Good Seed & First Fruits

July 19, 2017

Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43

You are worthy.  You are loved.  You are worth believing in.

Or as the Bible tells us, you are good seed.  Weeds may pop up all around you, but that doesn’t change your basic nature.  And Jesus says you are good seed.

And Paul tells us that we have the first fruits of the Spirit.  Now fruit is a long at from seeds.  Fruit trees and vines can be planted for several seasons before they provide edible fruits.  In that time they can fall prey to all kinds or pests and diseases.  In other words, planting fruit seeds is no guarantee that you will end up harvesting fruit.

In much the same way, Jesus/ parable about the wheat and the weeds tells us that there is no guarantee of a plentiful crop when God puts down seeds to become His beloved children.  Some of those children are going to be choked out by the weeds of sin.

Now, we could get into all kinds of arguments about what is a sin and what isn’t. I’m not going there today.  I just want to say that in a world full of sin, we are God’s hope.  we are the outcome He longed for when He planted those seeds.  Now, He’s not ready yet to harvest His plantings, but one day He will be. And He’s counting on us to hang in there and remain true to the way we were created to be — not to be choked out by all those weeds out there.

We are worthy.  We are loved.  We are worth believing in.

We are the good seeds of God.  He could have developed creation in all kinds of ways, but He determined to put human beings at the height of His world.  He made us to become citizens of heaven.  We are worthy.

We may all still be awaiting redemption.  We may not be finished products.  We may risk every day the terrors that sin brings into our world.  But we are beloved of God.  We received a spirit of adoption into His heavenly family.  We are heirs along with Christ Himself in all that God can give.  We are loved.

God doesn’t have to wait until the end of time for His judgment to be passed.  He could pull out every weed as it appears.  But God chooses to trust us to become His full grown plants, to bring Him good fruits.  We are worth believing in.



Grace Is Personal

April 15, 2017

John 20:11-29

The Resurrection is the central and abiding moment in world history.  That’s right, I didn’t say  “Christian history,” I said “world history.”  The whole world separates history as either before the life of Jesus or after His birth.  As for the Resurrection, C.S. Lewis noted, “either the Resurrection didn’t happen and is therefore meaningless, or it did happen and it is the most meaningful, important fact in the world.”  Either the Christian hope of resurrection for all of us is supported and real, or we are part of the greatest con job of all time.

In His risen state, Jesus the Christ was seen by over 500 people. We just read several accounts by some of those witnesses according to St. John.  Did you notice how individualized those passages are?  Did you notice how Jesus gave each witness just what he or she needed in those moments?  Grace is personal.  It reaches each person in distinct and personal ways.  It touches the most intimate places in our hearts.

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb to prepare a dead body for its permanent rest.  She brought oils and spices for the job.  She had witnessed the Crucifixion and knew without a doubt that Jesus was dead.  She would need convincing that death was not the end.  So her certainty was met with clear sights and evidence — angels in the tomb who spoke to her, Jesus in His risen form who shared with her by name.  The proof was clear.  Jesus the Christ had risen from the dead!

Then there are the disciples.  There are only 11 of them left.  Judas — a trusted member of their band — had betrayed Jesus and committed suicide.  Jesus Himself had been crucified as an enemy of the state, and even His own Jewish officials had been in on the findings that sent Him to the Cross.  They too needed proof that His horrible death was not the end.   Jesus gave them persona and overwhelming proof; He had them examine His wounds, and then He breathed upon them the presence of the Holy Spirit, and they believed.

Then there is Thomas.  Thomas was missing that day in the Upper Room.  He too needed proof.  Jesus let Thomas touch His wounds and discover for himself that His risen body had physical form and being.  Jesus was alive!  The Resurrection was real!

And the resurrection was personal; it had already touched the lives of these friends of Jesus in the first few hours after the event itself.  The news, the proof of Jesus’ Resurrection, reached out to many more people over the next 40 days as He walked the earth in His risen body.  And the Resurrection has continued to touch people, one at a time and in crowds, right up until this day.

The Resurrection is God’s greatest gift of grace.  Through His death and rising from death, Jesus the Christ erases all the penalties associated with human sinning — my sins, your sins, our sins are wiped clean.  None of them matter against the victorious grace provided in Crucifixion and Resurrection.  It really is the greatest event in history; always was, always will be.

