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Jesus Prayed For You (Sermon May 20, 2012)

Scripture: John 17:6-19

There are some people around us that we seem to always be at odds with. It is not anything in particular that sets us off, it’s just our personalities clash for some reason. For many of us we tend to pass them off, avoid them, at times we may even blame them for everything going wrong in our lives. Saying if only they were not around I could focus on what I am really supposed to do. You know those people. I’m one of those people and so are you. I’m annoying to some, and they annoy me. Our world would be a better place if you all would just stop being yourselves and act like me, right? There is an issue in our world today, we do not like people that are different than us. In the dawn of our nation the founders had many debates, fights, and discussions, after the talk they would then head home as friends. Usually, at times someone ended up getting shot, but for the most part they were able to debate without attacking the personality. There is something about having friends of different opinions that can strengthen us. The authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien were friends who would discussed mythology and literature. Tolkien actually disliked Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia because Lewis mixed mythical elements together from various backgrounds. Tolkien strongly disliked this as well as alligory which is very evident in Lewis’s series. Tolkien went as far as telling Lewis that it would be foolish to try to publish the series. With that being said they continued their friendship and through it became two of the greatest fantasy writers in history.  Tolkien was excited for Lewis’ success and glad that Jack did not take his advice, although he still thought it would have been better if he would not have used so much allegory.

Our world today seems to want to surround itself with people of like minds. We dislike the emotional strain arguments, and as a result our culture suffers. Our educational system fails to even teach the basic laws of of logic, leaving us unable to form a rational argument. So we end up banging each others drums but never really learning how to make a case. We value opinion, but we do not know how to form an opinion in grace, truth, and love.

Jesus had friends. He had friends from various backgrounds and lifestyles. Some were common laborers working in food production on farms and in the sea. Some of these friends were businessmen, government employees, and others were involved in resistance groups. Some were very religious and others basically turned their backs on the traditional faith. Many were involved in several areas all at once. Very little actually connected these men and women in every aspect of life, but one thing friendship. These friends were loyal to each other and to their leader.

The setting of the story is in the garden just prior to Jesus’s arrest, He was under the greatest amount of stress imaginable. He knew he was soon going to face the worst death issued to those under Roman rule. He was in anguish while his friends were thinking differently. They thought that they were finally going to see the rise of the kingdom of God. Judas often gets the bad rap as the son of perdition this night, but many are beginning to rethink Judas, was he betraying Jesus or was he simply trying to encourage Jesus to enter into the role he envisioned? Each of us have ideas as to what and where the assembly of believers should go or do. These ideas cause disagreements sometimes politicking that descends into hurt feelings. We try to encourage others into our view of devotion, while at the same time we may be snuffing out a smoldering wick of someone’s faith.

Jesus is there in the garden, praying for His friends. This group of people that spent the last three years trying to gain his favor for their own gain. Trying to force Him into worldly power just did not seem to get what he was saying, yet they were his friends and he loved them. He even prays for the one who betrays him. He says “I have revealed you to them, they know your word.” He is not praising their study skills here, but in actuality he is saying they know it, but they are still not quite getting it.

He spent three years in active ministry, in those three year He invested nearly every spare moment teaching these disciples. They knew the right answers according to the teachings of Jesus. They understood where in scripture Jesus was pulling His teachings from, but they had yet come to grips with how to live it out. The culture of the day was that disciples were to learn from the teacher, and then pass on the knowledge to the next generation. This they could do. That is religion. Jesus did not come to start a religion. He came to meet us where we are, give us the truth of who we are now and who we could be in Him, and to restore our relationship with God.

Just think about the actions of Christ. He was approached by lepers asking for healing. A righteous person would have mercy and toss some money or food at them, hoping they would leave. Some righteous people would take it upon themselves to administer justice and toss stones at them to chase the out of the community, because it was the law. Jesus did not do that he came to those shunned by society and he touched them. He initiated a relationship with them, and then he gave them the greatest gift of all, the gift of life. Jesus taught mercy and grace. We tend to think that the religious leaders of the day rejected these thing, but we’d be wrong. Most of what Jesus taught was not new concepts, many things He taught were things that were directly from the Books of the Law. They were the words or teachings of God. The difference duty or relationship.

Jesus prayed for his followers. He prayed that they would not be taken from the world but that they would be protected as they were sent into it. This prayer is deep. He is praying on many different levels. The teachings were not totally new, but the activities were. If His followers just taught we would not be sitting in a Friends Meeting house on a Sunday morning, instead we would be gentile God fearers worshiping with our Jewish neighbors, if we were sitting here at all. What was to eventually set these guys apart from the rest of the teachers was the active faith, the incarnation of the teaching in the relationships they were to build.

It is when we actually start living a life of Christ that we become a threat to the world. It starts with belief and knowledge, it builds when we care enough to invest money,it is all out spiritual warfare when we begin to walk in the ways of Christ. It is when we engage and invest our time and resources into the lives of the people marginalized we begin to get threats from the evil one, and the world begins to hate us. Jesus prays that the Father would protect them. That they would unite in the continued work of the Kingdom and that the joy of Christ would abundantly fill their lives.

