The Preaching Predicament

Recently, during a Sunday sermon, I launched into what I call a "mini sermon" within a sermon.  The mini sermon had to do with the predicament that I face, just as every preaching pastor faces, each Sunday.  I snipped the mini 6-minute sermon and am posting the audio of it here.  Let me know what you think of this predicament.

Thanks,

Pastor Mike

Discipleship: Called, Equipped, Sent

 

 
The vision of Redemption Rock is taken from the book of Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  That is the vision of our church.  Everything we do here, from Sunday preaching, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, Bible studies, children’s ministry, even fellowship times after church is done so as to fulfill that vision for our church.
 
The mission or purpose of this church works in conjunction with that vision.  Our purpose here is to recognize the call of God on people’s lives, to equip those people for God’s purpose and to send those people to accomplish all that God has called them to do.  In short, our mission or purpose statement is “Called, Equipped and Sent.”

Folks, there is only one way to win the battle for our soul.  That way is simple and concreate.  We must become true disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Discipleship is the process by which we become ready to serve the Lord as he calls us to.

Everything we do here at Redemption Rock needs to move the members of this church, toward becoming true Disciples of Christ.  Spiritual transformation must always be the goal of what we do here at Redemption Rock.

What is a Disciple of Christ?

When the term disciple was applied to the early Christians it meant someone who “declared a personal allegiance to the teachings and person of Jesus.”  The life of a disciple in those days and today, revolves around Jesus.  A Disciple of Christ is someone who is called to live “in” Christ, is equipped to live “like” Christ, and is sent to live “for” Christ.  In the Bible the word for disciple literally means "pupil" or "learner" of Christ.
  • First, a disciple is called to walk with Christthey profess and live out their faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Second, a disciple is equipped to live like Christ; they are engaged in a process of spiritual growth and transformation.
  • Third, a disciple is sent to work for Christ; they are serving the Lord.
The biblical case for this definition can be made by examining Paul's admonition to his protégé Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15-17:
  • From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [Calling]
  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, [Equipping]
  • …so that the man (person) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. [Sending]
First and foremost, a disciple is someone who has surrendered his life to Jesus; Jesus’ life, work, death, and resurrection.

The first task of making disciples is evangelism; to call people to walk with Christ by grace through faith.  A lot of people who reject Christianity see Christians and say, "If that's what it means to be a Christian, then I want no part of it."  That criticism is really too dangerous to leave unanswered, don’t you think?  It may do more harm than good to invite someone to become a Christian if we have no plan to help them truly know and follow Christ.

When we don't disciple (train and equip) someone who surrenders their life to Christ, they will almost always become lukewarm in their faith, worldly in their behavior, and hypocritical in their witness.

The second task of making disciples is teaching; to equip them to live like Christ.  As the pastor of Redemption Rock, why do I spend so much time equipping the people of Redmeption Rock to live like Christ?  So they can enjoy Christ by knowing Him better, but also "so that the man (person) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Jesus prayed, "Father, as you have sent me, so I am sending them" (John 20:21).  

All of us as Christians want to give our life to a cause.  We want to make a difference and do something with our life, don’t we?  When we become a disciple of Christ we will eventually want to "bear much fruit" and do "good works that will last" (John 15:8, 16).  Once we have surrendered our life to Christ, experienced the joy of His grace, the warmth of His love, the cleansing of His forgiveness, and the indwelling of His Spirit, we will inevitably come to a point when we can no longer be happy unless we are serving the Lord.  

The third task of making disciples is service and missions; sending people to work for Christ, to build his Kingdom and bring Jesus glory.  Each time we gather at Redemption Rock, wether it's a monthly men’s ministry breakfasts, Sunday church service, Thursday Bible sturdy, any small group meeting, you name it, they are all far more than an excuse to get together and enjoy each other's company. No, these times must be times that each of us are being discipled, equipped for every good work.  As members of Redemption Rock, if you ever leave a gathering we have and and you are not better equipped for good works then come tell me!  I want to know about it!  

Otherwise, everything we do at Redemption Rock should work to help you continue to become a true disciple of Christ!

