Change the World 3 Feed John 6:1-14

December 19th, 2014 by RevBT

Change the world, Follow, Welcome
Today is Feed.
We change the world when we feed those who are hungry.
I don’t know if you have ever been hungry or wondered when your next meal would be and how thankful you were when you had that next meal, no matter how small it was.
I don’t know if you if you ever had to wait in line for government cheese.
Maybe you grew up as a kid who got more excited for “Food Bank Day” than you did for Christmas.
Maybe you never knew what hungry was but you saw the boy scouts passing out bags to fill with canned goods and you wondered what that was all about.
Maybe you never knew what hungry was but you saw your friends in school or at work who didn’t have lunch and spent the lunch period with their head down.
Did you know that when people have to worry where their next meal will come from is called food insecurity?
Food insecurity is defined as one or more times per month where you have a choice between paying your bills or buying food.
Food insecurity affects people of all ages.
1.1 Million people over the age of 65 in America are food insecure
- When senior citizens are food insecure it makes them more likely to struggle with depression, chronic illness, asthma, heart attacks, and congestive heart failure.
15.8 Million kids under age 18 in America are food insecure
- This leads to more sick days from school
- Lower grades in school
- Lower chance of graduation
- Lower chance of attending college
- Lower social skills and critical thinking skills
These kinds of things are a big deal and they strike to the heart of Jesus and if Jesus is bothered by people being hungry then it should bother us too.
So what does Jesus do when He encounters hungry people?
John 6:1-14 Common English Bible (CEB)

6 After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). 2 A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. 3 Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. 4 It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival.

5 Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” 6 Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do.

7 Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary[a] worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, 9 “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. 12 When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten.

14 When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.”
This event starts with Jesus asking Philip a question, “How do we feed these people?”
Jesus asked Philip possibly because Philip is from this area and would know all of the places to get food.
Philip decides it is impossible that there is nowhere to get food and if there was it would cost far to much.
Then Andrew shows up. Andrew was one of the first followers of Jesus and the younger brother of Peter.
Andrew says to Jesus that he found a little boy who has 5 loaves and 2 fish.
So there are 5,000 men and all the women and children and the reality is there isn’t enough food.
Ever been there? It is the end of the month and payday isn’t for 3 more days and the reality is there isn’t enough food in the house?
What happens next is that Jesus does his best work.
It is here, when there isn’t enough to go around that Jesus does his best work.
When we don’t have enough time, money, food, or strength to go on that Jesus does his best work.
Jesus’ ministry is to bring good news to the poor, hurting, and broken. It is only when we are poor, hungry, lonely, and tired that Jesus has good news for us and this moment in John’s gospel is no different.
When we have nothing left, Jesus does His best work.
His best work is to take our nothing and mix it with everything and it becomes something.
This plays out in the local church when we say “Our budget is too small to change the world” or “We don’t have enough people to change the world.” or “We are too old to change the world.”
Jesus plus our “not enough” equals everything we need.
The disciple Philip didn’t get it. Philip didn’t understand. All Philip saw was “not enough” and he lived in a mentality of not having enough.
The disciple Andrew however, he got it. He understood. He saw the reality of not enough and saw the reality of Jesus. Andrew lived in a mentality of Jesus who is bigger than all of our “not enough.”
The little boy with the bread and fish understood Jesus. He got it. He had to trust Jesus that if he gave up his only food he would still get to eat.
When we understand what Andrew understood we change everything.
When we understand what the little boy understood we can change the world.
When you understand that Jesus takes all that we have, or don’t have, and can use it to change the world, then we can change the world.
 
When you understand that Jesus calls us to trust him with all that we have then we can change the world. 
When we live in a scarcity mentality everyone starves to death. Including us. We slowly watch our funds shrink and our church dwindle.
But when we live in with the mentality that Jesus is all we need then suddenly Jesus takes what we have and multiplies it and grows it and uses it to change the whole world. 
 
When we feed our neighbor we can change the world. Maybe in a big way like they find a cure for cancer or in a small way where they know they are loved by God and that God has not abandoned them. 
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Change the World 2 Welcome Luke 10:25-37

