Give them Hope

Last month our church opened up for people in need of emergency shelter during the cold -31 degree weather. One of the people found shelter at the church was Jen. As I started trying to help her I found the plight of single homeless adults to be dire indeed. I discovered no shelters in our community, the nearest being Pine City and St. Cloud. I also found that what help could be found, was difficult to understand and navigate. If I had trouble figuring out how to get help, how much more difficult must it be for a person who is living on the street.

We ended up with Jen living with us in our home. She has been with us for four weeks and will be for a few more. Jen is a pleasant house guest to have around and is working at getting things together. We enjoy having her with us, but we also look forward to the day when she will back in charge of her life.

As I think of all the things that we have given to Jen to help her, the most important thing has not been food, clothes or even a warm bed to sleep in. The greatest thing we have given Jen is hope. Hope that she can put life back together, have a job, have a home, and put the past behind her.

So many people struggle without hope. They feel nothing can really change, in their marriage, their family, their job, their community, their country. Eventually they just quit trying. This is exactly where many homeless and poor people are at.

Jesus gives us hope and we can share this hope with the world. Jesus brings us hope through forgiveness, hope because we know that our past sins and mistakes do not have to limit our future. Hope, because God does love us and God does hear our prayers. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old life has passed away, a new life has come.”

One time a homeless drunk snuck over the fence of the President of Fuller Seminaries yard and was caught stealing a steak off the grill. The seminary President stopped him and got him a plate and sat him down with his family. Four years later that homeless man was my Hebrew Professor at Fuller. Two Years later when I graduated, that once homeless man walked across the stage to cheers, and received His Doctorate.  All he needed was hope.

There are people all around us who need hope. Hope for their broken marriage or broken family. Hope for a new job or a home of their own. Hope for friendship and love. Hope that they can put past sins and mistakes behind and live a new life from Jesus.

Will we give them hope? Will we take a risk and reach out to them? Will we pick them up and hold them up until they can stand on their own? We can show people that they are not forgotten, and they are important to God and to us. It will cost us time, money, and give us emotional stress, but we can give them hope.

Foundations Luke 6:46-49

Foundations Luke 6:46-49

A man had a crack in the wall of his home. He called someone and they fixed the wall, but soon the crack repaired. He called a different person who fixed the wall, again the crack returned. Finally he called a third person who said your problem is not the crack in the wall, it’s your sinking foundation. Until you fix the foundation you will have that crack.

This is a simple parable to understand, yet it is truly profound in it’s lesson. A building is only as good as it’s foundation. Your life, my life, our church and even our nation are only as good as our foundation. Today we spend so much time trying to cover cracks in our world. Gun violence, hatred, prejudice, economic injustice, and the list goes on. We try to cover our broken homes, broken relationships, broken minds and hearts. But soon the brokenness returns. Our government tries to pass laws in hopes of fixing our broken country. It is all just fixing cracks, when the trouble is our foundation. And you cannot legislate a foundation.

The same is true in our lives, they will only be as good as our foundation. There was some flooding in the town where my sister lives. A neighbors house had their basement wall cave in. In our lives the poor foundation can be seen in cracks and other time more catastrophic failures.

It seems that the news is filled everyday with another person who’s foundation is found to be sinking. They have built their life on money, power, prestige and fame. They have thought their money or position would keep them safe only to see their lives crumble on the tv for all to see.

You may have experienced some cracks, some broken places in your life. Some of us have experienced catastrophic failures where our whole life has crumbled before our eyes. We have patched and covered until we are exhausted from the effort, it’s about time we fixed our foundation.

Fixing the foundation is not that hard. Jesus tells us in this parable that we need to hear and do the things He tells us. This is the foundation. Jesus says, don’t lie, don’t steal, think of others first, help those in need, and love God with all your heart. You need to read your Bible and follow what it says. If we will do this our foundation will be strong.

There is a simple little saying that puts this together. “if you always do, what you’ve always done, you will always get, what you’ve always got.”

If you don’t like the results of what you’ve been doing, it’s time to stop the insanity of doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.

What have you been doing to try and repair the cracks and brokenness in your life? Have they really worked? Have you been covering these cracks over and over, only to have them return? It’s time to fix the foundation.

The first fix for the foundation is forgiveness. We need to receive the forgiveness that Jesus died on the cross to provide for us. Simply ask Him. Jesus please forgive me. Then we must forgive others. These are large parts of our primary foundation. As much as we might not want to forgive, we must.

“if you always do, what you’ve always done, you will always get, what you’ve always got.”

If you don’t like the cracks, it’s time for a new foundation.

Mark 4:21-24 The Lamp and the Basket

Jesus often uses the same parable or saying multiple time and in different ways. The Lamp under a basket shows how Jesus did this. The parable is found in Matthew 5 where Jesus makes clear that our faith is to be conspicuous. In mark it is used to say something quite different.  In Luke 8 and in Luke 11 It is used in a different context. You have most likely heard it from Matthew more often than the others. We will look at Marks usage of this parable.

In Marks context the parable less clear. Here Jesus is the Lamp that is to be put on the stand for all to see. It is connected with the declaration that everything that is hidden or secret will be brought out into the open. Jesus could be talking about the plan of God, or the mysteries of God. But the way it is connected to the warning about the measure and the one who has, more will be given, seems to mean that our actions are more in mind here.

