Title: Awakening Potential
Text: Mark 13:37 What I say to you, I say to all: Stay awake.
Did you hear about….
- Winning lottery ticket but didn’t realize.
- A guy wanted a car for college graduation gift. Dad gave him a journal. Years later when dad had died, he opened the journal for the first time and the key to the new car fell out. “Son, I want you to be able to write memories as you do your road trip.”
- Build me a luxurious house… “It’s yours.”
Awaken the “want to.”
Want is a wish.
Desire, properly directed, is blessed by God.
The Bible encourages shaping proper desires and motivations.
- Whoever desires to be great. Matthew 20:26
- Earnestly desire the higher gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:31
- Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1, 39
- If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 1 Timothy 3:1
- Let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17
Awaken the “will to.”
While want is a wish, will is determination.
Wanting to do something and having the will to do so must go together.
Joshua demonstrated this will when he said, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Daniel demonstrated this will in Daniel 1:8, “Daniel resolved not to defile himself…
Awaken the “work through.”
The Bible is filled with instruction regarding our work.
For example, Peter heard the word of faith, “Get out of the boat.” He was then faced with his need to do the work of faith. As an example, Peter got out of the boat and walked on water.” Matthew 14:22-33
Noah did the work of building the ark.
Jesus did the work of carrying his own cross up Calvary’s mountain.
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12, 13
In this season of fasting and prayer…
Ask God to create within you a huge want to.
Ask God to help you develop a long term will to.
Get busy on the work through.
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.” John Greenleaf Whittier
Jesus is the New and Living Way to interact with God.
The first covenant opens with God:
- Bringing order out of chaos, turning what is formless and void into form and fullness. Genesis 1:2
- Blessing the excellence of His creation. Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31
The second covenant (New and Living Way) opens with Jesus:
- Bringing a new order out of chaos, turning what is dead form and emptiness into God’s new form and fullness.
- Blessing the excellence of those who will be His new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17, Matt. 5:2-11
When we think of God’s interactions with creation and people we must think:
- Excellent goodness
- Excellent blessings and Divine happiness
The translated word for “blessed” in Matthew 5 includes the following meaning:
“Blessed describes a believer in an enviable and fortunate position from receiving God’s provisions and favor which extend the benefits of His grace.” HELPS Word Studies
Jesus is God’s Tuning Fork – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNuDxc9tZMk
It is in the Sermon on the Mount that we learn the “Resonance of Jesus.”
When you strike the Jesus vibration you are in tune with the New and Living Way.
God’s blessing and favor help you strike the Jesus vibration and in that tune you have great blessing and joy.
Notice the chord that is made with three tuning forks.
When the frequencies are in harmony:
- God commands His blessing. Psalm 133:1-3
- You have great joy.
- You resonate with God and others and they resonate with you.
Simple obedience to the life of Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. At least in Anchorage, Alaska, one’s neighbors are, delightfully, from around the world.
Hispanic, African, and Dutch neighbors live next door to our family home and they are friends all. Northeast Anchorage is extremely blessed with a kaleidoscope of nationalities, tribes, and ethnicities. We couldn’t be more highly favored.
MCA Church is on the journey of learning to love our neighbors well and to love at that deeper level is our calling. There are a few things we are learning as we walk with God into greater neighboring.
First, every person has been gifted by God with unique voice. We believe that to be human is to have voice and one of life’s greatest sins is to silence a person’s unique expression. I am convinced there is no gift of the Spirit called “muffle the other’s voice.”
We have paid a relational price with a few folks for releasing the voiced life. I will always remember some of the things said to me over the years.
- “I’m leaving this church because you allowed “that” woman (Pastor Fay) to not only speak in church but to serve communion.
- “I think I’ll worship elsewhere. I’m not comfortable worshiping around people with special needs who sing too loudly or don’t know how to behave in God’s house.”
- “Pastor Kent, if other ethnicities go to church here, my kids may date one of them.”
- “Young man! I need to speak to you right now. Are you trying to turn this into a black church?”
Oh, Lord, have mercy. Just writing these old complaints almost gets me angry all over again. What ungodly NONSENSE! These sentences flowed from hearts filled with an anti-neighboring spirit.
