Eric Bryant http://www.ericbryant.org love. serve. influence. Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:27:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 15368580 Peace in the Middle East? http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/20/peace-in-the-middle-east-4/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/20/peace-in-the-middle-east-4/#comments Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:23:54 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15022

This week I am traveling to Israel with a team of 5 of us from Gateway Church in Austin.

We will be touring the places where Jesus walked and then helping at a camp for Israeli and Palestinian kids with Musalaha. The camp is designed to raise up peacemakers.

Would you be willing to pray for us?

  • Our team includes Sonya, Dario, Noel, Christa, and me.
  • We appreciate prayers for God’s presence to move in and through us and for safe travels there and back.
  • Also, appreciate prayers for our families as we travel.
  • For me, I appreciate prayers for Deborah, Caleb, and Trevi.

The Work of Reconciliation

Salim J Munayer, the founder and director of Musalaha has written a book called Through My Enemy’s Eyes along with Lisa Loden.

Drawing from the work of Robert I. Rotberg, they suggest four steps that can help in working towards reconciliation:

The first step is to learn the opposing narratives.

The second step is to bring them together and bridge them as much as is possible.

The third step is to ‘assist both sides to acknowledge and hopefully to even respect the legitimacy of the opposing narrative.

The fourth step is to invoke the narrative that Israeli Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians share: the narrative of the cross of Jesus and the coming of his kingdom.

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Stories of a Dad: 3 Things I’ve learned about God while Raising My Kids http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/18/stories-of-a-dad-3-things-ive-learned-about-god-while-raising-my-kids/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/18/stories-of-a-dad-3-things-ive-learned-about-god-while-raising-my-kids/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 18:11:01 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15070

Today at Gateway Church in Austin, we shared about Stories of a Dad: 3 Things I’ve learned about God while Raising My Kids

Next Steps

Work through the following Scriptures and questions on your own, and get together with your running partner, Life Group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning!

Here is the message from Gateway in South Austin:

Here are the notes from what I shared:

I’d like to share 3 stories that represent 3 things I’ve learned about God by raising my kids.

The Power of Relationships

Throughout the Scriptures, our relationship with God is compared with our relationships with others.

  • Our relationship with God can be closer than a brother. “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24
  • God expresses Himself as a friend and as a loving Father.
    Jesus said: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15
  • Even marriage gives us a glimpse at how close God can be to those who want Him to be close. Paul writes: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….” – Ephesians 5:25
  • Jesus’ closest friend John writes:“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:12-13

I realize some of us have not had healthy relationships with our brother, our friends, our spouse, or even our father. It is hard to understand what a meaningful relationship with God is like when we cannot understand what a meaningful relationship with anyone is actually like.

But just for a moment: consider the best moments you’ve had with others. Maybe it was dancing with your spouse at your wedding, maybe playing football with your brother as a kid, crying on the shoulder of your closest friend, or a moment you knew your Dad was there for you.

Can you think of at least one moment when you felt a deeper type of closeness with someone else? That best moment with a brother, friend, spouse, or father pales in comparison with the kind of relationship God offers us through Jesus.

God is not far away.

He is with us, but we will only find Him when we draw near to Him.

Here’s a promise from the Scriptures:

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:8

God is seeking us, but too often we are hiding.

Learning #1: Transformation occurs in the context of freedom.

Too often we limit who we think God should love. We are so judgmental! Our culture has become judgmental of people who are judgmental!

No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, you are welcome here!

“Come as you are, but don’t stay that way” at Gateway. Belong before believe at Mosaic.

But what about our kids? Aren’t you concerned they may be influenced in the wrong direction? Do you any of you have children? Then you know, when a baby is born, he or she is born a pagan….

Do you any of you have any children?  Did you know that scientists have now proven that babies lie as early as 6 months of age.  I think my kids are overachievers.

At 3, asked her if she wanted to be a leader when she grew up.  “I’m already a leader.”  True.  Older brother Caleb watching Sportscenter then cartoons and then hands her the remote!  Pray for my son.

At 4, asked her if she wanted to be President of the United States. “Yes, I want to be on the dollar.”  Ambitious and vain.

Same summer, Caleb got baptized so asked Trevi if she wanted to follow Jesus.  “I already told Jesus I would be his leader.”  Not what I was hoping she would say.  Pray for my daughter.

My son had trouble with Jesus when he was younger too.  One night when he was three I told him it was time to go to sleep which he really did not want to do.  So sternly and calmly I said: “Caleb it is time to go to bed, so let’s pray to Jesus.”  “No!  I pray to Larry Boy!”  That concerned me.

In spite of his devotion to a cartoon cucumber superhero, one day we were playing a Larry Boy video game.  Caleb was still about 3 or so and didn’t know what to do on the game, so I kept telling him:  “Caleb hit the spacebar!  Hit the spacebar! When you hit the spacebar Larry Boy shoots his plungers.”  He still didn’t seem to get it so I tried to explain: “Caleb, you’re Larry Boy!”  Instantly, he stopped playing the game and turned to me with a look of shock and excitement and said: “I’m Larry Boy?!?”

So how should we treat kids who don’t believe?

  • Kick them out of the house?
  • Stop feeding them?

Of course not! We loved them, served them, and influenced them. We love them enough to have hard conversations when they are needed.

The people around us expect judgment, but they don’t expect forgiveness.
Most of the time, we don’t have to convince people of their sin, but we do have to convince them that they are loved by God.

Romans 2:4b
God’s kindness leads you toward repentance….”

  • Some of the confusion comes in the misunderstanding of the word “Church.”
  • The Church is not a building.
  • The Church is not a service on Sunday.
  • The Church is not an institution.
  • The Church is not a religion.

We’ve been tricked and confused. There is also a world religion known as Christianity that often does not represent Jesus well.

  • Rather than loving others, religion judges others.
  • Rather than inviting others in, religion excludes others who look differently or make different moral choices or believe differently.
  • Rather than acknowledging our need for God’s love and forgiveness, religion reeks of hypocrisy and pride.

Instead, the true meaning of the word “Church” literally means “the called out ones.” The Church is the community of people who follow Jesus!

The Church are those who given up their entire lives to follow Jesus. We are set apart from the world by our behavior and sent out into the world to bring new life!

We are wounded healers!

There is a universal church – everyone on the planet who follows Jesus and there are local expressions of the church like Gateway.

If you follow Jesus, you are part of the Church!

“The Church is not here to meet our needs.
We are the Church, and we are here to meet the needs of the world!”
– Erwin McManus

How differently would the world view the Church if we chose to live as we were created to live – loving and serving and meeting the needs of the world around us.

The Church’s mission is to advance Jesus’ invisible kingdom. His invisible Kingdom is advanced through the faith, love, and hope expressed by those who follow Jesus!

We do not advance the Kingdom of Jesus through violence or arguments or protests or posts on Facebook or tweets on twitter.

We advance His Kingdom through a willingness to lay down our lives to love, a willingness to represent Jesus by living godly, holy, and selfless lives.

We do this not so that God will love us. He already does! We do this in response to His love – out of gratitude for His love!

Learning #2: Trust is more important than understanding.

God wants us to look to Him, as our perfect Father, and say… “I don’t understand, but I trust you…”

You see, sometimes our perspective is faulty. We think we know what is best. We think we have all the answers. Our pride keeps us from humbling ourselves and trusting others. Our pride keeps us from fully connecting with others in the way we were designed to connect.

My wife Deborah and I have two amazing kids that are both in high school. When they were both in middle school, everything changed. They began to sleep in. They got ready for bed on their own. They were more and more independent than they were as children. We could even go out on dates and leave them at home on their own. We just asked Caleb to babysit Trevi and then we’d go ask Trevi to babysit Caleb. It worked out great pretty much every time – except for one time in particular.

Deborah and I went to a coffee shop close to downtown and near our house when we got a disturbing phone call. Trevi was quite upset! She was so upset I couldn’t understand what she was saying or what had happened, so I told her to calm down and say it all again. I still couldn’t figure out the problem, so I promised her we were on our way. We drove down South Lamar fearing the worst!

Once we got home, we discovered the problem. Her cell phone screen had shattered. It wasn’t cracked. It was in pieces. Apparently, the kids got into an argument, Caleb pushed Trevi harder than he intended and the cell phone in her back pocket flew out onto the floor and shattered. Literally shattered. I have never seen a screen in so many pieces!

They were both incredibly sorry for what had happened. They were apologizing to each other and to us. Even still, Trevi was really upset. I kept trying to calm her down and explain that her phone was already due for an upgrade. I had been aware of that little fact just in case this very thing happened. I hadn’t told her because she was fine with her current cell phone. She was so upset, she could not be comforted. In fact, she was getting more and more upset with me because I wasn’t getting upset. I could not explain how all was ok. I could not explain how everything was going to be fine!

