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The Way Up is the Way Down | Mark 9:1-15

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Mark 9:2-9

This passage is fascinating to me. The Transfiguration is a powerful moment in the Gospel of Mark. It literally is a high point. Try to imagine what it must have been like for the disciples, standing with Jesus, and witnessing this remarkable moment. I’d imagine some sort of euphoric response, and we see as much when Peter says to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.” His heart was right – He wanted to honor Jesus (and Elijah and Moses as well).

In verse 9, they descend the mountain, the experience is over. People see Jesus – and they are filled with wonder. But the most interesting part is this descent from the mountaintop experience down the hill, and toward what would soon be death on a cross. Not only is that down from the mountain, it’s really down from the mountain. Perhaps you’ve had a mountaintop experience that seemed beautiful and amazing, and then a really dark time afterward.

Jesus had already “gone down from the mountain” once (from glory) to the earthiness of a sinful world, to do what He was there to do. He modeled a concept that is so counterintuitive we often miss it: The way up is the way down. Jesus allowed the disciples to see Him in all His radiant glory, and then He came off the mountain and headed towards an ugly cross. Through the glory of the cross, He ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father. The Spirit now lives within us, guiding us each step of our journey. Because He descended in order to ascend, once and for all. This is the way of Jesus.

It seems counterintuitive, and indeed, it is – but the way of Jesus means the way up (eventually) is the way down (currently). Suffering is a part of the life of an apprentice of Jesus. His disciples in the first century suffered, and his disciples today do as well. Following Jesus isn’t all “up and to the right” – it often seems like (and is) a perilous journey. But as we face our brokenness, embrace suffering, and seek to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, He begins to refine us, shape us, form and mold us, and slowly but surely, a masterpiece appears. It’s through the hard work of suffering that we see His glory, once and for all.

The way of the cross is earthy, rugged, and not always fun, despite what that TV preacher may say. Take a few moments and reflect on how a difficult season in life shaped you for the better. Ask yourself, “am I truly willing to embrace the way of the cross?” After all, the way up is the way down.

For further meditation, my dear friend Ben Thomas released a song called “The Way Up”: Spotify iTunes

The grey, the icy rain that wraps itself around
Our broken dreams, our whispered destinies It shrouds
When all the empty bottles up along the wall
Can capture melodic reverberating sounds
It tells that the way up is the way down
I find it difficult to execute the hours
When our entire lives are spent ascending towers
To find out the way up is the way down

By Larry Boatright

The Way Up is the Way Down | Mark 9:1-152020-03-05T12:16:34-07:00

Who We Hang With | Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 15

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Mark 7:24-30

I grew up in an area that was predominantly completely made up of Caucasians. There was one African American family that moved in one time, and left soon afterwards. I also lived in a culture that told me I should despise, look down upon, and even be afraid of people of color. When I was 17, I moved from that area to a new school that was very diverse. For the first time, I was scared of the people I went to school with – because they looked different and because of what I had been told. Little did I know that I would eventually become friends with lots of people of color – that they were real people, just like me, and God would show me that He loves everyone, not just those like me.

The world is filled with rules about who to hang out with. Don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t hang out with those who do. Perhaps you’ve heard that at some point. You’d think the Church would be a place where those rules don’t apply; after all, Jesus seemed to spend lots of time with people others wouldn’t be caught dead with. But all too often, we build up rules to “keep us holy before God” that keeps us from spending time with the kind of people Jesus associated with.

The way of Jesus is to love everyone – not just those who agree with everything we agree with, who like the same political party or music or make the same amount of money or who have the same color of skin, or whatever it might be. It’s easy to judge those not like us – but Jesus showed us a different way.

He showed the Syrophoenecian woman a picture of the love of God – by answering her request to cast the impure spirit out of her daughter. A closer reading shows that not only was Jesus talking to someone who most good Jews wouldn’t be talking to, but he also was in the region of Tyre – a region no good Jew would be caught in. Double whammy!

Does hanging out with the wrong crowd affect us? Of course it does. But we’d better be careful not to label people who are different the “wrong crowd”. There’s a tension inherent to following Jesus and loving others who seem unlovable, or immoral, or simply different. But I’ve come to believe that one of the marks of maturity for followers of Jesus is to learn to live in tension. This might mean talking to someone you wouldn’t typically talk to, or going where you wouldn’t typically go – to be the hands, feet, ears, and voice of Jesus to someone who desperately needs him.

This week, move toward someone who is different than you, and practice listening to their story, to their perspective, to their experience. Let God use this to help you learn to see with different lenses and to help you learn to love more broadly.

NOTE: March 15th South is partnering with Cru to have a workshop called Fear, Facts & Faith – A Biblical View of Immigration. This workshop will address our refugee neighbors in the Denver area and other immigrants, break down misconceptions about them, broaden our perspective, and give us practical ways to love those who are different than us. You can find out more here.

By Larry Boatright

Who We Hang With | Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 152020-02-21T12:32:10-07:00

Transformed | Transformed Vocation | Ephesians 2:8-10 | Week 8

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TRANSFORMED: Vocation  Ephesians 2:8-10   Pastor Larry Boatright   (2nd)

{Manuscript–View video for complete content}   I want you all to know that in a few weeks it’s my birthday.  I wanted to give you time to get presents.  And it’s the big one — 42nd!  A couple years ago, I turned 40, and as most of us do when we hit a milestone, we spend time reflecting.  I started looking at what I had accomplished, how God had used me.  A question that most of us ask at certain milestones of our lives — Am I where I thought I’d be at this point in my life?   I wanted my forties to be an awesome decade, so I decided to attend a TED conference—TedX: Mile High.  I grabbed some friends and I was excited. The theme was “Wonder.”  My hope was to be inspired and to reflect and to dream about the next decade or two about my life and dream about the next season.

Wouldn’t we like to experience “Wonder” on a regular basis?  I liked that the program had speaker profiles.  Then I started looking at the speaker list:

  • Tamika Mallory – one of four organizers of the Woman’s March on DC and civil rights activist
  • Dick Durrance – famous photographer/journalist – pics of Vietnam – National Geographic
  • James Orsulak – owns an asteroid mining company and title is Space Entrepreneur
  • Doug Vakoch – Runs an organization “dedicated to transmitting intentional signals to nearby stars and fostering the sustainability of human civilization on multi-generational timescales, a project that could take centuries or millennia to succeed.”   What are you working on?? I had to ask myself, “Where were those things on the list of possible vocations when I was in high school?”  I never saw space entrepreneur or interstellar correspondent on the list or I would have been the first to sign up!

So, I went to TedX to be inspired, and in truth I was inspired, but I also saw this list of people doing incredible things, and it made me really look at my life and ask, “What have I accomplished?”  Have you ever looked at someone else and asked yourself that question?  Think about it, there’s an interstellar correspondent.  There is a space entrepreneur.  There’s a Women’s March Organizer.

And then there’s me — Larry Boatright – Religious Worker.   If I’m being honest, a lot of self-doubt crept in, and when I look at the work God has allowed me to do in my life, I can’t help but compare myself to other people, especially at an event like that.   And it left me wondering, “Does what I do even matter?

My guess is that I’m not alone in asking that question.   All of us, at some point, look at what we do, and what we’ve accomplished so far, and wonder, “What is my unique contribution to this world? Is who I am worth anything? Does what I do even matter?”  Think about the most common question we ask children: What do you want to be when you grow up?  As adults, when we meet someone new, one of the first questions we ask is, “What do you do?”  For me as a kid, I wanted to be a doctor, a brain surgeon.  Then I wanted to be a motocross racer, and I actually got to do that and it was a lot of fun.  Then I wanted to be a rock star, but that didn’t pan out.

Most of us, when we are little, dream pretty big; the world hasn’t told us we can’t do things yet.  We still believe we’re creative and we’re passionate about life and can do anything we really want to do.  But if we scrape below the surface, what we really want to do is make a difference.  We wanted to be somebody.  We wanted to be good at something, to be who God created us to be.  But all too often, as adults, we feel like we’re either spinning our wheels or completely missing the mark.

We’re in the next to last week of this “Transformed” series, and we’re talking about transforming our vocation.  Some of you got excited for a second because you thought I said “Vacation.”  The question we’ve been wrestling with in this series is, “What would happen if the gospel permeated and impacted every area of our lives?”  Today I want to explore what it would look like if the gospel had a radical impact and completely transformed your perspective on your vocation.

Maybe a good place to start is to ask, “What IS your vocation?”  For most of us, when we hear the word vocation, we think about the work that we do, don’t we?  We think about our J-O-B.  And that’s a challenge, because in 23 years of ministry, I can’t tell you how many people have complained to me about their job.  If you look at your Facebook feed on Monday morning, how many people do you see posting complaints about having to get up and go to work again?  Have you ever felt that way? Like your job stinks? Like it’s draining? Like you’d rather live in a van down by the river than do what you do? Guess what, you’re not alone.  Studies show that nearly half of American workers are dissatisfied with their jobs.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics did a long-term study of baby boomers and found that, on average, people held 11.7 jobs between age 18 and 48. Twenty-seven percent of those baby boomers changed jobs more than fifteen times. I know lots of people who have most of their identity in what they do—what their career is, what kind of work they do.  I have to admit, but that’s probably me as well; I identify my vocation as the thing that I do and my identity is there.

In 2008, there was a recession and I was pastoring in Chicago and a ton of people in my church were hit really hard with the economic downturn.

  • Some were laid off
  • Some were forced to retire early and their job given to a young person fresh out of school
  • Some were in a company that downsized and they were forced to acquire even more work for the same pay to compensate for it.  One thing I noticed that was really interesting in that season in our country’s history, at least with the people I interacted with, is that so many people felt such a sense of loss of their identity because their job changed.  The media reported story after story of people who took their own life because they lost their jobs, and therefore, their identity.

I have to wonder if the reason why people hate their jobs, bounce from their jobs, and lose themselves in their jobs, is because they don’t really understand what their vocation is supposed to be all about.  For most of us, when we are asked the question, “What’s your vocation?” we pair it with our job and that’s understandable. But I need you to hear me today, your vocation is not your job. Your job is a part of, but not equal to, your vocation. I want to propose that who you are becoming is just as important as what you are doing.  I want to walk through the big idea and I’m going to say it over and over and drill it into our heads:  Vocation is becoming who God created you to be, and doing what God created you to do.  Your vocation is becoming the person that God designed and created you to be and doing the work that God created you to do.  That means your vocation is so much more than your J-O-B, the work that you do.   I want to help us see that our vocation is more than a job that pays the bills and puts food on the table.  It should be us being completely on mission with God.

Fortunately, the Scriptures give us a lot of insight into what our vocations should be about.  We’re going to unpack Ephesians 2:8-10 together.   For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   Even though it’s only three verses, this actually is a significant piece of Scripture, with HUGE implications for how we see our God, ourselves, our work, and our vocation.

Before we get too far into trying to figure out what a transformed vocation is supposed to look like, I want to frame it up by looking at a foundational concept.  Verses 8 and 9 — 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.  It’s really interesting how Paul sets up this passage, isn’t it?    Instead of just diving into an explanation of how God created us and gave us things to do, he framed it with a reminder that it’s ALL God’s work.  In case we think that WE somehow can do something to earn God’s favor, Paul reminds us that salvation is God’s work, not ours.   He’s not saying works are bad, in fact, he’s actually saying they are good and that God laid out good works for us to do, but he’s contrasting works that earn favor with God and works that honor God and fall into God’s plan for the kingdom.  Listen, that’s really easy to get messed up.  So many people think they need to work to earn favor with God—that they must DO stuff to be okay with God.  Instead of seeing that their work (the things that they do) flows out of the God’s work in them and for them.

Maybe that’s you.