Back Into the Fire

So, I was at my office today and I was calling people to encourage them, pray for them and to invite them back to church.  I’ve noticed something about people in my years as a pastor.  Sometimes, people just sort of disappear from church.  They just fade away and stop attending Sunday morning services and Bible studies during the week.  Well, in my many telephone and face-to-face conversations with people, I’ve discovered the phenomenon that I believe causes this on-and-off commitment to attendance at their local church.

You see, all of us give in to temptation from time to time.  It’s part of our human nature to want to do the things (like sin) that we’d rather not do (just look at Romans chapter 7).  The problem is, usually when we give in to temptation and commit sin, we feel really ashamed of ourselves.  We are actually covered by shame.  Then, we believe the lie that satan feeds us when he says, “Mike!  There you go again!  You’ve given in to sin!  Shame on you!  You can’t possibly go to church on Sunday with this shameful sin hanging all over you!  Everybody at church will look at you and just KNOW what you’ve been up to!”

Well, that’s a lie everybody.  As a matter of fact, church, in the middle of the family of God, is exactly where you need to be when you’ve given in to temptation and committed some horrible sin.  Because that’s where you’ll encounter a group of people who are imperfect (just like you) and are ready and willing to pray for you, encourage you and help you back onto the path you’re supposed to be on.
Think of it this way.  Imagine a camp fire.  There’s a nice bed of coals at the bottom of this raging camp fire.  Imagine you take a stick and you scoot one of those big glowing coals out from its hiding place in the fire and you move it away from the fire into the middle of a dirt patch.  There it sits, smoldering away.

What will happen to that coal if you leave just sitting there in the dirt?  Right!  It will eventually smolder out and die.  You see, that’s what happens to you and me when we separate ourselves from the family of God.  In that illustration, the blazing camp fire is the family of God.  That’s right where each of us should be.  Even when we’ve sinned.  We need to run back to the blazing fire of the presence of God that can only be found in the midst of the family of God where we can receive just what God wants us to receive.

Hey, it’s time to get back to church.  Don’t let satan lie to you and convince you that you’re too filthy or covered with shame to come back into the blazing fire of God’s presence within the family of God.  That’s a lie from satan and you need to see it as such.

God wants you to participate in the family and to be a part of it.  As a matter of fact, the body of Christ, the family of God, isn’t complete without you there (just look at 1 Corinthians 12).
It’s time to get back to church brother or sister.  We miss you.
 

The Tyranny of the Urgent

Tina and I recently stayed three days at a small retreat facility in the woods of New Hampshire.  That time away made me realize how important it is that all of us make time to spend with God on a daily basis.  Too often I relegate my “left over” time to God instead of being intentional about spending time in his Word and with him in prayer.  Well, I knew this before, but it came crashing home again during our days in New Hampshire; I suffer terribly when I don’t spend intentional, planned time with God on a daily basis.  I love reading the Word of God and am blessed each time I do.  However, the time I have set aside each day to spend in God’s Word can easily be squeezed out by The Tyranny of the Urgent.
 
You’ve never heard of the “Tyranny of the Urgent?”  Well, hang around with me for a couple of days and you’ll experience it firsthand.  The Tyranny of the Urgent is the condition in which many of us live unfortunately.  I am working hard at getting out from under this condition in my life.  You can recognize The Tyranny of the Urgent in your life if you get to the end of a day and look back and think to yourself, “Man!  I wish there were 30 hours in a day!  Then I’d be able to get all the things done that I wasn’t able to get done in the last 24 hours.”  Well, all of us realize that we would quickly fill even a 30 hour day just as full as our 24 hour ones are, huh?  If you discover at the end of each day that there are numerous unfinished projects, emails, tasks, thoughts, that haunt you then you’re probably living much of your life in the Tyranny of the Urgent state. 
 