After several minutes of hugs and attempts to bring comfort and encouragement, I was finally able to explain: I am not upset because you have a free upgrade for your phone.

We loaded up the car to get her a new phone she could use the next day.

All was right in the world!

That night, as I was thinking about the day, a thought from God popped into my mind:
“This is how you are with me.”

I have to admit. That thought was not an encouragement nor was it what I wanted to hear. As I debated with God in my mind on how I am nothing like an 11 year old girl, another thought came to my mind:
“Then why do you struggle to trust me?”

What I discovered in this process was that sometimes I told God what to do rather than asking Him for what He wanted to do in my life and through my life. Our conversations were one way! He couldn’t speak to me because I wouldn’t stop talking (when I finally came around to praying at all).

Just as Trevi was stuck on thinking her cell phone situation was bleak and there was no way out, I treated God the same way. All the things I try to fix and all the ways I want God to work, all along He had something better. I was settling for anxiety and anger of a cracked phone, and He had a free upgrade for me all along. All I had to do was stop and listen.

Because if the chasm of understanding is that great between a 11-year old human and a 40-year old human… how much greater is that chasm between any, finite, human, and an infinite God?

I can still trust God even if I don’t understand what He is doing or what He is allowing to happen.

When I have been stuck spiritually, part of what has helped me grow in my faith at Gateway and in years past has been acknowledging I need to grow.

The closer we grow to God the more we realize how far we have to go to become like Him.

  • Are you too proud to ask for help?
  • Are you too proud to see areas in which you are stuck?
  • Are you too proud to trust God and others so you try to control your circumstances and the people around you?

You see we grow in different areas faster than others. Have you hung out with middle schoolers much?

  • Some have size 12 shoes even when they are 5 feet tall.
  • Some have their adult teeth even though they still have a baby face.
  • You see 4’8” boys dancing with 5’8” girls at the dance.

We may be mature in one area, but we are quite immature in other areas. We may be great at hearing God’s voice, but we still have a lot of work in forgiving others. We may be great at serving people in need, but we still have a lot of work in generosity.

Some of us in this room are not as mature as we think we are. As a result, we are stuck. When we get stuck, we blame others. We blame our life group leader, our ministry leader, our parents, our pastors, or even God.

Humble yourself and ask God to speak to you. Ask Him to give you an open heart to hear His voice and even hear from others who you may have stopped listening to.

Our path towards growth remains humility. Our path towards progress includes choosing to trust God even in the smallest of ways.

Here’s what has helped me get out areas of spiritual adolescents and my real life adolescents:

My parents and my spiritual mentors gave me as much freedom and responsibility as I could handle but they also did not give me all that I wanted. At the same time, they never gave up on me. They willingly had hard conversations with me. They believed in me and because of that, they were willing to love me through discipline.

There are people God has brought into your life that need you to love them enough to have a hard conversation with them.

There are people in your life that are pushing you away to prove you don’t love them. Don’t give up. Listen more closely to them. What is really happening?

We don’t like hard conversations. We don’t like discipline, but God loves us so much that He corrects when we need correcting.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. – Proverbs 3:11-12

When you find yourself stuck or in the midst of a difficult time, ask yourself:

“God, what can I learn from this? How should I respond to this?”

No matter how you got into these difficult circumstances, trust God and stop trying to control others or even control God. Be honest with Him but shift from telling Him what to do to asking Him what you should do.

When you are not sure what to do: just start doing the right thing no matter how small it is.

When we stop doing the right things, our default is to drift away and back into unhealthy patterns.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil. – Proverbs 3:5-7

Because if the chasm of understanding is that great between a 11-year old human and a 40-year old human… how much greater is that chasm between any, finite, human, and an infinite God?

The question is, do I love and trust God? And do I believe that His character is good and he is always for me?

And when it comes to this matter Jesus said these words to those of us who have trusted him:

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:28-30

Learning #3: God speaks more often than I listen.

As I said earlier, my kids are teenagers so they have their own friends, their own favorite shows, their own schedule, and they don’t come to us as they did as children.

We’ve figured out a bit of a secret. We can get their full attention on holidays. It just so happens to work out that birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, all come in different months for us so last month we figured out how to have a meal all together and even see a movie all together – we went to Alamo Drafthouse to see a movie.

As parents of teenagers, we have learned to be ready for those moments they want to talk or they want to hang out because that isn’t as common as in the past.

Our heavenly Father is just waiting for us to turn to Him – perhaps the way we used to turn to Him or He’s been waiting for us our whole lives.

So often, the idea of hearing from God is associated with people who are mentally ill or people claiming to know the date for the end of the world.

Some of us only turn to Him in crisis.

He is there in those moments.

He is there even in the good moments.

Let’s be honest though, for some of us we live our lives as if there is no God. We may attend a church service once a week, listen to worship music in the car, pray and even read the Scriptures once a day, but we are still just scratching the surface.

God has so much more for us.

I had this realization this week. God is speaking all the time. The problem is I am often not listening. I am like a teenager with headphones on.

We are so much more a product of our environment than we realize. We are so easily influenced by our friends, the films and shows we watch, the news, our teachers, and so on.

God is speaking. Are we listening?

When I talk about hearing God’s voice, I mean the ability to discern the “still small voice,” the “whisper” from the God who created us.

Before you check out or discredit this idea: let me just say God speaks. I have heard His voice – never audibly, but I have had thoughts that aren’t my own. I can tell the difference between my thoughts and God’s thoughts because God’s thoughts challenge me to do something good for others and usually require faith and courage. When you have a thought ask yourself:

  • Is this selfless?
  • Does this take courage?
  • Does it match the character of God as shown in the Scriptures?

If the answer is “yes” to all three then it may very well be God is speaking to you because that is not normally not how we think.

God’s voice is that prompting to say an encouraging word to a co-worker, that prompting to hug someone who seems discouraged, that prompting to give to someone in need, that prompting to call or text someone who comes to mind only to discover your efforts are exactly what they needed at that moment.

During that last meal together, Jesus goes onto explain the very essence of eternal life – the life we all long for and desperately need.

And this is eternal life: that people know you, the only true God, and that they know Jesus Christ, the One you sent. – John 17:3

This is so hard to understand if you’ve never experienced this.

I want you to know the God that I know!

  • He loves you!
  • He is pursuing you!
  • Slow down and listen.
  • Turn off electronics and listen.
  • Look for him in the films you watch, the music you listen to, the conversations you have.

Too often we live as if we are orphans. We have a loving Father who we ignore.

  • He’s there to give us advice.
  • He’s there to comfort us.
  • He’s there to guide us.
  • He’s there to gently rebuke us.
  • He’s there to celebrate with us!

Statistically, we know that fatherless kids and kids with fathers who do not bless their children have a higher chance of trouble. At the same time, there are great fathers whose children still grow up and make bad decisions. We also know people who grow up without a father or a father’s blessing and end up leading a godly and productive life.

So whether you have received your father’s blessing or you have not received your father’s blessing, I have some great news for you.

You can receive the blessing of your Heavenly Father.

 “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5

Of all the ways the Lord God Almighty could have chosen to relate to humanity, He chose the language of family. He could have described Himself as a benevolent dictator, a kind boss, or patient landlord. But instead, He chose the word father.

He presents Himself as a Father because we all know what a father is and does. Even if we did not have earthly fathers who treated us well, we have an intrinsic understanding of what a good father should be. God planted that understanding in our hearts. We all have a need to be loved, cherished, protected, and valued. Ideally, an earthly father will meet those needs. But even if he doesn’t, God will. Jesus taught His followers to address God as Father. Throughout Scripture, God describes His love for us as that of a caring parent. Although He possesses characteristics of both father and mother, He chooses the masculine word because it also denotes strength, protection, and provision.

God has a special place in His heart for the orphans and fatherless.

“Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” – Psalm 27:10 

God knows that many times earthly fathers have been absent or have not done their job. He offers to fill the role of a Father. He invites us to call out to Him when we are in trouble, to cast all our worries on Him, and to enjoy His company. He models for us the characteristics He had in mind when He designed fatherhood. Although many times earthly fathers do not live up to the ideal, God promises that, in Him, no one has to be without a perfect Father.

So how can we experience God as our Father?

The idea of God as Father was really introduced by Jesus. The idea of God as our Father is used in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) only 15 times while it is used of God 245 times in the New Testament. As a name of God, “Heavenly Father” stresses God’s loving care, provision, discipline, and the way we are to address God in prayer.

In spite of the fact that God is perfect, and we are far from perfect, He made a way for us to enter into His family. He sent His Son Jesus to rescue humanity. By dying on the cross, Jesus took upon Himself all of the mistakes and wicked choices we have made that keep us at a distance from God. He came across that distance and offers us forgiveness, life, and a new home.

We are spiritual orphans being offered a new family.

