Legacy – A Man who loved Jesus!

I received word yesterday that “Grandpa Jerry” – a dear friend and follower of Christ died. I am no stranger to the passing of people I have had the privilege of pastoring. However, today I felt a deep sense of pain and loss at the passing of this man. Maybe, it’s because of the investment he made in me. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t see him due to COVID. Whatever it is, I am sure of one thing – this man is leaving a legacy, and the best part is that Jesus is all over it!

I don’t remember where I read it or saw it, but I read once that legacy can be defined like this:

Legacy is planting seeds you’ll never get to see fully grow!

Jerry was a perfect picture of that for me, and I’m writing today not to necessarily memorialize him, but instead to encourage and spur myself and others on towards a good example. There are so many negative examples in front of us right now and finding positive examples at times feels difficult. This is my attempt at sharing the good that I saw demonstrated.

Jerry was generous.

While I know very little about Jerry’s financial standing, I do know that when we had needs around New Story, Jerry was always ready to share financially and to share encouragement. For years, he and his wife helped to supply our food pantry and brought in things to share with others. I know they also helped people in need very quietly. Generosity is one of the clearest examples of God’s extravagant grace. Generosity of spirit and speech were also greatly demonstrated by Jerry.

Over the past months of quarantine and COVID-19, Jerry called me every Sunday before he was so sick. He would talk with me about the sermon and encourage me. I’m not sure I deserved all those kind and generous words, but they were a help to me. He was generous.

Jerry was kind.

There is not a lot more to say about this because it is related to generosity. However, his kindness and gentleness was evident in the way he spoke to people. If Jerry was telling you about Jesus – he would be passionate, but he would also recognize that it was really a decision that you had to make for yourself. He wasn’t pushy or rude – but perpetually kind.

Jerry would praise the Lord when it was easy and hard.

He had a phrase that he was known for aroudn here – “Thank you Jesus and praise the Lord.” Jerry could be in deep pain while gathering for a worship service, but he would still say – “Thank you Jesus and praise the Lord I’m here!” What an example of gratefulness and contentment.

Jerry talked about and shared Jesus everywhere he could.

One word: McDonalds! Jerry and Mary had their signature place not far from their home – McDonalds. I heard so many stories over the years about times that Jerry and Mary were talking with people about Jesus in McDonalds. He had an old school McDonalds cup that apparently he got free coffee with or refills for a quarter and he would just sit there and talk to people about Jesus. The number of people who have showed up at New Story over the years because of conversations at that McDonalds is amazing! What a legacy.

Probably my favorite story about Jerry and sharing Jesus came from a different store though: COSTCO. One day, while shopping at COSTCO, Jerry and Mary ran into a woman and started talking about Jesus. Little did they know how difficult things were for this woman before they met her. From what I remember of the story, this lady began to cry and they were able to pray with her. The next morning (Sunday), she arrived at New Story and began following Jesus along with Mary and Jerry and the rest of the body! What a powerful legacy!

Jerry loved his wife.

Last, but certainly not least, Jerry loved his wife. I watched these two take care of each other and love one another. Don’t get me wrong, they would disagree with each other and bicker every now and then, but they chose to serve one another and care for one another. In our society – to stay faithful and love your spouse is a godly legacy!

So, why do I share all of this? There certainly could be more to share, however, we need good examples, my kids and your kids need good examples. Now it’s time for us to follow the footsteps of another and begin planting seeds we might not ever see grow fully in our lifetimes.

Legacy – A Man who loved Jesus!

What Is The Answer?

When I saw the video of George Floyd’s arrest and subsequent death there was a flood of emotion and a flurry of thoughts.  In the wake of more terrible news across the United States of America, I realize there is little that I can say that will change what is happening.  I also realize that many are wondering what this all means and how any of it will ever change.  Some of you know what it means because you have experienced acts like these and you live in fear of those things.  There is little that I can say that will change what has happened, however, I do think there are steps that we can take.

We have a race problem because we believe there are races.

