What’s on your stole?

July 30th, 2014 by RevBT
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So this sermon was a sermon I had been working on for years! It is a sermon based on what it feels like to finally be ordained and what it feels like to finally be done with the process of ordination. Since this sermon had been burning in me for so long there are no notes. So enjoy the audio. You will need to click this link to listen to it via iTunes.

 

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I’m back!

July 29th, 2014 by RevBT

I know, it has been awhile. I feel horrible. I really do. But we moved and things got hectic. I’m sorry. I will try to get back to regular updates soon. I have some great ideas. but for now, know that I’ll be posting more again. In fact I have another post scheduled for tomorrow morning at 8:15am.

Have a great day! See you on the blog!

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Dealing with Discouragement

June 11th, 2014 by RevBT

I sit here now about 60 hours after being ordained an Elder with the United Methodist Church and it feels great but my thoughts keep wandering back to tenth grade when my guidance counselor told me that I would never amount to anything because I was just a poor kid from a broken family in a nowhere town.

Turns out they were wrong but it was very discouraging.

Sometimes people come along into our lives and they do nothing but bring discouragement and tear down the people they are near.

Sometimes there are people we surround ourselves with that whisper in our ear words of failure and impossibilities and excuses why we shouldn’t try anything.

Sometimes those voices are so prevalent in our life we begin to think it is our own voice or even the voice of God.

If we aren’t careful those people will destroy us. Their voices will silence ours and their negativity will eat us alive.

We must ignore those people and their voices.

We must not listen to those voices.

Instead we listen to the youth leader who says “I believe in you” or the seminary professor who says “I won’t let you fail.”

In a world full of discouragement and emotional beat downs we must listen to voices of encouragement and joy.

John 16:33 says “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” 

Who are the people tearing you down? What are those voices whispering in your ears that keep you from having joy?

Get away from them. Ignore them. Forgive them.

But above all, find a new set of people that will speak new words into your life.

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Are We These People? Part 6

June 5th, 2014 by RevBT
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This is the last sermon in our series on the Woes of Jesus. Feel free to leave a comment or download the podcast on iTunes.

This is the last time the Pharisees are mentioned in the book of Matthew

The last words Jesus speaks to the Pharisees are here, and they are words of Judgement. In these 7 woes it is as if Jesus has said everything he needs to say and there is nothing left for people who aren’t going to change anyway.

He finishes off his woes with, in my opinion the harshest words he has ever spoken.

Prayer: Jesus, we don’t want to be like this.

29 “How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 You say, ‘If we had lived in our ancestors’ days, we wouldn’t have joined them in killing the prophets.’ 31 You testify against yourselves that you are children of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, complete what your ancestors did. 33 You snakes! You children of snakes! How will you be able to escape the judgment of hell? 34 Therefore, look, I’m sending you prophets, wise people, and legal experts. Some of them you will kill and crucify. And some you will beat in your synagogues and chase from city to city. 35 Therefore, upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been poured out on the earth, from the blood of that righteous man Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. 36 I assure you that all these things will come upon this generation.

These are harsh words? So what do we do with them?

Verse 29 – covers up the past
It was horrible but if we make it look pretty, put enough hard work or money into it then it will be okay.
Verse 30 – Excuses the past
It wasn’t us, so it isn’t our fault
We weren’t there when the choice is made so it isn’t our fault.
Verse 31 – Pretends the past doesn’t impact us today
The decisions our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents made have an impact on us every day.
If your grandparents were alcoholics then you are impacted by it.
The choices you make will impact your future generations
Verse 32 – Accepts the past dictates the future
Jesus is telling the pharisees to do what their ancestors did. This is a prophecy to his own crucifixion.
Our own past will have a direct impact on the future
Verse 33 – Recognizes the past is inescapable
No matter how much you cover things up, hide it, move to a new town, your past will still come back to you.
Verse 34 – Prophecies the past will happen again
Jesus is sending the disciples
Tradition holds that every single disciple was killed for their faith except for John.
Peter was crucified upside down
James was thrown off the top of the temple
Mark was Hanged
Jude was dragged behind a horse through Alexandria Egypt
Verse 35 – Acknowledges that the past is cyclical
Abel is the first murder of the righteous in the OT
Zechariah is the last murder of the righteous in the OT
From beginning to end good people got killed for doing what was right instead of what was easy.

The past has profound implications on our current situation and our future

We want to say the past doesn’t matter, but it does.

If not for your past you would not be the person you are today.

Your past is vital to your existence today.

So the question becomes, what is your past?

Is it a past full of mistakes? Full of hurt and pain that you would prefer to ignore? Maybe it involves addiction, divorce, loss, abuse, crime, loneliness, doubt, or confusion, or maybe all of the above.

