Here at Lutie's Place we have been in a sermon series called "Covenant," where we are making our way through the 5 different covenants that God made with people in the Bible. The first week, we talked about Noah and the Covenant that God made to not destroy the world, placing a rainbow in the sky as a sign.
This past week, we talked about the Covenant that God made with Abram (changed to Abraham) and how God promised to make Abraham's descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.
I have really enjoyed this series as it has been fun to read about these special people in the Scriptures and how they interact with God, but more importantly, how God interacts with them.
In the VERY long story of Abraham, we read about how late in life, Abraham and Sarah finally have a son and they name him Isaac, which in Hebrew means "he laughs." This is a recollection of how Sarah (then Sarai) laughed at God when he told them they would have a child at such an old age. Honestly, If I were 100 years old and God told me I would have a child, I'd probably laugh in disbelief too.
When we get to the story about Isaac, it's as if the story becomes very dark, very quick. God tells Abraham to take his son "his only son," Isaac to the mountaintop to offer him as a sacrifice. It's as if the laughter immediately stops and turns to a bleak seriousness.
We read these words:
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.
Now, the rest of this story is one I'm sure you've read. They get to the place of sacrifice, Abraham goes to follow through in obedience to God, and God calls out and says, "Do not harm the boy!"
But where I stopped reading just a moment ago stuck out to me.
Over and over again, Abraham has had to have faith in God. That God will provide. I've often wondered about how Abraham felt about this moment. Did he know God would provide another sacrifice? Did he think God would raise Isaac from the dead? Or did he have faith that God would make for him another heir?
We don't know.
But we do know that Abraham had faith that God knew what he was doing.
That's where my heart is. I am beyond frustrated with this world. I am frustrated with politics, with epidemiology, I'm even frustrated with the Church and how divided we seem to be. I guess you could say, with my frustration, I am at rock-bottom.
But every time I've been here, there is Jesus, waiting for me. Just like he was waiting for the woman at the well. You know, the one whom he told all the sins she had committed? The one who was a Samaritan and had no right to talk to a Jew, let alone a Jewish Rabbi? Yeah.
God knows what he is doing. Even though I cannot see it, even though I cannot possibly know what he is going to do next, God Always provides.
Has God ever asked you to do something that either didn't make sense, or you just knew it would get you some push-back? Perhaps from your friends or your family? Maybe even the community?
If it is one thing I have learned in my reading of Scripture, it is that more often than not, God asks the people in the Bible to do CRAZY things.
When God told Noah to build the Ark, the size alone was crazy. At approximately 510' feet long, it would have been able to carry 3 of the NASA Shuttles and would have been as tall as a 4 story house.
With the primitive technology, it would have taken FOREVER to build. It was not an easy undertaking. And yet, God called a man who the Scriptures say was around 480 years old. I'm only 36 and while I just got some new tools for Christmas and my birthday, I would not be able to pull that off.
Why does God ask us to do seemingly insane things?
I have often heard the statement, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." And in my nice preacher tone, I would say, "That is absolute....ly not true."
I believe there are a lot of things in this life that we cannot handle. There are a lot of things that are "impossible" for us. And yet, God still calls us to do impossible things because I believe that God want's us fully...entirely focused and reliant on him. Yes, he wants us to participate with him in ministry to the world, but he wants us to know that without God nothing is possible.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.
Oh My. That's crazy talk. A camel through the eye of the needle? Sheesh.
Oh yes, I believe we often get more than we can handle...on our own. But I NOAH guy who did the impossible because he walked with the Lord. In fact, the Scriptures are filled with men and women who did impossible things because The Lord was with them.
Let us pray,
God, sometimes we are overwhelmed by our circumstances. We grieve because of loss, we fear because of the unknown, we stay in the shadows because of our sins. But you remind us that through you, all things are possible.
Help us to put you at the center of all we do; help us to walk with you so we can partner with you in doing the impossible!
In the strong name of Jesus,
It is no doubt that we are living in crazy times.
It has been a week since the "Capitol Riot of 2021," and my heart is still broken. My heart is broken for our country. My heart is broken for our world. But most importantly, my heart is broken for our souls.
When it comes to my pastoral calling, I don't do a lot of "politicking" in the sense of letting too many people know my political preferences. Sure, I'll have a conversation if questioned, or maybe I'll let you in to my preferences a little bit with a comment here or there, but I believe that publicizing my political preferences would do more harm than good, and the First Wesleyan "Commandment" is "Do No Harm." (Yes...it's ok to laugh at the fact that I said Wesleyan Commandment)
So, I find it absolutely unnecessary to talk anymore at this point about American Politics and solely on the Politics of God.
Being United Methodist (much like any of our mainline denominations out there, and yes...Non-denominational is a denomination), there are moments when I just half to give myself one of those face-palms. There is an old joke I heard a long time ago that says, "wherever two or more Methodists are gathered, there is a potluck and an argument." At least we're consistent.
