Brutal Honesty

In my life I have gone through all kinds of seasons where I have done a better or, alternatively, worse job of following Jesus. One area where you can see this pendulum swing is how I have interacted with Paul’s words in the letter to the church in Ephesus:

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4:15

I have used this verse to claim that my words need to be as truthful as possible because, “the truth will cause us to grow.”  I have been warned by others that if the truth isn’t said in such a way that the other person can understand it, it is just a loud noise coming from me… (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) But on I went, sharing brutal honesty wherever I went, armed with my knowledge that I really want people to become a part of the mature body of Christ; so here’s is your truth whether you want it or not!

But like in every great story, the main character in our story has changed a bit. (More than a bit for those of you who have known me for a while…)  Recognizing that the truth without love is only brutal honesty took far too long for me.  Brutal honesty isn’t just sharing the truth, it is more brutality than anything.  When the truth becomes a weapon, a club used to attack others, the phrase “brutal honesty” can be applied perfectly.

When our minds are governed by the truth that God is, that He loves us, and that there isn’t anything that we can do to change that, we can step forward into any situation with the confidence, with the grace, and with the love which was extended to us by God.

What does your relationship with truth and love look like?  Where have you been and where are you now?  Everyone is on a journey; following Jesus looks like getting a little closer to Him every single day!

Finding Rest Looks Hard

To say the least, the Hammond family has been going through a lot lately.  As we do, we are trying to honor God with the way that we raise our kids, with the way that we handle the stress of brain cancer and it’s treatment, with the way that we are reaching out to our neighbors with the love of God and with the good news that the love of God is for them, and with the way that we interact with Him.  There can be moments when I can be stretched to my limit where I am not sure I can keep going.

And in those moments I think about the words of Jesus that say things like:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

I so very much want the rest for my soul, I want and easier yoke, I want a lighter burden… but often when I am stretched thin I chase after the rest, the easier life, and the lighter burden.  Jesus does not want us to worry and work after the removal of worry and work from our lives.  Jesus wants us to worry and work to focus our lives on Him so that He can remove the worry and work from our lives.  This is so incredibly counter intuitive to me.  If I stop juggling all the balls, they will fall to the ground, won’t they?

But what if all along there was a master juggler just waiting for you to turn around so that He could take the balls from you?  “Come to me,” says the Master Juggler.  “Learn from me,” He says.  “Take on the yoke of keeping your eyes focused on me.”

“And I will give you rest.”

Are you trying to keep all the balls in the air on your own? Or are you working hard to stay near, to keep your eyes fixed on, and to learn from the Master Juggler?

Equipping So That The Body May Be Built

I fear that often people think that they are going to join a church, it will provide for them a social club to which they can belong, and all will be puppy dogs and rainbows from here on out.  But if I have learned anything from the last four years of us working together to keep Grafted Community Church a place where people can be grafted into God’s family, it is that the work of doing church is hard, ridiculous, intense, and nearly impossible because we live in a world that is permeated by the presence, power, and result of sin.

As I think about the difficulties in keeping a church going, I think it is important to remember that it is Christ who is really keeping His church running by giving gifts to the children of God so that the church may be built!

This passage from Ephesians has been helpful to me lately.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:11-16

One of the reasons I have needed this passage lately is because our church has for a long time relied on Jordan to help each of us do our part of building up Christ’s body.  Because Jordan is no longer employed by our church, each of us is going to have to take a hard look inside of us and see the gifts that God has given to each of us so that we can do our part of building up His body. There is a void let in our church because Jordan did so many wonderful things for our church.  Where are you going to use your gifts to grow Christ’s church?

If you have questions about using your gifts at Grafted, shoot me an email to dave@graftedcc.com and we can get together and figure out how to graft you into the roll!

Judges

Welcome back to a journey through a whole book of the Bible!  For our return to this style of sermons we have chosen, The Book of Judges!

