. But the meekness which Christ urges would keep power under control. “Speak gently and respectfully,” the First Epistle of Peter advises us (3:16).


Anger is easily aroused when we are disappointed in the outcome of events. Sometimes we too readily find a target for our rage by blaming other people. Then we give up what Jesus has promised. We do not inherit the land of Matthew's beatitude. Instead we lose territory as anger grounds us in the boundaries of a self-centered certitude. Alas, blessedness has given way to an unhappy isolation we have brought upon ourselves.

Peter's epistle tells us to leave this imprisonment holding us captive in such a small space. “Be like-minded, sympathetic, loving toward one another, kindly disposed and humble. Do not return insult for insult. Return a blessing instead” (1Pt 3: 8,9).

The meekness Christ helps us develop, results in a calm appraisal of events. We weigh them carefully and see where a gentle spirit might bring about some degree of improvement for everyone involved. Injustice is not condoned; we struggle to help the oppressed. That is how we spread the blessedness Jesus gives us as our inheritance. “May the Lord bless you more and more. May you be blessed by the Lord Who made heaven and earth” (Ps 115:14, 15).”


As I stated earlier, I am not here to tell you what to think, just to think. I don’t have the answers, in fact, the only answer I have is Jesus. I do know this though, God, through His Holy Spirit can challenge each of us as to the truth of his word if we will but open up our hearts and minds, and admit we don’t know it all, and approach it with a spirit and attitude of openness.

When we approach what I call hard passages of the Bible, and the Sermon on the Mount certainly falls into that category, with an attitude of being open to doing what God calls us to, we can, and will receive the blessings God has for us. Those blessings are a free gift, but we have to take seriously the need to change behavior that needs to be changed, even when that behavior challenges us to live and be different than what we are used to. That said, what do you think Jesus meant when he stated, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”?

I think I looked harder for this video than any video I have ever looked for. While it isn't perfect, it still gets the point across. I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it. Just click on the video, if the video don't appear, just click on the link:

http://www.tangle.com/view_video.php?viewkey=c9ab5567605c1e1ba0da


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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Whatever Happened To Love?

Today, worship will be at the end of the service, but we do want to start out with a new band that has started up here at Mosaic. The name of the new band at Mosaic is Broken Pieces, Mary Jane, Garrett, and Angel will be playing guitar and doing vocals, Chris is on percussion. I will be playing bass and helping with vocals. The name Broken Pieces comes from the concept of a Mosaic is made up of broken pieces. Hopefully we will continue to practice and do more of the worship service in the future, until then, here is a song that is an illustration for todays service, titled, Whatever Happened to Love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAOlX2tkTjM




Slam Original © by Mike Furches/Barry De Fleron: Whatever Happened To Love

Whatever happened to love? Whatever happened to caring for each other?
What happened to building up instead of tearing down?
Whatever happened to, whatever happened to love?

You say you love me you say that you care
Come on now punk I got brains beneath my hair
I know what’s a happenin I know what’s real
You talkin at my back with all kinds of zeal.

You say this and you say that,
Expect me to believe you well that’s just phat
Who do I believe? Well you’re not one,
You’re just pretendin to have God’s son.

You say you know me sayin it’s not true
Just answer me this if you dare to.

Whatever happened to love? …. (Repeat 1st Stanza)

Jesus came and then Jesus died
It’s because of him that we won’t be fried.
He don’t ask all that much of us
Just love him and others and not make a fuss.

Sometimes we talk sometimes we pretend
But that won’t hack it in the very end
You say you love me show me that it’s true
Come on now show me by the things you do.

You don’t like a hearin what I say
Well just answer me this rhyme right now today.

Whatever happened to love? …. (Repeat 1st Stanza)

A friend of mine, a pioneer in Jesus Music named Barry DeFleron wrote the original song Whatever Happened to Love. I use the chorus from that song here, but I wrote the verse and bridge as well as did the arrangement. There is a long story there but I will simply say that many times it is easy for us to conveniently quit loving. I don’t know how many times I have heard people say in a variety of situations, I just don’t love you any more. I am grateful that the love of God, the love provided by Jesus don’t quit on us, don’t change for us. But our actions don’t always show and mirror the love of Jesus.

I would ask, what kind of excuses do we make to not show others love? Do we ever say things like: ‘I don’t have the time?’ ‘You don’t understand what they did to me.’ Or, ‘Well brother I love them but you know I can only do so much.’?

Today we are going to do more of an expository message where we are going to look at Scripture, talk about it some and then go on to the next scripture. I want to look at the passage in the Bible 1st John Chapter 3.