In Chicago, we had a Saturday night service.  We called it the “recovering Catholic service” because about 80% of the people in there were Catholics. I remember being thrown off when we moved from the Bible Belt to Chicago and someone asked, “What time does mass start?”  I was taken aback.  Many of those people had difficulty understanding this concept, because in their mind it was well, I’ve got to do this and I’ve got to attend this and I have to give this and do all these things, and IF I do all those things, maybe, just maybe, I can have favor with God.

It’s so important that we understand the difference between salvation—a free gift from God—and serving Jesus, which is a response to that free gift of God.  This is one of the key issues of the Reformation: stating that our standing before God has nothing to do with us doing a bunch of things and earning favor with God.  Our salvation is a free gift of grace.  Paul says, “Not of yourself” and “not by works, so no one can boast.”  You can’t go around saying, “I saved myself!”  So Paul is making sure we get the picture here, before we dive too much into what God’s done in us and through us and wants to do to use us, he wants to clearly distinguish the difference between that and salvation, that it is from grace alone that we receive salvation.

But I think we’ll also see that it’s God’s grace, God’s desire, God’s heart, to partner with us in his creation.  Look at verse 10:  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  I want to start at that very first part:  For we are God’s handiwork…  I want to camp out there for a second.  The NIV says we are God’s handiwork; the ESV says we are his workmanship.  The Greek word used here is the word poiema.  What word does that sound like?  Poem.  In fact, as I was trying to write my notes for preaching, my computer wanted to autocorrect that word to poem.  But it’s a similar idea.

I love poetry. When I was a kid studying poetry in literature, I thought it was so amazing that someone could sit down with a blank piece of paper and flow out poetry.  Poems are the works of a creative artist, and guess what, so are you! Poiema is sort of saying that an artist skillfully knit you together, just as you are.  The Psalmist makes this clear in Psalm 139:13—For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  That sounds like a craftsman to me.  How about you?  At night, when I’m bored and need something to watch, I inevitably go to the documentary category.  Some of my favorite documentaries to watch are people who create things.  There’s an amazing one called “The Birth of Sake,” about people who give half of their year to creating sake.  It’s so cinematic and beautiful.  “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” — I love that documentary. I love watching people take a raw piece of wood and just carve it and shape it and put it together and stain it and make something beautiful out of that.  I love when I get a latte and they do really cool latte art.  There’s a Japanese restaurant in Boulder I went to that’s very traditional.  You take your shoes off at the door and go sit at the bar and an artisan chef makes it right in front of you.  I’m not talking hibachi, I’m talking beautifully carved cucumbers and carrots and creates this one-of-a-kind, unique thing and sits it right in front of you.  I think of my friend Steve, who you’re going to meet in a few minutes, and how he uses his hands to craft bread.

I love the way The Voice translation renders this verse:  For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives.  That’s talking about us.  It’s not talking about this mysterious, other people.  It’s talking about you and I.  For many of us, it’s pretty hard to get our minds wrapped around the fact that God has uniquely made us, and that he uniquely created unique things for us to do.  So often we fail to see our own worth in Christ.  For many of us, we see ourselves as generic, vanilla, average, or ordinary.  Out of that place, we see our work, our impact potential, the way we interact in the world through the same lens. If you want to transform your vocation, I would propose that the first step is to think about who you are and who you are becoming.

At some point I’m going to get a long, family-style dining room table.  I can go to IKEA and get that.  It will look good for a while….unless I move it. Annette and I love to have people over and gather around the table with a meal.  Love to cook, love to host.  But if I buy this dining room table from IKEA, and you come sit at my table, I’m not going to be super jazzed about telling you the origin or the genesis of the table.  This is an IKEA piece and was made in a factory.  Millions of other people have this same table.  NO!  I’m not going to say that.  Now, I have a friend named Kieley, who was in my youth group at my very first church.  He’s now an adult and creates this unbelievable dining room furniture, with his hands.  I hope someday to have one of his tables in my home.  If I have a table that’s unique like that, handcrafted by an artisan, when you come have a meal with me at my house, we’re going to sit down at this table and I’m going to tell you about the origin of this table.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  That is you.  You are not IKEA!  There are billions of people in this planet, but you are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Master Craftsman.  That means you have a unique set of natural abilities, a unique voice and something to say, and unique things to do, and a unique personality, and a unique perspective on this earth.  You are unique!

Remember, your vocation is becoming who God created you to be, and doing what God created you to do. This starts with understanding that God created you to be something unique. And that means that you inherently have worth.  And I know there are people in this room who need to hear this, because maybe, as a kid, you were told you weren’t good enough.  Maybe as an adult you’ve played the comparison game for the majority of your adulthood.  Maybe you’re a young adult and you’re living in a world with your friends and comparing yourself to them.  You start to wonder, “Am I a mistake?”  I want to tell you, you are a masterpiece, not a mistake.   If you could move out of your self-doubt, those voices that say you stink and you’re not good enough and all that, and start to embrace the fact that you are a masterpiece, not a mistake, you’re well on your way to partnering with God in your vocation.

The Scripture goes on to say:  Created in Christ Jesus to do good works.  So we are God’s masterpiece, a unique creation, and we’re told that we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works.  I can remember being 13 or 14, and my dad made me go do some hard work on the farm.  I think my dad told me to help build a fence and I was having a hard time.  We were using a type of wood that was really hard, and I was trying to put barbed wire on the fence and it kept ricocheting off into the field.  I started to get progressively angry.  Finally, out of frustration, I exploded, and I cursed Adam and Eve for making me work.  You’re laughing because you’ve done this too.  If it weren’t for you guys, I wouldn’t have to be doing this!  Because we all know that if the Fall had never happened  we wouldn’t have to work, right?  Not exactly.  See, for some of us, we blame Adam and Eve for having to work, not realizing that the Scriptures are clear that work has always been a part of God’s design, and I believe it will continue to always be a part of God’s design.

If we start the gospel narrative in Genesis chapter 3, it’s easy to see how work is a curse.  But if we, correctly, start the gospel narrative in Genesis 1 and 2, we’ll see that God’s design has always been to partner with us through our work.  So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gen 1:27-28)   Now, don’t tune out because you’re heard this passage a bazillion times.  Listen, God gave some very specific instructions:

  • Be fruitful and multiply (Most humans like this kind of work!)
  • Fill the earth
  • Subdue it – this means to bring it under control, to bring order to it.
  • Rule over it–RADAH–to rule over and to dominate.   That all sounds like work to me.

Genesis 2:15, 19-20 says:  The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it…..So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 

God easily could have given Adam and Eve a fully-baked creation, with an owner’s manual to help them manage it.  But instead, God created a bunch of things, including humankind, and tasked them with the work of continuing to shape it, to subdue it, to bring it into order.  God allowed Adam to name the animals, to tend to vegetation, to work. Remember, this is pre-fall before sin entered the equation.  Then we fast forward to the end of the book in Revelation and see that Jesus comes to the earth.  What does he do?  God comes among his people and they will be his people and they will be their God.  We will be continuing that work of shaping, and moving, and doing things with God for all of eternity.  So in the beginning of the story and the end of the story, we see the Scriptures saying we will partner with Him in ruling and reigning, and working.

So to transform your vocation, first you might want to consider that you are a masterpiece, that you are hand-crafted.  No one looks under an IKEA table to see who the manufacturer is, but if you say this is an artisan thing….typically an artist writes his name.  Guess what?  God has written his imprint on you.  The imago dei inside you.  You’re unique and fearfully and wonderfully made.

But secondly, we might want to embrace that God has created you to work, to partner with Him in the renewal of all things.  So your vocation is becoming who God created you to be, embracing that you’re a masterpiece, but also doing good works.  Why?  Because God has designed you to do good works.  Because of grace, because of the Reformation, some people don’t like using the language “good works,” but the Scriptures are filled with that.  God desires for us to do good works. No matter what situation you find yourself in, this is what vocation is all about.  Not just that little job we happen to occupy at this stage of our lives, or not just retirement, or not just being in between jobs, or whatever position we’re in, it’s by God’s work that we are created as a masterpiece and that we are gifted the best gift, which is our salvation, but we’re designed, as the overflow of that, to do good works.  So good works are a result of truly knowing and following Jesus.  If you know Jesus and you’ve accepted that He’s made you unique, the natural overflow of your heart is to do good things for Him.  So look at your life.  Would your life say that you know Jesus?  Or are you a cranky, mean person?   If you embraced this idea that you are a masterpiece, hand-crafted, that God cares about who you are becoming, and that He has called you to do good works for the sake of the Kingdom, it might re-frame what you see about at your job tomorrow, or in your interactions with others at home, or the grocery store, or whatever it might be.  If you truly see that God’s made you unique and wants to use you to partner with Him in the kingdom for the sake of others, your attitude toward working in a cube or whatever you do, might be just a little bit different.

Finally—Which God prepared in advance for us to do…  That’s kind of intimidating, because that means God has some kind of plan, and I like to know what the plan is, how about you?  For me, part of the Christian journey is learning to be present to what the Spirit is doing in the moment, just trying to listen.  I remember as a kid, my parents worked a half hour or so away in a factory, so they were gone from early in the morning until 6 at night or so.  They did what most parents do and gave me a list of stuff to do when they left, like feed the cows, chickens, and hogs.  Mow the grass.  Maybe I had to build or repair some fence.  And then the thing every kid loves to hear from their parents:  Clean your room.   And so, I did what most teenage boys do—I messed around all day doing whatever I wanted until about 4 pm.  Then I crammed in all the work they gave me to do and got it done just as they pulled into the driveway and sat back on the couch like I’d been sitting there for hours.

I’m convinced that God has laid out work for us to do.  But part of formation as a follower of Jesus is partnering with God to figure out what that is.  For most of us, it’s not “do exactly this or that,” so I want to give you two parts of vocation that I think will shape you and help you see what you’re suppose to be about in this life.  The first part is what I’m going to call foundational vocation.  The bottom line: To know Jesus and to make Him known.  What is our foundational vocation? The thing ALL of us have been created for? Our primary vocation is to know Jesus and to make Him known.

At the beginning of this series we looked at 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 and I want to read that again for us —  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; {That’s our job.}  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

It’s easy to make our work or our career an idol, isn’t it?   To make IT the thing that our identity is wrapped up in.  To think the work that I do, the profession that I’m in, the thing I went to school for is my idol, my highest calling.  But honestly, the Scriptures are clear that the foundational calling, of everyone who claims to follow Jesus, is to know Christ and to make Him known.  If you’re here today and you’re not following Jesus yet, that’s not your mandate, but God desires it for you.  But if you do follow Jesus, you need to know Him and make Him known, to be an ambassador for Christ, to live out the ministry of reconciliation. So whether you work in a cubicle or a nice cushy office, or you’re retired, or you’re between jobs, a significant part of your vocation is the same as the rest of us: to represent Jesus, to be an ambassador of Christ, to show people what living in His way with His heart looks like.  That’s your foundational vocation.  All of us.

Then I would ask:  Does God want to leverage who He’s uniquely made you to be?  If my job is to know Christ and to make Him known, what about the unique skills God has given me?  What about the unique abilities God has given me?  What about the uniqueness God has put inside of me?  The unique desires and passions?  Well, I’m going to call that our specific vocation.  Our specific vocation is gifting yourself to the Kingdom of God for the sake of others.  This is the one time it’s ok to regift something!  Who God made you to be.  It’s a gift FROM God that you are who you are, and a gift FOR God to give who you are to the Kingdom of God for the sake of others.  I love what David Benner, psychologist and author, has to say: “Our vocation is always a response to a Divine call to take our place in the Kingdom of God. {Not just the job that I have, it’s taking my place in the Kingdom of God.  This is why we talk about kingdom so much.  The gospel is kingdom.  Jesus said, “Repent the Kingdom is near.”  Kingdom. Kingdom. Kingdom.  So we have a role to play in this Kingdom.} Our vocation is a call to serve God and our fellow humans in the distinctive way that fits the shape of our being. In one way or another, Christian calling will always involve the care of God’s creation and people.”