This book has provided some of the most difficult stories for me to understand during my journey with the Bible.  Did Jephthah really sacrifice his daughter to God?  Am I supposed to be like Samson and kill a bunch of people with the jawbone of an ass?  What is going on with the Levite, his concubine, and the whole civil war thing at the end of the book?

In my understanding, Judges is the description of Israel’s spiraling out of control, spiraling from a people who have committed themselves to being the people of God, and spiraling into hell on earth.

But I believe that,

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Which means this book filled with backward leaders, horrible examples, and death and murder is useful for us so that we will be ready for the good work that God has prepared for us.  How is Judges going to do this? Well… (spoiler alert!)

Every story is going to point to Jesus.

Come back and listen as they get uploaded, or come join us on Sunday afternoons throughout the 2018-19 School Year and into Summer 2019 to find out how!  We hope to see you there!

Listen to the sermons here.

Be Still (And Don’t Look at Social Media)

It never ceases to amaze me as the world at large again and again comes to conclusions about ideas that have been floating around the family of God for generations. Today I was trying to feed my mind and clicked on this video by Derek at Veritasium… (it is seven and a half minutes long, but well worth the listen, no need to actually watch the video.)

For those of you who just scrolled right past that, the video describes all kinds of ways that we are better humans if we allow ourselves to be board every once in a while.

As I watched this video I realized how much it describes me.  In an effort to use every moment to its fullest I listen to podcasts, I watch or listen to educational videos, I have a Twitter Feed that is filled with encouraging messages about who I am as a child of God, I have a hard time driving down the road without the music on, I try to stay up to date on current events, and I check Facebook like 8 Bazillion times a day…

And what struck me was the fact that long ago God commanded His people to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Even when my prayer life was the most rewarding and healthy it has ever been, it involved using the time while I was in the car to pull it off.

When was the last time I was serious about seriously sitting down, being still, and simply knowing that the LORD is God?  How often do I fill my day so chock-full of good things that even when I do slow down to the point where I might be bored, I simply fall asleep?  What do I need to take out of my life so that I can be bored enough to think about things that actually matter, like God?

What about you?

Paths of Planets to the Movement of Molecules

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”
Genesis 1:14

“If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”
― R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God: Know God’s Perfect Plan for His Glory and His Children

I believe in a God who set into motion the Paths of the Planets and the Movement of Molecules.  I also believe in a God who also is in control of both the very big and the very small.  I find it easy to trust that God can be in control of these things that I can’t actually see, alters or manipulate myself.

So why, if I can trust that God is in control of both the very big and the very small, do I have trouble trusting Him with the great middle in between?

Why do I have trouble trusting God when His word says,

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Why do I have trouble trusting that God is doing what is best for me when Chelsea and I sit down with her oncologist and he tells us that the cancer is once again spreading and the best course of action will most likely change her personality once she goes through the treatment and will turn her brain to mush somewhere between 5 and 10 years from now…?

 

 

Because I love my wife and I can’t imagine life without her.

 

 

So what am I to do now?

 

 

Today I am going to do my best to follow the words of my Savior,

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34

I am going to follow the wisdom found in the Old Testament when the Teacher looked at life and realized that everything was temporary,

13 Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

There is This Psalm

My family, both nuclear because of my wife and extended because of my niece, has not been a stranger to spending time at a hospital as a loved one goes through some kind of medical procedure over which no one other than the doctors, the nurses, the hospital staff, and God have any ability to change the outcome.

There is a Psalm that has become a go to chapter in the Bible for both me and my sister as we sit in the waiting room…

This week there is no waiting room.  But there was the news that Chelsea’s brain cancer is growing again and it is time to put into motion the plan that we made right after her surgery: radiation and chemotherapy.  The combination of the two treatments has been highly successful at stopping cancer in its tracks in other patients.  But the radiation will give Chelsea’s brain a sunburn, the effects of which we will not see for something like 10 years and are irreversible once the treatment takes place. We will officially be on borrowed time.

There is no waiting room this week.  But there is a Psalm that still seems appropriate for this week.