And much like an older foster child, we get to choose if we want to be adopted into this new family or stay orphaned.

Maybe deep down, you’ve known you have wounds caused by your father or wounds caused by your mother. It could have been malicious and intentional or purely accidental. It could be that this longing for unconditional love and a promise for the future has been nagging at you for years.

Here’s the bad news: according to R. Matthieson, “9 out of 10 people have a father wound.”

Here’s the good news: today you can discover the fullness of your Heavenly Father’s unconditional love. You can discover the promise He has for your future.

By receiving Jesus’ death on the cross as a gift for you, God becomes our Father.

Galatians 4 says it like this:

“When the right time came, God sent his Son who was born of a woman and lived under the law. God did this so he could buy freedom for those who were under the law and so we could become his children.

Since you are God’s children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and the Spirit cries out, ‘Father.’ So now you are not a slave; you are God’s child, and God will give you the blessing He promised, because you are his child.” – Galatians 4:4-7

 If you are here today, and you want God to become your perfect Father: just say “yes” to Him today. Just confess you need Him and you want Him in your life.

Some of us here today have stepped into God’s family, but we still live as if we were orphans. We’ve been blessed by God yet we have rebelled against the promise He has for our future. Today, you can come back to your Father. You don’t have to live estranged any longer. He has never abandoned you and will never abandon you.

Some of us know the remarkable closeness God offers us. He provides. He protects. He comforts. He guides.

I have experienced times in my life without God as my Father. I have experienced the darkness of a life lived while rebelling against my Heavenly Father. I have also experienced the beauty of an intimate relationship with God.

And so it was actually my kids that helped me learn this about God. Not just in the cognitive sense, but with a new understanding within every fiber of my being, that the mystery behind unanswered prayer is, and always has been about… LOVE and TRUST. That I have a powerful Father, greater than all… Who is for me…. Who is holding me in His clutches… Even when I don’t understand or am too foolish to realize it.

You should know that these are just 3 things that I’ve learned about God by raising my kids… there are so many, many more.

 

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Mosaic Conference 2017 http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/13/mosaic-conference-2017/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/13/mosaic-conference-2017/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 16:39:13 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15027

As a resource to you and as a way to thank you for staying connected with me online, I wanted to offer a free ticket to the Mosaic Conference!

Date and Location:

Thursday, Sep 21, 2017 7:00 PM – Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 9:00 PM
Theater at the Ace Hotel
929 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015

 

The Speakers:

Worship: Mosaic MSC

How to Win:

The first 10 people to email me at eric@ericbryant.org with “Mosaic Conference” as the subject will receive a free ticket!

I cannot help you with hotel or travel, but let me know asap if you would like a ticket!!
These tickets are worth $249 each.

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Go Into All the World – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/12/go-into-all-the-world/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/12/go-into-all-the-world/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 16:38:31 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15044

At Gateway Church in Austin, we are concluded a series called “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

Part of following God means not being complacent, not staying where we are in life, but instead, being willing to GO. God wants us to go love others, go show mercy, and go share the love Jesus freely gives to us. But going requires a willingness to abandon our own will and take on God’s will instead. Are you ready and willing to go where God sends you?

Next Steps:

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.

Audio of the Message I shared at Gateway South:

Here are notes from the message written by Ted Beasley and Calla Parker:

As we’ve been talking about in this series, you have a faith that compels you to go, to venture forward.  And Oh the places you’ll go.

In Revelation, John gives us a picture of heaven:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.
– Revelation 7:9

One of the amazing things to look forward to about heaven is the community we will have with other Christ-followers.  Oceans won’t divide.  Neither will race or color or language or poverty or prison camp walls.  We’ll see how truly global the movement of Jesus is.

There are an estimated 50-100,000 believers in detention camps, but the underground church is growing in the hermit country.  People like Hea Woo are changing the spiritual landscape.

God is at work – pursuing every person on the planet.

From the first century onward, believers have heard the commission of Jesus – Go into all the world.  And of the places they went, even dangerous places.  In Romans 15, Paul writes:

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”
– Romans 15:20-21

He goes on to say that God’s calling him to Spain, the wild and rustic outpost of the Roman Empire.

  • There’s archaeological evidence to suggest that Paul made it there.
  • Tradition also holds that Peter went to Rome.
  • Thomas traveled as far as India.
  • Matthew preached in Persia.
  • Andrew journeyed to Turkey, Greece and even to the Slavic peoples.
  • James, the son of Alphaeus, trekked to Syria where he was stoned, and that didn’t work, so they also clubbed him.

And the stories of the followers of Jesus go on.  They quickly spread the word and changed the world.  Isn’t interesting how these simple fisherman ended up have a greater impact on history than political leaders.  Today we name our kids Peter, James and John, and we name our dogs Nero and Julius Caesar.

Did the early Christians had a kind of wanderlust?  They loved to travel?  No, they had a heart for the world.  And they took seriously Jesus’ last words to them, also known as the Great Commission.

We’re in Matthew 28.  Jesus has made several resurrection appearances to his followers over the course of five weeks.  He tells them, “Meet me in Galilee, where the whole movement began, I have some important things to tell you.  And here, he gives some of his final instructions.  You want your final words to be meaningful.

Here’s one of Jesus’ last commands, and it should stick with every believer.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18-20

This is called the Great Commission.  In it there’s a Great Claim, a Great Command and a Great Comfort.  

Great Claim

Jesus says that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to him.  He is in Incarnation of God in human flesh.  He lived a perfect life.  He demonstrated compassion to all races and classes, even sinners.  He healed the sick, raised the dead.  He suffered an agonizing death to pay the penalty for our sin.  Oh, and he rose from the grave on the third day.

Jesus says, what I’m about to ask you to do comes from the full authority of who I am.  I’ve never been more serious.  This is straight from God, and it’s not to be ignored.

Great Command

There’s the most important word of our series again, Go!  To the nations.  Nations actually refer to the “panta ta ethne” or people groups.  This isn’t like two weeks ago, when Jesus sent us out to our neighborhoods and workplaces.  He’s telling us to cross a border to people groups who are different from us.  Go into all the world and make disciples, or simply followers of me.

First, help them find me.  Help get them to a decision point where they mark their faith with baptism.

Second, help move them toward growth and maturity.  Teach them what you have been taught.

It’s not a Great Suggestion.  It’s not a Great Maybe.  It’s Not a Great If There’s Nothing Left to Watch on Netflix.  It’s a Great Command.  And it’s an expectation of every Christ-follower to be involved taking his message to the nations.

Great Comfort

I’m with you no matter what.  Nothing in the Christian faith can be quite so intimidating as doing something for me cross-culturally.  So I’m making you a promise.  If you will move out of your comfort in faith, I’ll take care of you.  I have your back.  I’ll provide.  I won’t let you fall.  I am with you to the very end.

Have you wrestled with the Great Commission to Go?

Have you ever put it before the Lord, “What does this mean for me, God?  I’m open.  I’m apprehensive, but I’m open.

Let’s take a look at how the church is currently doing with the Great Commission.  Are we following through?

Consider these statistics from The Traveling Team:

  • 86% of non-Christians of the world are not relationally connected to even one Christian. They are the unreached.
  • The unreached number over 2.9 billion people.
  • Of the 400,000 Cross-Cultural Missionaries, Only 3% Go to Unreached People Groups.
  • Only 3.3% of all missionaries to work among the 2.9 billion unreached.
  • Of Every $100,000 Christians Earn Only $1 Goes to Sending Missionaries to the Unreached.
  • Only .00001% supports work among unreached peoples

We don’t use the word “missionary” that much around Gateway.  Culturally, sometimes it becomes associated with historical conquest or annoying people knocking on your door while you’re trying to watch the cartoons on Saturday morning.  But we believe in the heart of the meaning.  We have a mission, an adventure of faith.

Some of us reject the idea of missionary work because of colonialism, but it’s important to remember that every culture that spread across the world has demonstrated a form of colonialism – not just the Europeans but also the Huns, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and so on.

In other words, don’t let the evil political decisions of others get in the way of respecting the efforts of sincere people who were motivated by love.

So what do you make of the church’s current response to the Great Commission?  We all need to personally wrestle with this.  The Apostle Paul writes this in Romans 10:

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  – Romans 10:13-14

Everyone who calls on God will be saved.  They just need to believe.  They just need to hear the message from someone.  And for someone to bring the message, they have to be sent.  Being missional, taking seriously Jesus’ last words to go out into the world, can mean Send or Go.  Are you a goer or a sender?  Let’s talk about ways of going and sending.

Way to Go #1:  Move and Travel Cross-Culturally.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14

Jesus makes an interesting point here.  He offers his Great Commission in Matthew 28 before he ascends to heaven.  That marks the end of his first coming.

But there’s a second coming.  One day, Christ will return and we’ll experience heaven.

