A Fast to End Injustice and Oppression

From the verses in Isaiah I used last week for an Ash Wednesday sermon, starting the season of Lent:

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.'” (Isaiah 58:6-9 MSG)

These verses are on my heart as I think about the challenges schools so close to our home face, and my own prospects for teaching in the year to come.

Ash Wednesday Sermon: Isaiah 58:1-12

This evening I had an opportunity to share the Ash Wednesday sermon at our church in Edmond, Oklahoma. The sermon text I chose was Isaiah 58:1-12.

1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Here is an audio recording of the sermon, which ran just under 20 minutes. I recorded this with iTalk Recorder on my iPhone, which displays elapsed time, so I used this to make sure I didn’t run over the suggested 15-20 minute time limit for the meditation. After transferring the file to my laptop tonight, I uploaded it to Auphonic to normalize and compress it into a 32 kbps mp3 file.

The most powerful part of the service for me was participating with our three pastors in the “imputing of ashes.” As church attendees came forward to receive communion, we first marked a cross on their forehead with ashes from a small bowl. I have been very moved as a participant in this service in past years, but it was even more moving to help lead it. Young and old, people I knew and did not know, I said “From ashes you came, and from ashes you shall return.” A sobering but important reminder of our own mortality, and our universal need for God and the saving grace of his son, Jesus Christ.

Praise to God and thanks to God for his blessings, love, and grace. Praise and thanks to God for the opportunity to be a part of our church community of faith.

penance by Sarah Korf, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Sarah Korf 

Do Not Covet or Be Greedy

These are notes from Mateen Elass‘ sermon on Sunday, January 25, 2015, at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. Our focus verse today is Luke 12:13-21.

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (‭Luke‬ ‭12‬:‭15‬ NIV)

“Contentment means seeking to live simply so we can use our extra resources for the sake of God’s kingdom.”

Book recommendation: Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America by Dr. R. Albert Mohler

We are stewards of our possessions not owners, everything comes from God and we are called to use our gifts and “things” to further God’s kingdom.

Money can easily become our idol.

The goal of a disciple of Jesus is to have nothing in our daily lives which supplants our love of Jesus Christ.

Jim Elliott: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Prayers for Joe Rightmyer

I shared this comment tonight on the Layman Online article, “PCUSA defrocks nationally recognized renewal leader.”

Actions like this by the PJC of the PCUSA Denomination further disclose the spirit of the organization and its leadership. Sadly and tragically, that spirit is revealed to have become divorced from The Holy Spirit.

 

My prayers are with Rev Joe Rightmyer. I also pray God would change the hearts of those who actions appear to be based on spite rather than love or any other fruits of the spirit.

 

These actions also highlight the wise course of action taken by HPPC to sever ties with PCUSA. I am thankful to God that our congregation was also able to sever those ties and join ECO. It is wonderful to be finished with denominational squabbles which attempted to take our eyes away from Jesus Christ, rather than [STAY] firmly fixed upon Him.

bread and cup by tcd123usa, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  tcd123usa 

From Foyer to Kitchen by Andy Stanley

These are my notes from a DVD message titled “From Foyer to Kitchen” by Andy Stanley. We watched this today at our Session retreat for First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma. This video is 6-8 years old (no longer available on Amazon) and there are several things Andy’s team has modified since. This post has a video of Andy talking about these ideas, similar to what we watched on today’s DVD.

We believe the local church should be irresistible
– children and parents should wake up on Sunday morning and say, “We want to go to church.”

We believe people who are NOT believers YET should be able to attend on Sunday morning, and want to go back the next week and check it out
– in the Gospels, Jesus was irresistible
– he wasn’t someone you could ignore or marginalize
– the Church is the Body of Christ
– our local church and yours should reflect that same thing in society

Story of explaining in Atlanta, GA
– we need more relevant environments where believers and non-believers can connect to each other and connect to our heavenly Father

This drove us to start Northpoint Community Church
– started with 6 staff
– hammered out mission statement: “Lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ”
– that was our version of saying the “Great Commission”
– 3 components or pursuits:
-1 pursue intimacy with God
-2 community with insiders / believers
-3 influence with others outside the faith