But saying it that way makes the Resurrection seem too much to handle; we can’t get our arms around it.  It’s too big.  Thankfully, the Resurrection is also personal.  When someone becomes a Christian, their personal story is woven in with Christ’s story in a perfectly individualized and unrepeatable way.

Let me tell you a story.  I’m an average person.  You’ve all seen me around this church and accepted me as one of you — just a guy at Trinity.  But I have also battled with deep  depression all my life.  For years, I went to counselors, I took medications, I worked relentlessly to “get better.”  I reasoned that, as a born-again believer, I should experience the personal victory of life without depression.  But that day never came.

My depression stole huge chunks of my life from me.  It played a big part in the ending of my first marriage, it kept me isolated and lonely, and it played a major role in me being fired or let go in some fashion from over a dozen jobs.  I even lost my career in the Methodist ministry because I couldn’t deal with the anxieties and loneliness of my life.

Let me tell you folks, the Church was no help to me in my trials.  For 19 years I did my best to be a good pastor, but the minute I was out of the pulpit it was like I had never existed.  The Church didn’t know what to do with me or what to do for me.  The Church hasn’t entirely developed ways of coping with mental illness.  I mean, after all, isn’t a confession of depression something like the opposite of a confession of faith?

Well, I went back to work looking for a solution to my depression.  I learned that I was not “merely” depressed but that I have a severe case of bipolar disorder.  I learned that my anxiety readings were literally off the chart.  I learned that I have something called avoidant personality disorder — a powerful handicap that makes one extremely adverse to social situations, to the point that one generally has very negative feelings, no self-confidence in dealings with others.  This condition makes a person extremely anxious and generally negative, particularly regarding oneself.  It deeply affects the ability to make friends and connect to others.  And here I had been fighting it all my life without ever having heard of the condition.

I’m still fighting it.  Every day.  Now that we know I am bipolar, I am on medications that help.  I pray.  I have faith.  I wish I could say that I have faith that God will heal me of my conditions, but that’s not where my faith lies.  My faith lies in this — Jesus didn’t just die to save the world, He died to save me, Chris Weitzel.  His grace is personal.  I know this because I have felt God with me; I have been touched by the hand of Heaven.

Mental illness is tough.  We don’t talk about it.  Not even as the Church.  I guess we don’t want to stir it up and make it something even more real and powerful than it already is.  The Church doesn’t know how to affect a theology of mental illness, and, to tell the truth, neither do I.

I only know one thing:  some people would say I’ve lived in Hell.   I wouldn’t say that.  Some people would say — and have said — that if I am not cured of my illness it must be because I carry unforgiven sin.  I know that if my sins are unforgiven, I cannot become a citizen of Heaven.  But I also know this:  even if I go to Hell, Hell can’t hurt me; it can’t break what I have.  I have the Good News of the Resurrection in my heart.  It’s personal to me.  I have been touched by grace.

And, friends, grace wins.  That’s what the Resurrection proves!  Life wins over death.  Mercy wins over sin.  Grace wins over everything that is lacking or broken or depressed.  Grace IS personal, and it comes for you and it comes for me.  Resurrection is personal when its story — the greatest story ever told — connects with our stories.

I know one thing:  I know in whom I have believed!  Jesus Christ, the Resurrected One, stands beside me.  Grace wins, and on this Easter I proclaim that Christ IS alive!  And I am alive because He lives.  Glory to God, Alleluia!  Amen.

What Is Mine

May 19, 2016

John 16:12-15
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Imagine Jesus.

Imagine Jesus hanging out at the UMC General Conference.   What would He do?  What would He say?

We all tend to think that Jesus would come down on issues on our side.  It’s only natural to do so.  We believe and feel what we believe and feel an we can’t help but ascribe similar leanings to Jesus.  Whatever side of the GLBQT issues we are on, we want Jesus on our side.

But back off from that for a minute.  Forget about that one issue that has been so central at GC.  Just imagine there is a meeting of Christians, and Jesus is in attendance.  What kind of impact would His presence have on the gathering?  Would the meeting’ agenda go on as planned?  Would the group go about its business?

