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Stewarding Technology September 27, 2015

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Mark 9:38-50

Proper 21

September 27, 2015

 

Focus:  God gives us great gifts.

Function:  That the hearers use the gifts God gives for the good of His kingdom.

Structure:  Walking through the text in an analogy.

 

Stewarding Technology

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ…ring, ring…ring, ring (in the service, I will actually have a youth call me and I will answer it)…hang on, I should probably take this.  Hello?  Oh, hi Adam.  Hey, can I call you back, I’m kinda in the middle of preaching at the moment. Alright, sounds great, I’ll call you back at halftime.

Now, where were we?  Oh yeah, that’s right, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  Well, that was awkward wasn’t it?  But that’s one of the pitfalls of technology.  It has become such a vital part of our life that it actually disrupts our life together.

When you go out to eat, have you ever seen this?  It’s actually kind of ironic, as the article linked with this picture was called “Relationship Ruins Your Cell Phone.”  But here’s a couple, out for what should be a wonderful date night together, and where is their attention?  Their focus? Their energy?

Or what about that site called Facebook?  Do you even know how it started?  It was once a tool for college students to network together and plan events, but has now devolved into a trash and treasures catchall of meaninglessness.  If you don’t know what a meme is, consider yourself blessed.  Well, unless it’s this one, that was actually kind of funny.

To put it lightly, we’re hooked.  The average American checks their cell phone 150 times a day.  And we watch 35 hours of television a week.  We are consumed.  Things that were designed to encourage communication are now actually used to destroy it.

In his sermon last weekend, Pastor Fritsch focused on some of the aspects of stewardship.  You may remember the old stewardship definition of three T’s: time, talent, and treasure.  That’s actually a helpful way to remember it.  But at a conference I attended last year, we were told that was outdated, obsolete.  We live in a new age, and we need to update accordingly.  There are now four T’s.

When it comes to looking at God’s gifts to us, we simply cannot overlook technology.  Our nation has changed drastically since the industrial revolution of the 19th century.  And the computer age of the 20th century.  But it’s like all good gifts that God gives to us: we can use it well or we can abuse it.  We can use God’s gifts to further His kingdom, or we can use them to drive a wedge between God and us.

This is what we see in Christ’s words, as He talks to His disciples about salt.  “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?”  This isn’t the only time He talks about salt, or uses another metaphor to speak of how His disciples are supposed to live their lives.  We are the salt of the earth, a city on a hill, the light of the world.  These illustrations are all identical.  We are different, we stand out, and because of that, we can make a difference in this world for the better, by sharing the gospel.

That was actually the opening devotion for our SALT students last week.  Hannah baked two loaves of bread, and “forgot” to put the salt in one of them.  The students then got to try both loaves and share how it tasted.  We actually forgot to put salt in our pizza dough recipe once, and it made a huge difference.  The dough was almost unusable, and even after fighting it into the shape of a crust, it still didn’t taste good.

Salt makes a difference, and we are that salt to the community around us.  But if we lose our saltiness, what happens?  We don’t like to think this way, but Christ is certainly giving us a warning, as He does elsewhere.  “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

The band Casting Crowns took a familiar children’s song a few years ago when they were writing their new song “Slow Fade” and they added to it. Just one of the lyrics says, “Be careful little feet where you go, For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow.”  It’s a powerful song, a moving piece, but speaks exactly to Christ’s words.  Our actions matter.  We are salt, we are called to lead, but we can lose that saltiness and lead others astray, we can lead them away from God.

Let’s merge this with Christ’s words.  If technology is causing you to stumble and fall, get rid of it.  If it’s your hand, if it’s ranting and anger that you’re typing on Facebook or in an email, the text messages you’re sending, stop.  Drop texting from your plan, delete your Facebook account, you’ll live, and others will be better off too.

If it’s your foot, if you’re prone to driving drunk, drowsy, or just recklessly in general, give up your license and use public transportation, or ask neighbors to help with rides.  You’ll be saving lives in the process.