I discovered this state in my life when I realized that I was having trouble finishing one project because another, more “urgent,” project just cropped up.  Then, I didn’t finish that “urgent” project because another, more “urgent,” project popped up.  Does this sound familiar?  Well, it’s not a pleasant place or condition in which to live.  But, there’s a place that is much more comfortable in which to live.  And that place would be right where God wants you to life.  Tomorrow, instead of jumping from one unfinished project to the next, try this:  Start your day by asking God to guide you through the day.  Then, ask God what you should do first.  Get started on, and finish that project before moving on to the next one.  Even if something more “urgent” pops up.  You may have to tell someone to wait or you might have to tell someone that you just can’t do that “urgent” thing that they are demanding you do.  I venture to guess that the world won’t stop revolving if you “refuse” to be ruled by the Tyranny of the Urgent.  Try it, you’ll love the freedom it give you!

Don't Divorce!

Some time ago, as a pastor, I spoke with a married couple who had two small children.  The couple was trying to convince me that their children would be better off if they were to divorce instead of putting the children through listening to the couple argue all the time.

That conversation prompted me to write the following narrative. Sorry it's so long but please read through to the end.  I think it's important.   

Scenario # 1
 
A man and a woman are married.  He was raised with a good example of how to love his wife and she was raised with a good example of how to respect her husband.  The couple are happy in their marriage and they decide to have a baby.  They have a little baby girl and God does like he has with every other baby girl born before this, he puts an innate desire in this baby girl for healthy male affection.

The dad and mom are ecstatic that God has blessed them with a wonderful baby girl and every day from the day the baby girl is born, the dad hugs her and kisses her cheek and forehead and tells her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.  When he shows her this kind of affection, it satisfies the baby girl’s need for healthy male affection. 

The baby girl begins to grow up.  The mom stays at home and cares for the baby girl while the dad goes off to work every weekday.  The family goes to church every weekend and they read the Bible to each other every night.  He works eight hours each day and then comes home.  The little family lives in a small apartment and eats dinner around the same table every night and the dad and mom laugh and talk about everything that the wonderful little girl did all day.  The dad comes home every night after work and hugs and kisses the wife and plays with the baby girl.  Once every week, the father goes out with his friends from church and bowls at the local bowling alley where he talks about challenges that he has as a man.

The dad continues to meet the baby girl’s need for healthy male affection by hugging her, kissing her cheek and forehead and telling her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her  When the little girl is two years old, the dad and mom have another baby. This time it’s a little baby boy.  The dad and mom again are ecstatic that God has blessed them with a wonderful baby boy.  The children continue to grow and the little family is happy.  The dad continues to meet the little girl’s need for healthy male affection by talking to her, listening to her dreams and sorrows, smiling at her all the time, telling her how proud he is of her, how beautiful she is and how much he loves her. 

When the little girl is seven years old, the dad has moved up in his company and can now afford to buy a house for his little family.  They move into a small house and continue to sit around the same dining room table talking over dinner every night.  Now that the little girl is beginning to get a little older, the dad continues to meet her need for healthy male affection by talking to her, listening to her dreams and sorrows, smiling at her all the time, telling her how proud he is of her, how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.  However, now he begins to talk about more serious things with the little girl.  He talks to her about God and Jesus Christ and what God has meant to him all his life.  He also talks to her about all the possibilities the little girl has ahead of her.  He also begins to talk to her about the man that God will give her to marry one day.  The little girl looks at the dad and tells him that she wants to marry someone just like him. The dad just smiles.

The little girl’s brother is a typical brother who teases the little girl sometimes but because his dad has demonstrated how to show affection to a woman by hugging and kissing his wife and talking nicely and always serving her, the little boy begins to do that for his big sister too.  He hugs her and talks nice to her and tells her that she’s pretty. 

When the girl starts going to middle school, the dad talks to her about boys and that they are less mature than she is and that soon, they will stop teasing her and start paying very close attention to her.  He explains that they will start paying close attention to her because soon she is going to start looking more and more like a woman and that the boys are soon going to be very interested in girls who have curves like women do.  He explains that it is natural for the boys to show interest in girls but that it is important to remember that God has one man in particular picked out who the girl will marry when she is much older.