You might be saying, “Gift myself to the Kingdom of God?”  That sounds a little bit pretentious, doesn’t it?  It’s not pretentious, it’s obedience.  All of us have a specific vocation.  I think God desires for us to know the person He’s created us to be and to leverage it for the sake of others.  All of us.  We don’t transform our vocation, or our relationships, or our resources, or our bodies, or our minds and hearts, into the wholeness of Christ so that we can feel good about ourselves.  No, no, no.  We allow the Spirit to transform to the wholeness of Christ for the sake of others.  So it’s good to know how you’re wired and what God has birthed in you.  What your natural strengths and abilities are.  It’s good to know what your life experiences are, even if they aren’t good ones.  God uses the not good experiences to shape us, just as much as the good ones.  Also, what your passions and desires are.  If you were to go, “What’s my specific vocation?” and you took the three areas of your natural abilities and life experiences, and you paired it with your passions and desires, and then added in the needs of others, you’d start getting a clue about what God’s specific vocation is for you.

I’ve learned that as you journey through assessments and things like this, it might be kind of painful, but there’s also a lot of joy, to start scraping the surface and go, “Oh, I see the diamond in the rough.”  This is one of the reasons why we’re committed to formation here at South.  It’s one of the reasons we have an Enneagram class, so you can sign up and journey with other people and take some assessments and have some honest conversation to find out a little bit more about how God has uniquely wired you.  You could also talk to people who know you well and have an “I see in you” conversation.  What do you see in me?  How am I wired?  What do you think I’m good at?  How have you seen God use me through my own natural giftings and abilities?  That’s a powerful conversation.

I want you to hear me: even if don’t have a J-O-B, or you’re retired, or you’re in between jobs, you still have a vocation.  God’s not done with you yet.  My friend Carolyn is 77 years old. She doesn’t necessarily have a J-O-B, but she certainly has a vocation.  When I first met her, I observed how she interacted with people.  One thing I saw is that Carolyn is ubiquitous, she is everywhere at all times.  She’s mentoring everyone all the time.  One day I told her I figured out what she was:  she’s our chaplain.  She’s the chaplain of this Body.

The truth is, knowing your foundational vocation and your specific vocation can have a huge impact on which job you choose to work, and how you approach that job. Even if you feel you’re in a dead-end job, understanding that God wants to use you, could shift how you see that job.  It should also shift how you view your role at home, in your neighborhood, in your job, your vocation, in this city, and the world.  Why?  Because your vocation is becoming who God created you to be, and doing what God created you to do.  And that’s not dependent exclusively on your job.

Now I get it, there are times where we don’t know our specific vocation.  I just want you to hear me, that’s okay.  And maybe you’re in a situation where you’re agitated because you do have some specific abilities, but you don’t feel like God or others are using them, and you feel underutilized.

What if this week, you chose to not focus so much on living out every single ability you have and focused on not getting frustrated about what you know to be true about yourself not being known by others?  What if you decided to just put your ear to the ground and allow the Spirit to lead you? To be a student of the Artisan?

I can tell you there are plenty of times I felt underutilized or even confused about how I made a difference, but looking back I can see that in those times Jesus was my teacher.  He was using that circumstance to teach me how He wanted to use me for his kingdom.   And I Jesus wants to be your teacher as well.  So I want to challenge you to bloom where you’re planted.  Make following Jesus your foundation. Be available and hungry to learn and grow, and to be used however the Spirit calls you to be used, and see how Jesus might shape you.

One last thing I want to say about what it is that God’s calling you to do as you get farther and farther into being used by Jesus.  A lot of people would say, “I’ve fallen in love with Jesus.  I’m following hard after Jesus, so I’m just waiting so I can go work at a church.”  I want to tell you that working at a church is NOT the highest calling.  If you could find any other career other than being a pastor or working at a church, please do that.  It’s not for everyone.  There’s nothing magical about being a professional Christian.  Erwin McManus once said that when you tell people you’re a pastor, it’s like telling them that you’re a cannibal and inviting them over for dinner.  I’m sometimes envious of people who aren’t in the church who are making an impact in their neighborhood, in their community, because you don’t have that stigma.  You have a better opportunity to show people, in your day-to-day life, how to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus than I do.   The goal is not to be a professional Christian, it’s to bloom where you’re planted and let God use you to become who God created you to be and do what He called you to do, whether that’s an accountant, a plumber, a doctor, a lawyer, a stay-at-home mom….   Whatever you find yourself in, be who God created you to be.  You can often have far more an impact outside of these church walls than I can.

I want you to meet my friend Steve.  He’s an amazing person and I admire him very much, and I think he really gets it when it comes to vocation. {Video}

We probably had little to no idea of what we were getting into, honestly.  There have been those fun moments, but Penny and I have both said we’ve never worked harder in our lives.  So I’m Steve Shroeder.  We’ve been at South two-and-a-half years now.  It was in high school when I sensed God was inviting me to consider being a youth pastor.  Penny and I got married after she graduated and started the journey of being in full-time ministry, as in paid ministry with the church.  I was a youth pastor five years, then we went and planted a church in Bellingham, Washington.  I got to experience church planting—all the challenges and opportunities that come with that.  After about thirteen years we had a call from a church in Kansas for me to come and be their lead pastor.  Thirty-four years of straight pastoral ministry.  Penny and I began to have a conversation about what would I do in retirement and would I always be a pastor.  When Penny and I had this conversation, I was probably 58 or 59 so I started thinking, “If I only had a few years left, what would I want to do?”  Immediately we thought of our kids and grandkids who were living here in Denver.  I remember where I was standing in our kitchen when Penny said, “Well, what would you do if you weren’t a pastor?”  This idea came into my head—and I kind of think it was Jesus, I don’t know, but the idea was I would buy a Great Harvest Bread company and I would run the store!  Where did that come from?  We looked into it and sure enough, there was a store for sale, in Denver, right at that very time.  I had been intentionally working on my own spiritual growth and reading a lot of stuff from Dallas Willard and James Bryan Smith.  Jesus comes to heal from our diseases, and I think we all have diseases.  I don’t think I recognized, very clearly, what some of mine were.  The disease that I kind of figured out that God was showing me I had was this disease of seeking approval of people and living for their approval.  To be honest, being a pastor feeds that disease.  You’re in the limelight every Sunday.  When you’re done preaching, there’s a lineup of people that want to talk to you.  I think He was saying a couple things: one, I care more about who you’re becoming than what you’re doing.  And he pulled me out of the limelight, kind of into obscurity.  I work in the back of the bakery a lot and I go shopping and I deliver food.  I’m also learning that the workplace is probably His primary classroom for discipleship.  Like, this is where He wants us to grow, to learn about who we’re becoming, to learn to love our enemy.  When I get to deal with customers that are grumpy, Jesus will say to me, “Well, Steve, you’re grumpy too sometimes and look how I treat you.”  So it’s an opportunity to learn that.  I’m trying to learn from Jesus that I’m a child of His, created in His image.  I’m an eternal being with an eternal destiny and I live in the unshakable kingdom of God.  I’m here because it’s my new classroom.  I’m allowing that to shape my character, to become more like Him in this environment.  We need godly teachers and business people and repair people.  We need Jesus-kind of people in every aspect of business in the world.  We need them.  The highest calling isn’t what I can do for Jesus, but it’s who I can become IN Jesus, in Christ, who I am.  What’s I begin to see clearly that that’s what He wants—it’s not first of all my service or my profession—He wants me.  No matter what vocation you’re in, it’s a calling from God.  Often it’s a way of partnering with God in answering somebody’s prayer.  So there’s people out there praying, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and I’m working with seventeen people at the bakery making sure they get their daily bread.  I can see why He’s not calling everyone into professional, paid ministry.  We can all see our occupation, or vocation, as a calling from Him as an opportunity to learn from Him, in that environment, and to partner with Him in what He’s doing in the world.  

So I want to end today by asking this question I ask a lot:  What about you? Maybe you’re a young adult trying to figure out what you want to do with your life.  Maybe you’re a middle-aged adult and you’re trying to figure out what you want to do with your life.  Maybe you’re an older adult, and you’re convinced God’s not through with you yet.  Recently, I met with someone who’s in her 70’s and she heard one of these talks I gave in this series and she said, “What you just talked about, I want that.  I don’t know how much longer the Lord will give me on this earth, but I want it to count.”  And I thought, “Man, that is somebody Jesus is shaping and forming.”  Regardless of what age you are, Jesus is pulling you forward.  He wants to use you.  He wants to really get to know you, not the beaten down you with the lies you’ve believed all your life, but the real you.

I love how Steve said our vocation is often being the answer to some else’s prayer. What if you got up tomorrow, and whatever you set your intention to do, you framed it that perhaps Jesus wanted to use you to be the answer to someone else’s prayer?  Maybe it’s in that cube you’re working in, or maybe it’s in your home with your kids or your spouse, maybe it’s in the grocery line.  Maybe if we thought like this, God might actually use you to answer someone’s prayer.  What if instead of asking someone, “What do you do?” we looked at those God has put in our path and asked, “Who are you becoming?”  What if instead of measuring ourselves by what we do, that we are good because of our outputs, what if we asked the question, “Who am I becoming?”

Here at South, we don’t just want to have a sermon you hear, we want to give you practical things, practices and tools you can use to reflect and actually have movement in your life.  This is a part of your formation.  I want to give you three words to reflect on, to see where  you are, what movement might look like for you. The first word is ACCEPT.  For some of us, we haven’t accepted yet that we’re special.  We haven’t accepted that we’re a work of art, that we are God’s masterpiece.  For some of us here today, I know you need to hear that and I’m going to invite you to accept that.  Maybe some of you have not accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life.  I’d love for you to consider doing that today and I’d love to baptize you next week.  You need to accept that God made you unique and special and full of worth.

For all of us, we need to EMBRACE.  Embrace the season we’re in.  For some of us, that’s going to YOU University.  I’m going to learn about myself.  Or, I’m going to follow Jesus in the midst of my context.  For some of you, you need to embrace the fact that God wants to use you to be an answer to someone else’s prayer.  Even if you’re in a job you don’t especially care for.  Maybe for some of you, you need to embrace the fact that you KNOW who God’s made you to be and you KNOW what God’s calling you to do and you’re afraid to do it.  Have the courage to be the person God created you to be and do what God called you to do.

For all of us, I’d invite you to prayerfully ASK God’s spirit to begin to show you how you can be used to make a real difference in the Kingdom of God…at home, at your job, and beyond. Ask Jesus how you can make the most of your life, for His name and for His glory.  Remember, your vocation is becoming who God created you to be, and doing what God created you to do.

My prayer is that you’d accept the person God created you to be, you’d embrace the season you’re in, and you’d ask God’s spirit how He wants to use you for the sake of others.  And that tomorrow when you embrace your day, you wouldn’t live it out as a dead-end job or as simply a means to pay your bills and feed your family, but rather, as an opportunity to partner with God, to build His Kingdom, for the sake of others.

South Fellowship Church, hear me, imagine if we really were the kind of church committed to knowing Jesus and making Him known as our foundation.  Imagine if we were the kind of church filled with people committed to learning and practicing the way of Jesus in every season of life, even if it’s not perfect.  Imagine if we were the kind of church committed to helping people discover who God had created them to be, and then doing our very best to empower and equip them to do it.  Church, if we were like that kind of church, that’s a powerful church that turns communities upside down, that partners with God’s kingdom for the sake of others.  I’m convinced that’s the kind of church God is calling South Fellowship Church to be.