December 17th, 2014 by RevBT

- Change the world

- Last week was follow Jesus
- Welcome the hurting
- This one time I was in 3rd grade and riding my bike and went around a corner to fast and hit the back of a parked car, I launched off and went through the rear windshield. I landed in the front seat covered in glass. I crawled out through the front door. The people who owned the car found me, took me inside and cleaned me up. I was a mess. Not only was I bleeding from a head wound, my clothes were ripped, I was crying and snot was running out of my nose and my bike was broken. I hit that car so hard the front wheel was bent straight and the fork bent so far backwards that it pushed the front tire all the way to the back tire. The couple who owned the car took me in, got me ice and called my mom to come get me. Took me to hospital. Still had to pay for windshield and I went without a bike for a few months until I could pay for a new one with my own money.
- Maybe you have been there. Been the hurting and someone welcomed you in.
- Maybe you have been the one welcoming in the hurting person.
- Maybe it is physical hurt or emotional hurt but you are here today and you are hurting
- Maybe it is hurt caused by your own actions or hurt by someone else’s actions.
- Either way, listen to what Jesus talks about when we are hurt and when we see those around us who are hurt.
Luke 10:25-37 Common English Bible (CEB)

25 A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”

27 He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

28 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

29 But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. 31  Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 32  Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 33  A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34  The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35  The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ 36  What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”

37 Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
First thing to notice is that this guy decided to test Jesus, then when Jesus calls him out the man tries to put qualifiers on it. He tries to define his neighbor. He tries to define who is “in” and who is “out” People have done this since the beginning of time. We want a clearly defined list of who is “in” and who is “out” so that we know who to exclude and who to include.
Jesus isn’t stupid, he knows what this guy is trying to do so he comes back with a story. A story about two people who were on the outside and who made mistakes.
See, this guy who went down to Jericho was on the outside. He made a mistake and it got him in trouble and turned him into the outcast. The route from Jerusalem to Jericho is 18 miles and filled with blind curves and sharp rocks and lots of hiding places. As a result it is filled with robbers.
No sane person would ever go down this road by themselves.
As a result, this guy gets beat up and it is his own fault. He made a mistake and there are consequences for it!
As this man is laying their half-dead two people walked by. A Levite and a priest. they were people who were clearly part of the “in” crowd” and since this guy was not part of their group they kept on walking.
They ignored this man because he wasn’t part of their group. They had isolated themselves that anyone who wasn’t just like them was not worthy of their help and anyone who was like them wouldn’t have been caught in that predicament.
but then there is this Samaritan. A few things to consider about Samaritans.
- They were not part of the “in” crowd.
- They were considered “Half-Breeds”
- They trace their roots back to the first exile and those who were left behind to fend for themselves.
- They still exist. As of 2012 there were 751 Samaritans left in the world. They are a small group that lives in what is called the “West Bank” area of Israel.
This outsider saw this other outsider who needed help and he helped him. He got him up, cleaned him up and got him more care than he could manage on his own.
Jesus tells us 3 things in this
1. We help others even if their trouble is their own fault
2. Anyone from anywhere who is in need is our neighbor. Our help must be as wide as the love of God.
3. The help must be practical and not consist merely in feeling sorry. The priest and Levite felt pity but they did nothing.
Compassion to be real, must do something.
We can’t just say “I’ll pray for you.” we should pray for them, but we can also help.
The Samaritan didn’t judge him.
The Samaritan didn’t ignore the reality
The Samaritan simply offered real help. Tangible help.
The Samaritan didn’t do it because he was trying to earn eternal brownie points or make some old guy on a throne happy.
He did all that he did because it says he was moved with compassion.
In Greek the word for compassion is Splank-ni-zo-mai
Good Samaritan is Splanchnizomai (Splank-ni-zo-mai) moved in the bowels
- In the time of Jesus it was believed that your emotions were found in your bowels.
     – You would say “I love you with all of my bowels”
     – If you felt joy, hope, love, compassion it was that your bowels were moved.
     – The word here that we translate as compassion is very literally translated as the violent wrenching of a person bowels.
     – The question becomes, what moves your bowels?
     – What is it when you see it happening it wrenches your gut?
It’s like this: I need 2 volunteers. One a Steelers fan. One who is a fan of something else? Eat these chips, starts choking and collapses. It is his fault for eating these chips. Should have known better.
To be a neighbor is that we
- We don’t ask
- We don’t judge
- We just help.
Maybe it is hunger, homelessness, oppression, addiction, or something else that when you see it or hear about it wrenches your guts.
I say it flippantly and we laugh but the reality is the same. What is it that when you see it happening makes your blood boil or tears come to your eyes or that thought that you just have to do something.
It is there that you need to engage the world.
Don’t judge
Don’t ignore
Just help.
In California PA 20% of kids in grades k-12 go hungry every day.
In America 6% of kids will not eat a meal outside of school.
1 in for 4 people in the world do not have access to clean water
The average cost of diapers is more than 100 dollars per month per kid.
The Average person over the age of 65 will spend over 7,000 dollars in medical expenses every year.
Malaria claims the life of one person every 60 seconds.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more issues.
We are the church. We are the body of Christ in this world today. If these things don’t move us with compassion to act, what will? Jesus says we will be judged by how we loved our neighbor. These are our neighbors. What can we do?
It is up to us. We have to do something. What do we do? We can’t just sit around and pray. We must act.
Communion: Jesus believed in action and gave us an action to do together. A meal to offer to people to show them just how much Jesus loves them.
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Luke 4:14-21

December 15th, 2014 by RevBT

This sermon series follows the topics in a book called Change the World by Mike Slaughter. While preaching this series we also taught a small group through each chapter.