We have a race problem because we believe there are race(s).  There are not races.  There is one race – the human race.  Whenever we look at each other, treat each other, categorize one another, have bias for or against one another, over generalize one another and draw conclusions about one another based on the color of skin, the style we exhibit or even the lifestyles we have – we have played into the problem.  We do not have multiple races.  Yes, we have ethnicity, culture, and even skin tone, but those things do not define anyone like the word HUMAN!  Each person is a HUMAN.  So, when you treat or interact with someone, talk about someone, draw conclusions about someone or even generalize someone in your mind based on skin, you are demonstrating your heart struggle with the sin of partiality (more on that to come).  God has clearly created us from one blood.  The Scripture is full of references to this.  Acts 17:26 states:

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

So what is the solution?  First, believe that we are all from the same Father and we share commonality in that we are made in the image of God.  Stop valuing or devaluing each other based on experience, skin tone, or anything else.  Value one another based on one truth – we are made in the image of God.

Solution #1 – Believe what God says about our shared origin and act accordingly.

Second, we have a race problem because we have a heart problem.

The sin of racism at it’s core is favoritism or partiality.  If you treat one person a certain way based on any number of issues – gender, skin, economic or social status, etc – you are practicing partiality.  Now, here is where it gets hard – do you find yourself uncomfortable around people who are homeless?  Do you get nervous and act differently around people from another culture?  Are you willing to treat a person who is a refuge or immigrant different than someone you might consider “legal”?  If so, those things reveal the real heart struggle of partiality.  This is where we need to look at allowing the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and having an honest take on what He reveals.

Solution #2 – Honesty and Holy Spirit heart searching is required.

Third, the only solution with past, present, future and eternal ramifications is the heart change brought about by the gospel of Jesus Christ, but that interlocks with working toward justice.

Yes, we should speak out against injustice.  Yes, we should hold accountable those that are doing wicked things.  Yes, we should work to see structural change in our society, in our country, states and cities.  Please hear me when I say this – yes these are important.  However, the only thing that will bring lasting change – change with healing and hope – is the heart change that is brought by faith in the work of Jesus.  This change is a work in progress and the church of the 21st Century is proof of that.  We are not perfect, but as we lean into the gospel we see Jesus’ heart for listening to our brothers and sisters who are being mistreated.  As we lean into the gospel and learn to apply it we see that we can serve those who are oppressed, depressed, downtrodden and even forgotten.  We (the Church) need to remember that the solution is calling people to repentance of their sins and faith in Jesus Christ.  Any other solution does not produce the full spectrum of change needed.

So, Christians, we need to make sure that we are working toward the spread of the gospel.  We need to be building helpful and grace oriented relationships to point people toward Jesus.  But don’t miss the call to work toward justice wherever possible.  I love Tim Keller’s statement on the gospel and justice:

“To work against social injustice and to call people to repentance before God interlock theologically.” – Timothy Keller

So yes, God wants us to call people toward Jesus and I believe that is the primary calling of the church.  But I also believe that there are many opportunities for us to work so that those who are the least of these (Matthew 25:40) know that we are for them and not against them and better yet – that God is for them and not against them.

Solution #3 – Share the Gospel, call to repentance and do justly.

One final note on this last point.  Sometimes doing justly means holding people accountable.  This is not fun or enjoyable in any sense, but it is imperative.  I am a Christian leader.  If I ever break the law, or have a moral failure of some sort, I expect to be held accountable.  Other pastors and leaders have had failures, but that does not lessen my trust in other pastors or Christian leaders – it is only a sober reminder of the need to take heed to my own heart and the true teaching of God’s word.  With that in mind, where other officials fail, I can decry the failures while still trusting the other authorities God has allowed.  To declare the death of George Floyd unjust – does not diminish my respect for police officers – many of whom are my friends and I trust.  My respect for the role – whether pastor, officer or government official does not stop me from speaking out when something is wrong – it actually encourages it.  In other words, speaking out against injustice, does not contradict my deep respect for the role or those who put their lives on the line to carry it out.

What Is The Answer?

Key Verses For Unsettling Times

A good friend of mine shared a document with me yesterday with a list of verses that He has been sharing out with a regional collaboration of churches that he works with.  It’s a great idea and it inspired me to create a list for us.  Check these out.  Also, if you want a pdf of it to print out and post – email me at a.patton@newstory.church.