But before that happens, someone will have to take his word out to all –there’s that word again – nations.  His desire is for everyone to hear, and we’re part of that plan.  And we hasten his return when we go across a culture.

I encourage you to look at some of the resources in your next steps guides to research unreached peoples and international opportunities.  Read and pray.  See if your role as a goer has to do with a draw to a particular people.

Way to Go #2:  Build Cross-Cultural Relationships Here

Have you noticed how diverse Austin is becoming?  According to the last census, 130,000 foreign-born immigrants have flocked to the creative economy here in Austin – people from Palestine, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and even California!

We’re surrounded by people from other cultures.  At UT alone, there are 4,500 international students.  Do you realize that of the 600,000 international students in the United States, 80% of them never set foot in an American home during their four years here? (To help with this consider Bridges International: http://www.bridgesinternational.com/ or hosting for the duration of their stay: www.premier-edu.com).

I think about God’s heart of hospitality that is demonstrated in passages like Leviticus 19 –

The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. – Lev. 19:34

The point is that “going” need not mean moving your family across the pond or taking a global serving trip.

Way to Send #1Giving Financially

Many Christ-followers in the New Testament weren’t called to go cross-culturally, but they were called to serve in their communities, as we discussed a couple of weeks ago.  But those who didn’t uproot themselves to go far away became senders.  The first church to really do this outside of Jerusalem was Antioch, a church that bears a lot of similarities to Gateway.  Acts 13:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.  – Acts 13:2-3

God says, “I want you all to take a special role in helping a couple of guys I’ve called to go, Barnabas and Saul (later called Paul).  The Antioch church blessed them, encouraged them, and footed the bill for their journey.  The predominant biblical model is that a church or individual Christians take that burden off the goer, meet their physical needs, and fund the work they are doing.

Way to Send #2:  Prayer

Two weeks ago we were in Luke 10, and Jesus told us to pray that God would prompt goers and senders to respond.  But more significantly, we need to also pray for goers while they are away.  The prayers of senders, when done consistently, earnestly and sacrificially, move mountains on the other side of the world.  We pray for safety.  We pray for the work of goers.  We pray that God does something miraculous through their service.

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. – Colossians 4:3

Paul continually thanks his senders for their prayers, because he knows that’s what’s making the biggest difference.  Look in your Next Steps document for more ideas on how you can send through praying.

Gateway is actively engaged in meeting the needs of unreached peoples thru our Global Partner in India, our work with Word Relief in the ME in Syria, Turkey and Jordan, and through our GO! Teams to Nepal and Europe.

So what does this mean for you?

You see, more than anything, our hope for you today is not just that you will be made aware of God’s command to us to go, or that you will be educated on what is taking place around the world. All of those things are good things – but they actually mean very little if we don’t respond.

You see, our RESPONSE is actually necessary.

Barrier #1: I’m too “_______” to go.

Fill in the blank. Young. Old. Poor. Busy. Afraid. New to faith. Far from God. What is your blank? We all have one.

ALL of us have a part to play…. And sometimes our part looks different then we plan.

Perhaps in this season of life you aren’t able to go… then send! Send financially, send prayerfully!  One of the requirements for every GO! Teamer is to build a support team of 40 Senders – for prayer and/or finances. Why?

BECAUSE WE VALUE THE SENDER.

We value the power of prayer, and we value the opportunity that people have to respond to God by financially giving towards helping others to go.

Above what we normally give towards Gateway’s efforts, we can give to help others serve overseas through our Go Teams.

Now, perhaps in this season of life you ARE able to go – but you’re believing a lie about yourself or your situation. That you’re not spiritual enough, or you have nothing to offer. That’s a lie! We specifically design our GO! Teams so that everyone, no matter where you at on your journey of faith, can participate in some way. God DOES have a place for you if you choose to respond.

Don’t allow your “blank” to be a barrier keeping you from responding to God’s call.

Barrier #2: I would go, but I don’t know what’s available.

This is perhaps the most common barrier that I hear, not just at Gateway. When people think about going they get overwhelmed, and sometimes immobilized. Despite that fact, however, every year we send between 200-300 people on short-term teams, which we call GO! Teams.  The very best place to learn more about our GO! Team opportunities is simply by looking online – www.gatewaychurch.com/goteams.

Because we value sending out teams prepared, our application deadline is typically 5-6 months prior to when teams depart. We typically post teams twice a year – July/August & December/January – so if you don’t see one on there right now that catches your eye… stay tuned!

We also have great opportunity to go globally right here in Austin! Like Ted said, the world is here, and we don’t have to go far to engage them! On our website – www.gatewaychurch.com/refugees – you can find numerous opportunities to serve and befriend the stranger among us. Everything from dropping off cleaning supplies once a month, to mentoring and tutoring, serving at the Hope Clinic, or being a part of our quarterly ladies socials!

Barrier #3: It’s not safe.

You’re right. Sometimes life is not safe. But yes – following Jesus sometimes is not safe. We get this response a lot, both with our GO! Teams AND with our Refugee Connect efforts… specifically with our Muslim refugee friends.  SOO often people fail to respond because they are afraid.

Yes. Safety matters – immensely. Please know that we NEVER send GO! Teams anywhere that we know they will be put in dangerous situation… in fact, we have canceled teams before when we’ve learned of security/safety issues. But safety can NOT be out number one concern. Safety is important, yes! But following Jesus is PARAMOUNT.  Jesus didn’t say, “everyone grab your deet free bug spray, let’s do this thing!” No – he said “take up your cross and follow me”.

 

What is your barrier? What is your response going to be?

God’s in the business of exchanging old for new.  He makes your old life new.  And through you, when you Go to a New Land, Go and Do Likewise, Go and Sin No More and Go Into all the World, he works through you to make this world old to new.

The question for you to answer today in a personal way is, “Are you going to go?”

Not just because God commanded it, but has there been something welling up in you or gnawing at you during this series that you want more in your faith, that it’s time to get out of your comfort zone your easy chair, and join the Lord in this adventure of being active in your beliefs?

Sometimes, in moments like these, God interrupts your life’s plans and prompts your heart to Go.  In Acts 16:9, it says that Paul was on a journey somewhere, and had some particular plans for his life, but God gave him a new vision, a kind of picture in his mind of a person from Macedonia reaching out to Paul, and saying, come my way.

Change some of your plans, and take an adventure, and come share the message of Christ with me.  And Paul went, and Oh the places he went.  And oh the adventure he had.  And oh how the old was made new.

  • Maybe your call is to trust God more.
  • Maybe it’s to be more intentional about serving in your community or being vocal about your faith at work.
  • Maybe you were convicted to go and sin no more, to drop some entanglements from your life.
  • Maybe today you decided you want to explore going cross-culturally or sending people. Just to follow through on one of those, step out in the aisle.

You don’t need to be sure about what it all means, you don’t need to feel confident.  But just to acknowledge the desire, step out.

 

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Losing It, FaceTime, and Starting Over http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/08/losing-it-facetime-and-starting-over/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/08/losing-it-facetime-and-starting-over/#comments Thu, 08 Jun 2017 12:26:56 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=14999

Last week was not a good week for me.

In the past at Gateway Church in South Austin, I’ve shared about my struggle with my temper, and this week I relapsed.

I’ve discovered the root cause of my anger is actually anxiety and a need to be in control which leads to workaholism and even sleepless nights which increases the likelihood of losing my temper. I have been working the steps and making real progress, but this week I blew it.

Kids had finals, Illness running through our household – my days off turned into work days around the house and the stress of funding repairs for the minivan.  Lots of good excuses, but still. When I got frustrated, I started yelling – not realizing one of my kids was on Facetime with a friend.

I was so embarrassed. So humiliated. I felt like such a hypocrite!

It’s been a rough week, and to be honest, the thought of sharing a message on overcoming our secret sins and struggles kept looming over me. (See Go and Sin No More for the full message audio and notes)

On Sunday morning, it was the second day in a row to wake up at 3something AM. I wondered if God was trying to tell me something so this morning at 3:18AM, I opened the Bible app on my phone and I was on my way to Ephesians 3:18, but since the last book of the Bible I had read on my app was Ezekiel, I read that verse which says:

When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. – Ezekiel 3:18

Great! Exactly what I wanted to hear. Not only have I been struggling to keep my heart in check with Jesus, I am responsible for everyone else and their struggles?!?

I went ahead and read the passage from Ephesians 3:18 which says:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17b-19

It was in that context this morning, that I sensed God showing me something.

God’s love for us is so real. He loves us so much that He gives us the power to overcome the sin and struggles of this broken world. He forgives us when we fail, and He warns us of what hurts us – what can destroy us and others.

Both of these passages are essential to understanding God’s love!

When we make evil choices, we are choosing a path towards destruction, and he invites us to warn others.

