The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Trust is the point

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Thank you, New Oaks, for worshipping so well. Yesterday, some long-term leaders needed to be away, and you stepped up in serving and in eagerness. It was a good Sunday!

Also thanks, musicians, for the song Indescribable. Lori (my DW) showed me how wonderfully atypical it is. It avoids the modern song’s chief preoccupation – me! – and sings instead about God himself. Yes!

Here’s my outline of what happened yesterday. . . It’s written in talking notes, rather than reading notes, so fill in the gaps, OK?

Second Sunday in Lent
March 12, 2006
Gen. 17:1-7,15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

Intro – Monte
Great book about teamwork out there – High Five – set in a kids hockey team that hasn’t won anything for a while. Coach remembers a woman who was a coach when he was a kid – winningest coach in girls bb ever in his state – knows he needs help – and he finds her in a care center, gets her to agree to come over and help him.

Picks her up, brings her to a practice. Old, frail, walks with a cane.

She watches the players. They have one with really good skills, who scores almost all their goals. Veteran coach watches for a few minutes, says, “Gotta get rid of that guy.”
“What? Without him, we’ve got no one to score!” But she persuades him to get this guy into a school play for eight weeks so he can’t make it to practice.

Guess what happens – team steps up, discovers new skills, blossoms.

Several long-term leaders are away this morning: Terry Victoria Chris Eliz Ben Brian – only moment to visit T’s mother; Leroy and Georgann; Dan. These are certainly not our only people with great hearts, but we do depend on them. Georgann’s bouyancy, Leroy’s sincerity, Ben’s technical mgmt – on down the list. These dear friends are among our point people.

But it’s good for us when they’re away a bit. Worship team will learn to sing w/o Georgann’s uplift; I learn to preach w/o their thoughtful answers and eager-to-learn hearts. I wonder – could this be an opportunity for you? With some of the leaders away – where do you fit? Where’s a delightful place for you? Here’s your invitation to explore, to learn about yourself, as we worship together.

Sharon – Psalm 22:23-31

23Shout Hallelujah, you God–worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
24He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.
25Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise–life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God–worshipers.
26Down-and-outers sit at GOD’s table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
Don’t ever quit!”
27From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to GOD.
Long-lost families
are falling on their faces before him.
28GOD has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.
29All the power-mongers are before him
-worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too
-worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together
-worshiping!
30Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
31Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news–
that God does what he says.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Come, Now is the Time
Jump In!
Indescribable

Sharon: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, GOD showed up and said to him, “I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! 2I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family.”
3Overwhelmed, Abram fell flat on his face.
Then God said to him, 4″This is my covenant with you: You’ll be the father of many nations. 5Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham, meaning that “I’m making you the father of many nations.’ 6I’ll make you a father of fathers–I’ll make nations from you, kings will issue from you. 7I’m establishing my covenant between me and you, a covenant that includes your descendants, a covenant that goes on and on and on, a covenant that commits me to be your God and the God of your descendants.

15God continued speaking to Abraham, “And Sarai your wife: Don’t call her Sarai any longer; call her Sarah. 16I’ll bless her–yes! I’ll give you a son by her! Oh, how I’ll bless her! Nations will come from her; kings of nations will come from her.”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Prayer – Sharon – [Let’s pray together …]

We give you all thanks and praise, O God,
for, in an everlasting covenant, you have promised
to be our God through all generations.

You called into existence things that did not exist:
the universe and all that inhabits it.
From Abraham and Sarah you brought forth nations,
calling them to walk before you in the righteousness
that comes from faith.

In your Son, Jesus,
you showed your compassion for the afflicted
and taught us that real life is found by those
who lose their life for your sake and for your gospel.
He was rejected by the religious leaders, and killed,
but three days later,
you raised him from the dead as Lord.
Now you justify all
who put their faith in you, through him,
counting it to us as righteousness,
and promising us the full riches of your grace
when Christ comes in glory.

Therefore, with our hearts lifted high,
we offer you thanks and praise at all times
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton http://www.laughingbird.net

Welcome – Evie

Message – Monte
Sharon read God’s promise to Abram. What was hard about it? It was impossible. Trust was what was hard.

Fast forward a thousand years with me now, to Jesus, and here’s another hard-to-believe-it moment.
Mark 8:31-38

31He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” 32He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.

What’s your reaction, if you’re them? Or, what do you wish it was?