If that is your past then you have a couple options.

- Do what the pharisees did, cover it up, excuse it, and pretend it isn’t important.

- Do what Jesus did, accept it, recognize is, and deal with it.

We see people picking the pharisees way all the time. They do it when the president changes we say that the last guy was horrible until they left, then they are the greatest. We see it when students get a new teacher. We complain about them until they are gone, then we love them. We do it with pastors, we complain about them until they are gone but then they were the greatest pastor ever. We do it to our loved ones. We complain and gossip and argue, but then when they are gone it is as if we forget that stuff and we can’t say anything bad about the deceased.

What we need is more people who pick the way that leads to Jesus.

One way leads to Jesus’ last words to us being harsh words of Judgement, the other leads to hearing Jesus say “I am with you always”

I don’t know what your past is, I won’t pretend to explain why your past was what it was.

What I know, is that because of your past you are here today. That matters.

what I know is that because of your past you are who you are.

What I know is that because of your past, there can be a future if you want.

In following Jesus we find that our past is real, it hurt, and is made us who we are today.

We have the opportunity to make a new future. Starting today you can have a future that doesn’t live in our past and doesn’t repeat itself. We can break the cycle of our past and start something brand new.

Jesus’ work on the cross is so that we can have a better and brighter future.

Jesus’ resurrection only happened because he died but it ends the cycle of death for those who love Jesus.

Through the resurrection of Jesus we don’t have to exist in that cycle of history that continues to repeat itself generation after generation.

So then, you want a fresh start? You want to break that cycle of pain you have been in? Then it is here, at this table that you can do that. Jesus gives us a tangible way to experience the breaking of that cycle of our past.

Here at this table of communion we get to taste of Jesus’ death and find that we are free from our past. That it may have impacted us, but it no longer defines us.
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Are We These People? Part 5

June 3rd, 2014 by RevBT
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We are continuing our series on the woes Jesus pronounces on the pharisees! Enjoy and feel free to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
Whitewashed so no one would touch it.
- Numbers 19:16 says touching a grave makes you unclean for 7 days.

Unclean is a big deal.
- Can’t be around people
- No one can touch you
- Can’t go to worship
- Can’t eat off plates that clean people use
- Can’t sit in the same chairs or touch anything a clean person will touch

No one wanted to be unclean, so if you were unclean you had to be made clean again. Numbers 19:17-19 tells the process of being clean again.

- Verses 17-19 cleaning process:
- Ashes from purification offering
- Running water
- Use Hyssop branch  and sprinkle it on the tent, furnishings and the person who is unclean
- Do this on day 3 and day 7
- If this is not done the person is cut off from the assembly

This is simply exhausting to deal with and plan out. So no one wanted to accidentally make themselves unclean. To avoid being accidentally unclean they would paint the graves bright white.

Sometimes they would be decorated in jewels or designs but always bright so no one would make themselves unclean.

They may have looked absolutely beautiful, but don’t touch them because then you are unclean. There is nothing holy or good about a tomb. No matter how good it looks, it is full of death.

Jesus is saying that the pharisees are the same way.

They are great on the outside, beautiful, dressed well, speak well, well liked, and just great all the time. But what is on the inside is nothing but death and destruction.

The question for us is:

What do you look like? And what is really on the inside?

If you are clean on the inside and the outside no problem.

If you are a mess outside and inside then no problem.

If you are a mess on the outside and clean on the inside, no problem.

If you are clean on the outside and dead on the inside. There is a problem.

How do you know if you are dead on the outside? Look in the mirror.

How do you know if you are dead on the inside?
- Living people feel things. If you don’t feel compassion, sadness, joy, love. Then you are probably dead on the inside.
- Living people do things. If you don’t do anything, you are probably dead on the inside. Bible, prayer, evangelism. If you don’t share the gospel you are dead inside. 95% never share.
- Living people get rid of the things in side them that are harmful. If you are living with secret sin or dangerous habits you are probably dead on the inside. Porn, booze, gambling, drugs, whatever it is.

The good news of the gospel is that death doesn’t stop Jesus’ work. Jesus can still use you. Jesus is in the business of bringing life out of death, and business is good.

Jesus wants to bring you back to life, to give you your own resurrection.

Jesus wants you to walk out of your own whitewashed tomb.

It isn’t just about some event 2,000 years ago or some event at some point in the future. Resurrection is right now

Aldersgate day. Wesley’s warmed heart was a resurrection.  May 24,1738

John 10:10 Jesus says “I came to give you life and life abundantly.”

You aren’t supposed to be dead. You aren’t called to be dead on the inside. You are called to life and an abundant life.

the first step is admitting that you are dead inside.