– Can we, CUMC actually do something that changes the world?

– Ever wanted to change the world?

– Ever thought it was too hard to change the world?

– We see all the pain and heartache and thing, what can I do? Where do I start? How could one person actually change the world?

– I mean, we talk about changing the world and some of us have been around long enough to see the world change without our input. How can we possibly change the world?

– I mean, some of us are barely old enough to brush our own teeth. How can we possibly change the world?

I think if we really want to change the world then we have to understand a few things.

  1. Jesus already changed the world.

– BC to AD

– Eternity bought and paid for

– If you hate change you can’t be a Christian. Jesus changed you from sinner to saved.

  1. Jesus says go and do what I did and even greater things than I did.

– John 14:12 Jesus says that those who believe in Jesus will also do the works that Jesus did and will do greater works than Jesus.

When we say we are changing the world, what we are really doing is exactly what Jesus did for those who do not know about the grace and freedom God brings.

So what did Jesus do?

When Jesus was about 30 he started his ministry and the first thing he did was stand up in his church and read some scripture.

Here, listen to the event unfold.

Luke 4:14-21 Common English Bible (CEB)

Jesus announces good news to the poor

14 Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. 17 The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me.

He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,

to proclaim release to the prisoners

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to liberate the oppressed,

19     and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

20 He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. 21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”

Jesus stands up and quotes from Isaiah 61 and then says this is about him. This is Jesus’ job. And if it is Jesus’ job, then as followers of Jesus it becomes our job. Our thing we do.

Jesus says he has been anointed by God. Meaning that God has set him apart for a specific job to do a specific thing.

Jesus was anointed to preach good news to the poor.

Jesus was anointed to proclaim release to the prisoners

Jesus was anointed to recover the sight of the blind

Jesus was anointed to liberate the oppressed

Jesus was anointed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s Favor.

There are no requirements on this.

The the gospel is that:

If you are poor, Jesus has good news for you.

If you are a prisoner Jesus brings you release

If you are blind, Jesus has sight for you

If you are oppressed, Jesus liberates you.

This becomes a dangerous message in a world where it is believed that if you are poor it is your fault. If you are in jail it is because you did something wrong and if you are blind it is because your DNA is faulty and if you are oppressed it is because you were born in the wrong part of the world.

It was so dangerous that after Jesus did this the people tried to throw him off a cliff and kill him.

As dangerous as it was, Jesus was undeterred. Jesus was not going to stop what he was doing just because people didn’t like it.

After this event Jesus set out on the road living in to his job description.

Jesus traveled the land healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the good news and calling people to follow him.

After 3 years of this Jesus laid down his life on the cross so that all those who were imprisoned by their own sin, blinded by their own bias and held captive by their past would find freedom in Christ.

Jesus did all of this because he understood his job and calling and now Jesus calls each of us to go and do the same thing.

John Wesley calls this the “mandate for all of Jesus’ followers.”

This then becomes a job description for all those who claim the name of Jesus.

There is no age requirement on this. If you are 19 or 91 this is still your calling. You are not exempt because you are too young or because you are too old.

– Abraham was 75 years old when he left home and founded a whole nation

– Paul was in his 60’s when he died as a martyr for his faith

– Timothy was 16 when he started his ministry with Paul

Your age does not matter

Your abilities do not matter

Your credentials do not matter

Your past does not matter

The fact that you are exhausted from trying so many tags in the past that didn’t work doesn’t matter.

Your calling to follow Jesus matters.

If you have breath in your lungs you have a calling to follow Jesus.

Jesus does not call the qualified. Jesus qualifies the called.

No matter what you have done, when you did it, why you did it, who you did it to with for or because of you are called by Jesus to bring good news to the poor, release to the prisoners, sight to the blind, and liberation to the oppressed.

You are called to proclaim the favor of God has come to all people. That there are do overs, second chances, fresh starts and a new day, that death and destruction and illness does not win. That cancer does not get the last word. That because Jesus loves you he took the suffering of the world so that we do not have to suffer for eternity. And this is good news for the poor and the blind and the captive and the oppressed.  .