Imagine Jesus.  Now imagine the response of those gathered Christians to His presence among them.  Would they fall silent?  Or would they sing praises?  I imagine that whatever their response the meeting would not go on as it had been planned.  Everything would be different.

Jesus said the truth would come and the Spirit would bring it.  He said, in effect, that the truth was His and was in Him.  We don’t have to imagine that.  He said it.  Even if the truth is too difficult for us to hear, it looms out there, and we wait the moment when we can hear it.

I’m not here to talk about opinions on the issues before the Church.  I’m here to say tt the Church and its people can go forward in joyous acclamation, but it requires us to do one thing,  Imagine Jesus, and imagine that He is among us right now and always.

He said “All that the Father has it mine.”  That means our gatherings are His, our issues are His, and our Church is His.

As we look at questions and seek truth, this we must realize:  all that the Father has belongs to Jesus.  The only thing that can break away from Jesus is a person exercising God-given individual rights.  So forget about truth, forget about issues, forget about General Conference.

Imagine Jesus.  Remember that all is His.  Are you?


being like Jesus

April 12, 2016

Acts 9:6-43

One of the measures we might put on someone who professes Christianity is “how Christ-like are they?”  On its surface, it’s an unfair comparison.  Jesus was one with the Trinity — divine as well as human.  We mere mortals can’t be expected to do as He does!

Or can we?

Here Peter raises Tabitha from the dead.  Just as Jesus had said, the disciples would do works that equaled His own.  Peter does not hesitate when he hears that Tabitha has passed away.  He immediately goes and performs this resurrection.  Even in something as serious and difficult as a dead woman, it seems, we can be like Jesus; just like Jesus.

But that’s a dangerous thing.  It’s dangerous because once you’ve reached the height of being like Jesus, you’ve taken on the responsibilities of all the things that Jesus might be and do.  In fact, you’ve taken on all possibilities and all expectations.  I mean, look at Peter!  Once you’ve raised someone from the dead, what is there that you can’t do?  nd what is there that others won’t expect you to do?

And the fact is that Peter didn’t spend the rest of His life raising the dead.  He didn’t heal every sick person who might have crossed his path.  He lived a fully human life, including, I suppose, not always living up to the expectations of others.

I think the message here is that while we should want to be like Jesus and try to be like Jesus — as much as we can be, anyway — we must accept that not every moment of our life is going to be a raise-the-dead accomplishment.  In fact, most of our moments will be far more ordinary.

But here’s a challenge for us:  how can we bring Christlikeness into those ordinary moments?  Like Peter, we can show up when we’re called into a difficult situation.  Maybe we won’t have a miraculous answer like Peter did, but we can act in the ministry of presence.

Like Peter, we can dare to be leaders in faith.  When you’re a church leader, you can face the brickbats of criticism, but there are still those who are called to step up.  Leaders with the heart of Jesus are needed.  Are you one of these?

Most importantly, like Jesus and Peter, we can be attuned to the needs of those around us.  Jesus didn’t heal every sick person who came near Him.  He seemed, instead, to respond to those whose illness had exposed some seed of faith that could be nurtured.  We too can look for these seeds in ordinary moments all around us.

Being like Jesus DOES mean that miracles are possible for us, but it also means that in between miracles there is a lot we can do to love and to lead and to tend to the faithful.

waiting ain’t for sissies

February 17, 2016

Psalm 27:12-14

Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.  I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

You’ve probably heard that when the Bible says “wait for the Lord.” it doesn’t men that we just sit around satisfied to do nothing until we see the Lord’s decisive action.  “Waiting” on the Lord is more like waiting tables.  We have work to do while the Lord goes about making His will known and His way a reality.  so waiting isn’t a time of leisurely reflection or even spiritual discipleship — although both of those practices may come into play — it’s a time of work, real work.

Let’s say that we are at the table, actively waiting on God.  How do we begin?  What does this servant waiting look like?

Start by asking what your table looks like?  Is the life you’re living set like a table that’s ready for the Lord’s coming feast?  It’s no good to say we’re serving God if our lives don’t look like a place where God would want to work.  Yes, God can do anything and work anywhere, but part of our task in waiting is to create a place suited to the Divine.  If we can shape our lives into something that looks like God’s likely workplace we will make an example to others that may lead them to look for the God we are working for.