Covid – 19 Key Scriptures Guide

Psalm 46:1-3  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”

Psalm 56:3  “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

2nd Timothy  1:7  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

John 14:27  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Joshua 1:9  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Romans 8:38-39  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

1st Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:6-7  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Isaiah 41:10  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

1st Peter 4:12-13  “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Romans 12:9-12  “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need…”

Romans 5:3-8  “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

James 1:2-5 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Philippians 1:27 – Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.  Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

Psalm 94:18-19  “When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Key Psalms: 4, 8, 16, 18, 20, 23, 27, 30, 86, 131

Key Verses For Unsettling Times

We are still the Church

I’ve said it several times over the past week.  You’ve likely heard several others say it as well.  We have an entirely new situation in front of us.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  For centuries we’ve done a lot of things in very similar ways.  Not anymore!  But don’t forget:

We may not be gathering but we are still going as the church!

We may not be gathering but we are still the church!  Here at New Story we started using the #alonetogether hashtag in order to remind ourselves that though we are social distancing and a lot has changed, we are not alone.  So, I want to address what it actually means when we say: we are still the church.  Here are my top 4 truths behind the statement: we are still the church.  We need to remember these truths and practice them because we are still the church.

God still loves us.

Yes, this is crazy.  But remember, through every dangerous and dark situation our world has ever faced, God has loved His people.  I wonder how God has demonstrated His love for you already.  What are you seeing?

Throughout the centuries, God has demonstrated His love for His people by sustaining, not removing them from dark situations.  Think of the Holocaust, the great persecutions of Christians during the 1st through 4th Centuries and the persecutions that have occurred recently in countries around the world that are closed off to Christianity.  God tends to show His love by supporting and sustaining His people through great and terrible times.  Today is no different.  If your expectation is for God to show His love by removing this, I am afraid you will be disappointed.  We can pray for that, but I don’t have any insight into how He will answer.  Don’t let that trick you into thinking that God doesn’t love us.  He does.

We need to love the world like He does.

The rest of the world is hurting too, and we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.  So, if God does love us, then we have an opportunity to love the world in a dark and dangerous situation.

Now more than ever you have a reason to check on your neighbors.  You have a reason to reconcile with a boss you’ve been fighting with.  You have a reason to reach out to an estranged family member and demonstrate love.  God, your God – loves this world desperately.  We need to demonstrate that desperate love.

We are still called to live holy lives.

There is a lot of talk about cleanliness right now.  Wash your hands.  Use hand sanitizer.  These are all important things – by the way, you need to be doing those things.  Do everything you can to promote health including social distancing.  But we also need to keep working on doing the things that will help us live holy lives.

Check your heart and your attitudes as often as you check what is going on with the virus.  Check to see if there is sin that you need to turn away from.  Are there positive steps that you need to take and have been avoiding?  Prayer?  Studying Scripture?  Asking forgiveness?  Checking your media and entertainment intake?  If so, don’t come out of this quarantine spiritually fat.  Work now to be spiritually fit.

We still have a common mission.

Finally, there are people all around us who are innately more aware of their own mortality.  Because of that, I believe there is an opportunity to point people toward the hope that Jesus has provided through His death, burial and resurrection.  We have hope because of Him.  Not our own deeds.

When Covid 19 is all over – what will be told about us and how we lived?  I hope that the story will be told that we shared Jesus over and over and we supported the needy and loved on the lost and cared for the lonely.  That is our mission.  We still have work to do even though the world seems to be in quarantine.

We are still the Church

Problems, Fears and A Balanced Response

I’m not sure any of us have experienced anything like this before.  You would have to be living under a rock to avoid the enormous amounts of information and conversation about the Coronavirus in recent days.  Social media displays everything from fear, mockery and even legitimate suggestions.  Since we are all aware of it, I wanted to share a few thoughts:

Don’t stick your head in the sand.

There is a legitimate problem that is threatening many people.  Every individual matters and therefore when a person is sick, injured or dies, that is a terrible concern.  Yes there are many problems all around our world that place people in jeopardy, but this is another.  We shouldn’t ignore it and we shouldn’t ignore the concerns that others have.

Be a hope dealer.

If you are fearful, or if your neighbors/friends/family members are fearful – I hope that people won’t mock you.  Sadly, some of that is happening.  Christians – this should not be us.  Please don’t mock people who have fears.  Some fears are held by those who have preexisting conditions.  Some fears are there because of concern for loved ones.  Let’s acknowledge that there are fears and address that but not mock it.  In fact, when these fears come up, why not share the source of our hope – Jesus.  Encourage people.  Remind them that God sees them and cares.  Point them toward Jesus.