Would you bow your heads and we’ll go to the Lord in prayer?  Jesus, I am so grateful that you allow us to partner with you for your good work, for your Kingdom’s sake.  I pray that you would help us to become the people you created us to be and to do the things you’ve called us to do.  I pray that you would walk with us all the days of our lives, lead us into things that blow our minds, that we never could imagine.  Help us to sense the Father’s love today; for those in this room who are struggling to see that they are okay and that you love them as they are and that you’ve created them fearfully and wonderfully.  Lord, may we all sense your Spirit within us and become who you’ve created us to be and accept your great gift of salvation, forgiveness, and the person you’ve made us to be.  I ask all these things in the strong and powerful name of Jesus. Together this church said….Amen.

Transformed | Transformed Vocation | Ephesians 2:8-10 | Week 82020-08-20T18:27:45-06:00

Maturity in Community | Colossians 3:12-14

Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Colossians 3:12-14

Some of the most life-giving experiences I’ve ever had have been in the context of a local church community. Some of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had have been in the same context. It’s a part of the ebb and flow of doing life, together.

I’ve long believed that one of the greatest marks of spiritual maturity for those who follow Jesus is the ability to live in tension. Choosing to live in redeemed community is a crash course in learning to live in tension. We are messy people, and sometimes we act out of our messy selves and hurt one another, although often, it’s unintentional.

Community is filled with tension because it requires vulnerability. Being transparent, honest, and open means that we open ourselves up to be hurt. And let’s face it – that doesn’t feel good.

But I’m convinced the only way to experience the truest highs in community is to open ourselves up to the risk of the lowest of lows. We have to be open to the full range of human experience. Otherwise, if we play it safe and hold back, we won’t ever experience the fruit that community is designed to produce in our lives.

Colossians 3:12-14 gives us the rules of engagement, if you will, for embracing community with others. Notice how it says we’ve been pardoned, and we’re set apart, and we should come from that place. So – we should be vulnerable in community, we should be open to the mess that it is, and assume the best about others, even when they accidentally hurt us – because this is God’s design. It comes with the territory – but it makes us who we are. This is where we produce fruit. We don’t run from community because it’s hard. We embrace community because it’s worth it.

Take a few moments and think about the communities you’re involved in. Maybe it’s your family, your church, your small group, your neighborhood, etc. Be honest about where it is messy. Ask Jesus to walk with you and to equip you to walk in the mess with others. You’ll be glad you did.

By Larry Boatright

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Maturity in Community | Colossians 3:12-142019-09-27T09:16:30-06:00

Interests of Others | Philippians 2:3-8

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,  he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:3-8

I’ll be honest – this isn’t one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Why? Because it requires me to look beyond myself. Most of us, if we’re completely honest, are hard-wired to look out for ourselves. It’s not always natural to look out for the best interest of others. Why? Because that means we could be neglecting ourselves in the process. But, speaking out of the other side of my mouth, it’s one of my favorite passages, because it gives me such a clear glimpse of what Jesus was all about.

If we want to be people transformed by the power of the Gospel, which means to be transformed into the wholeness of Jesus, we have to pry our fingers off of our own control and start to look towards others.

The Scripture here teaches us to value others above ourselves. This echoes the words of Jesus when He said, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as the ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28). Jesus, the King of Kings, who deserves all of our praise and adoration, didn’t demand it. He took on the very nature of a servant… Powerful words that reframe what relationships should look like. We should have a posture of being for the other, and this requires vulnerability.

I think we hesitate sometimes to truly be vulnerable in relationships because it means we could be hurt in the process. If I focus on putting the other person first, especially if I open up and share about my life and express a deep interest in theirs, it could mean that they might use that vulnerability, that others-first posture, to exploit me in some way. Self-sacrifice is becoming vulnerable and risking being hurt for the sake of others. That sounds scary. But I’m convinced that the only way we will experience the deepest joys and depth in a relationship is to open ourselves up to also being willing to experience the deepest pain. This is the nature of Gospel meeting humanity. After all, Jesus humbled himself, even to death on a cross.

The highest call in a relationship is to give of ourselves to the other, even if there is a cost. It’s in this way that we follow the pattern of Jesus. What if today, you made it your intention to put others you are in relationship first? What if, practically, you made it your goal to serve them in some way? Maybe its showing up with food or a killer dessert (I’ll send you my address if you need it!), or to share more of yourself with a trusted friend. It’s how we live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus – and you’ll both be glad you did.

By Larry Boatright

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Interests of Others | Philippians 2:3-82019-09-12T15:36:46-06:00

TRANSFORMED | An Invitation to Transformation | Romans 12 | Week 1

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TRANSFORMED: An Invitation to Transformation   Romans 12     Pastor Larry Boatright              (1st Service)   {Manuscript–See Video for complete content}

I went to Florida last week.  I used to live in Florida and one of my favorite beaches is called Clearwater Beach. It’s consistently rated in the top beaches in the country.  I parked my car and immediately went to the beach, dropped my towel, and got into the water.  It felt so amazing!  I bobbed and floated a bit, and then I saw these two guys on a sandbar.  A sandbar is sand you can stand on out in the water; it’s almost like walking on water. It was about 100 yards out there and I’ve swum that a bazillion times.  I’m a pretty good swimmer so I took off.  I’m working and working to get out to the sandbar.  Normally it takes three or four minutes to get out there, but I don’t think I noticed how hard the waves were coming in that day.  The waves were relentless and pounding on me as I was going out.  I didn’t notice how hard I was working until I started feeling pretty tired; like my whole body tired, like my arms tired, and I’ve never really felt that way before.  It’s a little bit scary to be out in the ocean and feel that.  It had been about fifteen minutes.  The guys had swum off the sandbar, so I had lost my frame of reference of where I was going.  I was so tired but I thought I’d better check and see how close I was to the sandbar.  I popped my head above the waves and it was still a little ways out; I was discouraged because I wasn’t really getting anywhere.  I got nervous because my arms were tired and my heart was really pounding.  I was gasping for air and I was breathing in salt water.  My lungs were burning.  So I had to make a decision, do I continue working and trying to get to the sandbar or do I turn around and head for the shore?  I decided that I was trying so hard to get to the sandbar, but I just wasn’t making it, so I decided to go back.  I turned around and the shore was SO FAR AWAY.  My lungs were burning, my heart was pounding, my arms were exhausted.  I started to get a little bit scared because I realized I’m just a few moments away from running out of gas and I don’t know what to do.  The thought occurred to me, “It’s very possible I’m going to drown, because I don’t think I have what it takes to get back to shore.”  There’s no lifeguard; there’s nobody close to me.  I had to fight for every breath.  I kept swimming but I was slowing down rapidly.  Just when I thought I couldn’t go any farther,  I decided to check and see if I could touch the bottom. And thank God, I could stand on my tiptoes, so I used my last bit of energy to get out of the water, and I was completely and totally exhausted.  The funny thing is, at the same time I thought I might drown, I thought to myself, “If I don’t die from this, I could use this as a sermon illustration.”  I swear I thought that!  So here it is.

I’ve been chewing on 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  That’s really good news, right?  I follow Jesus.  It’s clear from this passage that it’s talking about anyone that joins the family of faith—in Christ—that we should experience a NEW creation. But, how many of us heard a gospel message, and we responded in some way? Maybe we responded to a sermon, or a youth camp with a speaker that was compelling, or whatever it might be, and we pray a prayer of surrender to Jesus, and we expect to be changed. And maybe after that we listened to sermon after sermon, and came to church every single time the doors were open, and read our bibles and pray, every single day, and yet, in spite of all of that, for most of us, if we’re honest, we look at some parts of our lives and they seem completely unchanged by the Gospel.  There’s a lot of OLD in there still and we’re still waiting on the NEW.  And if we’re really honest, there are parts of our lives that we’re not ready for Jesus to touch yet.  Like our money, or our stuff, or our relationships, or a pattern of thinking we’ve become addicted to.  I’ve been following Jesus since I was ten years old, which is almost thirty-two years ago, and yet I look at parts of my life that I think should be changed by the transformative power of the Gospel and realize that they just aren’t.  How about you?

Today I’m so excited because we’re starting a brand new series for the fall called “Transformed: A Journey Toward Biblical Wholeness.”  Several weeks ago, a few people on our team went away to pray and dream and to seek God’s heart for our church community.  We wanted to see what God might have us teach on through the end of the year.  One of the questions we asked ourselves was, “What do we hope people experience as a result of meeting Jesus consistently at South Fellowship?”  Yes, we do want us to experience great worship, and great teaching, and great kids and student environments, and being welcomed warmly and have our questions answered, and all of that, but what if we did all kinds of those things, had all kinds of programming, and more, but at the end of the day, all we could point to was we did stuff and we said stuff.  Our mission is to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  That means that the mission isn’t great programming.  It isn’t great worship or even great teaching; it is inviting people into a process of TRANSFORMATION.  We firmly believe that an encounter with Jesus is an invitation to a journey of transformation, and that the Gospel—the Good News—should have an impact on ALL the parts of our lives, not just our standing before God.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why so many of us follow Jesus, and maybe even do some of the right things, and work really hard, but we don’t really experience freedom, and we don’t see transformation as a regular part of our journey.  I wonder if its partially because we don’t fully understand exactly what it is that Jesus wants to do in us.  For some of us, we’re stuck thinking the primary reason Jesus came to die on the cross was about a transaction; His death simply means I now can be right with God.  Well, you certainly now can be right with God, if you are in Christ, but it’s a huge mistake to think of the message of the Gospel as merely a transaction instead of transformation. If we merely focus on a transaction, we miss out on all that Jesus invites us to in this life.  Dallas Willard says, “It is the failure to understand Jesus and his words as reality and vital information about life that explains why, today, we do not routinely teach those who profess allegiance to him how to do what he said was best. We lead them to profess allegiance to him, or we expect them to, and leave them there, devoting our remaining efforts to ‘attracting’ them to this or that.”  But listen, church, I can tell you that the leadership of this church is NOT content just to tell you about Jesus so you can pray a prayer and spend eternity with Him.  It’s to do our part to help you live in His way, with His heart, right now.  And our prayer is that every single facet of your life would be impacted by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want to jump right into the Scriptures to begin to frame up what we’re going to be doing together for the next eight weeks or so, but before do that, I want to ask you to pause your heart and your mind for a moment, and let’s ask God’s Spirit to begin to move and shape us, even in this very moment, as we begin this series.  Jesus,  thank you for meeting us where we are. Thank you for modeling for us what it is to be fully human, and for inviting us into a process of formation to wholeness in the image of Christ. Our desire as a community is to be filled with people who are transformed from the inside out, that the Good News would touch every part of our lives.  And so, Jesus, my prayer right now is that you’d soften our hearts, you’d open our eyes to see and ears to hear Your voice calling us from brokenness to wholeness, for the sake of Your kingdom and Your glory.  In the strong and powerful name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

We’re going to be journeying a good bit through Romans chapter 12, so go ahead and turn there.  (You can also go to our APP and click on the SERMONS tab and click SERMON NOTES and take notes right in there if you’d like.)  Just a little bit of background on Romans—Paul, the author of this letter to the church in Rome, often followed a pattern of a greeting, then a lesson in theology, and then a transition to the practical—“here’s what you do” so we can apply the theology we learned. In Romans, he shows how essentially everyone is in need of a savior, that sin entangles all of us and robs us of fully living into who God designed us to be.