1st John 3 makes it clear: A child of God is to love one another in word and in deed. Let’s look at what the passage says in the first three verses.

1 John 3: 1-3
Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are. But since the people of this world do not know who Christ is, they don’t know who we are. My dear friends, we are already God’s children, though what we will be hasn’t yet been seen. But we do know when Christ returns, we will be like him, because we will see him as he truly is. This hope makes us keep ourselves holy, just as Christ is holy.


We all need to understand once in Heaven our imperfections will be gone. We will be like Jesus. Here there is an incredible component that I don’t know if most folks understand. You see, God has adopted us as his children. This is an incredible concept that adoptive parents understand, often their children, but others outside of those who have adopted don’t fully understand. Adoption has as a part of its root, a choice, a decision that one makes to accept one as family, as blood.

In my own life, through the adoption of my son I have come to understand this, and I come to understand it more the older I get. Hopefully my son also understands it. I will never forget being told about the reality of getting my son with less than a weeks notice. We had to go do what seemed to be like a test drive to see if we wanted our son. He was less than a month old and we were to meet him and the foster parents at the Adoption Center, Bethany Christian Services in Greenville South Carolina. We went in, held him and in our amazement was told to go talk about it. My wife and I stated we didn’t need to but was encouraged to at least go eat lunch and talk about it.

My wife, Mary Jane and I were across the street at the Burger King for only a few moments and we realized there was nothing to talk about. We knew in our heart of hearts that God was giving us our son. He had been called Jake by the foster parents, and we ended up naming him Nathaniel William Seth, he was ours as much as our daughters was.

It was interesting that during this presentation at church, Nicholas reminded us that in Jewish customs, that a good Jew could denounce their relationship with one of their own children, but once adopting a child, that child was their responsibility for life, no matter what. God has adopted us into his family; we are his no matter what. God has shown us all that much love by taking us, adopting us into his family.

We need to realize that we become like Jesus through life. We will be totally like him once in Heaven. That doesn’t change the fact that we are becoming more and more like Jesus. Heaven and the things that our relationship to God, through adoption, brings us, doesn’t have to wait until we get into Heaven, it in fact can start now.

There is not a lot of insight into what Heaven is like in the Bible. Human language is so limited it can’t even begin to describe Heaven. While that is the case we need to also understand that if we are obedient to Christ and his teachings we will experience glimpses of Heaven.

Now let’s move on and look at the next part of this passage:

Verse 4-8
Everyone who sins breaks God’s law, because sin is the same as breaking God’s law. You know that Christ came to take away sins. He isn’t sinful, and people who stay one in their hearts with him won’t keep on sinning. If they do keep on sinning, they don’t know Christ, and they have never seen him.

Children, don’t be fooled. Anyone who does right is good, just like Christ himself. Anyone who keeps on sinning belongs to the devil. He has sinned from the beginning, but the Son of God came to destroy all that he has done.

We can not continue to practice our sin; we must practice Jesus’ righteousness. This is a part of each of us taking on the nature of Jesus in our relationship and acceptance of him. We must realize that as we become as Jesus that Jesus had no sin, being absent from sin he can advocate on our behalf for our sins. If unwilling to change our practice of sin we must question if we really have relationship and or know God. The truth here is according to that this passage says, if we don’t change, we belong to the devil.

Part of being born again is receipt of the Holy Spirit into our lives. The Holy Spirit will make the desire to continue sinning unacceptable in our lives. Now understand, we continue to sin due to the fact that we are not perfect. The nature of Christ, His seed, His Holy Spirit dwells in us & makes us uncomfortable about it though. We will want to change our behaviors when it comes to doing wrong. If we don’t want to change we again, don’t have a relationship with Jesus.

This is not always easy because it is not in our nature. We have to understand though; the nature of Christ is not the same as ours. There is the story of the scorpion and the frog. A scorpion and a frog needed to cross a body of water, the frog would have no trouble but the scorpion couldn’t swim. It asked the frog to ride on his back across the water, “You’ll sting me and kill me,” the frog replied.

The scorpion emphatically replied, “No I won’t, for to sting you would assure the death of us both.”

Reluctantly the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the water. Halfway across the frog felt the sting of the scorpion. “What have you done?” asked the frog, “now we will both surely die.” The scorpion replied, “I couldn’t help myself, it is in me nature.”

When looking at ones nature we can think about things like the nature of a pig, a dog in heat. Only imagine what characteristics are within our own nature that has to change. Yet, they must change and will change as we take on the nature of Jesus in our life.

When looking at the nature of Christ, we see his nature to hate and abstain from sin. He gives us a new nature where we will take on this same nature, we will not want to sin, we will do our best to abstain from doing the things that displeases God.