Therefore Jesus is the light that shines in the hidden and secret places and reveals our whole life. Jesus reveals our depravity. Jesus’s forgiveness and grace is not a coverup kind of action. The light reveals the sin within us and then like a surgeon removing a tumor, His forgiveness cuts it out of our life.

Even when taken this way there are different ways to take this. Often the interpretation is that Jesus will shine a light on your secret sins. Jesus knows where you hide your playboy and He’s going to hold it up for everyone to see what you were trying to hide. Jesus has your password and is going to publish your email, messages, and your web history.

I look at it in a different way. Jesus is like the bright lights of the surgery room. Under it all things are reviled not to shame us but that they might be removed. Psalm 139 end with “Search me o God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” The light reveals our sin that it might be repented of and forgiven. Our sin is not revealed to bring guilt and shame but healing.

Put the holy light of Jesus on a stand and let it shine into all parts of your life. Ask God to reveal all the sickness in your life and cut it out that you may be healed. Jesus is the light it’s time to stop hiding and time to start healing.

The Wicked Tenants   Matthew 21:33-40

This parable is obviously about the Jewish people. God expected them to call humanity to God. They stopped thinking that their God was so wonderful and started thinking they were wonderful. When God sends the prophets to them they reject and even kill them. Then God sends his son, Jesus, and they will kill Him as well. The Jews will be punished and the vineyard given to the new people of God Christians.

The meaning is summed up in verse 42 &43 “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing it’s fruits.”

This is a simple message we need to hear. If we fail to produce the fruit of the kingdom, God will take his blessing away from us and give it to another.  God wants the message of forgiveness to be shared, God wants His compassion and love for the broken and hurting taken to those who need it. Should we fail God will find someone who will take it.

All of this brings us to a choice we find in verse 44, “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Everyone of us runs into or trips over Jesus. A place where we realize we are sinful and need saving. When we come to this place we will be broken and surrender our lives to Him. If we fail to be broken before God then the judgement of God will crush us. A simple case of on the stone or under it.

Personally have you confessed to God that you are a sinful person who on your own has screwed up life, asked Him for forgiveness and then asked Jesus to take control and  pledged yourself to follow Him? Have you been broken on Jesus the rock.

As a church we also must ask are we broken on the rock? Are we submitted to God and caring out His mission in the world? Do we like the Jews think that we are entitled to God’s love, or will we fall broken and submit to God.

The good news is that those who are broken Jesus will lift up and heal. God is not impressed by our resilience, He is impressed by our willingness to be broken. A simple question of on the rock or under the rock? Which will we choose? A simple prayer for each of us. “Lord I have sinned and am broken, please forgive me. Give me a new life today and show me how to live. I will follow you.” And a prayer for all of us “Lord Jesus we have not done the best we can to follow you and do your work. We have been prideful and arrogant, please forgive us, transform us from our church to your church. Give us new life to serve you and bear fruit for you.” AMEN

Matthew 24:42-51 “The Wise Servant”

Imagine a place where it never rained, no one had ever experienced it. All the while Noah was building a boat in the hills where there was no water. They went about their lives playing, partying and working. Then the first raindrops started. In the same way the end of life will come. Two men working in the field or two women grinding grain, one is taken and the other left. The end comes as a surprise. While this is true for the ultimate end of the world it is also true for each and every one of us today.

Some who will die from things like cancer will know it’s coming, most will not. For most people they are going along their busy lives when their hour comes. I think as we look at this parable we do it justice to look not at the end of the world but the end of our individual lives.

The question Jesus brings to us is what will our lives be about on that day? If we all got 30 days notice that Jesus was coming for us everyone would get it together after they got their letter. So we have this parable to tell us somethings.

We are described as servants. We own nothing we are not masters, we are the servant. Everything and everyone around us is a possession that belongs to God the master. You have been given responsibility for these things and these people that belong to God.

What is interesting to me is that the master does not quiz the servant on their theology or review their righteous deeds or even their sinfulness. What the Master is concerned with is if you took care of His possession and your fellow servants. How did you treat the people in your life? How have we used what God has given us?

Jesus’ parable is not about guilt for your past, Jesus died on the cross to pay for the guilt. All debts were paid up as of 9:45 this morning. What Jesus is concerned with is how you will treat your fellow servants starting at 11 am today.

I love mountain climbing. I have been to some very difficult places. At times pushed beyond my limits. I found a secret to getting to the top is to not focus on it. On the map I break the trip down into days or even meals. 4 miles to this spot then eat lunch. Ten miles to this spot to camp. Then after lunch or the next day I start toward my next goal. I feel successful and encouraged because I have met a goal. Step by step goal by goal, you get to a place you never thought you could.

This is how the servant of God approaches life. Focus on the choice you have before you and make one wise choice, in that moment. Will I tell this lie, will I hurt this person, will I open this magazine, or visit this website, Will I place this bet, or drink this drink, one right choice at a time, one step at a time.

The only answer to a bad choice you make is to make your next choice a good one. The past, the guilt and the regrets have no place in our lives, all there is the next choice, your next step. God has promised that if we will focus on our next step He will take care of the rest of the trip. We will not be found unprepared when our day comes. The trip God will take us on will be amazing, the things we will see and the things we will do. One step one choice at a time..