So let’s say we are to set the table for God.  The Psalm suggests that this requires courage.  There are elements in our world that oppose God, adversaries.  Likewise, there are elements in every life that go against God’s plan.  If we are too interested in success for its own sake, in getting attention, in notoriety, in appearances, or in any other trait that serves ourselves before serving God, we must root those interests out of our lives.  This is much of the work of waiting, cleaning up the site where God’s work will meet with ours in Divine mission.  Waiting on the Lord can require us to change.

So it’s hard.

Very hard.

Yet if we are creative and about the work of active waiting, we will find that God, being incarnate, doesn’t leave us alone to the worldly task of self transformation. As we make room in our lives for God, God inhabits and transforms us to be a living witness to His work.  This is what the Psalmist means by saying that we will be joined in the land of the living; that God does not wait for us to be perfected or for us to die, that God cohabits even the work we do for Him in our everyday humanness.

If we will begin the process of our own transformation — begin shoving aside the burdensome elements in our life that eat up room that is meant for God — God will bridge the gap between our mere humanity and Divinity.  God will make it possible for our meek and mortal efforts to reach Regal proportions.

Change is hard.  But making room for God is a change that is so worth it.  Start looking at your life today.  Seek those elements that don’t belong on God’s table and begin that process of change.  It may not be easy but the reward is growing closer to God, and that only happens as we serve Him.

On Forgetting

December 19, 2015

Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

We forget things.  This reading reminded me of something of which I shouldn’t have needed to be reminded.  Judea and Israel were two separate nations.

So what?

So this:  if a Judean King — an outsider — is to rule over Israel, Israel may not like it much.  In fact, political  unrest might be the rule of things.  Politics might get divided and even hostile.  We’ve forgotten how much the people of ancient times — the ones alluded to in this prophecy — had in common with our times, with us.  In the midst of great, disruptive fractures, however, they had words of peace.  And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

We forget things.  We forget that we re supposed to be all about peace.  We forget that we are supposed to speak of peace, and, especially, to work for peace.  We just get busy living our lives, doing all the day-to-day things we hve to do.  The present inhabits us; it fills us up.  The future, or any kind of prophecy, doesn’t have a chance.

Prophecy never has much of a chance in our human world.  Prophecy is a spiritual word, and our reality is just too practical, too raw.  Our schedule don’t make room for it, and our hearts?   Well, our hearts only have the room we make.  We forget that prophecy exists to lead us; to surprise us for certain, but also to lead us on to something yet  unseen.  We forget that prophecy is not just for ancient times, it’s also for us.

We forget what is crucial for the sake of what is current.  We forget.

We forget that we are as sheep, mixing about the pastures without much mind power, following whatever firm voice may come along.  We are still drawn like sheep though.  We are still herded.  Every Christmas season we are herded to the malls, we are herded to Amazon and to every other, we are herded along through our busy schedules.  But we forget.

We forget w have just one shepherd, just one voice to follow.  And we forget that that one voice calls out to us above the din of political divisions and commercial messages.  And that voice speaks “peace.”

And we’ve forgotten one more important thing.  In a world where the cost of one new fighter jet would feed every homeless person in this land,  we forget that we — we followers of the promised Christ — are supposed to be SECURE.  Do we even remember what that means or what true security feels like?  We forget.

Security is prophesied for us, but we have forgotten.  Peace is prophesied for us, but we have become too busy to think about that.  Overwhelming, awe-inspiring love is prophesied nd promised for us, but we accept a watered-down version of love; the human version, the best we (WE) know how to do.

We forget that there is an all=powerful, all-loving God to secure us and to give us peace and love.

That’s why Christmas comes every year — to remind us:  Emmanuel, God is with us.  And the politics and the day-to-day and the human shortcomings must all step aside before Him.  For they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

Hope Before the Light

April 2, 2015

The Splendor of Living                      Isaiah 25:6-9 & Mark 16:1-8

Easter Sunday

When I first became a pastor – with zero experience – my first visit to a congregant in the hospital was a doozy. I had to go into DC to the 5-Star Trauma hospital to the emergency room to see Tommy. I hate to be indelicate, but Tommy had tried to commit suicide by firing a shotgun held right under his chin. Somehow, he survived, but his face was nearly gone. The nurses warned me before I went in to see him. It was a horrible sight.