Handle your fears with wisdom and trust.

If you have fears – remember – we can take those fears to God and not be controlled by those fears (Philippians 4:6-7)  On the other hand – Christians, this isn’t just a trust thing.  It’s not like we can simply trust God and you won’t get sick.  You can pray about it.  You can ask God for protection but I don’t know how He will answer that prayer.  However, you can trust Him to work for your good and His glory.  You can trust that He will keep his promises to you no matter what.  I can trust that even if I grow sick and die, I have the hope of heaven.  We should use wisdom as well.  Take the normal precautionary measures.  Be wise about hygiene.  If you are sick – be wise.  Stay home.  If you are around people – don’t shake hands.  Use your elbow.  Wash your hands.  Use hand sanitizer.

Let’s help our city.

Christians, this is where we can excel.  Our world is afraid.  Please recognize this as an opportunity to point people toward Jesus.  He is why we have hope.  Our hope is found in something better than a life here where we never get sick.  Our hope is found in eternity.  Use these very real fears as a chance to talk about Jesus.

We can also excel by serving those around us.  Rather than hoarding – we should be ready to share with those in need.  The early church was not known for spreading fear and stockpiling for themselves.  The early church excelled because they were ready to help the needy and ready to share with others who were walking through difficulty.   If there are shortages – share.

How about you?  What opportunities do you see to help and encourage others with the abundance of fear around us?

Problems, Fears and A Balanced Response

God’s Will “For Me”?

As a pastor I often have conversations with people about what is best for their lives and how to make decisions that will lead them in a good direction.  Personally, I don’t always enjoy this part of what I do as a pastor because there is always a bit of fear in me when these discussions roll around.  The fear is related to one very big idea that I personally hold.

I believe that God won’t lead you contrary to what His revealed word says.

Yes, I actually believe that and it’s rooted in one idea – God Never Changes!  So, if God never changes and He has already spoken on the subject of finances or sexuality, church involvement or even swearing, then yes – He will not lead you contrary to what His word (The Bible) already says.

Here is my point.  Increasingly – Christians are saying – I need to figure out what is right for me – and they are applying this idea to areas that God has already spoken on.  So, guess what: you don’t have to figure out what is right for you.  It’s already right in front of you, on your phone, in your Bible app.

Here is why the fear – this idea is putting me in an increasingly small group.  I know that!  But it’s okay, because God doesn’t change.  So, please, look to God’s word concerning the issues of “His Will”.  Most of the things we have questions about, He has already spoken on.

God’s Will “For Me”?

4 Steps To Creating A Plan Of Escape

I confess, I’m writing this because I need to be reminded, and I would guess that if you are trying to follow Jesus…so do you.

I’m teaching through Romans right now.  It’s not a long teaching series, so I don’t get to spend a ton of time on each verse or chapter, however I’m trying to wrestle with as much as I can in the allotted time.

This past weekend I interacted with Romans 6.  It is needed in the life of the Church and in the life of this pastor.  Statements like this:

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  – Romans 6:2

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; – Romans 6:11-13

So in thinking through fighting back against sin, I was reminded of how we need to identify the temptations we are struggling with and put a plan of escape together.

Have you done that?

Do you need to?

If so, here are four helpful steps that I’ve been using since my college days.

Identify the specific temptations.

The first step to putting a plan of escape together involves being honest about what you are struggling with.  You may be tempted to steal at work.  You may be tempted to lie.  You may even face temptation toward things in your mind  that no one else might see.  Whatever it is, be honest about it so you know what you are facing.

Identify where you are likely to face them.

Where do you tend to face these temptations?  Do you tend to face them at work?  At home?  Late at night?  On the way home?  Wherever and whenever it is, if you identify it, you can prepare yourself for those moments.

Write down someone you can call or a place you can go to take yourself away from the temptation.

I know what you are thinking – you’re not going to call someone else about this struggle.  Well, I hope I can convince you change your mind.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.  – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

When we have someone else who can help us, the chances of our success dramatically increase.  Who can you call?  Where can you go to get away from the temptation?

Choose one verse you can memorize and fight with.

The last step that I have found incredibly helpful is memorizing Scripture.  When I get in the heat of the battle, I need to be reminded of what I want most, not just want I may want right now.  God’s Word reminds me of the truth.