Now lets look some more at the passage in 1st John by looking at Verse 9-13,
God’s children cannot keep on being sinful. His life-giving power lives in them and makes them his children, so they cannot keep on sinning. You can tell God’s children from the devil’s children, because those who belong to the devil refuse to do right or to love each other.

From the beginning you were told that you must love each other. Don’t be like Cain, who belonged to the devil and murdered his own brother. Why did he murder him? He did it because his brother was good, and he was evil. My friends don’t be surprised if the people of this world hate you.

Our actions indicate to others who belongs to God and who don’t. Our unwillingness to change indicates that we aren’t born again, no matter how many times we have raised our hands or prayed a prayer. Going forward at a crusade doesn’t make you a Christian any more than eating a Big Mac makes you a hamburger.

If you don’t struggle with sin and have a desire to change, you don’t belong to God. Christ gave two commandments. Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength love your neighbor as yourself. The world will see followers of Jesus or Christians as a goody two shoes, religious fanatic, Jesus Freaks, and more. When this happens be of good cheer, it is one of the marks that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. I firmly believe that righteous behavior and actions make others feel guilty and ultimately they hate us for making them feel that way.

Lets continue now with this passage by looking at verses 14-16
Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life. But if you don’t love each other, you are still under the power of death. If you hate each other, you are murderers, and we know that murderers do not have eternal life. We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. That’s why we must give our lives for each other.

Loving each other is proof to the world and ourselves that Jesus lives. It is here that many make their mistakes; Christians seem to find reason to justify hate, or to redefine the true meaning of love. On this point, realize, hating is equivalent to murder.

When looking at, and thinking about what love is we need to think about the real example; look at the cross Jesus said, “If you are to be my disciples you must take up your cross and follow me daily.”

This scripture then makes it hard for many. These next verses are among those I call the “Hard Sayings of the Bible.”

Verse 17, 18
If we have all we need and see one of our own people in need, we must have pity on that person, or else we cannot say we love God. Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, not by merely talking about it.

I have a t-shirt I had designed some years ago. It has Furches, Magic with a Message on the front of the t-shirt and on the back it has this passage. I can’t tell you the times I have worn one of those t-shirts and someone would tell me they didn’t know that passage was in the Bible. That says something about the teachings in churches, and the life practices of many who call themselves Christian.

We have to understand, feeling sorry for someone is not love. We can talk the talk, but we have to walk the talk, actions always speak louder than words, and unfortunately on this point, most don’t have the actions to show that they are living out at least this one passage.

How important is it to love, 1st John goes on to give us further instruction in the next set of verses, 19-21
When we love others, we know that we belong to the truth, and we feel at ease in the presence of God. But even if we don’t feel at ease, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we feel at ease in the presence of God, we will have the courage to come near him.

What we do will prove what we believe. Our actions indicate the reality of the relationship we have with Jesus. We have to make sure that those actions are not centered on ourselves but directed towards others through service and love.

If we want an example, remember, Jesus ministry was largely to the poor, and needy. He is the ultimate model of who to follow. If we have trouble knowing what to do, remember, sometimes we can’t trust our own hearts; we deceive ourselves, and others. Our actions are the proof God has changed our heart and that he is greater than our sin.

In wrapping up, lets now look at verses 22-24
He will give us whatever we ask, because we obey him and do what pleases him. God wants us to have faith in his Son Jesus Christ and to love each other. This is also what Jesus taught us to do. If we obey God’s commandments, we will stay one in our hearts with him, and he will stay one with us. The Spirit that he has given us is proof that we are one with him.


Now in this passage, understand, verse 22 is often taken way out of context. The key to this principal is that we have to obey God and do what pleases him. This passage is about serving & loving others, not loving & serving ourselves & our own desires. It should be noted, that the more we become like Jesus, the more of the things Jesus wants will become the things we want. This isn’t a passage for claiming cars, homes, money and so forth, it is a passage that is encouraging us to become more like Jesus, and wanting the things Jesus wants.

Jesus is talking to his disciples and followers here remember, he also stated, “If you are to be my disciples you must take up your cross and follow me daily. There is also the need to his restatement as well as the apostles and writers of the New Testament of the great commandment, Jesus is our Lord our God, love him, believe in him, love each other just as he has told us to. When we obey God’s word we live in fellowship with Christ and each other. He is with us and we are with him.

We need to look at ways we can show others love in our own life, but we need to do the same as a church. In the wrestling community there are often people looking for locations to host certain events. I recently let the state coaching certification director know they could use Mosaic. One of the things that surprised many is we were willing to let them use the premises without charge.