Growing up I felt the Bible was used to keep us from having fun. It felt like a giant rule book of what NOT to do. There was even a phrase meant to help us that actually made it harder for me to trust.

“The Bible says it. That settles it. I believe it.”

But why?

For some of us, that’s all we need. Just tell me what to do and not to do, and I will live accordingly.

For some of us, that’s not enough.

After moving out of the Bible belt – from Texas to Seattle and then Los Angeles – something really helped me overcome this resistance to trusting God and His ways.

People investing in me started to help me understand why the Bible says what it says – not just what it says. This changed everything for me.

But until Sunday morning, I always thought: why didn’t the Scriptures just tell us why? Why do I need other people to help understand why to avoid this or to avoid that?

This morning, I realized it does.

Let me give you an example. The Scriptures say we should not commit adultery and then there is case study after case study where we see people whose lives are damaged by having sex with someone who is not their wives.

Even when it was culturally acceptable to have multiple wives – we see famous people like Abraham and David who had sex with women who were not their wives and we saw the consequences were devastating.

Certainly, there are verses that are far more explicit on the topic like this one from the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth struggling with morality.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
– 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

There are examples in Scriptures of the devastating affects for breaking all of the commandments!

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial.
“I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. – 1 Corinthians 10:23

Sin takes on different forms:

  • Doing the bad things we know we shouldn’t do.
  • Not doing the good things we know we should do.
  • Even taking good gifts from God and turning them into our gods.

Too often we shift to a more religious view of God.

We do good out of fear.

We do bad because we feel we’ve already messed up so much.

God’s love for you is real! He warns us of the consequences of our actions to help us avoid the pain in our lives and the lives of others!

God allows us to have what we want which can include the negative consequences of our choices.

So on Sunday morning, I decided to start afresh. I had already apologized to my family and my teen’s friend, and now I made sure to ask God for forgiveness. I asked Him to help me to let go of everything that may stand in the way of what God wants for me.

Just for good measure, I looked up one more passage with 3:18 in the passage. I found a beautiful verse about God’s love for us and His desire to have a genuine and meaningful relationship with Him.

Consider Revelation 3:

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. – Revelation 3:18-20

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Next Level: Creating High Impact Teams http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/07/next-level-creating-high-impact-teams/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/07/next-level-creating-high-impact-teams/#respond Wed, 07 Jun 2017 18:54:45 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=15011

A FREE EVENT

with guest speaker Hank Fortener

brought to you by startgoodthings.com
Sunday, July 16th @ 3pm
Gateway South 6800 West Gate Blvd 78745

REGISTER FOR FREE HERE

Hank Fortener is a regular speaker at TEDx community on the subject of innovation and world change. He has given talks for NIKE, SONY, Cardinal Health, Cornerstone On Demand and a host of others. Hank’s work has been featured in Vanity Fair, Forbes, Buzzfeed, CNN, TNT and Huffington Post and his podcast, “Hank Presents”, has been ranked in the top 10 in his category.

Hankis the founder of  AdoptTogether.org, the world’s first crowdfunding site for adoption costs. In 5 years, they have helped 2400 families raise nearly $11million dollars to bring their children home. Hank’s work in adoption and #WorldAdoptionDay has garnered support from Ellen DeGeneres, Shaquille O’Neal, Charlize Theron, Shonda Rhimes and thousands of influencers from around the world.

Check out the Start Good Things Interview with Hank Fortener or subscribe on iTunes!

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Go and Sin No More – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/05/oh-the-places-youll-go-go-and-sin-no-more/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/06/05/oh-the-places-youll-go-go-and-sin-no-more/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 20:38:29 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=14998

At Gateway Church in Austin, we are continuing a series called “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

Part of following God means not being complacent, not staying where we are in life, but instead, being willing to GO. God wants us to go love others, go show mercy, and go share the love Jesus freely gives to us. But going requires a willingness to abandon our own will and take on God’s will instead. Are you ready and willing to go where God sends you?

Next Steps:

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.

Audio of the Message I shared at Gateway South:

Here are notes from the message written by Ted Beasley:

After Jesus kneels down to your level; after he dries the tears from your cheeks; after he admits that he knows all the truth about your sin in every excruciating detail you thought you could hide; after he touches you on the shoulders and raises you to your feet and penetrates your eyes with his stare and says, “I don’t condemn you;” he sends you on your way, and encourages you with this, “Go, and sin no more.”

Have you ever read John 8, where it says that Jesus knelt and wrote in the dust and wondered, “What was he writing that made all of the accusers leave their stones and depart the scene from the oldest to the youngest?”

  • Was he doodling?
  • Was he maybe writing the names of all the strip joints that these hypocrites like to go on Thirsty Thursdays?
  • Was he scribbling #iknowwhatyoudownloadedlastnight?

According to the rabbinical law, whenever someone was caught in adultery, both the man and the woman would be brought to the Nicanor temple gates and accused. If witnesses could be gathered to confirm that adultery had indeed been committed, there would be a judgment ritual.  The priest would stoop down and write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused, in the dust of the floor of the temple.

  • There’s no priest here.
  • No witnesses.
  • Jesus smells a trap.
  • They’re either trying to get him to condemn her or defend her sinful action.

So Jesus becomes the priest and writes in the dust.  What did he write?

I think he wrote an Old Testament verse:

Jeremiah 17:13 — Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water. 

Every year at the feast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would stand up in front of the crowd at the end of the festival and quote this verse.

  • You are the hope – the literal Jewish word there is “Mikveh”, meaning the purifying bath.
  • The priest would say, “May the Holy One (Messiah), blessed be his name, cleanse all Israel when He comes.”
  • One day the Christ will come and forgive all sin.

But look at what else vs 13 says – those who turn away from you will be written in the dust (by the Messiah). Every Jewish man who had ever attended the Yom Kippur would have heard that verse every year from the age of 12.  So a 50-year-old guy would have been warned about forsaking God 39 times.

So, finally, Jesus is here.  He has the power to wash away this woman’s sins.  And as these hypocrites pick up stones to kill her, I bet he writes Jeremiah 17 in the dust, and also begins to scrawl their names.  These religious zealots are shocked to see their names in dirt, and they hear the voice of God in their conscience, the Spirit of God bringing to their remembrance all the times they heard the High Priest quote the verse — but instead of repenting, they hand on their secret sins, and turn away from Jesus  (just as it was prophesied!). They leave from the eldest to the youngest, the older having heard the verse quoted more often.

Put yourself in the story. Who are you more like?

The woman who has been caught or those judging the woman?

As you come before Jesus today, I wonder what your attitude toward secret sin is?

  • Are you like the woman who makes no excuses, hides nothing and goes from your encounters with God embracing the grace and forgiveness offered in Christ?
  • Or are you more like the others who stay stuck in the same patterns and turn away from the true life that God has to offer?

Today we’re talking about secret sin, and how it can get in the way of the big adventure of faith we’ve been discussing in this series.

It may not be a secret sin but a sin you have taken on as if you will never get past it.

Oh the places you’ll go, but sometimes your own brokenness gets in the way. Secret sin – what a fun topic, right?

But it’s ok.  We’re all sinners.  Especially pastors.  When I was once in pastor’s life group made up of Austin pastors.  And one meeting, one of the preachers was like, “Hey, let’s go really deep.  Let’s all go around the circle and confess our secret sins to one another.  I’ll go first.  My secret sin is I just love to gamble. When I go out of town, it’s cha-ching cha-ching, let the machines ring.”  The next guy was like, “I’ve never told anyone this before.  I’m lazy and I plagiarize all of my Sunday messages from Sermons.com.”  Then it was my turn and I said: “”My secret sin is gossiping and, oh boy, I just can’t wait to get out of this room!”

The most important phrases in John 8 are “Neither do I condemn you,” and “Go and sin no more.”

Neither do I condemn you.

The most crucial truth about sin to cling to is that Jesus doesn’t condemn you.

Romans 8:1-2 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

The old law of sin and death comes from the Garden of Eden, where God set up the rules – “The day you eat of that fruit, you will surely die.  I’m a righteous God.  I can’t be in relationship with anything that is sinful.  So your sin will separate you from me.”

But Paul says that Jesus brings a new law.  He unpacks that a bit several chapters before in Romans 3:23-26

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness

Since we’ve sinned, Jesus did something we couldn’t do for ourselves.  He lived a perfect life and became the payment for our sins on the cross.

  • That passage says that we’ve been put in right standing with God.
  • Another translation says we are “justified” – meaning we are made “just as if” we hadn’t sinned. Anyone who confesses their need for God.
  • Anyone willing to own their sins.
  • Anyone who appeals to Jesus for his grace, they’re made clean now and forever more.

All other religions are about “Do” to make yourself holy.

  • Be good.
  • Avoid temptation.
  • Do religious things.
  • Christianity is not about Do, it’s about “Done.”