Those early days have been swallowed up in God’s new work among us. All of those attitudes have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus and we are a neighborly congregation where women, men, folks who are differently abled, young, old, and of every ethnicity are welcomed to add their voice to the pre-heaven mix called MCA Church.
Second, adding meaning to the embrace of each person’s voice is the practice of suspending judgment. It is very simple. I am not listening if I am judging. Neighborly listening requires the total suspension of judgment until after the communication is complete.
A core component of suspended judgement listening is what I call embracing the dignity of pain. If one is not free to express their pain without being judged, they are truly not free at all.
It is too easy to get gagged by a group code of silence that says, “You can hurt but you can’t give voice to your pain.” It is powerful to respect the other by extending to them the dignity of their pain.
One of my friends said to me, “Pastor Kent, when I was a child I was taken from my home by the government and placed in many foster homes. In each foster home, I was sexually abused. As I grew older, I repeated the sexual abuse on my own victims. The people who abused me, repeatedly, were never even corrected, but I went to jail for a long time. God made me to follow the herds, live off the land, and to be close to his creation. I almost went crazy locked up in that jail. I said to myself, “When I am released from prison I will never sleep another night inside.”
Embracing my friends voice was life changing for me because at that moment the Spirit opened my eyes to the difference between a person who is homeless and one who is an outdoor resident.
Maybe if we had been able to listen to his pain sooner we could have helped prevent him from acting out his pain by hurting others so deeply. Without a doubt I feel extremely honored that he trusted me with hearing his voice.
Embracing each unique voice with suspended judgement is a delicate matter from time to time. Like the time I wore a hoodie on Sunday morning so that our black teenagers knew that they could safely voice their fears. At that moment my opinions of the Trayvon Martin case weren’t important. What mattered was for my church neighbors to feel safe enough to voice their fear. (Our teenagers born in Africa or born in African families prefer to be identified as African Americans. My black friends born in the USA or to families born in the USA prefer to be called black Americans.)
Equally important to suspending judgement and embracing the dignity of one’s pain is the grace to embrace the delight of one’s hope. Listen carefully and you will find traces in every voice of both hurt and hope.
Fanning the embers of hope into full flame is one of the indescribable joys of the listening neighbor. Nothing can compare to the emergence of hope from within the human soul.
“I have tested you to see if you are trustworthy with my pain and I now have confidence that you will be tender with my deepest hope.”
Suspended judgement listening not only embraces the other’s sense of safety to voice their fears but also welcomes them to a safety in which to voice their faith.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and voice gave shape and sound to the deep hurts of racism. Racisms hurt found it’s full voice.
Even greater, Dr. King’s life and voice gave shape and sound to mankind’s deepest hope. Reconciliation found it’s full voice.
When hurt and hope are voiced within the safety of a Jesus type neighbor the synergy is gigantic. The Psalmist said it this way, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”
MCA Church is a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-socioeconomic worship community that loves one another deeply. We rarely talk about racism in our gatherings because we simply feel that crying racism actually strengthens and lengthens this terrible sin against the image of God.
A racist is a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
A bigot is a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.
A xenophobe is a person who is unduly fearful of what is foreign.
NONE of these three perspectives please God and all three are a great insult to being created in the image of God.
The racist, bigot, and xenophobe often struggle with unhealthy and sinful prejudice.
To be prejudiced is to hold a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
Most forms of prejudice are sin because they can not be true. People can not accurately be assessed by skin color, race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic standing, or height or weight.
Here at MCA Church we hold to a very simple and basic solution. Our highly effective plan won’t make headlines, may seem unsophisticated and kindergarten-ish.
We don’t mind. We are a simple folk. Our plan requires only three Jesus’ words to define.
Sorry. No long books to read. No degrees to be earned. No sensitivity training required.
Time for the great unveiling of MCA Church’s secret to our multi-ethnic success.
“Love your neighbor.”
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ primary revelation of life in the new and living way. Hebrews 10:19, 20
Jesus introduces the New and Living Way as “The kingdom of heaven” and the proper response is repentance. Mt. 4:17
If the Sermon on the Mount is the delicious meat, cheese, and condiments, then God’s kingdom is the bread (two slices) that make the full sandwich meal. Matthew 4:23 and Matthew 9:35
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) is Jesus’ portrait of a disciple (citizen) in this New and Living Way called the kingdom of God.