I have been thinking about other ways can use the facility to facilitate ministry; one idea is ministry to the poor and needy, homeless, and so forth. Free coffee, food on occasion, and a service of some type to this community is one way of letting others know we really love them, how we love them, how we continue that love has a bearing on how they see Jesus.

Let’s pray; Father help us love, help me love. Lord may those we come into contact with see you through our actions.

Right now I am going to have us take a small break. I want to encourage people, a part of worship is giving, if you are a part of Mosaic, you have a responsibility to help the ministry of the church, if you are reading this and participating on line, you have the responsibility to find a ministry that you can support. It could be a ministry like Mosaic, The Virtual Pew, even Compassion International or some other ministry doing important work. If you are a part of a local congregation or group, support those groups.

Now let’s take some time to relax, spend some time with each other, and if at home or at work, then call a friend or family member and let them know you love them. After that then come on back and we will participate in worship together.

Welcome back, now as we enter into worship, you know a lot of the message requires most of us to change our heart. With that said, here is a great worship song to remind us of this need.

Change My Heart O God:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUjUvoynGMM



Sometimes we have a hard time letting God change our hearts. More often than not this is because of the pride we have.

Lay Down My Pride:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjnF4sC0eqA



Once we are willing to give up our pride, surrender to the call of God, we realize that we start being with God on a daily basis. Once with God we realize there is no better place to be.

Better is One Day:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIluG4xUXCU



How does this change come about, it comes about through the Holy Spirit giving us the ability to allow it to happen, we just have to surrender.

Holy Fire:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW4aCmI_uiw


I know some of this sounds crazy today, but we serve a God who can make all things possible, including the possibility of loving others. You know the word Halleluiah means “Praise God.” While in a fun way, this next song is a reminder of the goodness and the joy of praising God. Let’s all have some fun with this one as we reflect on the joy God can bring in our life.

Cartoons:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWFJ_rykyA4


I hope you have all been challenged today to love more, to love The Least, The Lost, and The Last, in fact we are all there, we are all among these population groups in some way or the other.

Father God, thank you for each of the folks who participated in this service in one way or another. I ask with all sincerity your blessings on each of them. Bless their day, bless their life’s, no matter who they are, enemy or friend, may your grace, may your love touch each person. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!

Click Here to Go to The Virtual Pew Daily Verse and Read The Bible in a Year Passages

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Now for those that do not know, make sure you check out the numerous articles and blogs by checking out the archives. If visiting The Virtual Pew or MySpace they are archived on the left hand side of the page. Scroll down to where you see newer or older listed under archives and then click there. There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free e-book pre edit version of The Keystone Kid at mike@thevirtualpew.comYou can visit http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ and on the front page down on the left side you sill see our store. Your purchase provides needed funds to The Virtual Pew. If you do not see something to purchase you can click on the search engine, (do not put anything in the search box at this time). You will be taken to Amazon where you can search for anything you desire. Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

You Can Do It!

Today I was really blessed that I got to participate with the worship team. I am at heart, a musician and as any other musician will tell you, there is something special about the worship experience when you get to play your instrument. It is for that reason, that I appreciate Brian Hickey and Chris Atherton allowing me to play along today. That said, let’s all think about the words and music in today’s worship time. Join in, sing along, or simply put on the head phones, or turn up the volume and enjoy.

Trading my Sorrows
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KsfwvpcQhY



Sometimes I think of how much love I need? I think we are all at that point and we need to realize, I need to realize, that as long as I depend on people I will never have enough, when I depend on God though, my attitude changes.

Enough
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI9RIbaa87I



I know when I hear from others, especially in regards to the struggles I have gone through that God uses you to share your love with me. I know that in reality, this is how we show God that we love him. God loves us through the hands and arms of others. Of course his love is far more perfect than we are, but it is a place where God wants us to be, that is, being his arms, feet, voice, and love.

Love is Here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3rCB97_lKE



God is an incredible God, we don’t really stop enough to ponder his love for us. Use this song to move you in that direction.

God of Wonders
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f76mSbNnFQ4



Let’s pray, Father God, you are enough, you are a God of wonders who has shown each of us how much you love us. Father, let us be instruments of love to show others how much you love them. Thank you for loving us enough to want to use us, let us be satisfied in what you want for us dear God. Thank you for all you have done in my life, in our life, be with us and let us all be grateful for what you have done for us, and what you are going to do through us. In Jesus name I pray, Amen!