If it’s your eyes causing you to sin, by the pornography you crave or the endless gossip available on the internet, or if it’s the temptation to become a sloth on the couch with a bag of chips as you play games on your iPad or watch TV for more hours than you do anything else, get rid of your computer, get rid of the TV.  Believe it or not, there are members here today who don’t have computers or TV’s and they live just fine!

If technology is bringing harm to you, your family, and your community through you, cast it off, get rid of it.  There’s so much more to life than stuff.  So if you’ve lost your way, come to me.  I’ll walk you through it.  I’ll help you to see what it means to be a disciple, to be salt again.

But technology is not in and of itself opposed to God or us.  Jesus said, “For the one who is not against us is for us.”  We can use technology to God’s advantage, to serve Him, to share His love.

Even just looking at the example of giving someone a cup of water as Jesus mentioned.  How far has technology come?  Purification plants give clean water to billions of people to drink.  NFL player Chris Long went to Africa this summer and was disgusted by the water they had, and so he started the Waterboys’ Initiative.  He’s using social media to spread the word and drum up $45,000 to build a well that will provide clean water to a community of 5,000 people.  What a gift!

And the internet and TV aren’t bad by themselves.  God designed us to take a day of rest.  Play games, watch a little football or a movie.  That’s okay.  It’s good to rest, to relax, and to have some fun.  And technology can definitely help with that.

How far has travel come?  Could your great grandparents even fathom being able to go and see Jerusalem?  Or travel to the see some of the great wonders of God’s creation?  I don’t want to think about the days of the Pony Express, and I’m sure our postal workers don’t either.

And what about communication?  Letters in the time of war have turned into face to face conversations for soldiers and their families.  You can see a grandchild or call a loved one who’s literally hundreds to thousands of miles away.  I can send you a message in electronic mail, email, and you’ll have it in the blink of an eye.  I can update you on the need for prayer for someone, or the good news of a new child.

Perhaps instead of filling Facebook with random stuff and fluff, we could use it as a tool for encouragement.  To build one another up.  Or, we could share the good news, and tell others about the Savior who died for them.

With our remodel, we’re figuring out how to record services so our shut-ins, or people in the hospital can be a part of this fellowship, and hear the good news of Christ and His forgiveness.  Can we put them on our own website for the world to see?  Can we come up with Bible classes that we can post online?  We wouldn’t be the first.

Technology is most certainly a wonderful gift, but it pales in comparison to the ultimate gift.  God, in His great love for you, surrendered His Son into the hands of blood-thirsty men.  It was our death that should have happened on that cross.  It was our embarrassment that deserved to be shown to the world.  But Christ took it from us.  And He forgave us and He gave us life.  And then He made us salty again.  He has made us different, He has made us stand out.  He has given us the chance to make a difference in our workplaces, on our streets, in our schools, and in our homes.

He trusts us with His mission.  He trusts us with His good news, with His message of salvation.  And He has given us some pretty neat stuff to share it with our community.  “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”  Amen.

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I Trust You, But… September 13, 2015

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Mark 9:14-29

Proper 19

September 13, 2015

 

Focus:  God sacrificed to have a relationship with us.

Function:  That the hearers spend time in devotion with God.

Structure:  This is the problem…this is the response of the gospel…these are the implications.

 

I Trust You…But…

 

It’s been a rough summer in our economy.  Have you noticed?  On July 16th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, our go to measurement for how our stock market is doing, indeed for most people, how our economy is doing, closed the market day at $18,120.25.  But within just about five weeks, by August 25th, it had plummeted all the way down to $15,666.44.  That’s a massive drop, and led many to panic.