There are enough churches that do not do this. Although, I don’t call them churches. I prefer to call them social clubs who don’t care about Jesus. And the end result of those social clubs is they will eventually close their doors and no one will notice.

There are enough people who claim to follow Jesus and have never shared the good news with another person, let alone with those in poverty.  And the end result for them will be when they enter the gate of eternity and Jesus says “I never knew you.”

We, California United Methodist Church, can’t be that kind of church and we cannot be that kind of people.

The world needs us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

The college needs us to bring freedom to those in prison.

The community needs us to proclaim the good news to the poor.

If what we are doing is not good news for the poor it is not from Jesus

If what we are dong does not proclaim release to the prisoner or bring sight to the blind or liberate the oppressed then it is not from Jesus.

If we do not proclaim the favor of God then we are not following Jesus.

But can you imagine if we do? That if we gather here and talk about the favor of God or we share the favor of God with our neighbors and co-workers can you imagine the difference it will make? Imagine what it would look like if we went outside our walls and brought good news to the poor who would never enter our building? Maybe there would be less violence in the middle east, maybe there would be less poverty in the Africa, and maybe there would be less drug abuse and crime here in California. Maybe there would be more peace in our own house?

Maybe that is what changing the world starts with. Proclaiming the favor of God in our own home. And maybe of we start there it will spread to the whole world.

So maybe, just maybe if we continue in the work of Jesus we can actually change the world.

Let us pray:

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Acts 9:1-10

December 12th, 2014 by RevBT

I am so excited to have you with us today.
If you are here with us, or if you are tuning in on TV or wherever you are hearing this, I am so excited!
Today is a big day.
Today we are talking about questions.
We all have questions.
Big questions and little questions.
I have 2 kids. 4 and 6. They ask all sorts of questions.
Little questions like: “why are hotdogs round?” or “Where does my hiney go when I stand up?”
Big questions like: “What should I be when I grow up?
We all have questions that we answer every single day. Little questions like “what should I wear today?”
One time we were at McDonalds and Samuel asks “What are calories?”
How do I adequately answer that for a 6 year old?
So I told him,  “Little gremlins that sneak into your closet at night and make your clothes smaller.”
but also important questions like “How fast should I drive past this police officer?”
but also the big giant questions of life
- “What does it all mean?”
- “What on earth am I here for?”
- “What can I do with my life?”
- “Can I do anything in my life with the mistakes I have made?”
Maybe you have those questions.
Maybe you have other questions you struggle with on a daily basis.
- Questions about fairness and equality.
- Questions about addiction and our past mistakes.
- Questions about why God heals some and not others?
- Questions about what on earth is the point of Reality TV?
Maybe if we are honest with ourselves we really struggle with those questions and even more.
But maybe there is a bigger question we need to answer. Maybe there is a question so big it is the single-handed most important question you will ever answer. And maybe the way we answer that question will determine the answers to every other question we have ever had!
Acts 9:1-10(NKJV) Pew Bible Page 156

9 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”

Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.[a] It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Paul was a very interesting man. Perhaps the most interesting man ever! Before this incident he was known as Saul and he was raised Jewish and was one of the most highly educated men in all of Israel.
He was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the highest ruling class of Jewish leaders.
Saul was trained under Gamaliel and was incredibly well-educated and could recite the old testament from memory.
He was incredibly traditional.
and he was incredibly judgmental
Anyone who was against the oldest rituals of Judaism was wrong and deserved to be punished.
Anyone who held a view different from his, needed to be punished.
So when Christians show up and start saying that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah he gets upset.
but Christians weren’t always called Christians. For a long time, and in some places today they still are, called followers of “The Way” which is a reference to Jesus saying “I am the way the truth and the life.” Followers of Jesus would say “I follow the way of Jesus”
Saul gets so upset he starts hunting down Christians. He votes to have Stephen killed and now he is off to Damascus where Christians were hiding out so they wouldn’t get killed.
At one point after this Paul calls himself the chief of sinners. He was a bad dude.
Paul gathers up a few other cronies to go with him to Damascus. On the way there Jesus shows up.
Jesus breaks in as a giant beam of light knocking Saul to the ground. And Saul looks up and says
“Who are you Lord?”
This is a defining moment for Saul. This moment changes everything.
See, for a Jewish man at that time to call someone Lord was to recognize that they were in charge. That to be called “Lord” meant that this person controlled everything.
Saul recognized that whoever it is that is powerful enough to drop him to his knees with bright light was powerful enough to be in charge.
Jesus responds and says “It is me, Jesus, who you are hurting.”
How could Saul possibly be hurting the most powerful being in all the universe? By hurting his people.
It’s like this, In my family, if you mess with one of us you mess with all of us. Jesus is saying the same thing. You have messed with his beloved so you messed with me.
Paul responds to Jesus in verse 6 with a statement that isn’t in every translation but is in the oldest manuscripts it says this: “So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
When the most powerful being in the universe shows up you are left with only one proper response. “What do you want me to do?”
We have been there. In our life we come face to face with powerful beings all the time and we ask them “What do you want me to do?”
Some of us are there now.
We come face to face with things we believe are more powerful than us and we ask “What do you want me to do?”
For some it is money. We see those large stacks of money and we say to the money “What do you want me to do?”
For some it is popularity, success, fame. We believe those things are the most powerful things in the universe and we say “What do you want me to do?”
For some it is an addiction. We get to a place where alcohol or pornography or drugs seem to be the most powerful thing in our universe and so we look at them and say “What do you want me to do?”
For some it is other people. Our significant other has isolated us and makes us feel like they are the most powerful thing in the world and that there is no escape and so we say “What do you want me to do?”
If we are honest with ourselves we have been there more than we care to admit.
It has been said all too often that things we thought were powerful and life-giving enslave us and eventually kill us.
We have gone down those roads and ended up lonely, finding only that what we thought would fill us and save us has left us broken and empty
If we are honest, some of us in this room are there right now. Having chased after all the things we thought would bring us joy, only to find they are lacking and we are lonely, tired, broke down, and ready to give up.
If you are there, then there is good news.
If you are traveling the road of abuse, addiction, loneliness, and sorrow there is good news for you today. It might be the best news you have ever heard. It is this: In those places of shame and regret Jesus shows up.
Jesus is there. Sometimes like a blinding light and sometimes like an invitation from a friend to come to church with them.
No matter what you have done, why you did it, who you did it to, for, with, because of, or how many times you did it Jesus is there.
Jesus shows up at the right time in the midst of all that you’ve got going on and says to you and to me “I love you  more than your past or your regrets or your shame and I will do anything for you if you will follow me.”
This Jesus isn’t just some weird old guy waiting to yell at you.
This Jesus is the Jesus who is God and considered his Godness as nothing. Putting it to the side Jesus became flesh and blood. He slithered out the birth canal of a virgin and walked this earth as human. Jesus lived a perfect life and walked all the right paths.
As a result of that he upset a few people. Because Jesus understood that money, fame, success, and all the other stuff the world provides is not all-powerful he refused to sell out and as a result that made the people who did sell out very upset.
It made the people who did sell out so upset that they had him killed. Strung up on a cross he was left naked to die.
Jesus died so that those of us who have traveled the wrong road and served the wrong things could have new life. So that we could be in right standing.
But Jesus didn’t stay dead. Death wasn’t the last page for Jesus. A lot of times we make that mistake. We think that after we have gone down the wrong road and found ourselves dead that it is the last thing and that we are done and not good for anything.
but death is never the end. and to prove that, after three days Jesus walked out of that tomb and is alive now. In heaven, until his return.
Jesus coming back from the dead wasn’t just a nice trick, it was to show us that even when we think we have reached the end, we haven’t.
Jesus is more powerful than money, power, sex, drugs, fame, popularity. Jesus is more powerful than your boss, your professor, and your friends and family.  Jesus is stronger than your addiction, more loving than your family, and has a desire for you to be with him. Jesus wants nothing more than for you to live and experience the freedom and grace that is freely available to all who would follow Jesus.
the only decision left is: will you follow Jesus or not. Jesus loves you more than life itself and Jesus is calling you to follow Him. The question is will you? The answer to that question is the most important question you will ever have to answer in your life.
How you answer that matters. When Saul answered that question it changed everything. It changed his name to Paul and it sent him from killing Christians to spreading the church throughout the whole world.
When we answer that question and we begin to follow we then ask Jesus “What will you have me do?” And Jesus’ answer is to change the world. Do something that makes this whole world better. Whether that is head to Africa and help with the Ebola Outbreak or just go home and love your kids and introduce them to the Jesus, but whatever it is. because of Jesus’ love for you, you are called to change the world.
Can you imagine if each of us here were to ask the question to Jesus “What will you have me do?” and from there start doing it? How different would our community, campus, state, and even the world be if we did that?
That is a beautiful site and it starts with us following Jesus and saying “What will you have me do?”
Close in Prayer:
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Privilege, Need, and Care?