Choose a verse.  It doesn’t have to be the perfect one.  God will use it to help you.  Write it down on a card and begin to read it each day.

Having a plan of escape when temptation comes is critical.  Sin will be killing you and your relationship with God and others if you aren’t fighting to kill it.  If you want to see more from Romans 6 about why we can’t keep walking in sin as Christians, you can check it out here!

4 Steps To Creating A Plan Of Escape

Why You Won’t Win Unless You Are Honest With Yourself

The truth is…it’s a struggle for every single one of us.  Some people look like they have it all together.  Some people act like they don’t struggle.  Some people even believe that they are immune, but the reality is that everyone of us fights an inward battle that we will never win until we are honest.

What is it?

It is the battle with temptation.

Now, I realize that not everyone who reads this will acknowledge the idea of “sin” or temptation, but I think we can all acknowledge that it is possible for us to do things that hurt other people and vice versa.  For me that is the very definition of sin and sin starts with temptation.  Here’s what I know about temptation – it usually starts in our minds and we tend to hide the fact that we are struggling with it – and as long as we do, we aren’t going to win!  That’s a problem.

Temptation – it usually starts in our minds and we tend to hide the fact that we are struggling with it – and as long as we do, we aren’t going to win!

And in case you were wondering, the problem is bigger than we think – here’s why:

Thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to habits, habits lead to lifestyles, and lifestyle produces a legacy.

So what can we do?

In 1 Peter 4 – Peter tells us to arm ourselves with the attitude of Christ in the battle against sin.  Christ went to the cross with eyes wide open – knowing that it was going to be a great battle.  He was honest and open about not wanting to do it, but having a willingness to obey the Father.  That gives us a real key to fighting back against sin: honesty and humility.

What if we were honest about our struggles and knew that sharing that struggle wasn’t a pathway to condemnation but a doorway to restoration?  What if we were honest with ourselves, honest with God and honest with trusted friends about our private struggles?  What then?  Maybe we would win a few more battles.

What if we were humble enough to acknowledge that we need help?  I think that honesty and humility would begin to produce habits and lifestyles that would produce a different legacy.

So, start with being honest with God daily.  Then be honest with a trusted friend, and maybe we can grow in a way that will help us fight back against sin.

A final question for you all – is the way you are currently living going to produce the legacy you want to leave behind?  If not, why not honestly and humbly ask for help.

5.19.19 Title Slide.png

Why You Won’t Win Unless You Are Honest With Yourself

Waiting On The World To Change

All of us are more than a little concerned with the major problems in our world today.

  • Sex Trafficking
  • Gun Violence
  • Poverty/Homelessness
  • Gender Inequality
  • Refugee Crises
  • Racial Divides
  • And much much more!

But…

“It’s hard to make a difference when we’re standing at a distance.”  The words from the John Mayer song make a lot of sense – so much so that I started looking at what Jesus had to say around the major problems in our world.  That searching led me to share a talk with New Story Church called “Waiting On The World To Change”.  You can check it out here and if nothing else you should listen to the opening story and Jesus’ solution to the major problems in our world – big problems require doing something small.

If you want to move something big, do something small.

At the end of the talk I shared 3 different steps that you and I can take to move closer

  1. Start a friendship
  2. Get some education
  3. Share what you have

But how do we do something about those steps…that is what I want to address and I hope that you will choose something that you can do this week.

First – START A FRIENDSHIP.  Ok, that may sound easier than it actually is, but the reality is that you can start praying for the people around you who are different than you.  You can start praying that God would introduce you to someone who is different than you or you can simply be more intentional with someone you are already an acquaintance with.  The only thing is that it will require you and me being consistent and intentional.

The truth is – true friendship requires consistent investment!  

So, who can you start spending time with?  Maybe it means that you sit with the same people at your kids sporting events and eventually ask them to hang out.  Maybe you go to the same restaurant each week and start to talk with the same person.  It is as simple as that, but it is also as consistent as that.

Second – GET SOME EDUCATION.  What?  You mean go back to school?  No that’s not what I mean but there are lots of great groups helping with awareness here in Kansas City.  Let me address a few things that you can do to simply educate yourself under two major problems: Sex Trafficking and Racial Division.

