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?

Is Anything Gospel Neutral?

This week I am preparing to preach on evangelism, and there has been a thought that has been rattling around in my mind that doesn’t quite fit into the sermon… so I need to put it somewhere.  A Mid-Week Update sounds about perfect!

Here is the question: when Christians are making decisions about how they go about their day to day lives, are their any decisions that have absolutely zero significance for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the gospel?  Said differently, is anything gospel neutral?

When you decide to buy a house, or stay in your apartment complex, by making this decision you are choosing the people with whom you will rub shoulders most often as you come and as you go… these are the folks with whom you will most often have the opportunity to have conversation about the Almighty God we know who loves us!

When you decide to pursue a career as a stay at home dad or a chemical engineer at Medtronic, this will effect the people with whom you rub shoulders and the amount of time you will have to encourage people to know and follow Christ.

When I decide what I am going to eat for breakfast, I am altering the way that my body works and how effective I will be at being able to concentrate on loving others instead of taking care of myself.

When ANBC decided to fix their A/C this week, it changed some folks ability to concentrate on God (some for the better… I do like the cold… some for the worse… sorry to those who like it hot…).

If a couple decides to try to have biological kids, to adopt, to stop trying, to send those kids to public school, to home school, to private school, to sign up the kids for a sport or a play that takes up all of the family’s time… all of these choices have an implication for how the Gospel is played out in real time!

Dogs? Cats? Fish? T-Shirt/Suit? If and what to watch on the screen? What to do on Wednesday night? How clean is your house going to be? How to cut your hair? All of these have implications about how much time your will have to love a certain group of people for the sake of more and more people hearing about God’s love that was expressed through Christ death on a cross.

Sometimes choices are made for you, (because that is how the cookie crumbles) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything in your power to live your life as if it were a sacrifice to God.

Paul says in his letter to the church in Rome:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:1

What choices are you making today, are you planning on making tomorrow, did you make yesterday that are easy to see the gospel implications of?

Can you think of any that don’t have any implication for the sake of God’s Kingdom?

The Midwest Church Planting Project

It has happened, every once in a great while, that I have told a story that then made its way out into the brave world where it caught hold and influenced someone to do something awesome. I am never sure which story is going to find the right ears, the right time, the right circumstances, the right mixture of everything to do this… so it pushes me to make sure that I am telling a story worthy of the calling to which I have been called: a Child of God. (Don’t get me wrong, I mess this one up all the time… but I still push myself to get better at it!)

The link below is a bit of my story, broadcast to the world through The Midwest Church Planting Project.  Give it a listen and I hope that it finds the right mixture a couple of times to encourage people to be closer followers of Jesus.

https://castbox.fm/episode/On-Suffering-w%2F-Dave-Hammond-id1359421-id83582561?country=us

Pure Desire, by Ted Roberts

Every once in a while I am reading a book and I realize that there might not be a way for me to express my thoughts in better words than the way the author has done so on the page in front of me.  Today I want to leave you all with the final couple of pages from Ted Roberts’ book, Pure Desire. This book works through the practical side of doing ministry with broken people and near the end he asks a question:

So, again, why do it? Good question. I recently saw a news report that epitomizes America, a nation going down the drain spiritually. A little guy named Daniel had been admitted to the emergency room at the local hospital. He was beaten over every square inch of his body by his mother’s live-in lover who decided to use the boy as a punching bag. (“He had a few too many beers,” the man said.) The close-up of Daniel’s little face left little room for doubt that Daniel’s abuser was in bondage himself.

These were not people on welfare, lashing out in desperation. The mom and her lover had good jobs; apparently they were executives. But I know how Daniel feels. I’ve been there. Who’s going to reach his battered soul?

  • Who’s going to help that mom get out of the insanity she’s caught in?
  • Who’s going to help that man deal with his anger?
  • Who’s going to break this cycle of bondage, abuse and pain?

There’s only one answer, and it isn’t the federal or state government. The Church is the only answer.

  • A Church that’s a place of hope and healing.
  • A group of people willing to pay the price of ministering to such a painful situation.
  • A Church that believes in and has personally experienced God’s power so that they can speak real hope to such hurting souls.
  • A group of people who have faced the woundedness of their own souls and discovered God’s amazing grace.
  • A Church that doesn’t see the people out there as the problem, but as prisoners of hell with a noose around their necks.