The second step is inviting Jesus to bring you back to life.

The third step is making sure you don’t end up dead on the inside again. Maybe this means you need help or counseling or someone to talk to or getting rid of the unhealthy snacks in your house or throwing out your computer or whatever it means it is about making those changes in your life so that you don’t end up dead on the inside again.

So then, may you be clean on the inside. May Jesus clean you up and make you alive again.

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Are we These People? Part 4

May 21st, 2014 by RevBT
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This week we continue to look at the “Woes” Jesus proclaims on the Pharisees. Feel free to take a listen via my podcast on iTunes.

Matthew 23:25-26

Washing dishes. I hate it. Barely touches water.

Who wants to drink from a gross cup, even if it is nice on the outside.

Pharisees had a very complicated and involved process for cleaning the outside of the cup. But there was no need to clean the inside.

The Pharisees were concerned for ritualistic purification and neglect the contents of the cup.

They neglect the internal purity for outward attention

Jesus cares more about the inside than the outside.

What is inside is what comes out and makes everything unclean – Matthew 15:11

If we are honest, all of us here are like the Pharisees. You and me are like these Pharisees. We all spend more time cleaning up the outside than we do the inside. We all dress ourselves up in such a way as to make the outside look good and hide the inside. There are a few reasons we do this. To hide our hurts To hide our inadequacies (or supposed inadequacies) To hide our secrets

We have scrubbed ourselves nice and clean on the outside with nice clothes, a fancy car, and a big house. But inside we are dying. Our own past haunts us and we are barely alive on the inside.

What do we do?

We clean up the inside.
- Psalm 51 is after David got caught having an affair. On the outside, everything looked good. Looked like he got away with it and everything was perfect. But inside he was guilty as ever.
- So I think the first piece to cleaning up the inside is praying to God for forgiveness and help.

Ephesians 5:11-14
- Then getting help. There is no shame in getting help. Maybe professional counseling or rehab, or maybe just talking to someone.

If your inside is dirty but the outside is clean then we start with seeking forgiveness from God and getting help from other people.

If we continue to live as a cup that is dirty on the inside and clean on the outside we will live a double life that will eat us alive from the inside out.

It will eat us alive until it has consumed us completely and the inside comes outside.

So then, to those of you living a double life. May you seek god for forgiveness and get the help you need.

 

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Are we these people? Part 3

May 16th, 2014 by RevBT

We continue to look at some of the harsh words of Jesus and answer the questions: If this is what Jesus is against, what is Jesus for? How do we not be these kind of people? And if we are like this, how do we stop?

So Let’s pray and dig in.

Prayer: Jesus, don’t let us be like this.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” – Matthew 23:23-24

Hold up spices
On the surface this looks good; the Pharisees are so good at following the law that they give a tenth of everything even that little bit of spices. Now, just like so many other texts there is more going on here that we aren’t going to realize unless we lived in that time.

Deuteronomy 14:22-23 “you shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.”

Now, nowhere in those verses did it say anything about tithing spices. But the Pharisees still gave a tenth of their spices. Jesus says they are so good at following rituals they even give what isn’t required of them.
But then Jesus says they have neglected the more important matters: Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness.
Let’s look at these more important matters. First, Justice,

Psalm 37:28 For the LORD loves justice, And does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.

Psalm 72:4 He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor.

The Hebrew word for justice is “Mishpat”

This speaks not of justice like someone steals something and they get punished it speaks of justice for those who are oppressed and needy. Those who can’t help themselves and need help from others.

Second, Mercy, Proverbs 14:21 He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.Proverbs 14:31 He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
Greek is Elias and it literally means to show favor to those who are less fortunate than you.
Third, faithfulness,
Greek is Pistos
It is that stuff you believe in. The convictions you have.

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

Language, websites, money, what you say and do, lying, cheating, everything matters, Personal purity and adherence to God matters
Jesus is saying that there are more important things than “our walk with God” and being “religious” Now, if this wasn’t enough of an insult to the Pharisees Jesus takes it one step further. He says in verse 24 “you blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”

Now, who wants a gnat in their drink? Besides the fact that it is gross and disgusting it is also unclean.

Leviticus 11:20 “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you.”

So not only is have a gnat in your drink gross it is also against God’s law. Because of this law and the Pharisees desire to be clean the Pharisees had a very elaborate way of drinking from a glass. The glass had strainers on it, and if you wanted to drink you had to take off the strainers drink put the strainers back on.

Imagine a whole table of Pharisees doing this. Second Jesus says they are swallowing a camel.

Camels are also gross and no one wants to eat a camel but it is also unclean again in Leviticus 11:4 it says do not eat the camel.