The followers of God’s first Covenant had lost the pulse of the agreement and turned their hearts away from God and to external religious actions.
God’s first Covenant had been emptied of its meaning and purpose and rather than giving life, it became something that became a life draining burden. Matthew 23:1-3
Jesus, in the New and Living Way, fills the first Covenant back up with its meaning and purpose. Humanity’s interaction with God will again have life and joy and be FULL. Matthew 5:17
In this way, following Jesus is the process of moving into the fullness of citizenship in the kingdom of God. Matthew 5:48
Jesus filled full the first Covenant. Christian discipleship is filling full my life as a citizen of the kingdom of God.
Jesus makes it exceedingly clear; teaching (philosophy) without doing (practice) indicates that one is empty of the influence of Jesus (Person). Matthew 5:20
Discipleship, according to Jesus, is being a salty light in a city that is on top of a hill. In other words, when one is a citizen of the kingdom of God, other people can taste the kingdom, see by the kingdom, and see the kingdom. Matthew 5:13-16
I am taking my Jesus’ flavor, light, and influence public.
Last week we began the process of talking about being Christian persons of philosophy and practice.
- Philosophical Christian and Practical Christian
- Philosophical Christian and Practical Secularist
- Philosophical Secularist and Practical Christian
- Philosophical Secularist and Practical Secularist
The God first life, when everything about our thinking and being starts with God as He is, is based upon understanding how God and humans interact.
In God’s first covenant with humanity, God’s special presence rested in the Holy of Holies and God interacted with people through the High Priest who could draw near to God once a year on behalf of all people.
Entrance to God’s glorious presence was protected by the veil, or curtain, which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple and people.
At the very moment Jesus died on the cross the Temple’s veil was torn in two from the top down. Matthew 27:50, 51
God’s glorious presence is no longer limited to one man, once a year, through a veil.
In God’s New Covenant, access to His glorious presence is available to everyone, all the time, through Jesus, the new and living way through the curtain. Hebrews 10:19, 20
One of the most profound invitations to interaction with God is, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8
The birth of Jesus is God drawing near to humanity in an almost unbelievable way; God becoming human. John 1:14
Because God drew near to us, we may draw near to God. Jesus is the new and living way into the glorious presence of God.
The thinking (philosophy) and being (practice) of Christianity is revealed in the Person, Jesus Christ.
From the Person (Jesus) we learn the philosophy and practice of drawing near to God.
The philosophy and practice of the first covenant between God and people became, unfortunately, a disconnected set of ideas and practices that were not integrated into the lives of the followers.
- Deuteronomy 6:4, 5
- Isaiah 29:13
With the birth of Jesus an entirely new and living way for human beings to draw near to God was initiated.
Just as the Jewish people disconnected the philosophy and practice of the first covenant from their hearts and lives, we may disconnect from the Person, Jesus Christ.
May our sincerest prayer and the cry of our souls be, “Lord, remove all veils that are barriers to me drawing near to you through your Son, Jesus Christ.”
My theory is: Since my body is a collection of billions of cells, if I care for each cell and help it be healthful, I should have a healthy body. This is part of the reason I have gone “added sugar and grain free” for the past several months.
The research has me convinced of the excruciating damage added sugar has on cellular processes. Added sugar, inflammation, and disease each seem to impact the other in a negative downward spiral of unhealthfulness.
The only one of the three that I can easily control is the………added sugar.
Wanting to provide the nutritional building blocks necessary for cellular health, I have adjusted my eating habits.
Cellular health is important.
I hear the news media is filled with conversations about misogyny. Having no trust at all in the media, I venture out into my own thoughts (scary, I know).
- What if the folks identifying others as misogynists are, in fact, misandrists?
- What if the folks defending misogynists are, in fact misandrists?
- What if the folks identifying others as misandrists are, in fact, misogynists?
- What if the folks defending misandrists are, in fact, misogynists?
- What if most folks are neither?
It seems to me that Eve and Adam are still mad at each other.
Back to my cellular theory.