When you were a kid, maybe you heard people talk about “The Roman Road to Salvation.”  It always started with Romans 3:23 – All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Glory is His essence, meaning although we were made in His image, sin marred that image and we don’t look like just Jesus. He also said in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death.  Sin leads to death.  But he also said—But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Paul, a man who was trained in the law, grew up in the law, talked a lot about the law and how we couldn’t measure up to it, showed us just how we couldn’t measure up or fully look like the image of God in us because of sin, makes a compelling case that we should receive the mercy and grace of God offered through Jesus, as our deliverer, as one who loves us and gave himself for us.  So in Romans 12:1 —Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  

Anytime we see the word ‘therefore,’ we should ask, “What is this there for?”  Here, Paul is shifting from theology to practice, and he’s essentially saying, “In light of everything I just told you….that you are dead in your sin, that you can’t measure up, but that God freely offers eternal life to you…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”  I think about my life, and my ankle, and my concussion, my hospitalizations, and I think, “I’m not sure he wants my body as a living sacrifice.”  Do you realize your body is the container that holds all of you?  Your body contains your soul, your spirit, your heart, your mind. It’s the vehicle that provides a housing for all of the parts of us.  One of the early church heresies insisted that the body was irrelevant, but Paul here is NOT saying that the body is irrelevant, is he? He’s saying to offer ALL of you—your body, this container, and all of its parts—as a living sacrifice.  He’s saying, “In light of all that God has done, give your WHOLE SELF for His good use.”

Then he continues in verse 2:  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Paul sort of tells us what not to do, what to do, and how to do it.  What not to do—Don’t be CONFORMED to the pattern of this world.  What to do—Be transformed by the how?….renewing of your mind.  Conformed essentially means to bend around, mold into the shape around something else.  We take aluminum foil and we put it over a beautiful cake and it’s in the shape of the cake, but at the end of the day it’s still aluminum foil.  He’s saying, “Don’t try to look like the pattern of this world.  Don’t give over to the unhealthiness, the brokenness, the breaking of shalom that the pattern of this world offers.”  Don’t do that thing!

Then he tells us to be transformed. The Greek word for transformed here is the word metamorphao.  What does that sound like? Metamorphosis. That’s a pretty common word. We use it to mean that something has drastically changed.  If you know someone who is struggling from some kind of addiction, and their lives, their relationships, their bodies are a wreck, and then you see them after a while and they’ve broken the strongholds of addiction and they’re partnering in community and God’s beginning to transform them from the inside out and they seem completely different, you might say, “Wow! What a metamorphosis!”

So what does transformation mean?  Transformation is to change into another form or image. It essentially means changing something from one state to another, from one substance or form or whatever it might be.  This isn’t just a spiritual or New Testament concept, we see this in our world, don’t we?  Probably the easiest example of this is a caterpillar to a butterfly.  That blows my mind!  Think about water—water exists in three states—solid, liquid and gas.  Think about food—if you take grain and under the right circumstances you heat it and you put yeast in it, you can turn it into beer or whiskey, amen!  Grapes can be paired with water and yeast to make wine, amen!  Trail mix—You have all these little elements of trail mix, but at the end of the day you can separate out these elements, can’t you?  I know this because I buy my kids these buckets of trail mix and they just pull out the things they like and leave all the other stuff behind, so when I go to eat it there’s only one kind of thing in there!  Those elements haven’t been transformed, they’ve just been mixed together.  But if you add lemonade powder to water, you get a brand new, delicious thing! It has moved from one form to another. You can’t just separate the power back out and have a pile of powder and a bucket of water, can you?   Are you getting the point?

What is being transformed?  Jesus tells us to be transformed.  Is it our spirit? Is it our mind? What? What was the message of Jesus? What did He say was best?  What did He preach about?  Did he preach well, turn or burn?  Listen, follow me and you’ll get out of hell?  That’s not what he preached.  He preached consistently that the kingdom of God was near. The kingdom, the kingdom, the kingdom…   He gave the rules of engagement for the kingdom, how we should live as subjects and participants of the Kingdom.  Think of the beatitudes and the sermon on the mount; this is how to operate as citizens of this new, amazing kingdom, right?  Jesus met people where they were, and He healed them and forgave them, and called them out of their brokenness.  And then He invited people to follow Him.  So His ministry was far more than a “get of hell card.”  He called people from their broken state into a transformed state.  He moved them towards WHOLENESS.  As a matter of fact, Jesus showed us the perfect example of what a whole human being looks like.

Robert Mulholland, the brilliant pastor and seminary professor, wrote:  “The Christian journey, therefore, is an intentional and continual commitment to a lifelong process of growth toward wholeness in Christ.”   Think about that—growth toward WHOLENESS in Christ.  That means that Jesus is interested in MORE than just a transaction that makes us right with God.  It means that being formed into the image and likeness of Jesus isn’t just spiritual.   Remember the words of John 1: The Word became Flesh and dwelled among us.  He was 100% God, but he was also 100% human.  And that means that to be formed into the image of Christ is to be fully formed into being a whole human being, because Jesus was a whole human being.  You with me?

So, formation in the life of the follower of Jesus is Jesus transforming our lives from a state of brokenness to a state of wholeness, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus invites us to move out of our brokenness into something new.   Now, you might be asking yourself, “But what is wholeness?”  I’m so glad you asked that question.  I’m going to walk you through seven areas of our lives that give us an idea of what wholeness looks like.  We have a SPIRIT self.  We have a part of us that is our MIND.  We have a BODY.  We have EMOTION.  We have RELATIONSHIPS.  We have VOCATION; that’s God’s purpose through us for the sake of others.  We have RESOURCES.  Take a look at those areas.  Do any of them jump out to you as areas it sure seems like haven’t been transformed by the power of the Gospel?  Anyone brave enough to say, “Yeah, I’m still waiting on this?”  Me too!

Who we are is so much more than our spirit, isn’t it?  The Gospel can transform not just our standing before God, but every part of our lives.  We’re all being formed. This doesn’t apply to just Christians, by the way.  Here’s the thing, everyone is in the process of spiritual formation, whether you follow Jesus or not.  Listen to these powerful words from Robert Mulholland:  “We are being shaped into either the wholeness of the image of Christ or a horribly destructive caricature of that image—destructive not only to ourselves but also to others, for we inflict our brokenness upon them.”  We’re being shaped into something.  God is shaping us, he’s moving us, but we’re allowing ourselves, too, to be shaped in this process.  We can either be shaped into the image of Christ or into brokenness.  Brokenness parades around and hurts other people.

I know we live in a world that desperately needs transformation, don’t we?  We live in a world where people NEED to be moved toward wholeness in Christ.  We did a church survey recently and asked, “What was your status prior to coming to South?”   About 97% of our church community followed Jesus before attending South. The second question we asked was, “How long have you been following Jesus?”  An overwhelming majority answered, “A really long time.”  What does that tell you?  That the majority of this church is filled with people who have known Jesus for a long time.  Obviously then a minority (3%) of people didn’t know Jesus prior to coming to South.   That means that we don’t have that many people coming who don’t know Jesus, who haven’t experienced the power of the Gospel in their lives.  And yet I think South Fellowship is such a warm, loving, caring community, who does believe in the power of the Gospel, would you agree? And I believe God is calling us not to be content in settling for less than transformed lives.   And so we’re asking Jesus to send us LOTS of people who don’t know Him.  We’re asking Him to transform their lives from the inside out, that they would experience freedom and transformation they didn’t even know was possible, and that their lives would be formed into the wholeness of Jesus.  And we’re praying that the next time we do a survey, the amount of people who didn’t know Jesus prior to coming here, but met Him and had their lives turned upside down by the Gospel, would increase dramatically.  That happens from you and I inviting people to come be a part of this.

But we’re also not assuming that just because so many of us knew Jesus before coming to South, that we don’t need to experience transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives either.   And so we’re going to journey together for the next 8 weeks or so and chew on what transformation really means; and more specifically, what being formed fully in the image of Christ means, and look at some practical areas of our lives we believe Jesus wants to transform.

Now, imagine if Jesus did a transformative work in you.  Think about where you are and the chart that we looked at.  Think honestly.  Imagine if Jesus began to really move and change things in you.  What if you began connecting with God on a regular basis?  Imagine if your thinking were different, if those old patterns of thinking let go and new life came to your thoughts.  What if your body, even if it was broken in some way, became a partner to you in your formation?  What if you had a grasp on your emotions and they were healthy?  What if those broken relationships were made new?  What if your understanding of vocation became healthy and you partnered fully with Jesus in bringing His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?  Imagine if your relationship to your money, your time, your talents, and other resources God has blessed you with was healthy and you were living fully on mission with God.  Wouldn’t that be great?  That’s exactly what we’re dreaming of in this series.

Paul gives us the mechanism to get there—Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  We’re going to unpack that through this series.  And I want to say, this series is going to be a great one for all of us to invite our friends and family and neighbors who need to experience the transforming power of the Gospel.  My prayer is that both those who don’t know Jesus, and those who’ve known Jesus for a long time, will experience freedom like they’ve never experienced, and transformation they didn’t even know was possible.

Now, to frame up transformation as we prepare to get into this series, I want to quickly give you four observations about transformation, and then I want us to close with a few moments of chewing on what we’ve learned through prayer and practice.

First thing, transformation is a promise.  Transformation isn’t just possible, it’s a promise.  It’s not something we have to beg God to want to do.  It’s something Jesus desires for all of us.  If you go all the way back to Abrahamic Covenant, God promised Abraham he would build a great nation from his descendants.  But it wasn’t about real estate and massive numbers of people.  It was a promise that down the line, Jesus would enter the picture and that the brokenness that was in all creation and in all of humanity would be transformed and pulled back into shalom.

I want to look at 2 Corinthians 3:17-18—Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.   It doesn’t say if you pray hard enough or do all the right things, you’ll be transformed.  It says we ARE being transformed into His image. The Scriptures are clear that if we are IN Christ, if we know Jesus, we WILL be transformed.  It’s a promise that has its roots in all eternity.

The second thing about transformation we need to keep in mind is that transformation is a process.  We don’t live in a culture that really likes process. We live in a culture where we want to order a Big Mac and have it delivered to our door!  That’s where we’re at as a society.   The reason I went to Florida was to work with a psychologist who specializes in working with Christian leaders.  There was no crisis or emergency (until I almost drowned); I simply went to get a tune up and to make sure I’m the healthiest leader I can be in this season.  I went with some things in my life that I was realizing were triggering me, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. While that was happening, I made a fleeting comment about something that happened in my childhood.  It was some stuff I thought I had already dealt with.  My therapist said, “Let’s go back to that and talk through it.”  Of course, I was like, “No thanks!”   But we did, and I’m so thankful.  But I also was a little bit surprised to realize that this thing had a hold of me and I didn’t know it.  I had some woundedness, some patterns of thinking, I had held on to for 30+ years, and they were holding me back.  I went back to my hotel to process, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t made more progress in this area than I had.  But I also realized that it was a process, that you don’t typically just wave a magic wand and everything is all better.  I have been nursing a sore Achilles for months.  Believe me, I wish there was a pill I could take and it heal instantly.  I know God could heal it instantly, but He didn’t choose that path for some reason.  And for most of us, that’s how the process of formation looks.

One thing we’ve been talking about at South is that as followers of Jesus we’re seeking to live in His way with His heart.  That means we’re growing in being with Jesus, that we’re spending more time being with Jesus.  That we’re becoming like Jesus, that is wholeness.  Becoming whole human beings fully formed in the wholeness of Christ.  And that we’re doing as Jesus did, meaning that we are living out the Gospel, we’re doing his action, we’re bringing renewal to all the parts of the earth.  The thing is, have you ever thought of this, the disciples of Christ had proximity.  They literally could touch him, talk to him, they were with him, they were close.  Even they struggled in the process of formation.  Peter chopped a guy’s ear off!  I’d say he still had some work to do.