Now let’s take that infamous Virtual Pew Coffee Break. Take some time, get a cookie a cup of coffee, and then do what you ought to be doing anyway, give someone a call, tell them you love them. Take some time to let those around you know that you are different in how you live your life, how you live your faith. Then I also want you to remember the need to support some ministry, whether it is a church you belong to, or a ministry that blesses you in one way or another. Then step back up into your pew seat and enjoy the rest of the service.
Welcome back! I hope that cup of coffee, or beverage of your choice was good. Some have seen the movie The Water Boy with Adam Sandler. While you may or may not like this movie, you can’t deny the contribution it has made to American Language. In fact there is one saying in the movie that is used in virtually every movie made by Sandler since then. The saying is even in the new movie Bedtime Stories. How many can remember the phrase famous from the movie The Water Boy?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY



There is a little bit of a difference in the new movie Bedtime Stories, instead of You Can Do It! We hear the phrase from Rob Schneider, “I Can Do It.”

As I look at the message today, I am reminded of the making sure I understand the vision of The Virtual Pew and Mosaic. There has to be a difference in the world view which we have in comparison to other churches, for example last weeks message at Mosaic by Nicholas St. John where he asked the question about the church being a church that sees her people as people made in the image of God, loved by God, and once coming to God, as Saints with freedom and liberty given by God. The Church is a church in reality, seen as saints as opposed to being seen as sinners. It is an attitude thing, an attitude in the reality of what God has made those who choose to follow after Christ.

Mosaic and The Virtual Pew muse see itself as a church that realizes the importance of prayer, not just individual but corporate. It is for certain, that all churches, all Christians, all who have a relationship with Christ will want to build on and grow in their relationship with God, that starts and in some ways, ends with prayer.

Mosaic and The Virtual Pew must see themselves as a church that sees value in getting to know, care for, and love each other. So many churches, so many people who say they are Christians do such a wonderful job of talking about their need for love, yet few actually do a good job of showing love. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it when people show me love, not just tell me about it. In fact, I am kind of tired of all of those, Christian or not, who talk about love, who talk about a God type relationship, but in reality, do nothing to live out the concept. We all struggle with this at times, but realizing that we struggle with this, and then taking the step to be better than this and then actually try to love others by our words and actions is an important step for those who say they love Jesus, want to follow him, and then have relationship with one another.

The Virtual Pew and Mosaic must be a church that understands the value of serving the community in areas of service, justice and power of God. This is an area that we seem to neglect, and then wonder why it is that so few want anything to do with this thing we call church. When we show we care about the struggles others are going through, when we care about social justice and serving the “least of these” then they will know we really do care about them. In fact when we do these things, Jesus went so far as to say it was as if we did it directly “unto me,” Jesus speaking of him. When the church goes out of its way to do these things, then the church is doing what it is supposed to be and followers of Jesus are living the way Christ has commanded them to live.

Mosaic and The Virtual Pew must realize we are a church that realizes we are involved in a war with real consequences, victories, and yes losses. The Bible talks about this being a spiritual war we are involved in. We have to see these daily battles, these daily struggles as battles in that war. We have to realize that there are spiritual things going on around us that are having an impact. If we truly realize the implications of the battles we are involved n then we will desire to not loose any of those battles to Satan and instead want to win them all for God.

Now I realize many won’t like what I am going to say now, but I have found it to be truth. When we recognize the above areas, begin to apply them in our life, we will see Satan attacking our individual lives, the church, our families, and trying to tear the church apart. Satan will have issues with us as followers of Jesus, both as individuals and as a corporate body taken on the causes of Christ. He will attack us, there is no doubt about it but we have to remember, war is not easy, war is not fun, but this war is necessary.

How have you been looking at the difficulties in your life, in the local church, or in the larger Universal Church? When life gets tough, when you don’t think you or the church can do it anymore, remember:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY



Today I have a long passage from the Bible I want us to look at, it is actually 2 chapters. I want you to take the time to read it, think about the story it is telling and then let’s get ready to move on from there.