But the reality is, wherever two or more people are gathered, there is politics. There is not one of us that can agree on 100% of everything. Even if we agree on the theological standards of the church, we will disagree on the color of the carpet. It's in our nature to disagree because, ultimately, due to the consequences of sin, there is a chasm between each and every one of us. No matter what we do to try to reconcile differences between us, there is no way we can cover that chasm without divine help.
This is where Jesus comes in.
My staff here at LWM have already heard me talk about this a little bit, but I have been watching "The Chosen," which is a Biblically based series on the life of Jesus through the eyes of the disciples. I specifically say "Biblically Based" because it is not like "The Gospel According to John" or any of the other Gospel films of the past. It doesn't follow along 100% with the Gospels. There is a little bit of creative license, but what I love about the series is the truth that you find within each episode remains unblemished.
What is standing out to me the most is the relational aspect of Jesus. It's almost like, as I am watching, I am seeing Jesus for the first time as a real human being. Sure, I have read Scriptures, I have read the stories, but there is an element of The Chosen that just makes Jesus and his relationship with his Disciples real.
But what's more, is I think the portrayal of Peter is by far one of the best I have ever encountered. He is rough and tumble, he is independent and he wants to do everything in his power to protect Jesus. There are multiple times when Jesus looks at Peter and you can just see the word's "STOP IT" in his eyes without him even saying a word.
I love Peter's passion for protecting Jesus, and I know Jesus loves it too. But here's the deal, Jesus doesn't need Peter's protection. Jesus doesn't need Peter to stand up for him.
You know why?
Because Jesus is God.
I think we often forget this truth about Jesus. Sure, we may say it with our lips, but do we really know what it means that Jesus is God? I think in our human minds it is difficult, if not impossible to understand the power of that statement.
So when we create Jesus in our own image, we take the God out of him. We make him just like us. A person who thinks just like we do, or stands up for the things we stand up for, or that he waives the flags that we waive. But what Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, tells us is: Peter (Bryan), I love you, but you're wrong. Follow me, and me only.
Yes, this week I have been anxious about the future of our country, I have been thinking a lot about it, as I am sure you have. But, we still have a job to do. We still have work to be done. We still have disciples to make, and we still have a Jesus...God With us...to follow.
Let us pray.
God, we repent. Even when our love fails, your love remains steadfast. When we live into our brokenness, you remind us that we do not have to remain broken; you remind us that we are your children and that your desire is to be Emmanuel...With us! Help us to focus on your presence, help us to follow you, and you alone. Help us to throw down our idols at the foot of your cross and NEVER pick them up again.
In the strong name of Jesus we pray.
Over the last couple of days, I've been thinking about how I wanted to start off the blog in this new year, and I have landed on the place I think we all need to start: Priorities.
Our priorities are out of whack. No, I'm not just talking about Llano, nor am I just talking about the firing and hiring of Coaches, spending millions of dollars to cut contracts (Looking at You, University of Texas), but our life priorities are out of whack.
We spend so much time on things that are fleeting. I am reminded of the Writer of Ecclesiastes when he says:
"Meaningless. Meaningless! says the teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is Meaningless." ~Ecclesiastes 1:2
Wow, what a way to start off the new year, Pastor Bryan.
I know. I know.
But what the Teacher is saying here is that this world is fleeting; this world is not always going to be here.
I have started reading through the Bible as a personal practice. I'm utilizing a reading plan that does some jumping around in Scripture, but allows me to take the Bible a little bit at a time and pray on it, meditate on it, study it, and grow in it. It is my hope that by the end of this year, I will have learned new things that I never knew before.
This morning, I was reading through Genesis 8-11, which is the second half of the story of Noah. After the flood, when Noah and his sons had come out of the Ark, we read about a pretty amazing exchange where God makes a covenant with Noah to never destroy the earth.
Now, I have heard this story hundreds of times, and even read it many more, but it has never dawned on me the importance of the Language until this morning. God is talking to Noah about not "cursing the ground" because of humanities sinfulness because he knows that "the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth (Gen. 8:21)."
But what stands out to me is the beginning of Genesis 8:22.
"As long as earth endures, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease"
As long as earth endures? So you mean that the earth can only endure so much? The earth has a time limit?
Why, yes it does.
Even in the Book of Revelation, we read about God creating a new heaven and a new earth, for the old has passed away.
So, let me ask you this question: What really matters? What is your priority?
If it is one thing we (should) have learned over this last year is our priorities. What is most important to us?
Our number one priority should be God. Our number one priority as parents should be the relationships our kids have with Jesus. Our number one priorities of members of the community should be being the hands and feet of Christ so that others may come to know him through our Love. Our number one priority as Christians should be to Love God, and Love Others.
So, ask yourself: Where do you find your treasure? Where is your heart? What are your priorities?
Growing up in the United Methodist Church, I have always had a passion for ministry. Now, I have been called to serve the people of Llano at an awesome place called Lutie Watkins Memorial!