The work of salvation is done for you by the Savior, and what you have to do is simply receive it in faith.  Every heinous sin you’ve ever committed is wiped clean in God’s eyes –

  • lying, cheating, taking the Lord’s name in vain – you know, all the things you did on the golf course.
  • If you’ve ever mistreated someone, if you’ve ever taken credit for something someone else did,
  • If you’ve ever tossed something at a garbage can like you’re Lebron, but left it on the ground after you missed,

I know it seems like God shouldn’t be so extravagant with his forgiveness, but he says to this woman in the dirt, I don’t condemn you.  And he says it to you.  We all have a lowlight reel in our heads.  The worst things we did, the worst ways we hurt someone; maybe even a defining moment in our lives, the thing we regret and we live with it every day.  Let go of your shame for one second this morning.  Jesus says, “I forgive you.  If you’ll just turn your heart over to me, it’s removed from your permanent record.  You’re not going to hell.  And you don’t have to live through hell today because of the past.”  Do you believe that?

But there’s this other phrase:

Go and Sin No More.

We like the phrase about no condemnation and mercy.  Mercy takes us off the hook.

 

Jesus tells us the woman to go and sin no more.

  • Is he telling her to go and be perfect?
  • To go and try to be a good person?
  • To go and rack up more good deeds than bad?
  • What does he mean by “Go and sin no more”?

He’s likely talking about prostitution, or an adulterous relationship she’s been in for a while.  A pattern of sin.

The Apostle John, who is the only of the four writers to include this story in his gospel, later writes in one of his letters:

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  – 1 John 6-7

You can’t live two lives.

  • You can’t walk in darkness part of time, in light the rest.
  • You can’t have a deep, abiding and adventurous life of faith, and at the same time repeatedly, willfully and secretly cling to something else.
  • Your Monday can’t look different than your Sunday.

Here’s another verse for you, this time from Hebrews 12:

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  – Hebrews 12:1

Notice the metaphor the writer of Hebrews is using for the Christian life?  He says, “Run.”  The audacious life of faith is not about meandering, it’s a run.

  • If you’re like me and hate running, that’s not the best word picture.
  • I always hope that when people see me outside running they think, “Wow, an athlete!” but instead it’s probably more like, “Aw, good for him.”

I like all the things about running that aren’t running.

  • Eating carbs, comfortable footwear, being cheered.
  • Running is great, cause you forget all your problems because you’re too busy focusing on one problem, and that’s that your whole body hurts.

Hebrews is asking you a question?  “Do you want to play it safe in your spiritual life and walk?  Never really taste victory.  Never push yourself?  Never see what you’re capable of?  Or do you want to run with Jesus?

There’s an unbelievable race marked out for you, if you’ll train yourself to run.  But to experience the joy of running, you’ve got to toss off the sin that entangles.  The original Greek word for entangles means something that wraps around you and encircles you.

  • Sin is like a lasso around your legs.
  • It’s like a linebacker who has wrapped you up.
  • It’s like trying to two-step with me at the Broken Spoke, you know – with me stepping all over your feet.

I’m not here today to make anyone feel ashamed because of the sin in your life.  I already told you about my own track-record.  This isn’t about God being disappointed with you or sending you to hell.

Remember, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.”

What’s at stake here, honestly, is how fulfilled of a Christian life you lead.

  • What kind of race you run.
  • Not living with regrets.
  • Not being bored with your faith.
  • Not wondering why, “God seems to speak to other people and not to me. God appears to be using other people to do dramatic things, and not me.
  • Other people have this verve, this joy, this laughter to their relationship with Jesus, and I’m sitting on the sidelines.
  • My faith doesn’t make me any happier. God doesn’t even feel close most of the time.”

Sin entangles.

So if you are a Christ-follower, there’s no consequence of hell for your sin, but there are entanglement consequences.  Let me quickly run through a list of the effects of sin in the life of a Christian that keep you from the life you want.  You’ll have to do more study on these.

But for now, let me just give you a checklist from some Bible verses.  Just sit back and listen to the magnitude of this.

  1. Sin makes reading the Bible seem pointless. (James 1:22-24)  It doesn’t change your life.
  2. Sin takes away your excitement about God’s involvement in your life. (Psalm 51:12)
  3. Sin robs you of peace. (Psalm 32:2-4) I want to read this one for you.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long . . . my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
  4. Sin wipes out your confidence in prayer. (1 John 3:19-22)
  5. Sin, sometimes, keeps God not to answer your prayer. (Psalm 66:18)
  6. Sin makes us afraid that we’re going to be exposed. (1 John 2:28)
  7. Sin distracts you about what is most important in life. (Mark 10:17-24)
  8. Sin leads to more sin (James 1:12-16) until we feel like we’re out of control (Romans 7: 17,23)
  9. Sin grieves God. (Ephesians 4:28-30)
  10. Sin interferes with us representing Christ. (Galatians 2:17)
  11. Sin, in some respects, determine your rewards in heaven. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

Let me read a piece of that to you.

It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.  – I Corinthians 3:13-15 

One day all of our works, good and bad, are exposed in the piercing light of Christ.  The good is rewarded.  The sin gets consumed.  And look at that last phrase – all Christians are saved, but some who didn’t much live out their faith, barely make it through by the hair of their chinny chin chin.

It’s a compelling list.  The standard isn’t perfection.  These passages are about ongoing, secret, entangling sin.  And they’re not spoken to make you feel rotten about your shortcomings.  They’re a question about the kind of life you want.  This is the deepest of all human questions, and it’s an inquiry that Jesus often posed to people who would walk up to him in the gospels – “What can I do for you?  What do you really want?  What is your desire?”

See, this doesn’t start with your willpower or any promises about how you’ll act tomorrow.  It comes down to what you want, because Jesus will help you with the overcoming, if you are willing.  This song the band is about to sing is an expression of desire, “Help me give up control.”  As you listen to it, just talk to God about anything that’s getting in the way of your race.  What’s an ongoing attitude or behavior or habit that so easily entangles?”

 

You don’t want to be entangled, do you?

You don’t want to shuffle on in your faith.  You want to run.  Oh the places you’ll go.  Maybe really letting go is scary.  It’s intimidating to go new places.

Maybe you don’t want to go places.  Maybe you’re not the adventurous type.  But be honest.  Some of you long for more with God.  Some of you want him to feel more real.  Some of you want him to work through you in powerful ways.  Some of you want to taste lasting peace, authentic happiness, an unbridled joy that transcends the annoyances and pains of everyday.

Is the root cause of that unfulfilled desire an entangling sin pattern that makes something other than God the master of your life?  Entanglement can start out innocently enough.  Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 6:

I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – I Corinthians 6:12 

Because Jesus paid his sacrifice.  We have a lot of freedom.  There’s a lot of latitude.  Christians don’t have to be tied down by stuffy religious regulations and rituals.  You have a lot of choice in the things you do with your body and with your mind.  But, Paul says, not everything is beneficial.  If you’re a Christian, you cross a dangerous line of entanglement when something becomes your master.  When it consumes your thoughts.  When it interferes with your connection with God.  When it’s something you use to check out of reality.  When it gives you more pleasure than God.  When you cover it up in secrecy, and in so doing, cover up your heart in secrecy.  And your conscience is being tweaked.  Or maybe you’re reaching the level that you’re now able to ignore your conscience.  That’s being mastered.  To that Jesus stoops and writes in the dust and he says, “I know, and I don’t condemn you for it.  But if you want true life, come clean.  Go and sin no more.”

Truthfully, knowing the struggles in my life, I wonder sometimes why God uses me at all.  And I have this desire go great places in faith and do great things, which is the aspiration of this series, but the hidden parts of my heart sometimes make me turn from the way of Jesus.  I don’t want to be up here today talking about secret sin!

 

But I do know this: God’s love for me and you is real! He warns us of the consequences of our actions to help us avoid the pain in our lives and in the lives of others!

God isn’t out to punishing us, but He will allow us to have what we want which can include the consequences of our choices.

So this morning:  I told him God I want to go and sin no more.

  • Not that I could muster enough willpower.
  • Not that I was committing to be perfect or flawless or without relapse.

But I did say, “Lord, we have places to go.  And I don’t want to be encumbered – spiritually by sin.  Oh the places I want to go with you.  Help me to leave behind the sin that easily entangles, and help me run with perseverance the race marked out for me.”  But when I let it out to one person, it was like it lost its power over me.

After John talks in his letter about walking in the light instead of darkness, he writes:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9 

We get purified.  He begins the work of getting us back in the race.  And if you really want to speed up the healing, look at this from James 5:16.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16

There’s something about bringing a trusted person into this, a “righteous person”, James says.  All the power of the secrecy gets untangled from you when you just get real with someone.  My friend prayed for me.  He encouraged me.  He had me share a food journal with him on Google docs for accountability.  And the last two months, I’m starting to come alive again.  The thrill of the adventure of faith – of what God’s going to do or how he’s going to show up today is back.