I turned off that news program and had a good time of repenting before the Lord for complaining about the cost. Then I said, “Lord, sign me up again. And show us something we can so for Daniel.”

And He did.

Pure Desire, by Ted Roberts: pages 268-269.

Hurting people hurt people who in turn hurt others.  I want Grafted to be a place where we do ministry to help hurting people find hope and healing in the Good News that God’s love and grace are enough.  I want us to be a church where broken people find a family that lasts forever through the bonds of the blood of Jesus.  I want to be a place where people can encounter the power of God working in their lives.

  • What is it going to take for us to be that place?
  • What do you need to do to help us get there?
  • What is your next step?

BLESS Part 5: Story

This is the fifth in a 5-part series which takes on the very serious question: how do we Bless people practically?  If we are supposed to be carrying out the vision of Grafted, “Honor God by helping as many people as possible become fully committed members in Christ’s Forever Family,” by using our mission, “Bless, Belong, Believe, and Bloom,” how are we supposed to do that first step, Bless?  Dave Ferguson at the Verge Network asked that same question for his church’s missional communities (their version of small groups) and came up with a 5-point answer which changes “Bless” into an acronym:

  1. Begin with prayer,
  2. Listen,
  3. Eat,
  4. Service, and
  5. Story.

Each of these 5 posts is going to take one of these ideas and give a bit of a biblical background to the idea and practical ideas for how to do it in real life.  Welcome to week 5: Story.

While it is easy to consider blessing someone something that is done by giving someone something material, there is an incredible way to be a blessing to others that costs you nothing, but instead it is you sharing what God has done in your life with someone else by telling them your Story.

Your relationship with Jesus is unique to you.  No one else has lived your life.  And therefore your story has a value that is beyond compare!  You have something that is so rare and precious that it can easily be said, “no one else has what you have.”  All of our stories may have some of the same elements like a broken person saved by a loving God, but the circumstances that surround how God saved you are different from the ones around how God saved me are different from the rest of humanity!

When Peter wrote:

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15

He wanted everyone to whom he was writing to be able to talk about their hope, even with times looked very dark.  No matter the situation, if you have spent time praying for, listening to, eating with, and serving others, your story can have an incredible impact on the life of someone who is wiling to listen.

As Peter says, “do this with gentleness and respect” (a different translation could read, “don’t be an ass,” but I haven’t found it yet). And in sharing your story that points to God’s blessing on your life, you could be leading someone to put their trust in the greatest blessing anyone has ever experienced: a life saved by the blood of Jesus, the Son of God.

 

Thus endeth our 5 part series looking at a strategy for how to bless others!

  1. Begin with prayer,
  2. Listen,
  3. Eat,
  4. Service, and
  5. Story.

Has there been anyone that has come to your mind as you have read these blog posts that God is prompting you to bless? If there any way that we at Grafted can come along at your side to help make it easier?  Let us know in the comments or drop me an email at dave@graftedcc.com!

 

BLESS Part 4: Service

This is the fourth in a 5-part series which takes on the very serious question: how do we Bless people practically?  If we are supposed to be carrying out the vision of Grafted, “Honor God by helping as many people as possible become fully committed members in Christ’s Forever Family,” by using our mission, “Bless, Belong, Believe, and Bloom,” how are we supposed to do that first step, Bless?  Dave Ferguson at the Verge Network asked that same question for his church’s missional communities (their version of small groups) and came up with a 5-point answer which changes “Bless” into an acronym:

  1. Begin with prayer,
  2. Listen,
  3. Eat,
  4. Service, and
  5. Story.

Each of these 5 posts is going to take one of these ideas and give a bit of a biblical background to the idea and practical ideas for how to do it in real life.  Welcome to week 4: Service.

When folks think of blessing others, often the idea of service is the idea of which people think. Jesus was big on service as he described His kingdom to His disciples.

Mark 10:42-45 records Him giving this lesson:

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

If you want to be like Jesus, and be great among His followers, you must take on the mantle of a servant, and be “slave of all.”  No one ever said following Jesus was going to be easy, in fact it is certainly going to mean laying down your own preferences for the sake of someone else. (This is, after all, what Jesus did for all of us when He laid down His life in one of the most horrible ways possible to become our death so that we could have eternal life.)