As the girl gets ready to go to high school, the dad sits down and talks to her about why the boys are beginning to show so much interest in her.  They are showing interest in her because they are beginning to see her as a woman more and more every day and they are becoming more and more interested in her body because it’s different from theirs.  He explains that it is important that she saves her body for her husband who God will show her later in life.  All the time the dad continues to meet her need for healthy male affection by talking to her, listening to her dreams and sorrows, smiling at her all the time, telling her how proud he is of her, how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.  He talks to her more and more about God and Jesus Christ and what God has meant to him all his life.  He also talks to her about all the possibilities the girl has ahead of her.

The girl goes through high school and comes home a couple of times to tell her dad about a particular boy who makes her heart beat fast when she talks to him.  The dad explains that this is completely normal and that it is the emotion of puppy love that she’s feeling.  This is preparing her for when she meets the man God has for her long after she has graduated from high school.  He encourages her to talk to boys and learn how they think.  He reminds her that he loves her, is proud of her and that she is beautiful.

The girl graduates from high school and goes off to college.  At college, she calls her dad often and talks about all the things she’s learning and seeing.  She also tells her dad about the things she is learning as she reads the Bible and goes to church.  She tells her dad that she has gone out on a couple of dates with a couple of guys but that she has been careful to watch for habits of things about the boys that she wouldn’t want to live with for the rest of her life if she were to marry any of the boys.

As she goes through her college years, the girl turns into a beautiful woman.  She goes home whenever she can and visits her parents.  Her dad continues to meet her need for healthy male affection by telling her how proud he is of her, how much he loves her and by hugging her and kissing her on the cheek and forehead.

As the girl is coming to the end of the fourth year in college and getting ready to graduate, she meets a man at church who is three years older than her.  He has already graduated from college and is working in a job that pays him enough to have a car, apartment and to take her on picnics now and then.  The girl calls her dad one day and tells her all about the man she met.  She tells him how much she reminds her of her dad and that she hasn’t discovered any habits or things about the man that she couldn’t live with for the rest of her life.  The woman and man continue to date for another year after she graduates from college. 

Finally, the man calls the dad and asks if he could have his daughter’s hand in marriage.  The dad says yes and the man asks the woman to marry him.  She says yes and they set a wedding date for eight months later.  They begin to go to the pastor at their church for premarital counseling and the dad continues to tell his daughter how proud his is of her and that he loves her a lot.  The girl is careful to stay within the boundaries that God has established and only holds hands with the man and kisses him sometimes.  She can’t wait to give herself completely to him and he can’t wait to give himself completely to her!

Finally, the wedding day arrives!  The dad walks his daughter down the aisle to where the man is waiting.  The minister says, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”  The dad, with tears in his eyes says, “Her mother and I do.”  Then he kisses her on the cheek and on the forehead and gives her to the man.  It is at that point that the dad gives permission to the daughter to look to someone else to fill her need for healthy male affection for the rest of her life. 

The man and woman are married and that night they give themselves completely to one another both physically and in every other aspect of their life.  A couple years after their marriage, the man and woman have a little girl and the process starts all over again.
 
OK, that is the wonderful version of marriage.  Let’s take a look at the other version of marriage.

Scenario #2

A man and a woman are married.  He was raised by a single mom and didn’t have a father in his life to give him a good example of how to love his wife.  She was raised in a family where her father was an alcoholic and wasn’t around much.  She didn’t have a good example of how to respect her husband.  They are unhappy in their marriage.

He works 10 to 12 hours each day and when he comes home he just grabs something to eat before he goes out to hang out with his friends most nights.  She is always mad at him because he doesn’t make enough money to pay all the bills because they bought a large house that they couldn’t really afford early in their marriage. 

One day, the woman discovers that she is pregnant.  The dad and mom are horrified that they are going to have another mouth to feed and more bills to pay.  . They have a little baby girl.  God does like he has with every other baby girl born before this, he puts an innate desire in the baby girl for healthy male affection.  The couple gets mad at God because he blessed them with a baby girl.