If you’ve taken the Dave Ramsey class here before, or if you have a good financial advisor for your investments, you know how to react when the market crashes or slumps: you do nothing, you stay the course.  As Dave jokes, no one gets hurt on a roller coaster unless they jump off.  Stock market wisdom is indeed to ride it out.  But yet, even with all the right head knowledge, our heart can tell us something different.  We can trust our financial advisor and still at the same time feel panic inside and start frantically coming up with our own plan.

This is a game we like to play.  I trust you, but….  We do it with our economy.  All the good advisors say we should avoid credit cards and debt like the plague.  And we want to trust them, but then see something we really want, whether it’s shopping trip, or a new car, or that vacation that we deserve, or a house that’s a little out of our price range.  We hear our boss tell us business is great and that our job is secure, but we contemplate other opportunities, always having a backup plan in mind in case things get rough.

We do it with our family and friends.  We’ll have neighbors over to our house for a meal together, but then we’ll watch them, or their kids, like a hawk, making sure they don’t break anything or take anything.  We trust that our spouses will put us first, caring for our needs before their own, and yet then we’ll turn inward, abandoning them and seeking to care only for ourselves.

And we do it with God, too.  We trust when He says that He’ll care for us and provide for us, but then we say this is my hard earned money and I can’t spare the 10% You ask for for Your kingdom work.  Or we hear Jesus say “Repent or perish,” but we say “He can’t really be talking about that part of my life…I really like that sin.”  And then we trust God enough to pray to Him, but don’t actually expect Him to answer.  How many times have you prayed for rain and then went about the day without an umbrella?

This is the game going on with our text.  Let’s look at what we have.  An argument between a crowd of people and the scribes, the teachers of the law.  And then Jesus arrives, and the crowd rushes to Him.  They actually don’t bring it up.  They don’t ask Him to settle the argument, they just run and greet Him.  Jesus brings it up.  He asks what they were arguing about.  It’s like the Garden of Eden here, He already knows the answer, but He wants to build a relationship with them.

So they answer: it’s about a demon-possessed boy.  Even the disciples can’t drive it out.  “O faithless generation! How long am I to be with you?  How long am I to bear with you?  Bring him to Me.”  Here He’s been working miracles in their communities, casting out demons, teaching of the Kingdom of God, and yet they still don’t believe, they still lack a relationship with God.  They still fail to trust the Lord, that He can do all things.

But they bring the boy, who is actively being driven to insanity and convulsions by the demon, and Jesus asks the dad for more information about the child and the demon.  The dad explains that this has been going on for years, and the demon has often tried to kill the child.  This is an interesting note, because it means the demon failed.  Remember, in spiritual warfare, demons aren’t the only ones fighting, God sends His angels to defend us, and this youngster, too.

And then the dad asks Jesus the question: “if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  If?  “If You can?  All things are possible for one who believes.”  Where’s the trust?  Where’s the trust that this is truly the Son of God who has the power to cast out demons?  This isn’t the same as the Canaanite woman asking for healing for her daughter, or the centurion for his servant.  Their faith was so strong they knew Christ could heal even from a distance.  Even though they were Gentiles and He hadn’t come for them.

But then we get a great line, “I believe; help my unbelief!”   There is trust here, but how much?  The answer starts to reveal itself as we finish the text.  Jesus cast out the spirit, and the crowd thought the boy died.  Again, where’s the trust?  Jesus takes him by the hand, he gets up, and he’s healed.

And then the disciples ask Christ in private, “Why could we not cast it out?”  We tried, but we failed, why?  And Jesus responds, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”  Here’s the answer in all of this.  It’s all about the relationship we have with God.  In trying to cast out this demon, where did the disciples turn?  They tried by their own might and power and failed.  Prayer is talking to God, they didn’t ask God to drive out the demon, they tried to do it themselves.  They failed to trust in the Lord to fulfill His promises.

In some ways, Jesus’ question about the faithless generation is a crack at the disciples.  You’ve been with Me all this time, you’ve seen miracles, and yet you don’t believe, you don’t trust in Me.  And the same can be said for the crowd, the group of Jews who were gathered there.  They’re the ones Jesus was sent to to proclaim the kingdom of God.  And yet, He ends up calling them faithless because they don’t trust in Him.