Numbers 13, 14
(1) The LORD said to Moses, (2) " Choose a leader from each tribe and send them into Canaan to explore the land I am giving you."
(3) So Moses sent twelve tribal leaders from Israel's camp in the Paran Desert (4 -16) with orders to explore the land of Canaan. And here are their names: Shammua son of Zaccur from Reuben, Shaphat son of Hori from Simeon, Caleb son of Jephunneh from Judah, Igal son of Joseph from Issachar, Joshua son of Nun from Ephraim, Palti son of Raphu from Benjamin, Gaddiel son of Sodi from Zebulun, Gaddi son of Susi from Manasseh, Ammiel son of Gemalli from Dan, Sethur son of Michael from Asher, Nahbi son of Vophsi from Naphtali, and Geuel son of Machi from Gad.
(17) Before Moses sent them into Canaan, he said: After you go through the Southern Desert of Canaan, continue north into the hill country (18) and find out what those regions are like. Be sure to remember how many people live there, how strong they are, (19 -20) and if they live in open towns or walled cities. See if the land is good for growing crops and find out what kinds of trees grow there. It's time for grapes to ripen, so try to bring back some of the fruit that grows there.
(21) The twelve men left to explore Canaan from the Zin Desert in the south all the way to the town of Rehob near Lebo-Hamath in the north. (22) As they went through the Southern Desert, they came to the town of Hebron, which was seven years older than the Egyptian town of Zoan. In Hebron, they saw the three Anakim clans of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai. (23 -24) When they got to Bunch Valley, they cut off a branch with such a huge bunch of grapes, that it took two men to carry it on a pole. That's why the place was called Bunch Valley. Along with the grapes, they also took back pomegranates and figs.
(25) After exploring the land of Canaan forty days, (26) the twelve men returned to Kadesh in the Paran Desert and told Moses, Aaron, and the people what they had seen. They showed them the fruit (27) and said: Look at this fruit! The land we explored is rich with milk and honey. (28) But the people who live there are strong, and their cities are large and walled. We even saw the three Anakim clans. (29) Besides that, the Amalekites live in the Southern Desert; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites are in the hill country; and the Canaanites live along the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. (30) Caleb calmed down the crowd and said, “Let’s go and take the land. I know we can do it!"
(31) But the other men replied, “Those people are much too strong for us." (32) Then they started spreading rumors and saying, “We won't be able to grow anything in that soil. And the people are like giants. (33) In fact, we saw the Nephilim who are the ancestors of the Anakim. They were so big that we felt as small as grasshoppers."

Numbers 14

(1) After the Israelites heard the report from the twelve men who had explored Canaan, the people cried all night (2) and complained to Moses and Aaron, “We wish we had died in Egypt or somewhere out here in the desert! (3) Is the LORD leading us into Canaan, just to have us killed and our women and children captured? We'd be better off in Egypt." (4) Then they said to one another, “Let’s choose our own leader and go back."
(5) Moses and Aaron bowed down to pray in front of the crowd. (6) Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in sorrow (7) and said: We saw the land ourselves, and it's very good. (8) If we obey the LORD, he will surely give us that land rich with milk and honey. (9) So don't rebel. We have no reason to be afraid of the people who live there. The LORD is on our side, and they won't stand a chance against us!
(10) The crowd threatened to stone Moses and Aaron to death. But just then, the LORD appeared in a cloud at the sacred tent.
(11) The LORD said to Moses, “I have done great things for these people, and they still reject me by refusing to believe in my power. (12) So they will no longer be my people. I will destroy them, but I will make you the ancestor of a nation even stronger than theirs."
(13 -16) Moses replied: With your mighty power you rescued your people from Egypt, so please don't destroy us here in the desert. If you do, the Egyptians will hear about it and tell the people of Canaan. Those Canaanites already know that we are your people, and that we see you face to face. And they have heard how you lead us with a thick cloud during the day and flaming fire at night. But if you kill us, they will claim it was because you weren't powerful enough to lead us into Canaan as you promised.

(17) Show us your great power, LORD. You promised (18) that you love to show mercy and kindness. And you said that you are very patient, but that you will punish everyone guilty of doing wrong--not only them but their children and grandchildren as well.
(19) You are merciful, and you treat people better than they deserve. So please forgive these people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.
(20) Then the LORD said to Moses: In answer to your prayer, I do forgive them. (21) But as surely as I live and my power has no limit, (22 -23) I swear that not one of these Israelites will enter the land I promised to give their ancestors. These people have seen my power in Egypt and in the desert, but they will never see Canaan. They have disobeyed and tested me too many times.
(24) But my servant Caleb isn't like the others. So because he has faith in me, I will allow him to cross into Canaan, and his descendants will settle there.
(25) Now listen, Moses! The Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys of Canaan. And tomorrow morning, you'll need to turn around and head back into the desert toward the Red Sea.
(26) The LORD told Moses and Aaron (27 -28) to give this message to the people of Israel: You sinful people have complained against me too many times! Now I swear by my own life that I will give you exactly what you wanted. (29) You will die right here in the desert, and your dead bodies will cover the ground. You have insulted me, and none of you men who are over twenty years old (30) will enter the land that I solemnly promised to give you as your own--only Caleb and Joshua will go in. (31) You were worried that your own children would be captured. But I, the LORD, will let them enter the land you have rejected. (32) You will die here in the desert! (33) Your children will wander around in this desert forty years, suffering because of your sins, until all of you are dead. (34) I will cruelly punish you every day for the next forty years--one year for each day that the land was explored. (35) You sinful people who ganged up against me will die here in the desert.
(36) Ten of the men sent to explore the land had brought back bad news and had made the people complain against the LORD. (37) So he sent a deadly disease that killed those men, (38) but he let Joshua and Caleb live.
(39) The people of Israel were very sad after Moses gave them the Lord’s message. (40) So they got up early the next morning and got ready to head toward the hill country of Canaan. They said, “We were wrong to complain about the LORD. Let's go into the land that he promised us."
(41) But Moses replied, “You’re disobeying the LORD! Your plan won't work, (42 -43) so don't even try it. The LORD refuses to help you, because you turned your backs on him. The Amalekites and the Canaanites are your enemies, and they will attack and defeat you."
(44) But the Israelites ignored Moses and marched toward the hill country, even though the sacred chest and Moses did not go with them. (45) The Amalekites and the Canaanites came down from the hill country, defeated the Israelites, and chased them as far as the town of Hormah.