The dad is forced to work harder and longer to support his family and pay for the house.  The dad seldom even sees the baby girl much less has time to hug her and kiss her cheek and forehead and tell her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.  He does, however, make an effort.  Because he doesn’t show her the affection she longs for the baby girl’s need for healthy male affection is not satisfied. 

The baby girl begins to grow.  The mom goes to work to help pay bills and puts the baby girl in child care where no one shows her love.  The family goes to church every weekend but they are mad at each other as they drive to church most Sunday mornings.  They seldom ever read the Bible individually much less together.  He works 10 or more hours every day and is exhausted when he gets home. 

The little family still lives in the large house that they can’t really afford and are struggling to make ends meet.  As often as possible, they eat dinner around the dining room table at night but the dad and mom seldom laugh because they’re worried about the bills.  They are also mad at each other because he doesn’t show the mom that he loves her because he’s always at work.  He is mad at her because she keeps saying he doesn’t love her even though he’s working his tail off to show her that he loves her by keeping the nice house and all the nice things she has.

The little girl often sits at the end of the table and listens to her parents fight.  They seldom talk about the things that the little girl did all day.  The dad comes home every night after work and falls asleep in front of the TV.  He sometimes hugs and kisses the wife and plays with the baby girl but it gets to be less and less often.  Several times per week, the father goes out with his friends from work and bowls at the local bowling alley and drinks beer and complains about his wife to the other men there.  The dad also meets a lady at the bowling alley who shows him respect and makes him feel good.  He has sex with this lady from time to time. 

The dad has never really met the baby girl’s need for affection by hugging her, kissing her cheek and forehead and telling her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.  She always finds herself feeling empty and unloved by her father.  When the little girl is two years old, the dad and mom have another baby.  This time it’s a little baby boy.  The dad and mom again are horrified that God has blessed them with a baby boy! 

The children continue to grow and the little family is not happy.  The dad continues to retreat as the mom continues to demand more and more from him.  She is outright disrespectful to him in front of the children and in front of her own friends.  The little girl’s need for healthy male affection is terribly unmet. 

When the little girl is seven years old, the dad is so mad at the mom that he throws up his hands and declares that the children would be better off if the mom and dad weren’t fighting all the time and instead were divorced!  The dad and mom get a divorce.

Now that the little girl is beginning to get a little older, the mom has moved into a little one bedroom apartment and is struggling to make ends meet.  The kids are in daycare most of the time now and the mom is mad most of the time.  The dad tries to meet little girl’s need for healthy male affection by talking to her, listening to her dreams and sorrows, smiling at her, telling her how proud he is of her, how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.  However, now that he only sees her every other weekend, the girls need for healthy male affection is terribly lacking.

The dad feels so disconnected from the little girl that he feels funny talking about more serious things with her.  He seldom if ever talks to her about God and Jesus Christ and what God has meant to him all his life.  He almost never talks to her about all the possibilities the little girl has ahead of her.  And he never talks to her about the man that God will give her to marry one day. 

The little girl looks at the dad and tells him that she wants to marry someone just like him.  The dad sheepishly smiles.  The little girl’s brother is a typical brother who teases the little girl and never seems to leave her alone.  He didn’t have a dad in the home to demonstrate how to show affection to a woman by hugging and kissing his wife and talking nicely and always serving her, so the little boy never begins to do that for his big sister.

When the girl starts going to middle school, the dad isn’t there to talk to her about boys and that they are less mature than she is and that soon, they will stop teasing her and start paying very close attention to her.  He never explains that they will start paying close attention to her because soon she is going to start looking more and more like a woman and that the boys are soon going to be very interested in girls who have curves like women do.  The dad never explains that it is natural for the boys to show interest in girls but that it is important to remember that God has one man in particular picked out who the girl will marry when she is much older. 

However, the girl discovers on her own that the boys at school are starting to give her some attention.  She is starved for male affection so she dives right in.  She begins to talk to boys between every class.  As she begins to develop more curves, she notices that the boys show her even more affection.  This is intoxicating for her since she has gotten almost no healthy male affection from her father. 