What’s Jesus writing in the dirt at your feet today?

Is their entangling sin?  Several years ago here at Gateway, we did an anonymous survey on a Sunday morning about our church’s moral compass, behaviors and attitudes.  We called it, “The Day Gateway Told the Truth.”  We asked you to not hold back about the secret stuff that’s going on in your life, and just be honest on the survey.  Boy, were you ever honest!  I read through the report.  It’s a good thing we say, “No perfect people allowed.”  But you know, what?  Statistically, accord to the Barna research group, the morality of this place is no worse than any other Christian church in America.  Christians, people who claim to be followers of Jesus, sometimes get entangled.

Here were some of the biggest secret entanglements of Gateway people.

  1. Online Porn and Fantasy Novels – By fantasy novels, I’m not talking about Lord of the Rings.  Lust and sexual sin, keep us from walking with Jesus, because, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? – 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 

Lust has unique consequences, because your body and your mind are God’s temple.  And for some of us, it’s something we get tempted with from time to time, but some of us, if we’re honest, we’re helplessly and utterly entangled.

  1. Materialism and Debt – On the survey, many Gateway folks confessed to living completely outside of their means and burying themselves into a greater hole of debt every month. Talk about entangling.  Nobody on the outside would ever know you’re doing it.  But it becomes consuming – the fear, the worry, the need to work more.

 

  1. Anger is another entanglement of Gateway people that destroys their communion with God. Maybe it’s someone at work.  Maybe it’s an ex-friend or an ex-wife.  Maybe it’s an estranged family member.  John writes in another place, “If you can’t love your brother . . . if you’re consumed with anger . . . you can’t really love God.

I could go on with the some more of the encumbrances that impede the faith adventure of Gatewayers, but those were the big three.  What’s your entanglement?

I still feel a lot of pride toward you.  Do you know what makes me most proud about you, Gateway?  You don’t hide.  Some of us do.  I did for months.  But one of the core beliefs of this place is that you’ll never experience life in full if you are covering up the brokenness.  And literally thousands of people here over the years have hit bottom, had enough, and just said, “Jesus I’m so glad you don’t condemn me.  But I don’t know how to ‘Go and sin no more.’  I’m willing though, Jesus.  I’ll just draw near to you.  I’ll share what’s going on with my life group.  I’ll walk forward at the end of the service and pray with someone.  I’ll ask a friend for accountability.  I come here to Gateway during the week and enroll in a Restore class.”

Countless thousands here are now running the race of faith.  Because they were honest.  I love that about you, Gateway.  Reflect on whether or not there’s entanglement for you.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Jesus says, “Nobody’s here to condemn, neither do I condemn you.”  Listen to the last thing he says to you.  It’s a hopeful thing.  It’s a glorious thing.  It’s a statement about the very real possibilities in your life – “Go and sin no more.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Go and Do Likewise – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/05/30/oh-the-places-youll-go-go-and-do-likewise/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/05/30/oh-the-places-youll-go-go-and-do-likewise/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 07:30:21 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=14990

At Gateway Church in Austin, we are continuing a series called “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

Part of following God means not being complacent, not staying where we are in life, but instead, being willing to GO. God wants us to go love others, go show mercy, and go share the love Jesus freely gives to us. But going requires a willingness to abandon our own will and take on God’s will instead. Are you ready and willing to go where God sends you?

Next Steps:

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.

Audio of the Message I shared at Gateway South:

Here are notes from the message written by Ted Beasley:

In this series, we’re discussing the adventure of faith – how the best life can be found outside the comfort zone.  And we’re looking at some of the statements in Scripture in which God says to comfy, easy chair believers: “Go!”

Today we’re in Luke chapter 10, where Jesus is talking to a bunch of religious scholars.   They ask him, “What I do I need to do to go to heaven?  Jesus says, “That’s easy: three things.  Love God with all your heart, soul strength and mind.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  And don’t sit on the same side of the restaurant booth with your significant other.  That’s weird, ok?”  

One of the big shot intellectuals asks, “About #2, who exactly is my neighbor?”  

And Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.  We’ve covered that passage frequently here at Gateway.   It’s an ironic tale of a spiritual misfit who ends up being more compassionate and spiritual than a bunch of religious professionals.  

Jesus wraps it up with the phrase, “Go and do likewise.”  Go and be neighborly.  Go and show mercy to people. 

What we’re curious about today, is not the Who to be neighborly to.  That’s the point of the Good Samaritan, basically anyone you see with a need you can meet.  Let’s focus instead on the How.  The How is where the adventure/fun of being a follower of Jesus comes. It’s in the verses right before the following:

Luke 10:1-20.  After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.  . . . “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ . . .  “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”  He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” . . . At that time Jesus [was] full of joy through the Holy Spirit.

That’s a really interesting phrase at the end.  Jesus was full of joy because of something the disciples did.  He’s obviously a joyful man, a joyful God.  But only three times in the New Testament does it say that something made him joyful.  

  1. John 11 says that he rejoiced in the opportunity to raise Lazarus from the dead.  
  2. Hebrews 12 says that Jesus was actually joyful about going to the cross.  
  3. But this is the only phrase that shows Jesus partying as the result of something someone else did.  

And he’s not the only one.  Verse 17 says that 72 of his followers go out on a mission return, and they come back filled with joy.  

I’m sure Jesus shared happiness with people every day, but Luke is the only gospel writer to show Jesus full of joy through the Spirit because of something cool someone else did.  

Even now, Jesus is beside himself with joy when you and I get out of of our plush chair and live out our faith and experience the exhilaration of the changing people’s lives.

John Ortberg says that the easy chair is the most dangerous piece of furniture in your house.  Easy chairs are all about comfort, and today we’re talking about how the pursuit of comfort and safety is what often interferes with you truly enjoying your life with God.

Let’s be honest, when we are in full recliner mode, if God has some really difficult challenge for us right now, what do you think our response would be?  

Just consider for a moment your own relationship with the Lord – and joy/excitement/adventure of it, or the lack thereof.

  • Is your life devoted to the most dangerous object in the house – the easy chair?  Do you mostly arrange your life these around maximizing comfort and avoiding difficult situations to stretch you in new ways?
  • Or are you the kind of person who is tenacious about the plan God has for you?

Oh the places you’ll go, oh the things you’ll see, oh the joy you’ll taste, if you’ll just pry yourself from the chair, if you’ll just leave behind your protected Christian life.  

Let’s look at this story of Jesus sending out the seventy-two in Luke 10.  Let’s learn how to “go and do likewise”.  And I want to frame this with five excuses, five things we tell ourselves that keep us melted into the easy chair of faith.

Before you do anything, Jesus says to pray.  

Before you go, pray.  The mission is so enormous, the adventure seems bigger than we can grasp hold of ourselves.  If you’re stuck in a comfort zone, if you’re not sure how God wants you to join him in the adventure, if you don’t know where to start, sit in that recliner and just pray.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Luke 10:2

If you don’t pray, you probably won’t go, or you’ll go half-cocked under your own power.  Have you been praying about living out your faith?  

Excuse #1: I’m not sure where to go.  

Where is Jesus sending me?  

In our passage, Jesus gathers 72 followers together.  These are not the disciples.  He sent them on a similar mission just the chapter before.  This is a larger group of men and women who had been doing life with him, traveling with him, hearing his teaching.  Just common, ordinary people like you and me. Early church traditions say that members of this group were instrumental in spreading the gospel throughout the world and were the backbone of church leadership once Jesus ascended to heaven.  Where was he sending them?

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. – Luke 10:1

Nobody’s going to Rome or China or even Jerusalem.  Basically, he’s sending them out in pairs to the immediate vicinity – their neighborhoods, the next town over, the places that are familiar to them.  

The most important detail here, though, is that Jesus is sending them ahead to the places he wants to go.  God typically doesn’t just go someplace.  He sends a representative ahead to scout or to prepare or to introduce.  

  • He sends Joshua and Caleb ahead to the promised land.  
  • He asks Isaiah and other prophets, “Whom shall we send?  Who will go for us?”  
  • John the Baptist was a voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” getting people ready for Jesus.  
  • Jesus sent a couple of disciples ahead to make preparation for the Passover.  

Do you get the pattern, often before God will really bring His power to bear in a situation or in a person’s life, he sends normal people like you and me ahead.  

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  – 2 Corinthians 5:20 

Rather than overwhelming people with his presence or making some kind of mysterious, hard-to-detect overture, he sends you as a tangible representation of his love, as a credible testimony of what he can do in a person’s life.

If you are having trouble getting started, don’t go outside of your world.  Be salt and light in your neighborhood, workplace, on your way to the store, on the sports field, in your hobbies. God put you where you are for a reason. Can’t you see he is sending you ahead of him?  One life at a time.  And you don’t have to go to Zambia.  You can go to Zilker Park.  