One of the sad things about this story, is the people didn’t remember that when it came to God, their response should have been:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY



Many, estimate that millions had gone on the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. They all had the chance to see the Promised Land, however, only 2 got to go into the land to live. Imagine going on the greatest vacation ever and you only get to look in through the gates. You don’t spend time there, you don’t realize what lays ahead for you, you only take a quick glance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33HUjLT5zVU



There were respected leaders selected to scout out the territory in the Bible story above, 12 in all. All of the leaders, plus Moses got to see the Promised Land but didn’t get to go in. Only two, Joshua and Caleb got to go into the Promised Land. They all saw the potential harvest, and the large amount of fruit, but most focused on the obstacles more than they did the potential. Are we like that? I know that I often am, I have to remind myself of the very thing Joshua and Caleb knew:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY



How do we see things, do we see the positive and potential or do we see the negative and hazards? We have to realize that with God living within us, all things are possible, we have to remember, that greater is he who is in us, than he who is in the world. We have to also remember, that with God, all things are possible. Are we taking what we should know from what the Bible tells us and applying it in our lives? Or are we living in the same ol defeated, making excuses life that provides nothing but misery and heartache? If we want things to be different, we have to act different, a good place to start for those that love Jesus is to realize that because of God living in us, “We can do it!”

Often: when we see or experience the negative we blame people. Remember Satan is our enemy, not people. We tend to get angry, become upset at people, I know it is easy to do, but while those people are responsible for their actions, Satan is enemy, not them, in fact, they are people Jesus loves and wants to provide hope and salvation for.

In the above story out of the Bible notice how Moses, Joshua and Caleb call the people to prayer and then they pray. It was easy to be repentant at the time, but did you notice how the people responded initially when called to prayer? They wanted to stone Moses, Joshua and Caleb. They were not receptive to what these three men of God had to say.

In the process we can see that the Lord honored those who honored him, those who had confidence in him, those who trusted him, despite the difficulties that lay ahead at the time. The nature of God doesn’t change. God wants people to quit making excuses, he wants people to follow through with the vision and purpose he has, that is true for Mosaic, and The Virtual Pew. It is even more importantly true in the lives of the people hearing this, or reading this. God don’t want you giving up on him! He doesn’t want you making excuses, finding fault, quitting on the very thing he has brought into existence. The truth is, sometimes we try to make spiritual excuses to quit the things God has lead us to, we have all been taken to the place God wanted us in a church, in a fellowship or in the life of another, and then backed out, quit at times not realizing the full potential of what God was going to do, we have even been critical of those who led us on the journey, the ones God has given vision and hope to.

Remember as I stated above, the nature of God don’t change. The Lord becomes angry at those that have forgotten what he has done for them. I don’t think God appreciates quitters because quitting shows that there is a lack of faith in the ability of God to do exactly what he said he was going to do. Too many of us quit on loving people, we quit on churches that we think we need to move from, we quit on the heart of being different than the institutional church because we find it easier to join a bigger mega church where we can hide, we can go on and on why we haven’t fulfilled the mission and calling God has on us, but the nature of God don’t change. We should never forget what God has done for us, and what he wants to do through us. Any church, any group that allows one to hide behind the numbers in the sanctuary has forgotten about the fact that God chooses to use people go grow churches, to grow people in their faith. On this point, I don’t hold that God always gets what he wants here, it is a theology that can be quite dangerous, to assume that theology is correct would be to assume that God desires abortions to take place, that God desires for innocent children to be killed by drunk drivers, or deranged husbands. It has to simply be understood, things happen that God don’t desire, we are the instruments of that in that he has given us a free-will to make stupid decisions. Just like those in the story above. There were 12 who went in, 10 who lacked faith in the ability of God to deliver, although they had seen God deliver them time, and time again.