As the girl gets ready to go to high school, she notices that when she wears shirts with low neck lines and shorts skirts, the boys really show her affection.  Her dad sits down and talks to her about why the boys are beginning to show so much interest in her.  They are showing interested in her because they are beginning to see her as a woman more and more every day and they are becoming more and more interested in her body because it’s different from theirs.  However, he fails to explain that it is important that she saves her body for her husband who God will show her later in life.  Worse yet, he attempts to meet her need for male affection by telling her she’s beautiful because of the provocative and seductive clothing and make up she’s wearing.  He doesn’t bother listening to her or talking to her because his new wife is calling him to hurry up.  Instead, he reinforces her attempts to get male affection by dressing like she is and engaging in risky behaviors. 

He talks to her less and less about God and Jesus Christ and what God has meant to him all his life.  He seldom talks to her about all the possibilities the girl has ahead of her because he sees her so infrequently.

The girl goes through her first year in high school and discovers that the boys really pay a lot of attention when she acts certain ways.  For instance, when she flirts with them and “accidentally” bends over in front of them with her low neck blouse, they really hang around her.  She is just amazed at how easy it is to get boys to pay attention to her like this.  When she sees her dad she tells him about the boys she hangs around with most of the time and how much fun they are.  He reinforces her risky activities and smiles and tells her that he’s happy she’s having fun.  The dad explains that this is completely normal and that it is the emotion of puppy love that she’s feeling.   However, he fails to explain that she is being prepared for when she meets the man God has for her long after she has graduated from high school.  

He encourages her to talk to boys and learn how they think. He reminds her that he loves her, is proud of her and that she is beautiful, all the time reinforcing her dangerous behavior.  In her junior year in high school, the girl has discovered that the boys will show her tons of affection if she does certain things for them or lets them do certain things to her.  Many of these things are sexual in nature and the boys are very good about whispering in her ear how beautiful she is, how proud they are of her, how much they love and care about her.  They really make her feel good when they show her affection by hugging her and kissing her on the cheeks, forehead, neck and lips.

Soon, the girl decides to go all the way with one boy who really makes her feel loved by listening to her dreams, sorrows and by telling her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.  So she tells him that he has to use a condom and she agrees to have sex with him.  She knows it isn’t what her dad or mom would want her to do but she just can’t get enough of the male affection that she has been missing for so long! 

The condom fails and the girl gets pregnant. 

Now she’s a junior in high school and she is going to have a baby.  She gives birth to the baby girl because she knows from the few times she’s been to church that that is what God would want her to do.  The girl drops out of high school because she can’t raise the baby and go to school at the same time.  She never goes off to college. 

The girl lives with her mother as she raises her baby girl.  Now and then, the girl goes on a date with a boy who shows her some affection.  The girl is still so starved for male affection that she lets the boys she dates do almost anything to her as long as they tell her she’s beautiful and listen to her after they’ve had sex. 

Eventually, the girl meets a boy who shows interest in her and he asks her to marry him.  She agrees. The boy is a little reluctant but he marries her anyway.  The boy works a lot and when he’s not working, he sits in front of the computer playing games.  After a couple of years, they have another baby.  The boy gets sick of the girl demanding more and more of his time so he files for divorce. 

Now the girl is without income, without a home, and without someone who will love her.  The girl calls her dad and asks if she can move in with him just until she gets her feet on the ground.  He tells her she can’t because his newest wife doesn’t want the hassle.  The girl lives in a dingy one bedroom apartment for most of her life and is miserable.
 
This isn’t a pretty picture is it?
 
Please, please, please, do everything you can to keep your marriage together!  Stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the children you and your spouse  brought into this world!
 
Don’t be scenario #2…

Life's Homer Bucket

Have you ever seen a Home Depot "Homer" bucket?  You know, it's that orange five-gallon bucket you see along the highway sometimes because it flew out of the bed of someone's pickup truck as they sped along.

Well, imagine a Homer bucket sitting on the ground next to a swamp.  What if I pick up that bucket and drag it through the water and fill it to the brim with swamp water?  The water looks like strong tea.  It's dark yellow and there are bits of decomposing leaves, seeds, frogs, twigs and other assorted stuff that I can't really identify.  And there's a distinct smell coming from the water that makes my nostrils want to close. YUCK!