Life in the spiritual recliner is so boring.  What could be more fun than Jesus sending you ahead of him to meet needs in your own little world?

Excuse #2 Maybe later.

Jesus says the adventure starts now.  

Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. – Luke 10:3  

If you’re going before Jesus, you want to be prepared, right?  You want to be careful and planned.  You need to think this through.  Usually this means you want to stay in control, minimize the risk of failure and follow God on your own terms.  Jesus pulls the handle on the recliner and dumps us out of the seat.  “Don’t think about this too much.  Don’t pack.  Trust me.  Just go.”  

Anyone here want to admit to being a procrastinator? Jesus knows that spiritual procrastinators never get started.  Is there something 20 years or 20 weeks ago you felt convicted to do, but you never started?  The tragic flaw is that we procrastinators think in all or nothing terms – either I do it all the way, or I do nothing at all.  But there have to be intermediate steps.  

It’s the small steps that build on each other and form momentum.  

One of the great inverted truths of Scripture is that feelings follow actions.  We live in a world that says if you don’t feel like, don’t get started, don’t do it.  If your heart isn’t 100% in, then you’ll probably quit.  

The Bible communicates the opposite.  Feelings will come after action.  Jesus says to a group of bored Christians in Revelation 2, who used to have such great adventure with the Lord, that they have lost their feelings for him.  So what does he prescribe? “Go back and do the things you used to do when you first fell in love with me.  Do them, even if you don’t feel like it at first.”  

It is in the process of doing the right things, that we see positive reinforcement, and eventually our feelings come around.  Start today.  

What’s a small step you could take right now towards going before God into your neighborhood or office or group of friends?  Some small action of discovery, some movement of faith, a conversation that my open the door to the next step and the next step.

Excuse #3:  I don’t have anything to offer.  

The 72 are sent ahead of Jesus into lives and homes in their own backyard.  It’s a brief journey.  They’re expected to report back to Jesus quickly.  But what is it, precisely, that Jesus is sending them out to do?  Let’s look at verses 8-9:

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” – Luke 10:8-9

This may surprise you, but during his public ministry, Jesus and his disciples depended entirely on the hospitality of others as they went from town to town.  In fact, travelers in ancient times relied heavily on the hospitality of strangers as traveling could be dangerous and there were very few inns, and poor Christians could not afford to stay at them, anyway.  In the ancient Middle Eastern culture, which embraced the sacred responsibility of entertaining strangers, someone who knocked on your door was believed to be sent by God.  Jesus is instructing them to knock on doors, in other words, to enter into the lives and space of these people, assess their needs, and offer healing.  

Use the encounter to strike up a conversation about how God cares specifically about them, and his “kingdom” has the power to change their world.   Do you get the instructions?  

Knock on a door, meet a need, and if you get a chance, talk about God.  

You do not have to be some kind of spiritual master to have something to offer.

This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.
– Matthew 10:41-42

 Jesus says, don’t get overwhelmed by the needs.  Love is as simple as giving a cup of cold water.  

Mother Theresa said, If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.  

A cup of cold water doesn’t take a lot of imagination.  It doesn’t require much time.  It’s just a simple, sincere act of love.  Seeing a need, meeting a need.  But it is a cup of cold water that will transform your neighborhood.  A cup of cold water, one at a time, ambushes Austin with God’s love.  The cup of cold water changes the world.  Great music and big church buildings don’t change the world.  Do you think our neighbors are praising God every Sunday for the traffic blessing we give them on McNeil Drive?  We don’t change the world when a church builds a building.  We change it when you – I’m talking to you sitting in your chair – when you serve a cup of cold water.

Excuse #4  What if they reject me?

 Fear is what takes the fun out of walking with God – all of the what if’s?  Jesus says, let me take the pressure off.  

Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” – Luke 10:16  

It’s not about you, it’s about me.  Let it go, because they’re not rejecting you.  

Excuse #5 What difference does it make, really?  

The 72 return from their brief adventure to the nearby towns and villages.  Jesus is waiting with a smile on his face.  “So, how’d it go? Tell me everything.”  And the stories begin.  When the stories dies down, Jesus says something remarkable in verse 18-20

While you were gone, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” – Luke 10:18-20  

There was a physical thing happening, but there was also a spiritual thing happening.  In the visible realm, the disciples were leaving their easy chairs and traveling around and meeting needs.  But Jesus says, “In the unseen spiritual level, Satan fell.  You pushed back his darkness.  Through your simple acts of love and compassion, you crushed the enemy.  This is how we win.  This how the church advances.  Not through politics.  Not through marches on Washington or social media protests.  Not in dramatic ways.  But when you leave your comfort zone, see a need and meet a need.  The power of God flows through you.  You do the miraculous.  But don’t get caught up in the miraculous.  The real magic is that you are living the life of faith, the life of adventure you were destined for.”

Wordsworth once wrote:
The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.  

This week, see a need, meet a need.  As you go this week, find someone who might need a little assistance or encouragement, and offer a cup of cold water.  When a person focuses on giving herself or himself to others, oh, the places they go.  

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The War to End All Wars? (WWI) http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/05/29/world-war-one/ http://www.ericbryant.org/2017/05/29/world-war-one/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 20:41:49 +0000 http://www.ericbryant.org/?p=14986

On the this Memorial Day, it is important to pause to remember those who gave their lives protecting our freedom.

Over the past few months I have been diving deep into learning more about World War I and World War II. Like most Americans, I have great grandfathers, grandfathers, and great uncles who were involved in these two conflicts. I wish my interest in knowing more had come sooner in my life so that I could have asked them to share about their experiences. Unfortunately, these generations did not like to talk about their experiences (at least my family members did not).

Whether through watching documentaries on television, listening to podcasts like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, or reading books like No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin, discovering more of what was overcome in these international conflicts has become a genuine interest.

We can learn much from the heroism, the barbarism, the tactical brilliance, and the strategic mistakes.

Consider these horrific WWI statistics:

WWI Allies Casualties – 22 million
WWI Central Powers Casualties – 15 million

Total Casualties include those who were killed, missing in action, and wounded in WWI – 37 million

A Brief History of WWI

After Princess Sophie Franz Ferdinand, the Austrian Archduke and heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne was assassinated by 19-year-old Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. “As was expected, the complex web of alliances was activated as Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary, Germany declared war on Russia, and France and Britain declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary.”

Eventually, most of Europe, Japan, and eventually the United States fought against the Central Powers of Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

Tragically, the 19th Century tactics of war met the realities of 20th Century weaponry resulting in stalemates along the Eastern and Western fronts.

Some battalions went into battle with bayonets and lances while on horseback wearing white fuzzy hats. They were obviously no match for machine guns and later gas attacks.

What a horrible way to discover the need to adjust tactics to new technology.

From what I understand the Germans attempted to defeat France on the Western front so they could then turn their attention to Russian on the Eastern front. By rushing into France through Belgium, the British were compelled to get involved.

Eventually, when the Russians gave up the Eastern front due to their own internal chaos and the Bolshevik revolution, Germany was able to mobilize all their troops to the Western front. Some think they were on the verge of winning the war, but they had decided to use their new submarines to bomb ships bringing over munitions from the United States to England which meant American civilians were dying.

After more and more American civilians died, the United States finally entered WWI. They entered the war just when Germany seemed on the verge of victory.

Some suggest that the USA had made so much money by providing weapons and supplies to the Allies that the USA could not afford to see the Allies lose the war – especially once the Allies could no longer purchase supplies with cash but actually went into tremendous debt to the Americans. The USA realized the need to get involved to help the Allies win so they could be repaid.

The Results of WWI

The technological advancements took war to a more destructive level than ever before.

Germans introduced submarines, gas attacks, and the Paris Gun which could send shells 75 miles while the British introduced tanks.

The Russian monarchy was killed by the Communists who came to power some say as the result in part because of the disillusionment of the brutality of WWI.

The Ottoman and Austria-Hungarian Empires came to an end. Future conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East can be traced back to the fall of these empires.

The young German Empire came to an end as part of the punitive Treaty of Versailles. As a result, nationalism and fascism became prominent in Germany leading to the rise of the Nazi party and World War II.

As American leadership saw China become a communist nation, they ascribed to the Domino Theory which led to the US involvement in the Korean and Vietnam wars hoping to stop the spread of communism.

Colonialism and Monarchies shifted dramatically from the 1800s to the 1900s.

In the end, “The War to End All Wars” may have actually been a catalyst to a century of wars.

On this Memorial Day, may we remain grateful to those who served in such tumultuous times.

Europe Before and After WWI

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Latasha Morrison loves having meaningful conversations, encouraging people towards life outside of their comfort zone, and shows more grace than most people I know.

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