December 11th, 2014 by RevBT

One of my favorite authors, Peter Rollins, tells a a story in which a young minister is sitting in her house one day when she hears a banging on the door. When she opens the door she discovers one of the church members standing before her. It is obvious that he is exhausted from running to her house and is barely holding back some tears.
“What’s wrong” asks the minister, seeing that this man is obviously in distress.
“Please can you help”, replied the man, “A kind and considerate family in the area is in great trouble. The husband recently lost his job and the wife cannot work due to health problems. They have three young children to look after and on top of all that the man’s mother lives with them as she is unwell and needs constant care. They have no money at the moment and if they don’t pay the rent by tomorrow morning the landlord is going to kick them all onto the street, even though its winter”.
“That’s terrible”, said the minister, “Of course we will help. Anyway how do you know them”? “I’m the landlord” replied the man.

 

I think this story tells us about what it means to have compassion and look out for those who do not have the same privileges we do. The landlord was filled with great privilege. As a land owner he had rights and influence that the tenants did not have. Instead of exploiting his privilege he used it to help those in need.

Perhaps this is a proper understanding of what those of us with privilege can do to help those without? Regardless of the privilege that we have we can use it to make sure those without are taken care of.

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Acts 6:1-7 The Church Works

December 10th, 2014 by RevBT

- Acts series finishes next week with Acts 9
- Then we start Change the World, along with book study. If we need to add a third night we can do that.
- I don’t know how many of you know but I just finished up the process of ordination. It was a 7 year process. It started on December 25th 2007 when I finally admitted to myself that God was calling me to be a UMC pastor and that process ended on June 8th 2014 when the Bishop laid hands on me and my mentor put a stole on me and told me to take up the work of an Elder! It was a really long process, papers. Several times throughout the process I had to sit down and be interviewed by 50 people who can ask me any question they want about anything who then vote if I should move forward in the process or not. At one point I had to answer over 500 questions about myself and then sit down with a psychiatrist and go over my answers. Random questions like True or false “I enjoy reading mechanic magazines” or “I like being a woman.” This was not an easy thing to do or get around or put up with but I did it because I felt I was committed to what God has called me to do with my life.
- Ever worked for something so hard that you were so committed to?
- You worked really hard at something? Maybe you had to sit in front of the Tenure board at the university or you worked hard at that promotion
- Maybe you gave your whole life to a singular cause and you finally get to see it come to fruition.
- Or maybe sometimes you didn’t get it. Things got in the way and derailed you from what you thought was your dream.
- Maybe you sit here today and you see your dream a far way off but you see this thing that threatens to derail your entire progress. What do you do then?
that’s where the apostles were in our scripture today. They knew what they were called to do and they were doing their best but then complaints arose that throated to derail their entire mission.
Here, listen to the events unfold.

Acts 6:1-7 Common English Bible (CEB)