Earlier I talked about water.  It’s a great example of the process of transformation.  Water freezes at 0°C and it becomes a solid at that point.  I didn’t know this, but there are thirteen different kinds of solid for water!  The most common is ice.  Here’s what’s crazy though, to go from just shy of freezing (liquid, not quite frozen) to one degree shy of boiling takes something like 418 joules.  But to go that last ONE degree, to change matter from one substance to another, takes five times as much energy!!  Why?  Because it’s not just being conformed in to a new bucket, but because it’s changing state.  It’s going from one type of thing to another type of thing.   So no wonder it often feels like transformation is taking forever.  We can make some little shifts here and there, but to truly go from one state to another in some part of our lives takes a LOT of energy.

You’ll look up some days and go, “Oh man, I’m not doing very well at being with Jesus,” or “I don’t look very much like Jesus,” or “I’m not doing as Jesus did and partnering with him.”   I wish I could just wave the magic wand and instantly do great at being with Jesus, becoming like Jesus, and doing as Jesus did, but God takes us through a process, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and that’s okay.

The third thing about transformation is that transformation takes practice.  If we’re becoming more like Jesus, does it just happen without us doing anything?  No!  We want people to move towards wholeness, to be with Jesus, like Jesus, and to do as Jesus did, but not only is it a process, it takes practice—one foot in front of the other.  You don’t wake up and go run a marathon without practice.  Well, you can try, but you won’t succeed!  Why?  Because it takes practice and you have to build up your muscles.  One thing we’re very committed to as we pursue spiritual formation at South is to pair the target—being with, becoming like, and doing as, in the wholeness of Jesus—with practices that help us move there.  That’s why they’re called “practices.”  When we give you a list of practices, it’s not just to sound spiritual, it literally is to help you practice your faith, to grow toward wholeness in Christ.  We’re looking at some practices that help us move into the presence of Jesus, some practices that move us towards wholeness, and some practices that move us into renewal, as we do as Jesus did.   I love the Message paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 9:24 — You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.  All good athletes train hard, so we have to engage in practices that train us in the way of righteousness.  Sometimes that feels like a slog, but it leads to being transformed into the image of Jesus.

The last thing about transformation is that transformation requires partnership.  Before you think this all happens in some kind of a vacuum, transformation doesn’t happen solo.  It requires a partnership of some kind to make it happen.  In our case, it’s first a partnership with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one doing the heavy lifting here. Sure, we can engage in practices that grow us, but the spark, the fuel, the power is the transformative power of the Spirit of God, which is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  All too often, we can thwart the work of the Holy Spirit and not allow the Spirit to transform us from the inside out.  So we HAVE to partner with the spirit, we HAVE to invite Jesus to do this work, and we HAVE to trust that the power comes from Him.

Finally, growth happens best in community. We have to partner with one another.  We have to wrestle with the Scriptures, with how we’re wired, with our baggage, all in community.  I have to process the stuff I talk about with my therapist and I can just keep talking to her, but I need to do it in community.  You guys see me, you know me, you see things I can’t possibly see about myself, so by immersing myself, willingly, into community, God uses that to form and shape me into the image and the likeness of Jesus.  And He does that for you too.  You need to be deeply rooted into community.  You can do it individually, but you can also do it one-on-one with spiritual directors and mentors, in small groups with others, in mid-size gatherings, and in our weekend gatherings.  We’re working to find ways to help us all stay rooted in community.  The truth is you need to take a step into community, if you’re not.   So lean in to your partnership with the Holy Spirit, and lean in to the natural partnership God gives you by embracing community.  You’ll never become the person God created you to be, if you don’t lean into the community He designed you to be in, for the sake of being formed into the image and likeness of Jesus.

So, in this series we’re talking about not being conformed, but being transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus, that means every part of our life.  I’m excited to see how God will use the Scriptures combined with the power of the Holy Spirit to touch our lives and transform us from the inside out during this series.  I’ll leave you one final Mulholland quote:  “Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”  The last thing I want to leave you with is….for the sake of others.  It’s not just so we look good.  It’s not that we look a lot like Jesus and we’re having our little fellowship with Jesus.  It’s for the sake of others and that’s what Jesus came for—I did not come to be served but to serve.  That is the posture of Jesus.  The reason it’s important you get to know how you’re wired, you work through your baggage, you look at all the areas of your life, and you invite the Holy Spirit to transform you, is not just so you look good, it’s so you can look outward and impact other people for the sake of the Gospel.  The kingdom of God is here and we get to be participants in that.  We have to take steps to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out.   So that’s what we’re going to be unpacking.  Every week we’re going to be talking about a different area of our lives.  I want to ask you to invite your friends, your family.

I want to end today a little bit different—with a prayer and a practice.  I want you to focus now on what we’ve talked about.  I want to end with a time of just looking at ourselves honestly.  This takes vulnerability, by the way, to say, “I am going to bare my soul to the Spirit of Christ and let Him be honest with me.”   There is a great opportunity, if we do that, for the Spirit of God to move and shape us.

The first thing I want to give you is a prayer and ask you to read this with me together.  This is from Psalm 139:23-24.  It’s in your service guide so you can take it home and pray this prayer and use this as a time to ask the Lord, “Wash over me.  Speak to me.”   Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.  Take a moment and think of the words to that prayer, just between you and the Spirit of Jesus.  I encourage you to pray this prayer over and over this week, and allow the Spirit to show you the parts of your life that maybe you’re holding fiercely onto, not letting the Holy Spirit transform.  What happens when we meet the Spirit?  Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom….   That’s what we’re hoping for everyone in our community.

The practice for this week is on the back of your service guide.  There’s a wholeness wheel.  I’d encourage you to take this and read these areas and maybe just say, “Hey, Spirit, I’m really connecting with Jesus so I’m going to shade this one all the way in.  But my mind, maybe I’m struggling and it won’t be as filled in.”  Be honest.  This is not a time to lie to yourself or look better than you are, but it’s a time to be honest at where you’re at.  Take that and fill it out and ask:  What areas of my life still need to be transformed?  Fill out this tool and you’ll see that there may be some areas that need work.  If you do it and all areas are a perfect ten, I’d encourage you to take it to your spouse and they’ll help you whittle it down more accurately.  Or show it to a friend and they’ll be honest and help you whittle it down. I’m not going to give you a formula and a little pill and it’ll all be transformed; I’m going to make you live in that tension for the next several weeks, but we’re going to start talking about those areas and letting the Holy Spirit work in us.  Next week Dr. Wenig is going to share on Transformed Relationships, which is one of the most significant parts of our lives.

But I don’t want to leave us with the misery of going, “Oh man, I need a lot of work in this area, in this area, in this area,” so I also want you to pair it with gratitude by asking this question:   Where have I experienced transformation in my life?  You’ll see some things on that wheel that look like you may have a long way to go, but hopefully you’ll see areas of that wheel that the Spirit of Christ has redeemed, has moved, has transformed, has changed in you.  Be honest with God and say, “I’m so grateful that in at least this area you’ve done some significant.”

The last thing I’ll say and then I’ll pray is if you’ve never decided to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, I just want to encourage you to do that.  It doesn’t have to be a big process, it can be simply submitting and saying, “Jesus, I want to live in your way with your heart.  I want to be transformed from the inside out.”  There are a lot of people who go to church their whole life and they don’t actually commit to following Jesus.  I’m going to ask you to consider doing that.  If you do that, I’d love for you to come talk to me or one of our elders after this gathering.  We’re trusting that God’s going to transform hearts and lives in such significant ways.  On the very last day of this series, we’re going to do baptisms together and we’re going to celebrate the transformation God has done in people.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to serve you.  Thank you that your Spirit is at work, that you, Jesus, invite us into transformation, into biblical wholeness, making us into the person you created us to be.  Thank you for your work on the cross.  Thank you for the journey you’re inviting us into.  We pray for your blessing, your mercy, and your favor to be upon us.  Together this church said, in the strong and powerful name of Jesus…..Amen.

TRANSFORMED | An Invitation to Transformation | Romans 12 | Week 12020-08-20T18:34:55-06:00

We Are South | Exodus 35

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We Are South | Exodus 352019-08-26T21:21:08-06:00

The Parables of Jesus | The Parable of the Talents | Matthew 25:14-30 | Week 3

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THE PARABLES OF JESUS: The Parable of the Talents  Matthew 25:14-30

We’ve been in a series the last couple of weeks where we are studying the Parables of Jesus. I have to admit,  parables can be difficult. They aren’t explicit in the way a simple story is.  Jesus at one time said, “I spoke in parables so that you would get this and others wouldn’t get it.”  They can be a little bit tricky to interpret. Parables are stories with a meaning, often to jar a listener into learning something new about the economy of the kingdom of God.  They were a bit jarring to the original listeners —remember, they heard them first—because they challenged conventional wisdom at the time.  Most of them have a twist or an ‘aha’ moment of some kind that turned that thinking on its head. So to understand parables, we have to understand the culture and dominant thinking they were birthed into, and try to find the principle within it and bring it forward into our day and age. Because they can be a bit difficult, I’ve pored over the parables and tried to find the easiest one, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today. No, I’m kidding.  Today, I’m going to walk through a parable that’s considered a complex parable.  There are four characters that we see, but they’re treated as three.  And there is a surprise twist at the end.

We are going to walk through the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25, so go ahead and turn there in your bibles or navigate in your bible app. The parable of the talents is part of a series of three parables that have themes of waiting for the arrival of someone special—a master or whoever it might be—and also a picture of what the appropriate behavior of the characters while they wait looks like, and all three finish with a strong depiction of judgment. And I’ll be honest and say these parables are fascinating and amazing to read until we get to the very last part.  I remember when I knew I was going to do this parable and I reread it and……oh, I really like it….oh, this is interesting….uh oh!  The very end is this harsh judgment part. It would be a lot easier to teach without that, but I think there is an important lesson in the judgment that we don’t want to gloss over. So what I want to today is to walk verse-by-verse through this parable, point out some things we can learn from it along the way, and then end with some practical things we can do to apply this to our own lives as we seek to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. Sound good?

Let’s pray. Lord, today, our hearts are tender for you to speak to us.  Thank you for the Scriptures.  God, I would pray that, Holy Spirit, you would speak through your Scriptures to us that we might continue to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  In Jesus’s name.  Amen.

Okay, let’s dive in.  Matthew 25:14-15 —  Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.  It was pretty common in the ancient Near East for a wealthy person to travel abroad, and when they did, they would designate someone to be a caretaker over their wealth. So we see this man pull together three servants, and entrust his wealth to them. In v15, we see that he gave five bags of gold to one, two bags to another, and one to the last.  Some translations use the word talents.  Many scholars believe a talent was equivalent to 20 years of a day laborer’s wages.    So let’s do some math.  Sir, how much do you make per year? Just kidding!  The point really isn’t exactly how much money it was, it was just saying it was a lot of money, a huge amount of money and resources.

Look at verse 15 again.   …each according to his own ability.

The Greek word used for ability is the word “dunamis.”  What word does that sound like?  Dynamite! One of the definitions for dunamis is explosive power. Think about it this way, dynamite has latent explosive potential, doesn’t it?  If you hold a stick of dynamite in your hand and you light the wick, what happens?  BOOM!  The word dunamis is translated a number of different ways:  talents, abilities, explosive potential. It’s like the Master here was looking at the servants for their potential, their latent explosive ability to do something with what he entrusted them with. Here’s the truth: God looks at every person not just at who they are today, but for the potential He created in them to have. The bottom line is that God’s kingdom is expanding and at work, and He invites all of us to partner with Him in this, and expects us to leverage who we are for his good work.

Because we’re human, it’s pretty easy to look at someone else and the things they’ve been entrusted with, and to compare.  He has better hair than me.  She sings better than me.  He makes more money, he has more stuff than I do.  Or this sentence:  I wish I were more like….fill in the blank.  Who’s with me? We can get so caught up in the comparison game that we focus more on what we don’t have than being faithful with what God has given to us.