I have heard it said, “You are the Body of Christ,” but I have never heard, “You are a cell in the Body of Christ.” I certainly feel more like a cell.
The question for me then, is, “Am I a healthy cell in the Body of Christ?”
The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of mechanisms of autophagy. From my non-scholarly perspective, autophagy is the process by which each cell deletes damaged bio-data and replaces it with new, undamaged bio-data.
Being a cell in the body of Christ would then include mechanisms of autophagy. I must delete damaged data and replace it with new, undamaged data. Maybe autophagy is a component of sanctification.
I hope to ensure that misandry and misogyny are never allowed to gain a foothold in me.
- Misogyny is the dislike, disdain, or ingrained prejudice against women.
- Misandry is the dislike, disdain, or ingrained prejudice against men.
Just like added sugar damages my cells and cellular processes, misogyny and misandry damage me as a cell in the Body of Christ. Both Eve and Adam are made in the image of God and are valuable beyond words.
I can’t take out the cellular trash for the whole body, but I can for my one cell. I can eliminate added sugar from
My prayer is for the autophagy of the Holy Spirit to delete any and all misogyny and misandry from my heart and replace it with proper and Jesus-like love for both women and men.
The difference between unity and uniformity can not be given adequate emphasis in our multi-cultural congregation. No one ethnicity comprises a majority of MCA Church adherents, volunteers, or donors. We are a collection of diverse people brought together by God as a microcosm of the age to come.
Uniformity requires a standardization and similarity. Of sorts, uniformity is an external matter that can be seen. Uniformity hints at aligning with a standard, pattern, or paradigm. It begs us to think the same, look identical, sound similar, and be of the patterned shape. Thus the “uni” and the “form” parts of the word.
Unity, on the other hand, is more of an internal matter of the heart and soul. Unity is the quality or state of not being multiple, a condition of harmony, the quality or state of being one (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unity).
My family is a unity. We have each other’s love, respect, and are growing in harmony and the state of being one. We have unity. However, we all have different spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional forms. We are diverse within our unity.
Multicultural congregations have the opportunity to show each other and those who would observe from the outside that God’s family is not primarily a unity that demands conformity but, rather, a glorious unity amidst dynamic diversity.
MCA Church understands that unity requires a level of essential uniformity with general diversity. The essential uniformity are matters of faith that identify the core ingredients of our belief systems. Membership in Muldoon Community Assembly requires the uniformity of belief that the Bible is the infallible, authoritative, inerrant word of God and the only rule of faith and practice. This required essential uniformity then blossoms into hundreds of diverse forms.
St. Paul said to the Ephesian church,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Ephesians 4:3
Paul’s word selection for unity in verse three is from the Greek word, one. A great way to say what Paul had in mind is “one-ness” or oneness. When we align with Paul’s teaching we are committed to the one-ness of “one body and one Spirit…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”
The power of oneness or unity is gargantuan. The Spirit’s unity is so vital that we are to be eager to maintain it. MCA Church, we are one!
At the same time, we have multiple forms. We are people of many ethnicities, backgrounds, nationalities, political parties, cultures, tastes, and interests.
We share each other’s heart. We celebrate each other’s diversity.
One of our congregation’s recent opportunities was to grieve with our Thai friends as they walked through the loss of their beloved king. Most of our congregation have never lived in an earthly kingdom, never been subject to a king, nor have much understanding of the deep love our Thai families have for their king.
The participants in our loving church family have many various backgrounds in relationship to governments.
- Many of our Inupiat, Yup’ik, Athabascan, and Aleuts are familiar with government by tribal elders.
- Pastor Edgardo and Miriam have been effective for our Lord in El Salvador’s presidential representative democratic republic.
- Our Burkina Faso congregations live with a President, Prime Minister, and King type of government (one of my life’s joys was meeting with the Prime Minister and the King).
- Those from Russia and the nations of the former Soviet Union have served Christ faithfully under leaders such as the eighth Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev and President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin.
- Our Sudanese participants are familiar with what is officially named a presidential representative democratic consociationalist republic.
- Many others from Central and South America know various forms of government. Our church family includes great people from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Brazil.
