God’s in it!

How God grows your faith

#3 Relationships

 

Good morning!  After three weeks of not having Joe up here,

you might be starting to wonder if Joe’s been

 directly translated to heaven like Enoch,

and we just haven’t figured out how to tell you yet.  Not so! 

 

He’s actually in Turkey as part of his graduate studies at Whitworth.

He’s having a blast being a student, but he looks forward to being back

here on January 31 as our lead pastor once again!

 

In the interim, for the New Year we’ve been talking about

how we encounter God through good teaching,

spiritual disciplines, our relationships, serving,

and our circumstances. 

 

This week we’re going to focus on how God shows up

in the midst of our relationships. 

The truth is, He intrudes Himself right into

the middle of them all the time—

we’re just not paying attention to the fact that He’s doing so. 

Sometimes, though, He smacks us right upside the forehead. 

 

ILL:  Let me give you an example from about a decade ago

when I was finishing a graduate fellowship in English out at EWU. 

Like all my cohorts in the program,

I was busy looking for a university teaching position.  

The chair of the English Department, Dr. Dana Elder, was helping us.

He had been an amazing professor for all of us. 

He had brilliantly instructed a number our graduate classes,

he mentored us as we taught our own English classes,

and he had taken a real interest

in our personal and professional lives

all along the way.  We loved him! 


 

So one day as I was walking down the hall with him,

he asked if I’d hang a job notice on the graduate bulletin board. 

It was advertising an English position somewhere in the Deep South,

and as I glanced over it, I said, “What are we posting this for? 

I’d never want to go somewhere where

the only two seasons are hot and hotter!” 

We took a couple more steps,

and then he turned to me, smiled, and said,

“Michael, it’s not all about you.” … 

Whack!—right on the forehead. 

 

Do you think God was in that moment? 

I didn’t have any doubt about it! 

And after I hung fire for a couple of moments,

I burst out laughing because I knew

Dr. Elder and God had me cold. 

 

Fortunately, Dr. Elder laughed, too, and we went on as we were,

the Elder and the younger who had just made it through

another teachable moment.

 

Point:  Have no doubt about it, God uses human relationships to grow our faith.

If you think about significant spiritual growth in your life

and the things that have brought about godly changes

in your thoughts, attitudes, and actions,

in almost every case you’ll find God has used someone

in your life to promote that growth, to help  you trust Him.

 

And the opposite is true as well:

if you consider those times when your faith has faltered,

when you’ve purposely gone down a path you knew could be destructive,

there was probably an unhealthy relationship

that encouraged you in that direction. 

 

Right relationships build faith; wrong relationships undermine it. 

Nobody’s really going to argue that point. 

But the question is, what do we do with this knowledge?  

How do we develop our current relationships to grow our faith? 

That’s what we’re going to look at today. 

Let’s pray and ask God to be in it!

Introduction  As Christians it’s quite natural for us to look to our Christian

family and friends for Godly advice and counsel. 

 

But we need to keep aware that all people are God’s people,

whether they recognize and accept that relationship or not—

He’s everyone’s Creator.  It’s only “in Him” that any of us

 “live and move and have our being,” as Paul tells us in Acts 17:28. 

So we need to pay attention to what God is doing

in all of our relationships—even the most unlikely ones. 

Let me give you an extreme example from the Bible.

 

Let’s look at how God speaks to the prophet Balaam. A prophet is someone who hears from God better than most. And when Balak, the King of Moab,

summons Balaam to come put a curse on the Israelites

as they are making their way to the Promised Land for the second time, 

God comes to Balaam and approves his going.

But he has to do only what God tells him (Num 22:20). 

 

God apparently has some reservations about whether Balaam,

who isn’t an Israelite prophet, will hold true to his own word. 

So while Balaam is traveling on his donkey to Balak,

God speaks through someone Balaam would never

have guessed could give him godly direction. 

Let’s take a look at what happens:

 

Numbers 22:26-34 

26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

 

I think it’s necessary to stop here for a moment. 

I don’t know if you’ve picked up on it, but something a little unusual

has just happened here.  What is it? 

Yeah, the talking donkey!

If we were watching Shrek, we wouldn’t think twice about it,

but it’s a bit striking in a historical account. 

 

What’s even more usual is that Balaam just starts talking back

as if he and his donkey had been best buddies for years!

 

My dad is close to his pet Yorkie, but I think even he’d be

a little surprised if it started talking to him. 

At the very least he might inquire,

“Hey, how’d you learn to do that?” 

 

But not Balaam.  When his donkey asks, “What have I done to you?” 

Balaam just fires right back, “You’ve made a fool of me!” 