The Pharisees would have been really, REALLY upset by all of this because essentially what Jesus is saying is that they are so good at following the rules they have forgotten what was really important Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness. Jesus says it is more important to help those who can’t help themselves than to look good. Jesus says it is more important to be merciful to those around you than to follow the rules. Jesus says it is more important to be faithful to God than to follow any ritual. Jesus did not say that the rituals were unimportant. He did not say stop doing it. Jesus said do them and do the important stuff. The entirety of these two verses comes down to Jesus saying that the Pharisees became so concerned with looking good they neglected the suffering of the world. Jesus said that to the Pharisees it became so important to look good that they became bad at the things that mattered. What happened that made these Pharisees neglect the suffering in the world? To neglect the people and only be concerned with looking good? They began to think that it was only about them and their relationship with God. Have you ever heard people say “It’s between me and God?” This is a faulty saying, it is a selfish saying.

It is a saying that is the beginning of looking good and ignoring the suffering of the world. God wants more than that from us.

God wants to save us, but after that he wants to use us.

God wants to use us to end the suffering in the world and he cannot do that until we stop thinking it is between us and God and start caring more about the Mishpat, Elias, and the Pistos than our own looks.

So then, what if that is us? What if we care more about looking good than doing good? What do we do?
- Start doing good. Reaching out and helping those around us.

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Are we these people? Part 2

May 7th, 2014 by RevBT
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This is part 2 of our sermon series on the woes Jesus pronounced on the Pharisees. This one actually has audio with it which you can download on iTunes as a podcast.
When we see a WWJD bracelet we must remember that flipping tables and yelling at people is a valid option.
We continue to look at some of the harsh words of Jesus and answer the questions: If this is what Jesus is against, what is he for? How do not be these kind of people? And if we are like this, how do we stop?

So Let’s pray and dig in.

Prayer: Jesus, don’t let us be like this.

Jesus is yelling at the Pharisees. He first called them Hypocrites, now he calls them blind guides.
- Throw back to Matthew 15:14 this is a big insult because picture one blind person trying to guide another blind person around. They will eventually fall into a pit.
- Jesus calls them blind guides because they are talking about when it is okay to not fulfill a promise they made.

Verses 17-18:
The pharisees would say things like “I swear, by the altar of God that I will clean my room.” Then not do it and when confronted says “I didn’t swear by the gold on the altar so it doesn’t count.”
- They would put so much qualifiers on things that they always had a way out.
- Here is a picture of the altar, what would happen is when people made their sacrifice they would walk up and place whatever their gift or offering was on the top.

Verse 19:
Jesus says that the only reason the gold matters or the offering matters is because the altar matters and the temple matters.
- Exodus 29:37 says that anything that touches the altar is made holy simply because it has touched the altar.

Verses 20-22
- Those who promise something are supposed to do it.

This seems a little foreign until we break it down.

One of my biggest failures in ministry ties right to this verse. When I was at my very first appointment I was still in seminary and I was in Pittsburgh. I got a call that the oldest member of our church was in the hospital in Pittsburgh and asked if I would go. Of course I said yes. I’ll be there as soon as class lets out. Well class let out and I drove home.  I don’t know why I did that. I got to my car and said “I don’t feel like going to the hospital.” So I went home.

Later, when she got home from the hospital I had to answer the question “You said you would visit. Why didn’t you?” Suddenly “I didn’t feel like it” wasn’t a valid reason.

I said I would do something and then didn’t. Thankfully she was loving and forgiving but it is one of my biggest regrets in ministry.

Jesus is saying, if you say you are going to do something, then do it. No one should have to remind you, nag you, or beg you to do what you said you would do.

Instead what often gets said is “I don’t feel like it.” or “I just said yes to get them to leave me alone.”

What Jesus is saying is none of that is valid. If you said it, you are supposed to do it. No qualifiers, excuses. Do it.

In Matthew 5:37 Jesus says this whole idea much more succinctly. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”

When you say you will do something do it.

So then, if Jesus hates it when people make excuses and qualifiers on their promises, what does Jesus desire?

Jesus desires:
1. People who do what they say.
2. People who are trustworthy to accomplish their tasks

Are we these people? Are we blind guides who don’t live up to their words?
1. Do we say our membership vows and not live up to them? You who are members promised to serve this church with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. So if you only show up on Sundays and do not tithe and do not even pray for the church you are not fulfilling what you promised to do.
2. Do we say we will do things and then just blow them off? maybe at work? With your family? “I’ll be home at 5” and then we go out with friends and roll in around 10?

What if we are? What do we do?
1. Say “No” to things you don’t want to do or aren’t going to do. If you know you won’t do something, just say no.
2. Say yes to what you will do.
3. Seek forgiveness and apologize when you don’t live up to your word.

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