Psalm 77

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.

I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
    the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
    you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, God,
    the waters saw you and writhed;
    the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
    the heavens resounded with thunder;
    your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
    your lightning lit up the world;
    the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
    your way through the mighty waters,
    though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?  I may not understand them… but I am going to choose to believe that God’s ways are holy and that there is no god that is as great as our God.

God, you are great. God, you are good. Thank you for whatever comes my way, for I know You!

The Crafty Scheming Enemy

I have often found that I need help or guidance as I enter into time being changed by God’s word.  There have been many different tools I have used, but most recently I have been using the YouVersion Bible and ReadScripture apps on my phone.   The ReadScripture app has me in the middle of Exodus where God is telling Moses the laws that He wants them to follow to help the moved from being a nation enslaved in Egypt to a nation that will image who God is to the world.

Some of these laws are incredibly weird, doling out punishment for incredibly specific situations where a bull gets loose, but the owner knew about it, or maybe the owner didn’t know about it… it is all a bit odd.  But it made me think about a situation in my household earlier this week.  My kids were all playing independently near each other, and one of them was swinging around a scarf and hit another one in the eye with it.

Now, I know that kids will be kids, but kids also need to know that they will be held accountable for their actions.  We talked through how sometimes we hurt someone without even trying, just because we are trying to live life.  Sometimes when we are trying to be helpful we even end up causing others more pain!

Sin is sneaky like that.  Sometimes you don’t even realize that what you are doing is causing pain.  It could be causing you pain, causing pain to another, or could be an unintentional slap in the face to God.

If we have the possibility constantly hanging over our hears, the chance that we are causing pain by our actions or inaction, how are we supposed to do anything?  It can be downright paralyzing!

I want to suggest some tools that are available to all of us to help identify sin in our lives so that we can repent, or turn away from them, ask God to extend His forgiveness to us for them, and live confidently as His children, knowing that we are loved and forgiven!

The People of God

This takes time and a huge does of humility!  In Matthew 7:5 Jesus said,

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Jesus assumed that we were going to be going around helping each other by pointing out and removing issues in each other’s eyes, or rather, their lives.  Therefore He gave us instructions for how we can prepare ourselves to do this: examine your own life before trying to examine another’s.

The Word of God

To pull off examining your own life, you need a tool that can be a compass guiding you in your efforts.  This one takes some time and effort, but in the end, reading how God has interacted with His children in the past helps us to know how we can best interact with Him, with ourselves, and with each other today.

 

The Spirit of God

In both of these efforts, helping others see their sin and trying to see your own sin for what it is, all of us need help.  Luckily,

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth…

Saying out loud, “Spirit help,” is a wonderful way to start this process!  Prayer doesn’t have to be much more, but only requires a simple request and then patience listening to an answer.

Your Circumstances

Lastly, it is important to recognize that sometimes the answer comes less from God’s book, or God’s people, but from the circumstances that surround you.  God may speak in a red light, an unexpected bill, or in a flower the bloomed where it shouldn’t have.  Understanding what God is saying in your surroundings is incredibly difficult because how we interpret what is happening can differ from moment to moment.  Don’t neglect paying attention to what is happening around you, but trust the other three voices over what could be last night’s pizza, not God speaking to you…

 

Are you allowing sin to be identified in your life?  When it is revealed to you, how do you respond?  I hope that all of us put God first in our lives, allowing everything else to fall in line after Him!

Sex Sermon Summary

This past Sunday (8/26/18) I got the opportunity to discuss the question, “Why is sexual purity such a big deal in Christianity?”  It was a fun sermon and typically we would be making sure that it got up online for the folks who were unable to attended, so that they could listen to it and talk about it with the rest of us… but, due to a recording issue, only half of the sermon was recorded… 🙁

I thought I would give a couple of bullet points here and allow them to stand in for a sermon recording!