Generally discipleship or spiritual growth has been relegated to a series of classes
– it meant “how much Bible do you know” (verses)

Our goal for people wasn’t an amount of knowledge or number of classes you’d attended, but the degree to which people are engaged in these 3 pursuits

Our strategy recognized we can’t MAKE someone do any of these things

All of us in the group who valued these three pursuits realized we developed those passions and routines was ENVIRONMENT
– relevant environment

We decided if we created those environments, trained people to lead in those environments, and …

Mission: Lead People
Strategy: Creating environments where participants are encouraged and equipped to [engage in those 3 pursuits]

We named the 3 environments for rooms in the house
1- Foyer
2- Living Room
3- Kitchen

These environments do three different things

Foyer environment: Where we expect GUESTS

When guests are in your home, things are different: There are things you DO talk about, and things you don’t
– you change who you are as a family or what you believe, but you tailor the environment for the guest so they feel welcome and want to come back
– we decided we needed to create some safe “foyer” environments to help guests feel welcome

Living Room environment: people start to connect as friends

middle circle (we found) is the most difficult/challenging
– everyone talks about getting people into small groups
– we have constantly updated the transition part in the living room, when people

Life for our family happens in the kitchen
– this is our ultimate small group environment
– that is where life happens
– in the foyer you feel like a guest
– in the living room you start to make connections
– in the kitchen community with insiders happens

We want everyone at the kitchen table

For adults we have 3 kinds of small groups: (that’s the only one that meets on Sunday mornings at our church)
1- starting point small groups: open group
2- starter groups: we call it “dating” – it lasts 6 weeks, gives people a taste of group life, if they want to move on together they can – targeted group
3- community groups: meet for 12 to 18 months, then they reform (they are closed groups)

We’ve discovered community doesn’t happen in an unpredictable environment
– life on life doesn’t happen in an environment where trust is uncertain

Every small group comes to an end: either a happy end or a small end
– people may go forward and multiple
– people may decide they never want to be in another group

Life happens within the church when we are focused together

Our focus to evaluate all new PROGRAMS: Does this help us move people from the foyer, to the living room, to the kitchen?
– we try to “add steps, not programs”
– need to fill in gaps, help people move toward growth…

“Your church strategy is perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting”
– so if you want to see change, to become an irresistible church, then discover what your strategy is and change it so you can talk about it intelligently so people understand what you are doing and how you do it

Question: Are your ENVIRONMENTS accomplishing the mission

3 takeaways:

  1. Would you go home and spend time clarifying your purpose / mission? What is the WIN we are wanting to celebrate?
  2. Would you go home and think through what it would take to develop a strategy? Can you put it in terms you can explain to your people? (This creates amazing synergy)
  3. Focus your environments

“Everybody wants to give their time and energy to something they understand” (you need to clarify your strategy w different terms)

Our Need to Rest

We need to carve out time each week for rest:

Mark 6:30-31 NIV

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Bringing Up Daughters of the King by Dan Liberto

These are my notes from Dan Liberto’s workshop, “Bringing Up Daughters of the King,” on May 3, 2014 at the Mo-Ranch Men’s Conference.

thefreedomgirls.com
– family discipleship ministry
– objective is partnering with parents and helping them discipling their children

Do this through workshops, conferences, and Biblical Ruth Doll / Book

Ministry name: Generation with a Name
Psalm 145:4 “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.You as the dad and leader of your house, or as a grandparent, or as a mentor…”

– you have the opportunity to stand in the gap between that child and a culture that is roaming around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

Highly recommended book: “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know” by Meg Meeker

Research shows your physical affection for your daughter is the best predictor of of your daughter’s self esteem

No gimmicks, no tricks: Just Deuteronomy 6
– simple to understand, difficult to apply (because of our sin nature)

we have to fight the battle for our kids, but we also have to fight our own battles

1st pillar: Love the Lord with ALL your heart, soul and strength

2nd pillar: Impress his love on your children

3rd pillar: Tie them as symbols in your doorposts

If you are going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk
– it’s impossible for you to walk the walk without the strength of the Lord

these are all relational
2012 article in Homeschool Dads: “A Great Time to be a Husband, Parent and a Dad”