What am I doing telling that story on Easter Sunday? It must be about resurrection, right? Tommy must have made a total and miraculous comeback, right? Well, not exactly.

But read the Gospel. It does NOT give us sightings of the risen Jesus. It begins in the hazy dusk of an early morning with the sepulchral smell of death in the air. And it ends . . . well, it doesn’t really end. It leaves the biggest event in history unfinished, only to be guessed at through whatever lens the reader wants to use. Considering that Mark was the first Gospel written, and for a while the only written Gospel, it seems odd to leave the reader without a full picture of the Easter miracle. But that’s just what Mark does.

And that’s how things were with Tommy. His severe injuries did not finish his story, but it did leave things shrouded in mist and mystery. How much could he bounce back? How much could we hope for?

Hope is a pretty amazing thing. It stretches reality even in the worst of situations, especially in the worst of situations. Hope can be tireless, boundless, powerful beyond words. There is no love without hope, and no wellness either. Hope, as the poet says, is the thing with wings.

Isaiah says that our hope is that death will be forever undone. That life will flourish without end. That there is a place where our grandest hope become our endless reality. Jesus’ followers – those first ones – wanted to live out that hope with Him and believed they would. But then He was gone from them and the world was turned on its head. The darkness around them and within them was palpable.

And things looked very dark for Tommy for a long time. He lived in the critical care unit of the hospital, 60 miles from home, for weeks and weeks. I was his only visitor. Even when he was removed to a nursing home, I remained his only visitor for a time. After all, even when he tried to speak, no one could understand him except for the simplest words. And there was that sad fact that he was missing half of his face. And maybe his friends from church didn’t know how to handle the fact that he had attempted suicide.

But I did learn about Tommy that he had been a person of faith. He was a good husband. He was beloved in his church. And, finally, I convinced some of the men of the church to take turns visiting Tommy. They became a sort of community of faithfulness – practicing a miracle of regenerating relationships instead of waiting for a miracle of some other sort.

My message is that we can be part of miracles and we should expect to be. We can reach out to those who are alone, those who struggle, and those who are left out. Even beyond all the hopes of modern medicine, the mere act of fellowship can mend the greatest of human frailties.  The message of Mark’s first ending – the way the Gospel ended originally – is that whatever we believe and seek, we don’t know what the morning will bring. But . . . and it’s a big “but” . . . we have to live into the miracle even before we see it.

I know just how distressed Tommy was. I’ve honestly been there myself. And my hope is that love and grace will win out for me. That is my hope because that is my belief. I believe in a God of love and grace and miracles. And I am willing to live as positively as I can and be that miracle until the stone is rolled away and the Lord appears to me again.

Right from Wrong

February 9, 2015

See Mark 9:2-9, 2 Kings 2:1-12 & 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

For we do not proclaim ourselves.  We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness;” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Is it possible to do the wrong thing and have it turn out right?  Yes, yes it is.  Now, don’t go taking this as permission to do wrong things, much less encouragement to stick with wrong actions, misguided ideas, or dangerous directions.  It’s far better to do what right.  And by doing right, you are for more likely to end up in the right, best place.

That being said, let’s look at Bible readings where someone goes a little wrong.  In the OT lesson, Elisha keeps ignoring the directions of his mentor Elijah.  “Stay behind,” Elijah says, “The Lord bids me to go further, but you don’t have to.”

Elisha wasn’t having anything to do with that.  So despite the fact that Elijah was his teacher and model and like a father to him, Elisha did just the opposite of what Elijah had directed.  And he didn’t just do this once.  He repeated his disobedience.  In my family, if I had repeatedly done this to my  father, . . . well, I hate to think of his reaction.  Elijah seems to just accept these acts.  He is indeed patient.

How does Elijah’s disobedience bring about good?  Well, that’s obvious:  By pressing on past all barriers, Elisha is part of a miracle.  He sees that Elijah does not die but is taken to heaven bodily.  Moreover, Elisha is  given a double dose of Elijah’s spirit. As we know, he goes on living out Elijah’s ministries and being part of numerous miracles.