But Peter grabbed him in protest. 33Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”

Hey, did you miss rise again? This is going to go bad, but win big in the end. Just hang on. But they, like anybody, want to win all the time. And frankly, dying in hopes of coming back, that’s asking a lot!

34Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. 35Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. 36What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? 37What could you ever trade your soul for?
38″If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

So Abram. So Jesus. Fast forward another 30 years or so, and St. Paul brings them together in Romans.

Mark this up as we go – there are some dazzling words here.

Romans 4:13-25

13That famous promise God gave Abraham–that he and his children would possess the earth–was not given because of something Abraham did or would do.

Stop already – I find myself wanting to think Abraham was an especially good pagan, and God plucked him out of the pagan world to reward him. True? Hmm.

It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed.

He what? As opposed to what? Look:

14If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed [literally?], that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. 15A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise–and God’s promise at that–you can’t break it.

16This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does.

As opposed to what? read it again with me

God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father–that’s reading the story backwards. He is our faith father.

Not our father because he was perfectly Jewish and kept every rule – those rules didn’t exist! He is our father because he trusted like we are to trust. Radical! More to come:

17We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing.

Like A named father, then becomes one – we are first named Christian, children of God, and spend our lives learning to live like what we are by trusting.
Why was it hard for A. to trust God’s promise? Is it ever hard for you to trust God? Like when?

18When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

Oh, but you don’t know my situation!

19Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. 20He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions.

Not focusing on what he wasn’t, on the impossibility . . .

He plunged into the promise

(that’s why we sang Jump In this morning)

and came up strong, ready for God, 21sure that God would make good on what he had said. 22That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.”

23But it’s not just Abraham; 24it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. 25The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Trusting the promises of God.

How do you need this lesson?

Want to bring you in on something we’ve been talking about in the Board that takes some trust.
We are part of the CN. Now the CN began a hundred yrs ago as a coming together of dinky denoms and individuals. Saw need for higher ed for pastors, worldwide missions, and realized local churches couldn’t do them alone. Wanted to work together.

Devised a new kind of government – local church autonomy, but shared responsibility toward missions, education. Missionaries would get salaries, be on the field, not spend their time raising money.

So, people like us, set up a plan where each church would contrib so much, missionaries get a salary – not a big one, but a dependable one – and they stay on the field, doing their work.

At first, didn’t work very well – sometimes churches paid it, sometimes, not. So, people like us agreed together that if they didn’t hold up their end in their churches, they’d scale back at home till they could. And our agreement with other Naz churches is this: if we don’t pay the part assigned to us, we don’t employ more than one staff person till we get back on our feet.

Our FY ends, May 30. Last couple years, 50 or 60 have moved away, some others decided to worship elsewhere. Net is, after cutting everything we can think of, we’re going to miss our target by about 10K. And our deal with other Nazarenes is: one staff member. Georgann’s position will have to come to an end.

I share it today for two or three reasons: so you can process a couple months before it happens. 2 – Because G is away today, she didn’t have to be on the spot so much. And 3: Because of today’s topic, trust in the promises of God.

What if we’re right where we need to be, doing right what we need to be doing? It didn’t go according to our plans, but there is peace – certainty that God will use it to make us better and to teach us much.

How ’bout we read the Psalm once more, and see how it looks now?

Sharon – Psalm 22:23-31

23Shout Hallelujah, you God–worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
24He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.

25Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise–life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God–worshipers.
26Down-and-outers sit at GOD’s table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
Don’t ever quit!”

27From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to GOD.
Long-lost families
are falling on their faces before him.
28GOD has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.

29All the power-mongers are before him
-worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too
-worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together
-worshiping!

30Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
31Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news–
that God does what he says.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Surely we can trust God.

Giving
Blessing – Sharon:

Jesus Christ was handed over to death for us
and raised to life for our justification.
Therefore, in an everlasting covenant,
God has promised that all who put their trust in Christ
will, by grace, be considered righteous.

Sisters and Brothers,
……..your sins are forgiven;
…………….be at peace.

Go now, and live before God in openness and integrity.
Set your minds on the ways of God,
not clinging to your own life,
but taking up your cross and following Jesus.

And may God give you a share in the eternal covenant;
May Christ Jesus be proud of you when he comes in glory;
And may the Holy Spirit make you grow strong in faith
……..and lead you in the ways of righteousness.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
……..In the name of Christ. Amen.

©2003 Nathan Nettleton http://www.laughingbird.net

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Written by Monte

March 13, 2006 at 3:05 pm

One Response

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