God wants us to know this about him:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY



We need to get rid of Murphy’s Law, you know where we are told that something will inevitably go wrong. The law should be for the person who professes faith in Jesus Christ that there is nothing too difficult with Christ.

One of the things to realize is that how we ask a question makes a difference in the results we see, are we asking negatively or positively. Not just in the questions related to what God can do through us, but in the things God wants to do for us. A Recent Army kitchen survey showed that when serving apricots in the military mess hall, that when asking: Wouldn’t want a bowl of apricots would you? 40% said yes. Then when asking the question: Would you like a bowl of apricots? 50% said yes. Notice the improvement with the slightest of change, but then notice that when asked the question: Would you like 1 bowl or 2 bowls of apricots? 50% said 1 bowl, 40% stated 2 bowls only 10% with none. It’s how we ask the question, see the issue. Our attitude, and heart makes a difference. Not only do we have to ask things differently of others, we have to live differently. Some think this is not possible, I say:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY



We are the ones that determine how we look at things; no one can make us look at things in a negative light if we realize that Christ is the one that can do all things, or even yet, that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. When we quit, when we lack faith in God’s ability, we don’t look like we believe these things, our lives show it, and those that are looking to us for answers see it. What is really sad is the actions we take when we do realize it, it isn’t that much different than those in the story involving Joshua and Caleb. We don’t have the attitude of:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY



Asking the right questions and responding to what we think is the right answer has to still be done God’s way. I remember a guy who moved into my house in Oklahoma. He was one of three Christians that forgot about Christian obligation while living in that house. He signed a one year lease, and after being there for a short period of time contacted me to tell me that God had called him to another ministry location so would I let him out of the lease agreement. I reminded him, in a loving way of course, that if God had called him to his present job, had moved him to sign a one-year-lease and then called him to another church, that God would provide a way to maintain his financial obligation to pay the rent on the house until the house was rented out to someone else. He didn’t like it, but the truth is, God don’t call people to churches, don’t call them to ministry, don’t call them to be involved with people he loves so much, and then suddenly change his mind and call people someplace else. God delivers, he takes to the place he wants, it is up to us and our response if we enter into the Promised Land.

Notice the people’s response in this story though. After they were confronted in their sin, they want to jump up and do things their way instead of God’s way. They still held on to their selfish desire without listening to and doing the very things God told them. They decided to not listen to Moses in his directives here. We as well have to realize that a good heart, good intent, don’t make things right. We still have to listen to God and a part of listening to God is doing things God’s way. When we make mistakes, we are often given the opportunity to go back and make things right. It has amazed me for a number of years at the churches and people who say they love Jesus are so filled with pride that they won’t do this. They keep on doing things their way and then wonder why it is that it appears as if God is an angry God. God allows us to make mistakes, what ticks him off though is that when we go on in life doing things our way instead of God’s way. On this point, Frank Sinatra was a wonderful singer, but the truth is, the song “I Did It My Way,” is horrible teaching. God only wants us to do it our way, when our way is his way. Being disobedient, not having the faith God wants us to have is not doing it God’s way. When times get tough, when we don’t think we can, when we are having issue we have to address our problems with the attitude.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY



Now is the place where continued teachings and discussion can take place. Express your thoughts, make your comments, and post your questions and concerns. It was wonderful to hear all of the questions and comments that came about from this, there was a lot of insight from those in the congregation discussion.

I encourage you to really bless God for what he has done with your praise and with your life. Remember that how we live our lives are an ultimate act of worship.

Blessed Be Your Name
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du0il6d-DAk



Today in closing, I joy in the opportunity to pray for you.

Dear Lord, thank you for being patient with me. I ask that I can be more faithful, that I will realize I need to stick it out in the things you have called me to. Father forgive me when I fail you, forgive me when I quit or give up, help me, help us all in this area. Now Father God, Creator of the universe, I ask you to bless each of those who have participated in this message. May your Spirit bless and protect them. May your Spirit cause them to ponder this message, apply it and live it. Then God, I also ask that where we have failed, where I have failed, help me get back on track and do the things you would have me do in my walk to serve you. Thank you God, thank you for your love, now be with each of us for the duration of this week, for it is in the name of Jesus I pray, Amen!

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