The other thing I think is really interesting is that the master gave them portions of wealth, entrusting it to them according to their own ability, and then he told them exactly what to do with it, didn’t he?  No, he didn’t.  I’ve never really thought about that before. He didn’t give them money and then give them a checklist and a lengthy, “Do this, do that” with it, did he? No, he simply gave them the money, and then he got out of town. Why? I believe it’s because he trusted that the servants knew him.  They knew his heart.  They knew how he operated in the world and that they would use the money accordingly to continue his good work. I don’t know about you, but God doesn’t always give me an explicit list of what He wants me to do with the resources He’s entrusted me with. Sometimes God does say do this, but a lot of times, God entrusts us with everything that we have.  That’s why when we give back we say, “Every good gift comes from the Father.”  God gifts us everything and that’s why we return a portion of that back as a symbol that everything we have is God’s.  But God doesn’t always say exactly, explicitly what to do with it.  But, I will say, the Scriptures are pretty clear about the basics, aren’t they?  Feed the hungry—We should do that.  We should clothe the poor.  We should take care of the widow and the orphan.  We should meet the needs of one another.

But what if we aren’t exactly clear how to manage all that God has entrusted us? I was struck by this provocative statement by Dallas Willard: “In many cases, our need to wonder about or be told what God wants in a certain situation is nothing short of a clear indication of how little we are engaged in His work.”  Wow, that’s a painful indictment. But beyond that, think about it this way: We should know the way and heart of Jesus so deeply that managing His resources well is second nature. If you’re not sure what to do with what God has given you for God’s work, press in to Jesus, His way, and His heart. Get to know the master and you’ll discover exactly what to do with what God entrusts you with.

Now let’s see what each person did with their money (v16):  The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.   I have to admit that, as a kid when I read this, I thought, “That third guy has the right idea.” Why? Because it was safe.  I know people who lived through the Great Depression, and hiding money was a surefire way to keep it safe…unless the house burned down, of course. How many of you have heard those stories of people who buy a house and do some renovation and find a bunch of money in the walls? I just want to say if that’s you, don’t forget to tithe. Just kidding. The reason they did that is because it was safer than banks.

Seriously, though, it seems kind of risky for the first two guys to take the money and do something with it. You might even say it seemed a little bit frivolous. The Greek here implies that they may have invested in the marketplace. I don’t know if they started a business of some sort, or maybe they were on the ground floor at Facebook, or what, I don’t know exactly what they did.  Somehow, they put the money to work. First century listeners would probably have responded exactly like I did, thinking the guy that buried the money was the prudent one, the one that did the wise thing. The banking system in the first century was relatively new and there was great distrust of it. Some people believed you shouldn’t be putting stuff into the bank, so most hearers probably heard this story and rolled their eyes at the first two guys, and affirmed the guy who played it safe,

But remember, parables were designed to challenge conventional wisdom, to flip the thinking of world on its head, and for Jesus to introduce the economy of the Kingdom, so in a bit, we’ll start seeing how conventional wisdom was flipped on its head. Verse 19:  After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  We don’t know how long this was, but I will say this, after an exhausting study of the Greek here, I’ve discerned that long time means……a long time.  A fair chunk of time. So the master returned and basically asked for an account of what they had done with his money. At first, we see the one with five bags and the one with two bags of gold report out.

This is interesting that those two characters really serve as one character in the story.  They did the same thing and the response from the master was the same. Look at verse 20:  The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, ‘”you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The man with two bags of gold also came.  “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

The master entrusted his things to these people to manage well, and they doubled the resources given to them. They leveraged their ability, that dunamis power, their potential, their understanding of the heart and way of the master, to double the impact of his resources. And so the master rewarded them in a couple of ways. First of all, he probably had a huge party, and they were his guests of honor. Who doesn’t like a great party? But catch this, he also noticed that they had been faithful to manage his resources well with what they had been given, so the master put them in charge of more.

The MESSAGE paraphrase (by Eugene Peterson) says, “From now on, be my partner.”  The Lukan account of this essentially says, “You’ve been faithful with ten cities, now rule over an entire region.”  Are you getting the picture?  I gave you just a little bit and you did well with it, and now I’m going to give you more responsibility, more ability to do that, because he trusted that their heart was rooted as his heart and they doubled their resources for the good of his kingdom.  There are areas of my life that I think sometimes, “God, why won’t you give me xyz to manage? I want more.”  I want more of this thing—like this car.  I’ll manage this car really well.  Or this kind of house or whatever it might be.  It especially happens when I see others around me having more than I do, and I find myself sometimes feeling jealous of what they get to do or manage.  If we’re honest, I think all of us have been there at some point in our life.   If I’m honest, I can point to areas of my life where God hasn’t entrusted me with as much as someone else, and when I reflect upon that, I realize I haven’t managed the small amount I do have well, why on earth would I expect God to give me more? It’s important that we learn here and do an inventory of our own lives. If you want more, if you want to manage more, then manage what you have well and stop comparing what you have with what God has entrusted to someone else.

Several years ago I was in Bangkok, working with a church there, and I had the privilege of touring the slums. They were on a small strip of land the King had allotted to very poor people. It was filled with tiny little lean-to shacks. I felt so sad that people had to live this way. Kids were playing with sticks in the dirt, that’s all they had. But the jarring thing was, as I navigated through, I saw people that had essentially nothing who were happier than most people I know, myself included! I saw how they cared for one another; how their life wasn’t all about how much stuff they had, it was about the community they lived in. They weren’t all about stuff that they had, they were about who they had, the resources among them, and they were leveraging that for the good of this tiny, little, beautiful community. It wasn’t a situation of, “Lord, why couldn’t you give me more like that rich white person there?”  It was them being faithful with what they had, including hospitality and kindness, and it left an indelible mark on my soul.  I think we should all ask the question,  “How am I doing with managing what God has given to me?”  I’m going to encourage you to write that down and to spend some honest time with Jesus, asking, “Lord, how am I doing with managing what God has given to me?”

Hopefully by now its clear that we have a responsibility to leverage the potential, the power, the resources that God has given us for the good of God’s kingdom.  But now let’s pivot a little bit and look at the third guy, starting in verse 24:  Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”    Wow.  It’s really interesting, if you pull back a little bit, to see the perspective of this third person and how different his perspective of the master is from the first two. Did you catch that?  He believed the master to be a hard man who harvested where he didn’t sow and gathered where he didn’t scatter seed. His perspective of the master was completely different than the others. You’d sure think the other two, if they saw the master the same way, would have been far more careful with the money they were entrusted with. Does that make sense?  It’s like they viewed the master in a way that gave them the freedom to invest his resources.  Maybe they felt safe with him.  Or maybe they felt like he really trusted them.  Or maybe they felt like he really wanted the best for them.  Maybe they felt like they knew his heart so well that they knew exactly what to do with the resources given to them. It’s clear from the Scriptures that this third man viewed the master to be harsh, unethical, and mean, so his experience of the master was birthed out of the way he saw the master.

I have a lot of friends who grew up thinking God was angry with them.   And that meant that their experience of God was that of an angry God, always out to get them. The hammer’s about to drop.  Maybe you can relate. Last week Ryan shared, “The way you see yourself shapes everything else.”  I agree with that 100%.  And I want to expound upon that, because, make no mistake here, friends, our theology of God will greatly impact how we experience God. Our theology of God—what we believe to be true about God—will greatly impact how we experience God.  If the Gospel is simply, “God is angry and wrathful towards us because we are sinners, unless we pray a sinner’s prayer and accept Jesus, it’s easy to form an opinion that “God is an angry God.” That presupposition can greatly influence how we read all of the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament. When you see people saying the Old Testament God was really, really angry, but Jesus came and now God can be nice, because of Jesus, that came from their perspective of who God is.  Does that make sense?

My grandma gave me a bible when I was 10 or 11, and I sat in my room and I read it, because I’m a nerd, from cover to cover.  I wasn’t going to church regularly, I just read the Scriptures.  From reading it, I formed the idea that God was loving and loved me unconditionally, and that He was inviting me into relationship with Him, into the family of God, so to speak. I didn’t know until much later, when I started attending church regularly, that I started hearing how mad God was, and hearing how much God hated sin, and hated sinners.  That was some of the language I heard, and it was perplexing to me.  It wasn’t until years later, as I’ve been a pastor for almost 23 years, listening to story after story from people whose image of God is of one who’s against them.  I want you to look at this popular meme that’s been posted:   Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  It’s Jesus, let me in.  Why?   I have to save you.  From what?  From what I’m going to do to you if you don’t let me in.   This is how so many people see God.  It’s funny, but it’s sad.

If the Gospel for people is simply a “get out of hell” card versus an invitation to the beauty of God’s kingdom, no wonder they have a short-sided view of their responsibility within the kingdom of God. I’m going to say it one more time:  Our theology of God will greatly impact how we experience God.  Some of my charismatic friends seem to have this insanely intimate experience of God.  How many of you know someone who is a charismatic person, or maybe you are?  I have so many other friends that judge those people for them being all about the experience of God.  But I’ve often wondered if the reason we don’t experience God fully is because our theology of God is so limited.   For those who experience God more fully as a loving, generous God, it’s because that is their view of God.

The first two people clearly viewed the master differently than the third, and their view of the master defined their actions.  They took risks and were rewarded. The last one played it safe, and let’s turn and see what happened.  This is where the twist happens.  Now remember how I said parables often had a twist that rattled people and shifted their perspective from the economy of the world to the economy of the kingdom? Now we’re at the point in the story where we see the twist. I mean, listeners would probably have been surprised that the risk takers were rewarded so heavily.  And then it really gets crazy!   Let’s look at the master’s response, starting in verse 26:  His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” 

Holy cow! What a response.  This is the verse that when I got to it, I went, “I don’t want to preach this!”  I love how Eugene Peterson, in The Message, words this.  He has this poetic way of unpacking this and I think it’s a great way to see it.  I’m going to reread this from The Message paraphrase:  The master was furious. “That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.”    Do you see it? The master never says, “You’re right, I’m a terrible person.” In Luke’s version of this, he doesn’t say that either. The master doesn’t say, “I’m the horrible villain you say I am.”   He simply piggybacks off of what the third person believed about him.  The master is essentially saying, “If you really believed I was that way, why didn’t you try to get some kind of safe results with what I gave you?  You knew I would want some sort of return, why wouldn’t you operate that way?” The third person’s view of the master was so limited, so skewed, that he chose to play it safe—to not live out the economy of the kingdom, but to live with scarcity thinking—and that caused him to be punished for it.

People with a ton of baggage, and we all have baggage, we all have pain, we all have child/family-origin stuff, we have all these things that influence how we see our master.  When we have that and we don’t deal with that, we view the world through the lenses of our stuff.  Someone once said, “If you don’t transform your pain, you’ll transmit it.”  Often we project onto others and we vilify other people.   I’ve seen people play the constant victim because they aren’t being honest about how the condition of their heart influences the way they see others, and they unfairly vilify other people, because of the lens they’re seeing people through.   We do this to God too, don’t we? Often, we make God in our own image of God instead of seeing God for who God really is.  Seeing God incorrectly can lead to a really miserable, empty, scarcity-oriented life.

Look at what the master said about this in verse 28: So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   This is some of the hardest, harshest language we see from Jesus. He’s essentially saying, “My will will be accomplished one way or another. The kingdom economy will be established.  The good news of the shalom of the kingdom IS going to happen.  Those who manage the resources that I entrust to them, I’ll give more to them.  But the one who lives with a scarcity mentality won’t receive the best of the kingdom and will be judged accordingly.”   Again, Eugene Peterson’s translation of this is brilliant:  Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.