Many would also say the dad in this text is faithless.  But his prayer is a powerful one.  “I believe; help my unbelief!”  If he didn’t already have a relationship with Jesus, a certain amount of trust in his Lord, he wouldn’t have said that.  He had trust, but he was hurting.  He had a relationship, but needed encouragement.

This is something we also know well.  Children usually have a good relationship with their parents.  They know their parents love them, they know they’ll care for them and provide for them, but there will be times when they’re scared, when they’re hurting, and they will need to be reminded of their parents love and care for them.

That same thing could be echoed by spouses.  We know our spouse loves us and cares for us, and yet there are hard days, days where it seems the world is against us, and we need to be reminded of that love.

We can also trust our best friends to be there for us if ever we’re in need.  But that doesn’t mean our brain won’t trick us into depression and loneliness, thinking we’ve been abandoned, even though we really haven’t.

This fits here.  Christ is already going to heal the child.  But He’s seeking to strengthen His relationship with the man, this dad.  He needs encouragement in his faith, and so Jesus gives it.  There’s already trust here, that’s why the dad brought his demon-possessed child to the feet of the Lord.  There’s already a relationship present.  This is a chance to make it stronger.  And Jesus does just that.

Some of you may be stuck where we started this sermon, where you trust, but…  Maybe you have prayed for rain and then failed to actually think God could do it.  Maybe some here today are like the disciples and the Jews, part of the faithless generation and Christ is calling you out in this text, to hear Him, to believe in Him, and to trust in Him above all things.

Others here today are where the dad is.  Trusting, but needing encouragement.  Having a relationship with our Lord and Savior, but needing a reminder of His presence.

And either way, Jesus gives it.  Because in order to have a relationship with you, Christ gave Himself up for you.  He died that you might live.  That’s love, that’s sacrifice, that’s something we can put our full and total trust in.

And He’s here this very day to strengthen that relationship with you, to build up that trust, to give you that encouragement, that reminder of His love for you.  He’s already done it through the words I spoke earlier in the service, as He forgave you of all your sins.  Trust Him.  They’re gone.

And He’s about to do it again now, in what really is a great reminder and encourager:  He gave His body and shed His blood for you, to forgive your sins, to give you life.  If you don’t trust that, don’t come up here today.  This is for you, this is for your relationship with Him.  He’s here with you now, seeking to strengthen you, to grow your faith, to nurture it.

And He does it in many more ways.  As we start a new year, there are so many different ways Christ works in this place to give you strength and encouragement, to build up your trust in Him.

Use the things that the church offers.  Use the Faith at Home Corner in your home to grow in your relationship with God through spending time with Him.  Spend time with the Lord and receiving His gifts in worship. Be taught and discipled through Bible classes, milestones, Sunday School and Youth Group.  Come together for fellowship opportunities, times we just gather to be the church, to be His people in this community.  Maybe it’s in humility of service, of helping out by washing the church windows, baking a meal for some college students, tutoring local children with SALT, as all of these things build your relationships with other people and with God as you get to know Him and His kingdom.

This trust thing isn’t all about head knowledge.  Sure, when it comes to trusting my wife, getting to know her was very important. But there’s so much more to it.  Taking the time to spend some time talking with God, doing devotions, communicating in prayer, these things are vital to your relationship with Him, to your ability to truly trust in His promises.  He is here and He is seeking a great relationship with you.  But if you need encouragement, if you need a reminder, you won’t find them outside of His gifts.  He has given you His Word, He has given you a church family, He has given you prayer, confession, worship, pastors, elders, parents, friends.  He truly has blessed you richly.

So, as we kick off a whole new batch of well, everything, take up this invitation to trust in God above all things, joining with the dad in saying, “I believe; help my unbelief!”