About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service. The Twelve called a meeting of all the disciples and said, “It isn’t right for us to set aside proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables. Brothers and sisters, carefully choose seven well-respected men from among you. They must be well-respected and endowed by the Spirit with exceptional wisdom. We will put them in charge of this concern. As for us, we will devote ourselves to prayer and the service of proclaiming the word.” This proposal pleased the entire community. They selected Stephen, a man endowed by the Holy Spirit with exceptional faith, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. God’s word continued to grow. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly. Even a large group of priests embraced the faith.
The apostles, that is the first 12 followers of Jesus were given one task. To make disciples of all nations. These were words that came directly from Jesus and they were going to do it.
So they started doing and one of the things they knew was that the best way to make disciples was with food. That when they can offer hungry people food they can then talk to them about Jesus. So they started a food bank.
Once that church was going all those men were on their way to start other churches and reach new people.
Soon after all this was done complaints arose. Complaints always arise in the church world. People are always upset that something seems unfair. A few people began complaining that certain people were not getting what they thought was a fair share. What is interesting is that this scripture doesn’t say if the accusations were true. I think that is important because it doesn’t matter if it was true. It matters that there were complaints.
Complaining can derail ministry and the church. Even if the complaints aren’t real. So the apostles had to deal with the issue.
The apostles knew their calling and also knew their limits.
The apostles understood that acting beyond their limits would hurt their calling.
The apostles understood that there are followers of Jesus who are called and gifted just waiting to get to work.
The apostles understood that there are people who are better at food distribution than they are.
They dealt with it by picking 7 people whose jobs were specifically designed to oversee the food distribution. They didn’t just pick anyone. They picked six people who had exceptional faith, great character and were greek. All of them were greek people going to lead greek people.
The first church leaders were people who loved their people and asked a lot of them, but loved them deeply and wanted what was best for them.
We get this, I think if we are honest with ourselves we understand all of this. We’ve been there and some of you might even be there right now.
- As followers of Jesus we all have callings. We have general callings and specific callings.
     – We have general callings that as a follower of Jesus we are all called to follow God, share the gospel, and care for those in need.
     – You are uniquely called by God for a specific mission and calling on this planet.
          – People will sometimes ask me what that calling is and my response is this:
               – It is that thing, that when you do it you lose all track of time. Talking about it makes you excited, and you live for it! It might be your job, or it might be that hobby, or that thing you have always wanted to do.
               – When we live out that calling we are energized and excited and happier than you have ever been.
               – When we do things outside of that calling then suddenly we get exhausted. Tired, burned out.
               – Psalm 139 says that God put our days in order before any of them came to be. That thing you love is from God and beautiful and you must do it because anything else will be pure drudgery.
- When we admit that we are a Christian these are things we are called to do. If we don’t do them, not only are we tired, cynical, grumpy, and just plain miserable we are also missing out on all that God has for us and desires for us to be a part of.
- Like the apostles if we are living outside of our calling then we aren’t doing what God has called us to and the whole of the Kingdom of God will suffer.
- We need to be aware of our calling and our limits to that calling. There are lots of very good things we can do that are not part of our calling and we need to say no to them so we can say yes to what God has called us to do.
- This week the job of each of us is to invite someone to church next week for Back To Church Sunday. This is a big deal. This isn’t something we can enter into lightly.
- We can easily say “someone else” will invite people to church so I don’t need to.
- We can easily say “We pay the pastor to invite people”
- I can all to easily say “The congregation will invite someone, so I don’t need to.”
- What happens if we say someone else will? Then suddenly no one else does it.
- We are all about the business of the church and the expectation to invite someone.
- We also know we can’t do it alone. I am with you and inviting and I know that you are with me in this.
When we each live into our calling and we are each inviting people to church this week it means that new people will show up. They will sit in your spot. They might talk different and not know our traditions. They won’t know when to sit or stand, they won’t know about tithing or that you shouldn’t talk during the service.
When we take serious our calling and living into our calling then Acts 6:7 becomes true: “The number of disciples increased.” But they won’t be disciples the first time they walk in the door.
They might have blue hair, or strange piercings, or have significant others who are a different gender than your significant other. They might not believe the same things you do. They might smell bad or not wear the same clothes you do.
But what they will have is a connection to the church because someone here loved them enough to invite them to church where they will hear about the grace of Jesus that is for all people, everywhere!
Let’s Pray.
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Ferguson, New York, Violence and the toys kids play with.

December 8th, 2014 by RevBT

listening-blog-1024x876I have two kids, 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, and they are amazing. I love them more than life itself.

However, sometimes the 6-year-old will take my daughter’s toy. My daughter will ask him to stop and give it back, and we have taught them both manners and how to be polite when they feel wronged. But sometimes my 6-year-old doesn’t listen. As a result my daughter will ask again, a little louder. When he still doesn’t listen she starts to yell. When my 6-year-old still doesn’t stop my daughter gets louder and louder and calls him names and then finally when she can no longer tolerate it she hits him.

This isn’t right.

We have very strict non-violence rules in our house and as a result my daughter spends some time in a “time-out.” Acting out with physical violence does not solve the problem and yet my daughter was being wronged and she acted out with violence because nothing else was working.

The violence isn’t right but when people are wronged, ignored, and treated as less than human it shouldn’t surprise us when there is violence. Perhaps the violence is a last resort of someone desperately trying to be acknowledged and listened to in a world that has been ignoring them for so long they can no longer tolerate it. I am curious how much violence we could stop if we simply listened to what the other person was asking.

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Acts 4:32-37 The Church Gives.

December 8th, 2014 by RevBT

After a brief hiatus on posts I am going to get back into posting my sermons. Podcasting seems to have also gone missing so I will try and get those back up and running in the next few weeks.

I will pick up where I left off on the sermons, including the Acts Series.

What the early church did, what it calls us to do.

We have learned that the church prays, helps, serves, gathers, and eats.

Today it calls us to be giving. That each of us are called to be giving to the work of the kingdom of God.

Giving can be a hard thing and it can be hard to talk about.

If you have seen the ice bucket challenge we can see evidence of how hard it can be to talk about giving.

There are people protesting the ice bucket challenge saying that we shouldn’t be pressured into giving and that giving should be done in secret and not publicized.

Meanwhile, the ALS association is approaching the 100 million dollar mark in fundraising. This same time last year they raised 2 million dollars.