The marital bond is the foundation of the family
– it must be communion
– when you put Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, then you have the foundation

Parent in unified relationship with children
– need to be in unity

Obedience is more important than sacrifice
– parents can make it impossible for a child to be obedient if the parents are not unified in their relationships and expectations for the child

Dad in relationship with children individually
– this is the dad zone
– this is where we are specifically focusing today
– this is the “father daughter dance”

As a father you are called to give your children their needs, not necessarily their wants

Remember children aren’t saved through your faith
– you are fertilizing the soil through discipleship, so the Holy Spirit will grow the fruit

Garth Brooks: “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

You have to give kids age-appropriate liberty so they will grow

Another book recc: “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp

You are God’s agent, not to manage your child’s behavior but to guide your child’s heart
– the behavior is a symptom
– the heart is the wellspring of life
– helping your child guard their heart is key

Never doubt your authority, it’s important for your children to never see you waiver with your faith

U571 movie scene: “Be a leader!”

Be courageous
– you are going to be ridiculed, made fun of
– the culture thinks it’s silly
– parents are subjected to peer pressure just like kids are

“The only way to know the inclinations of your child’s heart is to empower them to share their voice”

Be your child’s hero
– they need to know that you will move heaven and earth to help them with things they know
– let them know you will never abandon them
– best example: “The Prodigal Son”
– be grace filled

We hear it time and again in the Bible: “I will not leave or forsake you.”
– our children need to hear this constantly from us as parents

As dads, you have to get up on that wall
– you need to dress up like a warrior, to defend your castle against the many trojan horses that come in

Ephesians 6: this is a battle in the spiritual realm

Judges 5:8

God chose new leaders
when war came to the city gates,
but not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.You have to be your daughter’s “Prince Charming”

– be the man you want your daughter to marry

Help them make sense of life with a Christian Worldview

Take your child on a journey of discovery!

Turn off the noise, and turn up the fellowship in your family (with your kids & spouse!)

Have a multi-generational vision for your family
– pray for your children’s spouses, children, etc.
– put away the shotgun and start praying for them, like Hannah did when she brought her child to Samuel

Which dad are you? What picture are you painting for your family?

Challenge and call to action: Let’s get to our creative side, reflect back on the kind of picture we’ve painted in the past
– ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to use those areas we need to shore up, and the Holy Spirit needs to encourage us in
– after you have reflected and received that feedback from the Holy Spirit, then pull out your canvas and decide which canvas you want to paint for the future

What do airline folks say about emergencies: Equip yourself first for the battle/struggle, then tend to your children

Called to Be Witnesses

I’ve started a new year-long Bible reading plan in the free YouVersion Bible app. It’s called “For The Love of God” and has a short commentary which accompanies each day’s readings from both the New and Old Testament.

This verse stood out to me today:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)

In these last words of Jesus, before he ascended into heaven, he reminds us that we are all called to be witnesses. But we are called to be witnesses when we are filled by the Holy Spirit, and his power comes upon us.

Dear God, I pray you would fill me this day and this year with your Holy Spirit. Make me attentive to your words and your will. Mold me into a good listener, who is not afraid to share my witness of your power and your love. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

Angels and Signs

A reading today from the Gospel of Luke:

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:9-12 NLT)

Reading these verses this morning, I am reminded of how the shepherds were struck with fear when they first heard the Angel of The Lord speak. The first words of the Angel were to not be afraid, however. Many people today deny or fail to understand the reality of angels, and the reality of God speaking directly to his people throughout history and continuing to speak today through his Holy Spirit.

I’m also reminded of how God chose to speak to the shepherds, who were among the lowliest of people living and working at that time in the Holy Land. God did not come in a vision to the king, and he did not come to the newsagency of the day and ask for an all points bulletin. I think God came to the shepherds to help us understand that his son, Jesus, comes for all of us, no matter what our station or situation in life may be.

God, I pray you would reveal yourself to us this day, and help us to understand in our hearts the joyful gift you gave us through your son, Jesus. Through the commercials and the gifts and the food and the distractions of this season, help us to clearly see and embrace the gift of Jesus in our hearts. In the holy and powerful name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

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