It’s clear to me that God’s economy of grace, of the kingdom, is quite different than the world’s economy.  Hopefully you’re seeing that by now.  Read Ephesians 5.  Ephesians 5 is a beautiful passage of Scripture and Paul sort of gives instructions on how to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, in a dark and hurting world.   He uses this language of “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are dark.”  He’s calling us as followers of Jesus to leverage everything we have to push back darkness and to bring the kingdom down here as it is up there.

So, I want to end today by unpacking FOUR things to chew on in order to be who God created us to be, and to live out the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  I want to encourage you to write these down and put them in your heart and process these in the week to come.  The first thing I want to challenge us to do is:  Make sure our view of God is healthy.   If to you God is the angry, mean taskmaster, I’d love to invite you to consider another way of looking at God, and the best picture we have of God is what? JESUS!  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)    What happened?  Jesus moved into the neighborhood.  Jesus is the best image we have.  I love how Pastor Brian Zahnd says this:  “God is like Jesus.
God has always been like Jesus.
  There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus.
  We have not always known what God is like, but now we do.”   What if we were the kind of Church that was so immersed in the life and teaching of Jesus, so familiar with his way and his heart, that we read all of Scripture through that lens?  What if we allowed the words and teaching of Jesus and his character to define our image of who God is and what God is like? For some of us, reorienting our heart in the way of the kingdom starts by changing our view of who God is.

The second thing might feel a little bit uncomfortable: Get to know who God made you to be.  I took a personality profile ten years ago that changed my life.  I always felt I was wired a little bit different than other people, and that people sort of put me in a box, and that drove me bananas.  I always wished I could just go to some kind of psychologist and they’d print out this report:  This is you.  I wanted to know how am I wired, and how do I see the world and why, and how can I best contribute to God’s kingdom?  Taking that test opened the door for me for some massive self discovery of what I was good at, what I wasn’t good at, how I could bring the best value, and what gave me the most joy. As I was reading it, I went, “Wow, this is crazy!”  So I started learning a lot about myself.  Fast forward a couple years.  I was in a season in my life where I was really into screenwriting. I was in screenwriting and film making and entering competitions and writing sit-com pilots and doing all sort of crazy things.  I had a friend of mine who was making this film, and he called me and asked, “Would you like to come to the set of this film, for three weeks, and be sort of our social media/documentarian?  Post on Twitter and Facebook about this and keep people in the loop.”  Behind the scenes, on the set, taking pictures and posting and getting people excited.  It sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?  Two, three years before that I would have been…hook, line, and sinker into this. But the thing is, I had spent so much time discovering who I was, and how I was wired, that I knew that if I accepted this, we’d both be disappointed. I hadn’t even updated my own blog in months. So I didn’t have to think about the right thing to do, I knew instantly it wasn’t a fit.

I’m still discovering who I am, but I consider it a part of learning to live in the way of Jesus with His heart, to do the hard work of self discovery, to do as Jesus would do if Jesus were YOU! I love the words in Ephesians 2:10 — For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago. This means you are beautifully made to do God’s good work in the Kingdom of Heaven, and I so want you to get to know who God made you to be so you can accomplish the good works God arranged for you long ago.  It’s clear to me that God’s desire is that we know the heart of Jesus and the way of Jesus so intimately, and how God has wired us so intimately, that making decisions about what to do with our time, and our money, and our finances, and our energy, and all that sort of stuff would be absolutely obvious.

Some of us have a lot of work to do to get to know the heart and way of Jesus and to get to know ourselves enough to make those decisions pretty easily.  I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years who have no clue who they are.  “I don’t know who I am.”  “I don’t know what I’m good at.”   “I don’t know why I’m here.”  Maybe you can relate.    Maybe, for you, you should take something like the Enneagram, or Myers-Briggs, or maybe getting a spiritual director or a coach.   I will tell you that our team, here at South, is really committed to doing our part to help everyone in this room and everyone that’s a part of our tribe become aware of who God created them to be.  We’ve been working really hard behind the scenes on some things that we’ll roll out this fall that I am losing-my-mind excited about that I think is going to help people discover who God made them to be, so they can partner in the very best way with God’s mission here at South.  Who’s excited about that?

So we should reframe how we see God.  We should learn to see ourselves.  The third thing is:  We should put our faith into practice  Years ago, I went through a bit of an obsessive time reading the Scriptures.  I listened to all kinds of verse-by-verse teaching.  I bought a ton of commentaries.  I did exhaustive studies of books of the Bible. I could unpack the Hebrew and the Greek and all this sort of stuff.  I knew a LOT!  One day, one of my friends took me to lunch.  He looked me right in the eye and said, “Larry, you’re getting spiritually fat.” As you can imagine, I was a bit taken aback.  He went on to tell me that he’d been observing this process and that I knew a ton, but that it was time for me to leverage what I knew into action—into allowing God to use me for His glory.  I will say that that conversation changed my life.  It helped me realize that just showing up and listening to great sermons and reading the Bible all day isn’t all that following Jesus is about.

Just like in the earlier parables, the person who’s hard at work when the master comes, who put in the effort, is the one who is rewarded. I firmly believe that the economy of the kingdom is one that seeks to leverage God’s resources for maximum impact, and to put our faith into action. So, Church, look at me. If God’s blessed you with a little, then use the little you have for God’s glory and for his kingdom. If God’s blessed you with a LOT, then use the lot that you have for God’s glory and His kingdom.  It’s not enough to just know a lot about the Bible. It’s not enough to just say all the things about God, or to just attend church. Following Jesus—living in His way with His heart—requires that we put our faith into action.   That we love one another, that we serve one another, that we put others before ourselves, that we stand up for one another, that we’re a voice for people who don’t have a voice, that we are generous and kind with one another, and that we seek to bring God’s shalom into every facet of creation for God’s glory and the benefit of every single person. That is us on mission with God.

For those in this room who say it sounds a lot like “works,” I really appreciate that, and I’m going to go to Dallas Willard again, because he’s smarter than me.  Dallas Willard says,  “We might say, ‘This is dangerous because it could lead to works.’ Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”  Our effort doesn’t earn favor with God; it’s not about because we did all this stuff salvation is now earned.  It is simply the outworking of our faith and it shows that we are choosing to partner with God’s mission in the earth.

Our mission at South is to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. We believe that if we are living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, we would consistently be growing in being with Jesus, spending time with Jesus.  We would consistently be growing in becoming like Jesus.  People would look and see us becoming like the Jesus that we see in the Scriptures.  We would consistently be growing and doing as Jesus did.  That’s the picture of what our mission statement looks like in your life.  We’re working hard and we’re excited to pour more gas on this to help you be very clear what it looks like to live in His way with His heart, to become like Jesus, to do as Jesus did, to live out our faith.  That’s the way of the kingdom!

Finally, the fourth thing is: Don’t be afraid to take a risk.  I’ve done all sorts of personality assessments and worked for a lot of other people, and there’s one ruling like what is your risk tolerance?  If you sit down with a financial advisor, one question they’ll ask is, “How risk adverse are you?”  This helps them determine where to put your money with investments.  One of the hard things about this set of parables is this idea that when the master returns, his subjects are asked to give an account of what they did with what they’ve been given, and they will be judged accordingly. And I think if we’re honest, some of us have squandered our opportunity to be used by God, because we were afraid, or because we weren’t willing to take a risk, or because we didn’t invest the time to get to know Jesus and His heart, and to partner with it. Or we simply don’t believe God can use us or that we can make any kind of impact.  One commentator said that the third character’s “timidity and lack of enterprise” is what caused him to be condemned.

Not everyone in this room is wired as an entrepreneur and I fully realize that.  We all have a different range of tolerance for risk.  But Jesus never preached, “Accept me into your heart.”  He DID speak an enormous amount about the kingdom of heaven being near, didn’t he?  And these parables were part of the way He illustrated what life in the Kingdom would be like, and it wasn’t a someday, maybe, kind of thing; it was a “the Kingdom is here”  kind of thing. Behold, the kingdom is near.  John the Baptist said it.  Jesus said it.  For a reason.  The kingdom is HERE, it’s happening.  It’s not someday Jesus comes back so we should just huddle and hide until Jesus comes back, that’s not what it is.  Jesus showed us His way, His heart, His kingdom, was different than the normal way of doing things. And for all of us, living in THAT way might ask us to do things that might seem like risky behavior to people who don’t get it.  Are you with me?

Some people are called to sell everything, move overseas, and minister to people around the globe.  God might ask you to do something crazy and get to know your neighbors.  God might ask some of us to befriend people that society deems unlovable.  God might ask you to go serve populations nobody else wants to serve.

I once left a church and an incredible situation to follow where I thought God was leading my family and I. It was a huge risk, and several people told me I was making the worst decision of my life.  But I will tell you, God showed up and did things in me I never imagined.  I love that there are people in this church that are uncommonly generous and kingdom-minded. I think of people in this community, like the Penningtons.  I admire you guys because you have done a lot of what is on this list actually.  They’ve moved overseas and have served selflessly, and now that they live here, they make their home available to people.  I’ve seen them mentoring other people, hosting block parties for their neighbors.   I think about people mentoring marriages and that investment into lives.  I think about Nicole and her team that give of their time every Tuesday night to journey with those with hurts, habits, and hang-ups.  Listen, friends, none of those things are convenient, but I’m convinced of this, God doesn’t always call us to convenience; He calls us to be consistent with the heartbeat of the kingdom.

So I want to say to you, South Fellowship Church, you’re going to hear from me and from others on this stage inviting you to bring your best self to this church,  and to this city, and to this world. And I’m going continue to ask you to align who you are, and what God has blessed you with, for the good of God’s beautiful kingdom—to leverage those things for the shalom, we have the joy of partnering with Jesus, to bring to a hurting, broken, world.

Imagine, if we were the kind of church that took seriously the call to get to know Jesus so intimately, to get to know who God’s made us to be so intimately, and to pay attention to a hurting, broken world around us so intimately that we leveraged every thing we had to be used by God and to let His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  What if it wasn’t just the Lord’s Prayer that we said, what if we lived it as a church?  THAT, I think, is a beautiful picture of a healthy church on mission with God, and I believe that’s the kind of church God has been forming here and will continue to form.

So I’m just going to ask, what about you? Look at the four things we can do with this passage.  I want you to  ask yourself, “What is one step I can take this week to leverage what God has entrusted me with for His Kingdom?  What’s one thing I can do this week to leverage what God has entrusted me with for His glory, for His name, for the good of others?    Maybe it’s spending some time reading the gospels, seeing the character, the nature, the teaching of Jesus and reorienting yourself to who God really is.    Maybe it’s taking a personality test, or getting a life coach or spiritual director and doing some discovery of who you are and how God’s wired you and how God wants to use you.     Maybe it’s taking steps to put your faith into practice.    Maybe, for some of us, as scary as this might sound, it might be taking a risk.  Let’s pray.

Lord, I love that the Scriptures are so challenging sometimes, even though it’s scary.  I love that you invite us into something so compelling and so beautiful.  My prayer today, God, is that you would speak to this community about who you are, who we are, what you want us to do and how you might allow us to leverage everything we have for your good name, for the kingdom, for the hope of the world.  I pray you give people in this room wisdom.  Wisdom to know what steps to take, that they might see themselves through your eyes.  That the lenses that are smudged and seeing things incorrectly would be wiped clean.  That the economy of the kingdom, the economy of grace would be the economy we all submit to under your lordship, Jesus.  Lord, it’s our honor to serve you, to follow you.  We ask all these things in the strong and powerful name of Jesus.  This beautiful church, together, said….Amen.

The Parables of Jesus | The Parable of the Talents | Matthew 25:14-30 | Week 32021-08-15T13:50:21-06:00

Brave in the New World | Lament in the New World | Psalm 13 | Week 5

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Brave in the New World | Lament in the New World | Psalm 13 | Week 52020-08-20T16:50:41-06:00
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