I think this reading tells us to press on past barriers, to be bld.  We don’t k now, after all, where the great victories and rewards ahead may lie.

Peter gets it all wrong on the Mount of Transfiguration too.  When he sees Moses and Elijah and Jesus together, instead of seeking to learn from them, he rushes around talking about building huts for them to stay in.  It’s not enough for him It’s not enough in his mind to deeply experience that miraculous moment, he feels the need to make further arrangements.  His focus is in the wrong place.

But just as God wasn’t done with Elisha at Bethany, God isn’t leaving Peter on the Mount to languish.  There is more to come.  The text from Corinthians reminds us that there are many ways for us to go wrong, and, eventually, all of us do.  The gods of this world try to blind us at every turn, but they do not have the last word.  We may be cast into darkness, and afraid, but Jesus is the light of the world and our light, and with Him  there is no darkness.

The story of Elisha tells us to strive on.  The story of Peter tells us not to focus on anything but the spirit of what is; the presence of God right in front of us.  So while we strive, we must keep in mind that there is only one light, only one source of right.  Even as we push on, believing in going further, we must not lose sight of God’s presence and how our spirit connects with God’s Spirit.

As we walk this road, we’ll get off on false starts.  We’ll be hardheaded.   We’ll  go wrong.  But today we’ve seen that we have a God who brings miracles and entire religions out of wrong choices and bad moves.  With our God, we can go wrong, and He will turn it right, . . .  and He will turn US right.  Amen.

Presumption and Pressing Higher

January 26, 2015

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;
but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Do you hear the presumptuousness here?  “WHENEVER you pray.” . . . “WHENEVER you give.” . . . It is presumed that we WILL pray, that we will give.  We will give even when things aren’t going right.  We will give even when giving of ourselves doesn’t seem to make a difference.  We will pray.  We will pray when we don’t feel like it.  We will pray when we’re not sure it means anything to do it.  We just WILL.

But we don’t, do we?  We make our service to God dependent on the moment, circumstantial.  We make deals about our faith . . . God if you will only do this for me, then I will . . .We keep our vows to God sparingly, occasionally.  We spend SOME of our time chasing after God, but also some of it chasing after other, lesser things.  We’re a muddled picture, made of quick sketch marks and blurred colors.

We could be bright stars with clear sharp colors.  We are made to be all that, and more.  But we accept less than the best.  We do!  In life, we have learned that situations aren’t perfect, others aren’t perfect, and to our surprise WE aren’t perfect!  So we must adapt to working in imperfect situations created by the interactions of imperfect people.  And, for the most part, we don’t expect 100%.  .We accept the ordinary and the limited.  We settle for what we can get.

But God is not into half measures.  Presumptions about God should be marked with 100% tags.  He forgives all sins, accepts all love, works with all in good spirits, and indulges in miracles.  He’ll do anything for us, give anything to us.  He doesn’t have to settle . . . because He is GOD!!  So when God gives the word that “wherever your treasure is, there is your heart also,” He means our whole hearts.  Nothing partial, no half-hearted steps.

What do you treasure?  In other words, what is there in life that you are willing to throw your whole heart into?  What grabs you enough to get you past your reserve?  What will make us press higher and presume for more? Ask yourself.  And deeply believe that you WILL find an answer.  Simply put, God goes all in.  And that is what He seeks from us in return.

A Really Short Message — “Stick Close”

January 18, 2015

John 1:43-51
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”  Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus says that Nathanael will see angels going up and down and see heaven itself opened before him.  The trouble is that Nathanael is never heard of again in the Scriptures.  We don’t know what happened to him or what he saw or didn’t see.

Don’t be a Nathanael.  Don’t be one of those people   The thing to do is stay close to Jesus.  If Nathanael had traveled along with Jesus and stayed close to Him, we might have heard of him more like we have John or Philip or James.  But Nathanael . . . well, he just disappears.  This is a short sermon — Stick close to Jesus.  See what the Lord is up to in the lives of those around you.  Or figure out what you think He would be up to, and what He may be looking for you to do.  Stick close to Him.