Now, I decide to clean the bucket out but instead of just dumping it out and rinsing it with fresh water from the hose, I leave it brimming with stinky, cloudy, gross swamp water.  Then I take the hose that's connected to the faucet on the side of the house and I turn the water on so there's just a little dribble of water coming out and I hold the end of the hose over the full bucket.

I'm very pleased with myself as the fresh water starts running ever so slowly into the rank, gross, smelly swamp water.  But, as I hold that hose there I start to think to myself, "Self!  What are you doing?!?!  This is going to take all day!"

So as to speed this process up a little bit I turn the faucet on full blast.  The nice fresh cold water starts to GUSH out of the hose and I stick the end of the hose down into the bucket.  Well, that did the trick!  Gunk and yellow smelly water and lots of yucky stuff starts to overflow and run out of the bucket and pretty soon, the bucket is full of fresh, clean, cold and sparkling water.

“OK,” you ask, “what does this have to do with anything?”  Well, here’s the correlation to our lives.  The swamp and swamp water in this illustration is the world or the culture that surrounds us every day.  It is rank, gross, full of dead and rotting stuff, and frankly, it’s really bad for us.  The Homer bucket is you and me.

When we immerse ourselves in the world and culture on a daily basis, we tend to get filled up with that stinky, cloudy, gross swamp water.  If you look around you, you can recognize the gross swamp water of today’s culture; sex, porn, materialism, pride, foul language.  Galatians 5:19-21 lists some of the junk this world pollutes us with:  sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.  When we get close to and stay close to the world and its wretched culture we get filled up with swamp water or things like I just listed.

Well, what’s the solution then?

Remember the hose with clear, clean water coming out?  That’s the solution.  That clear, clean water represents God, His word, the Holy Spirit, whatever you want to call the things of God.

When we read a devotional and one scripture once each week (maybe) then it’s like we’ve got the hose of God’s presence turned on so there’s just a dribble affecting our life.  With so little of God and so much of the world that we’re immersed in it’s pretty tough for our life to get cleaned out, huh?

Well, when we immerse ourselves in God, (going to a Bible study each week, reading God’s word every day, praying to God regularly, meditating on and memorizing God’s word, letting Jesus live his life through us, etc.) then it’s like we turned on the clear, fresh water full blast and it starts offsetting the gunky gross world’s culture that has had such a hold on us.

When we do this, we start to think with the mind of Christ and we begin allowing Jesus to live his life through us.  We start to submit to the Holy Spirit in both decision making and behavior.  We start to have hearts that are sensitive to sin and wounded every time they do something that offends God.  We start to become people who live differently from the norm because of our faith, leading lives that conform to the dictates of Scripture without cutting corners or trying to interpret biblical passages for personal comfort or advantage.  We become the church body that protects and lives up to an image of being loving, caring, focused, and clear minded in its pursuit of the ways of God. 

When we submit ourselves completely to the will of God we become individuals who are continually linked to God through prayer and meditation, as if we were "online" 24 hours a day with the ultimate spiritual power.

You might be sitting there thinking, “I can’t possible do this!”  Well, you’re right.  You can’t possibly do this without God’s help.  Only, we must fully commit ourselves to God and stop living our lives with one foot in the world and one foot in God’s world.

What I’m talking about is a major commitment but then that’s what Jesus calls for when he says  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

What Jesus is saying there is that we must be careful that we love Jesus above all other people and things in our life, that we lay aside our life and we allow Jesus to live his life through us.  We must be completely committed to him and submit to him completely.  You may bristle at the word “submit” but it’s actually a beautiful word when it isn’t warped and messed with by the world.  Submission is wonderful when there is a loving God to whom you are submitting.  When you submit to a God who loves you so much that he gave his only son to die in your place and everything that happens to you happens so that you can be made more life Jesus, it’s easy to submit to him.

Remember this, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”  Being an enemy of God is not a place we want to be.  We become God’s friend, child, and servant when we immerse ourselves in Him.  This is what we’re called to do.