So what we have is a dichotomy of people who are against talking about giving. And people who are willing to talk about giving because they are giving.

The people who are talking about giving are the people who are giving.

If the ice bucket challenge is any indication than those who talk about giving are the most giving people.

And since  the church is called to be giving we then must talk about giving.

See, Jesus gave us His entire being as an atonement for our since.

God loved the whole world so much that God, Gave!

If we as the body of Christ are not giving then we are not following in the footsteps of the god we say we love or the savior who died for us.

The early Christians understood just how much God had given them and they understood their call to give so that others may know Jesus.

Acts 4:32-37 Common English Bible (CEB)

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need. Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (that is, “one who encourages”), was a Levite from Cyprus. He owned a field, sold it, brought the money, and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles.

This tells us that there were no needy people in the church. I don’t think this means everyone had EVERYTHING they wanted but I think it tells us that everyone in that early church had food, shelter, clothing, they had their basic needs met. The early followers of Jesus met these needs by doing whatever it took to make sure the needs were met.

How did they do that? How did this early church of more than 5,000 people make sure that everyone had their needs met?

  1. The believers understood that everything they have is a gift from God.

– Genesis 1:29 God gives us food

– Deuteronomy 8:18 God gives us the ability to work

– 2 Timothy 1:7 God has given us a spirit of power and strength

– James 4:6 God gives us grace

– 1 John 5:11 God gives us eternal life through Jesus.

– John 3:16 God gives us Jesus.

Everything we have, every breath we take, our job, our money, our health, our abilities. Everything is because God gave it to us. Our salvation and eternal life are gifts from God.

  1. The apostles would tell everyone about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

– The simple message that Jesus lived a perfect life, was killed for our sins, and then rose again that we may have eternal life with Jesus was a message they would tell over and over again to make sure the spiritual needs of the people were met.

– This message has existed for nearly 2,000 years and has brought countless people to eternal life because it is the only way to gain eternal life.

– Acts 4:12 Peter writes that there is no other name under heaven to be saved. The only way to have eternal life is through following Jesus. The church has been entrusted with that message for nearly 2,000 years and it must be shared with everyone who will listen.

  1. Those who had more than they needed would give so that those with physical needs would have their needs met.

– They would take houses and property and all that excess in their lives and get rid of it so they could help those in need.

Because of the people’s giving the apostles were able to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

I think all of this means a few things for us as a church and as California United Methodist Church.

  1. It means that we must recognize that all that we have is a gift from God.

– You may not really like your job, but it is a gift from God.

– You may not have all you think you need but what you have is a gift from God.

  1. The church is the only institution on the planet that can meet the spiritual needs of the whole world.

– We have been entrusted with the message of God’s grace. There are people in California who have never heard that message. If we don’t tell them, they will spend an eternity separated from God.

  1. It means that we who have much are called to give so that those who have none will have their needs met.

– Jesus says that the measure of our faith is found in how we treat those who have less than us.

– You may think you have very little, but if you are sitting here today with at least 1 penny in your pocket you have more money than 70% of the world.

– If you make 8,000 dollars per year you are in the top 20% richest people in the world.

– If you make 30,000 dollars per year you are in the top 1% of the richest people in the world.
When we give to meet people’s needs it reminds us that there are always people who need our help and we are always in a position to help someone else.

So, if we know we are called to be giving, and we know that a giving church is a growing and vital church how do we express that?

We express it through our offering of a tithe to the church.

That is 10% of our income to the ministries of the church.

– Yes, that is hard.

– Yes it takes planning

– Yes, it takes putting trust in God to meet our needs

– Yes, lots of churches harp on this as a measure of our faithfulness.

– Yes, it is an old testament command to give 10% of our earnings to the church

– Yes, if you don’t do it nothing will happen.

– Yes, if everyone gives 10% of their income the church will be explosive and vital and amazing

– Yes, if you give 10% of your income it says you believe that God has given you more and you are returning your portion to the church to meet the needs of God.

– Yes, if you give 10% to this church it says you are committed to the ministry of this church

– Giving enables the ministry of the church to happen. It keeps our doors open, it enables us to do ministry and it allows us to do the things we need to reach our community and college with the grace of Jesus.

To that end, if a church is giving then we must also be a giving church. So I would like to invite my kingdom assignment people to come forward.

– Kingdom Assignments

– Church was chosen by the district, After praying I chose these people.

– Take this money, turn it into more money, then give it away. We will hear back from you in November.

– One last thing Jesus gave all of us before He offered himself for us was a reminder. A reminder of the cost. A reminder of the blessing.

– Communion

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