And when the donkey confronts Balaam

and asks him if he normally treats him this way,

Balaam accepts the rebuke and just sheepishly answers,

No.”

 

So I really don’t know what surprises me most about this story:

the donkey talking to Balaam, or Balaam talking right back to the donkey. 

But of this I am sure: if God can speak to Balaam through

just any old jackass,

He can speak to you through one, too….  

The question is, are you paying attention? 

 

Unfortunately, we’re often not, and Balaam isn’t, either. 

Balaam is so oblivious that the angel has to eventually reveal Himself

to get Balaam to realize he’s experiencing a divine moment:

 

Numbers 22:26-34

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

 

Something I love about this passage is that Balaam is a prophet,

a person who inquires of and hears from God more directly than most. 

But the Lord can’t even get his attention with a talking donkey!

Balaam’s blindness to how God works through others

should give us reason to pause. 

 

How many times a week do we ignore something

God’s been trying to tell us through others? . . .

How often do we need to stop and admit to the Lord,

“I have sinned, for I did not know that you

were standing in the road to oppose me”

 

So if you look at your outline that’s in the bulletin,

you’ll see that we’re going to discuss three ways

to pay attention to and cooperate with God in our relationships:

 

  1. Pay attention to encounters that challenge you
  2. Flee intruding personal contacts that are destructive
  3. Lean into those people who spark compassion in you 

 

Let’s start then with that first point:

 

1. Pay attention to encounters that challenge you—they may be God-appointed.

 

Sometimes these encounters are simply unexpected two-by-fours to the head,

like the one I told you about with Dr. Elder at the beginning of the talk:

“Michael, it’s not all about you.”

We just have to pay attention to those moments

and avoid getting defensive when they arise. 

Take it in, take a breath, and take the next step.

It’s trusting this voice that builds your faith.

 

Besides just paying attention to challenging encounters,

we should actually cultivate them.  No kidding!

Proverbs gives us this pithy little chunk of advice: 

 

Proverbs 13:20 

He who walks with the wise grows wise,

but a companion of fools suffers harm.

 

It’s easy to hang around with people who don’t challenge us,

who just want to fool around and have a good time. 

It can even be easy to hang around those who are more

serious-minded but not the types who rock the boat,

not the types who take enough interest in your life

and wellbeing to call you on your stuff. 

 

But “he who walks with the wise grows wise.”

The wise, whether they’re playful or serious,

family or friends or colleagues,

will know enough about life and care for you enough

to give you a call on the clue phone every now and then.

 

ILL:  My wife and I had our 20th wedding anniversary last August,

and I know exactly when I knew I wanted to marry her. 

We went to the same college together as freshmen,

so we started hanging out simply because we knew each other

from high school.  Pretty soon hanging out turned into dating. 

And then before I knew it, she was critiquing my character! 

 

I took her out on a really nice dinner date thinking I’d impress her. 

Normally when it came to conversation,

I was the Jordan River, and Leslie was the Dead Sea taking it all in. 

But this particular night she caught me completely off guard

by launching into an torrent of monologue

that I’ve never forgotten.  She said,

“Michael, you’re a really good student. You’re smart,

and you’re willing to study for hours on end. 

And I admire that you go to church and read your Bible

and love God and are willing to talk to others about Him. 

 

“But I’ve got to tell you . . . and I say this because I care about you

and I love you . . . you’ve got some glaring problems. 

You complain about how hard you work all the time

You’re uptight and self-righteous and critical of others. 

The truth is, you’re totally self-absorbed. 

You’ll just mow right over people to get your stuff done. 

Honestly, I don’t know why anyone listens to you

or hangs out with you. 

 

“But despite all these things, I want you to know

I’m glad we’re together. 

I think God will help you figure all this stuff out,

and I think you have more good points than bad ones.”

 

… She paused here for a moment. I think she was wracking her brains

to think of anything good about me and was coming up short. 

So she concluded: “You know, in high school I thought you

were funny looking because your ears were too small. 

But they’ve either grown or I’ve gotten used to them,

because I think you’re pretty good-looking now. . . . 

Well, that’s all I’ve got to say. 

I just thought you should know.” 

 

I just sat there in stunned silence for a while. . .

And then I thought,

“I’m going to marry this girl someday.” 

 

There are only two reasons I could take this little monologue from Leslie:

first, I admired her to no end.  Let me explain a little:

She was everything wise and wonderful that I was not.

 

She hadn’t been exaggerating any of my faults:  I was totally uptight. 

I was on an Air Force scholarship in mathematics,

and so far in Calc I I had flunked every exam. 

(I hadn’t realized yet that you can do that

in college math and still get an A!