We live in a world that dislikes differing ideas. They divide us up into groups of special interest, and use us for their own gain. We let them. We encourage them and we participate in it. It gets to the point that we cannot even associate with people of different ideas or backgrounds, because in doing so we threaten the power structure of society. We are no different than the original disciples of Jesus, broken up into groups by society, but left wanting more. We are more than a political agenda, we are more than a vote to give someone power to rule.

We are people loved by God. Loved to such a degree that Jesus came to live among us, to protect us, encourage us, and to provide a way to redeem us. He came to reveal the truth, and in that truth joy. The joy of who we were created to be. Everyone is valued and loved by God. Yet often we let outside forces seep into our lives, we let the world twist and pervert the truth of God’s love and we become instruments of the world instead of bearers of Light. Prayer is our protection. Prayer and meditation where we read the witness of God in the lives of people in scripture, letting seep deeply into our souls until we are totally saturated in the truth.

It is there, saturated in truth and love, when we are truly able to engage with those people that seem to annoy us and not be consumed by anger. It is when we are soaked in the Spirit of God when we can engage in conversations with people we do not always agree with and be loving and encouraging. It is in that Spiritual saturation where we can truly minister to the needs of a broken and hurting world.

Jesus prays for us. He asks His Father to set us apart and to send us out. He asks that we will be protected as we extend the influence of God into the world. Are we willing to let Jesus’ prays become our? Are we willing to let our joy be His and His joy be our? Are we ready to love the people of our community that God loved enough to send his only son not to condemn but to save? Let us enter now into a time of Holy expectancy. If you are lead to share please feel free, but let us enjoy and soak in the Spirit so we can engage the world we have been sent to.

Did you Hear?

Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23

What kind of faith would it take for a saint to thank God for you? Have you ever wondered about that. Seriously, think about your favorite ministry in the world: Focus on the Family, Let my People Think, The Bible Answer Man, or about a million others. Now what would be going on in your life for that main spokesman to say I thank God for you?

Now I do not think we should be doing things to get recognition, but it is perfectly fine to be recognized. Paul was probably the most energetic missionary in the early Church, he went all over the know world to spread the Gospel so pretty much every area knew who he was. To be noticed by someone you think is great is some of the greatest encouragement to receive. I know this in my own life. I was recently nominated to be the Elder for our area in our Yearly Meeting, for mosto you that know very little of Friends traditions the Yearly Meeting is like the head of the denomination. There are several Yearly Meetings in the United States, each functions independently of the others, but there is usually some partnerships. The Yearly Meeting is all of the Monthly Meetings meeting together once a year to do cooperative ministry. Ok enough of the lession if you want to know more feel free to ask, but what I am getting at is I was nominated by someone I have the greatest resect for. A pastor who I see as being the ideal pastor. To be nominated as one of elder of an area in which this person was a part of was like being told by Paul that He thanks God for my faith.

How do we get recognized by these saints? The way is to incorporate the mind, body, and spirit in such a way in your daily life that the love of God pours off and out of you. That is why it is important to have a life of prayer. Not because it is a good deed to put on a chart, but it is the way you connect to the mind of Christ. The more connected to Christ the more we reflect His life. Prayer is the beginning of the devoted life, you will burn out in ministry if your prayer life is not developed.

I encourage you all to deepen your prayer life, and consider what type of life would get the saints talking. After that I encourage you to engage in life you are called to.

Why are you standing there?

Scripture: Acts 1:1-11

There are several moments written in scripture that I would have loved to seen in person. Several of these events have been made into videos but most leave us wishing for more. This opening of Acts is one such time. Can you imagine what you would have felt seeing Jesus lifted up into the air and then disappearing before your eyes. It is the stuff we pay to watch at nearly every magic show, and I have spent enough money to know tat the disappearing acts are really what we want.

But that is not what gets me thinking. Jesus told these guys that they would have power soon. Most of us tend to think this means things like the spiritual gifts. You know the gift of healing, tongues, prophecy, and such. The thing is they already had most of these gifts, Jesus sent them out in groups and they cast out demons already. Over seventy people were doing this prior to Jesus’ death. Which makes me think, what power is he talking about?

I do not claim to know the original language, but I think the are refering more to influence than anything else. We will see the influence of Christ grow in greater ways after the Spirit comes than when Jesus actually walked the Earth. If you take a moment to consider thi it is the truth, the Spirit was able to influence people around the world at the same time, where Jesus could only be physically in one area.

At times I wonder why I do not see the power of God working around me. The angels caught the disciples looking up in the sky just standing there. They asked why are you standing. Odd question but Jesus did just send them on a quest. They were to go make disciples in their home town, their nation, and around the world. We will never see the power of God if all we do is stand, we must do something. We must pray, and then move when called. We also need to be open and honest, if we are not living in truth, we wil not be able to see the power of truth working around us.

The influence and power of God is far greater today than it has ever been, I am excited to see what he will do in the future, when I like all of you decide to stop standing around.

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