First we walked through the fact that humans are, in our nature, image bearers of God (see Genesis 1:26-28).  We also pointed out that God created a community of humans in order to reflect the community in God’s Triune nature.

We next jumped to Genesis 2, where the Bible explains HOW God made the community of people.  In verses 20-24 of chapter 2 we see God cause the man to fall into a deep sleep, and then God takes a part of the man and creates two whole people.  Once again there is the unity in plurality idea that reflects the unity in the three persons of God.  But the person who pulled all of the stories in Genesis together jumps in at verse 24 and says,

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

The reason people want to become one flesh, or have sex, is because humanity was once one flesh and we now act out that reality in the context of sex in marriage!

Wrap that all together and the reason why sexual purity is such a big deal in Christianity is because we play out our roll of imaging God in the context of pure sex.  If sex is impure, or rather if we are taking part in sexual immorality, we declare something about God that isn’t true.

  • If we have sex with a prostitute, or purchase sex in any way, we are declaring that God is cheap enough to be purchased.
  • If we create a fictional character in our minds, whether it is put there by a pornographic movie, image, a book we are reading or we create the image using a person’s body we know in the real world, and we have sex with them in our minds, we are declaring that God isn’t real.
  • If we have sex with ourselves by masturbating we are denying that God is a community of persons in unity.
  • If we have sex with our boyfriend or girlfriend we are declaring that God does not require commitment.
  • If we sleep around, use sex as a weapon, a tool to get what you want, or just for your own enjoyment promiscuously, we are declaring that God is shallow, manipulative, and not worthy of trust.

 

All of us are declaring SOMETHING about who God is by the way that we are interacting with sexual purity?  What about you?

 

At the end of the sermon I encouraged folks who wanted to talk about this one over a burrito or a beer or tea or whatever to contact me, because this is not an easy topic.  I know that I have made a mockery of sexual purity at different points in my life.  I have needed many people to help encourage me during the journey.

One of the books that has been floating around, giving help to some, is a book called Pure Desire by Ted Roberts.  He was a fighter pilot, so some of his examples are a bit on the macho side for my taste, but he has faced sexual immorality in his own life and allowed the gospel to bring healing.  There is something for everyone to learn from reading this book!

There were so many great points in the sermon (like answering the question about how single people image this aspect of God without having sex), but there is only so much space in a blog post.

As always, I would love to get together and chat if you have questions!  Shoot me and email and we can figure it out! dave@graftedcc.com

The Power is Yours!

My kids are now old enough that they know The Magic School Bus’s theme song, pretty much by heart (my kids pick up songs WAY too quickly…)  But watching the show with them always make me think about a Meme I saw once about how Ms. Frizzle’s class grew up to do something supper important.

Related image

Oh, Captain Planet and the Planeteers.  This show was one of the gems of the ’90s base around the idea that the planet had received so much mistreatment that Gaia called these 5 teenagers together to help turn the tide in the war for our planet.  They each were given individual powers, but, not only that, when their powers combined they were able to summon the super hero Captain Planet!

Image result for captain planet

Whenever Captain Planet had vanquished the foes (or whatever) he left in a flurry of light and music which would return the individual powers back to the Planeteers, and as he disappeared he would say, “The power is yours!”

 

Why am I bringing this up?

 

Well, the Christian life is certainly more than saving the planet, and we can’t summon some super hero by combining all of our powers, but we follow a guy who by all accounts was pretty super.  Jesus was able to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, walk on water, feed the hungry, and bring hope and love where there was none. Jesus was not just a super hero; Jesus is God.

Luke recorded in Acts 1:8-9 these last words of Christ:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

There is a parallel to be drawn between the power Captain Planet gave to the Planeteers ever time he left them, and the power Jesus gave to His followers after His earthly ministry was completed… not a perfect parallel… but a pretty good one.

Today we, who are followers of Jesus, also have the Spirit of Christ living in us.  The power that raised Christ from the dead, can do more than we can possibly imagine in and through us!

What are you doing with the power that is yours?