I am going to assume that you have been following along with this five-part series, and in the Blessing that you are trying to do you have started off praying, listened to the other persons felt and actual needs, shared a meal with them… at this point, knowing how to be a servant to them should have come up in conversation.  What do you know about the person?  Are they going through any transitions in their life?  Are there any areas in their life where they would say that they are between a rock and a hard place, where you could help them?

While I feel like I could end this blog post here, I want to offer one bit of encouragement here: this is easier when you do it in the context of community.  Pray in community. Listen in community. Eat in community. Serve in community. This is one of the reasons why we push everyone at Grafted to be actively involved in one of our small groups.  If our church lost the ability to meet on Sundays as a whole church, much of what it means to be a follower of Jesus could be learned and practiced while being a part of a Grafted Small Group.  If you have more questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to contact us. We love getting together to talk about what God is doing at our church!

BLESS Part 3: Eat

This is the third in a 5-part series which takes on the very serious question: how do we Bless people practically?  If we are supposed to be carrying out the vision of Grafted, “Honor God by helping as many people as possible become fully committed members in Christ’s Forever Family,” by using our mission, “Bless, Belong, Believe, and Bloom,” how are we supposed to do that first step, Bless?  Dave Ferguson at the Verge Network asked that same question for his church’s missional communities (their version of small groups) and came up with a 5-point answer which changes “Bless” into an acronym:

  1. Begin with prayer,
  2. Listen,
  3. Eat,
  4. Service, and
  5. Story.

Each of these 5 posts is going to take one of these ideas and give a bit of a biblical background to the idea and practical ideas for how to do it in real life.  On to week 3: Eat.

There is something about eating a meal together that is so much more than consuming nutrients that sustain us.  Martha had to learn this truth from Jesus:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  -Luke 10:38-42

The food is important at a meal… but the conversation and paying attention to each other is of upmost importance.

When we want to BLESS other people, after we have asked the King of the Universe to guide us and after we have shown that we are willing to be a listening ear, inviting people to join you in a meal where you not only provide for their physical needs, but also for their relational and emotional needs, is a way to start to care for other’s spiritual needs.

 

Fair warning: when you start eating with people in this way, your relationships are going to become so much deeper that it might get a little scary. Do so only at your own risk.

There are two main groups with whom my family and I regularly do this: our small group and our neighbors.  We do so with the first in order to grow our relationships so that as we challenge and encourage each other’s beliefs, we already have a deep relationships upon which to draw in order to know that the other people have our best interests in mind. Come to think of it… that is why we eat with the neighbors, too!

Well, I’m off to get ready for a neighborhood cookout right now! When are you going to have yours?

BLESS part 2: Listen

This is the second in a 5-part series which takes on the very serious question: how do we Bless people practically?  If we are supposed to be carrying out the vision of Grafted, “Honor God by helping as many people as possible become fully committed members in Christ’s Forever Family,” by using our mission, “Bless, Belong, Believe, and Bloom,” how are we supposed to do that first step, Bless?  Dave Ferguson at the Verge Network asked that same question for his church’s missional communities (their version of small groups) and came up with a 5-point answer which changes “Bless” into an acronym:

  1. Begin with prayer,
  2. Listen,
  3. Eat,
  4. Service, and
  5. Story.

Each of these 5 posts is going to take one of these ideas and give a bit of a biblical background to the idea and practical ideas for how to do it in real life.  On to week 2: Listen.

How is it that listening can be so incredibly hard?

I have been spending my time in God’s word looking at the Proverbs and James recently and these verses sound like they matter here:

13 To answer before listening—
    that is folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13

How often do we rush in to a situation, assuming we know what is best for everyone involved, without actually checking to make sure that we understand what is happening and what people’s needs truly are? …maybe that’s just me.  If it is you, too, then welcome to the club of folks who prefer to ask forgiveness than permission… to our own detriment.  If we truly want to Bless others, we must be patient enough to Listen to them to learn how we can best bless them.

Sometimes it is a good thing that I have been reminded that not listening looks like folly and shame; it goes a long way to changing my motivations… and other times I just need to be put under divine commandment to just do it.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Jame 1:19-20

While it may certainly be easier to do something when it aligns with my motivations, sometimes we need to act in accordance with God’s plan so that our actions encourage our motivations to follow along for the ride!

When you hear that in order to Bless others that you need to listen do you feel like hearing why to listen is more impact-full for you or do you just need the divine command of God to Listen?