Sex Trafficking

You might not think that sex trafficking is a big deal here in Kansas City…but you would be wrong.  Since we are so centrally located and we are a crossroads of sorts, the very real problem of trafficking is real here.  I highly recommend checking out these groups below to learn more about the problem and what we can do to move the needle a little.

https://exoduscry.com/

https://restorationhousekc.com

http://www.stoptraffickingproject.com

Racial Division

There are so many resources that I could point you to and so many different people speaking on this particular issue that it would make anyone’s head spin.  However, there are two books that have recently impacted my thinking deeply.

One Blood by John M. Perkins and Divided By Faith by Michael D. Emerson and Christian Smith.

Get them and read them and then start building bridges by relationship.

Finally, SHARE WHAT YOU HAVE.  There is a real problem of poverty in our community – share when you can.  We don’t have to answer all the questions about why people are poor in order to care about them and help meet a need.  People matter!  Do something.  Open up your home to people who are different than you.  Share your time.  Each of these things are small steps towards a big problem – but remember IF YOU WANT TO MOVE SOMETHING BIG, DO SOMETHING SMALL.

Waiting On The World To Change

How To Suffer Well

This past weekend we continued our walk through 1 Peter and we dealt with a difficult subject – What To Do When Your Boss Is A Jerk!  I had originally planned for this message to allow me to walk through verses 18-25 but we did not have time for that.  Therefore, I want to take a few moments to reflect on some of the ramifications of this past message.  If you missed it, you can check it out here:

But what do we do when we are suffering in the workplace?  What do we do when we are suffering in the home or the community?  Peter deals with that in the verses that follow his instructions about slaves and masters.

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:20-25)

So how do we suffer well?  There are 5 reminders that show up in the text that I want to outline.

1. Acknowledge that this is our calling!  Peter says that if you suffer for doing good and you endure it – it is commendable before God and then he reminds us of something I really don’t like – this is our calling!  I don’t like suffering.  I am much more naturally inclined to complained and frustration when I go through difficulty, so Peter’s statement is a little discouraging.  However, we must remember that this is not our home and our home is characterized by the absence of suffering!

Now, Peter says that we are called to this because Christ suffered for us, leaving an example so that we can follow in His steps.

We don’t pick and choose where, when or how we follow Jesus.

It is a difficult calling, and yet it’s no different from what our master endured for us.  This is our calling.

2. Remember that Jesus’ suffering was completely undeserved…and that didn’t stop His suffering.  

He committed no sin and there was no deceit in his mouth and yet, he was mistreated.  Often we can think that as long as we don’t do anything wrong or treat anyone poorly, we won’t be mistreated or we SHOULDN’T be mistreated.  That just isn’t true in our world.  Jesus’ suffering was completely undeserved.  I wish I could say that about myself, but I can’t.

You may treat everyone with fairness at work.  You may be innocent towards your spouse.  You may have been incredibly gracious towards your spouse, but none of those things can insulate you from suffering.

3. Your options are to trust your instincts or to trust God.

When someone attacks me, my initial response is to defend myself.  I may want to explain how they got it wrong.  I might try to call people and gain supporters.  Or, I may simply consider putting something online that defends my innocence.  And yet, when Jesus was unjustly attacked He did not respond, but instead entrusted Himself to God the Father.

That is really the issue so often – to trust God or my own instincts.  But my one question for you is this: which is more reliable, God or your instincts?

4.  Others are being impacted by your responses.

Christ’s willingness to suffer well resulted in the incredible forgiveness and restored relationship with God that we now have.  I think in a similar, albeit lesser way, the way that you respond is impacting other people.

Do you have children?  They are learning about your faith with your suffering.

Do you have people you are sharing Christ with?  They are finding out just how powerful your God is when you respond to difficulty.

Do you have co-workers?  They are learning about Jesus when you get mistreated or passed over for a promotion on the job.

5.  Commit your soul,mind and body to your Shepherd and Overseer.

Peter ends his example from Christ by announcing that we are now able to return to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (God) through the perfected work of Jesus Christ.  I believe this is an important point and here’s why:

When you are suffering, you have an opportunity to commit yourself to the watch care and oversight of well…yourself, or to the watch care and oversight of our God. 

Suffering well requires that we commit ourselves to the watch care and oversight of our God.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.

So, the next time you are overlooked on the job, mistreated in your neighborhood, lied about on social media or even fired because of your faith…remember – this is our calling and we can trust God.

How To Suffer Well