- My good Australian Aboriginal brothers and sisters (The indigenous people of Australia are considered the longest surviving culture on earth) have served God faithfully through many varieties of government.
MCA Church is a powerful unity who has served God faithfully without the general uniformity of government systems. My first experience, personally, with the awareness of God’s kingdom being beyond government systems came to me on my first day in Kolkata (Calcutta then), India in 1978.
As my sister and I walked down Royd Street to meet with Missionary Mark Buntain, I looked up and saw the hammer and sickle flags flying. To this day I am not sure what the flags represented, maybe a foreign flag or a state flag or a region flag.
Like a lightening bolt it hit this just turned eighteen year old, “God’s kingdom and the Gospel are not related to national boundaries, governments, and systems.”
Tuesday, November 8, 2016 revealed to the world that the United States of America is a nation of many various and often contradictory views of the roll of government, what is best for our nation, who is qualified to lead our people, and the directions in which this nation should go.
Some segments call Tuesday a miracle. Others consider it a catastrophe.
Both of these opinions are welcomed at MCA Church. Political uniformity is not essential nor even expected in our House of Worship. My very best friends and I disagree on politics and elections all the time (especially this election). I wouldn’t be surprised if our seven board members voted for seven different candidates and who knows how our pastoral staff voted?
With eleven weekend services it may be that each service had voting similarities or huge variation. Your vote was your moral conscience in written form and is totally encouraged on every level.
MCA Church doesn’t expect, intend, or hope for political uniformity.
Unity of the Spirit in our congregations? ABSOLUTELY. We love each other, live in harmony, and are one in Christ. Don’t mess with a democrat at MCA! Our Republicans will get all up in your face and say, “Don’t mess with my family!” Got a hankering to demean a Republican? You’ll get an earful from our democrat members. Why? Because we love each other and honor unity without expecting general uniformity.
It is in this unity of the Spirit that we continue to do the work of the Spirit to which we feel God has called us.
At the core of our unity and essential uniformity is the ending of the two most sinful behaviors in our beloved United States of America, racism and abortion.
Abortion kills people before they are born. Racism kills people after they are born.
Both are ABOMINATIONS before God. There is no excuse for either of these atrocities to exist in the heart of a disciple of Jesus.
If you HATE racism, release your creative solutions and help change all of Alaska.
If you HATE abortion, live out your calling with positive solutions and love.
MCA Church, are you up for a God sized dream?
Let’s maintain the unity of the Spirit and help Alaska become the first State to destroy these two egregious sins.
I voted in hopes of ending abortion. Let’s team up and find an end to the killing.
You voted in hopes of ending racism. Let’s join together and see it’s demise.
Having cast my ballot as my conscience required and feeling comfortable with being morally responsible for my vote, I now get back to work on FAR more important things; advancing, enhancing, and protecting my King’s kingdom.
King Jesus let us know that His “kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).” Our King’s kingdom is expansive and inclusive. It is the kingdom of heaven that includes all of the earth.
Our King’s kingdom (all authority is given unto me both in heaven and on earth) includes every atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, pagan, pantheistic, and Christian nation on earth.
His kingdom is everywhere.
If King Jesus’ kingdom is here why oppressive regimes like North Korea? Why disease? Racism? Violence? Countries, disease, racism and violence are of this world.
The White House, Senate, House of Representatives, supreme court, and the FBI are of this world. Passports, visas, borders, and state lines are of this world. Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, the US dollar, the Yen, the Euro, and the Peso are of this world. ESPN, FIFA, and the NFL are of this world.
The Democrat, Republican, and Independent parties are of this world.
King Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world!
Citizen of Jesus’ kingdom be encouraged. Be bold. Be strong. No election, national leader, or world view can intrude upon the global and universal kingdom of King Jesus!
Citizen of Jesus’ kingdom today we get back to work. We work for righteousness, justice, mercy, and humility in all the kingdoms and countries of the world.
Citizen of Jesus’ kingdom our loyalty is to our King and his kingdom that is not of this world. The earthly kingdoms hated our King, moved to destroy His unseen kingdom, and brought an end to His physical life. “If they hate me, they will hate you.”
We love our King and His kingdom more than we love our lives and therefore we don’t worry and fret we have far more important things to do.