The next guy over just has to be failing

worse than you are!)

 

Then there was Leslie: she was taking classes to become a pre-vet major:

physics, chemistry, microbiology—pretty much the devil’s triangle—

and she was cool as a cucumber.

Like all freshman science majors, she’d bomb the occasional test. 

But unlike most, she’d just shrug and say,

“Oh well, I’ll make it through somehow.” 

 

She broke her leg in half while skiing over Thanksgiving break. 

She had to have surgery and was in the hospital for a week

right when she should have been studying for finals.

But she’d still just say, “I’ll get through.” 

 

I couldn’t decide if she was a saint or a moron—

all I knew is that I would have been a quivering jellyfish. 

I decided that such tranquility

could only come from deep wisdom

and a rock-solid sense of identity,

and Leslie became like a goddess to me. 

 

I would go hang out at her feet in her dorm simply to soak in

all the peaceful vibes I could. 

Plus, she had a cast that went all the way up to her hip,

and I liked to sign it every opportunity I could get.

 

The other reason I could accept her criticism as wisdom from God

was those three little words that slipped out during her monologue:

 “I love you.”. . .

 

She told me later that she has no idea how those words had slipped in there

—her intent had been for me to confess my love first. 

So when those words just blurted out on their own,

she just kept on plowing forward,

hoping that I hadn’t noticed and would get distracted

by all the heavy artillery flying my way. 

 

But I had noticed, and I certainly was distracted—but not by the shelling

Leslie could have pretty much said anything she wanted at that point

and I would have accepted it.

Here was the goddess of tranquility,

saying she loved me, the demon of pandemonium!

Paul tells us how to speak hard truths so that

they can be heard with good effect.

 

Ephesians 4:15-16 NRSV

15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

 

Leslie had spoken the truth in love, and I took it for what it was.

I realized God needed me to trust what He was saying through her.

I’ve loved her ever since, and I recognize now as I did then

that God has a lot to say to me through Leslie. 

So I try to pay attention. 

Sometimes I even try to change

my attitude and behavior….

But you’d have to ask Leslie

how often I’m successful at that!

 

Point:  I’m sure you have had similar experiences in your own relationships.  

When we’re intentional about cultivating relationships with wise people,

we will have these types of encounters with close friends and family

members and often even colleagues at work.

So we need to linger at church and ask folks out

to coffee and lunch and over for dinner and game nights

so they have a chance to lovingly speak into our lives.

Their insights can have the very breath of God in them,

and we need it.

 

 

Trans: Now the opposite is true as well, and that takes us to our second point:

 

2. Flee intruding personal contacts that are destructive—consider Joseph!

 

I think the most spectacular example of this principle in the Bible

is the encounter Joseph has with his boss’s wife:

 

Genesis 39:1-12

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

2 The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. . . .

6 … Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

 

Joseph’s really caught between a rock and a hard place here. 

If he gives in to Potiphar’s wife, he’s taking the risk of being caught

in the affair and punished, and he knows he’ll be offending God.

But if he doesn’t give in, he’s thwarting the will of a woman

who can make his life very difficult, which indeed she does. 

 

Even though he’s doing the right things, it doesn’t go well for Joseph here.

After he flees, Potiphar’s wife accuses him of attempted rape,

and Joseph is thrown into jail until the Lord brings about

another remarkable series of events

that lead to Joseph’s advancement in Pharaoh’s government.

 

But what we see in this encounter with Potiphar’s wife is

that Joseph is a man of moral character.

He’s youthful and attractive.  And it’s likely that

Potiphar’s wife is youthful and attractive as well, 

since she’s married to a well-healed official in a society

in which men can essentially purchase their wives.

 

The apostle Paul quotes an ancient proverb when he says,

 

I Corinthians 15:33 

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

 

Joseph could have easily allowed his character to be corrupted

by this seductive wife’s bad company!

 

But he honored God: he fled this intruding personal contact.

Despite how enticing and exciting this sexual relationship

could have been, he obeyed the right set of instincts

—his spiritual ones—and he didn’t just walk away.

He ran!

 

Point: We need to pay attention to intrusive personal contacts

that could wreck our character, as well as our relationships with God,

our friends and colleagues, our spouse, and our family members. 

 

So to hear God’s voice and receive His guidance,

we need to exercise leaning into some relationships,

and we need to exercise leaning out of others.

Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about . . .

 

Drama

 

Clearly, paying attention to God in our relationships can be a real workout!

It’s important not only to develop the ability to cultivate good ones,

but also the ability to disengage from the harmful ones! 

 

ILL:  For example, Joe has mentioned to you before that the married members

of the church staff have agreed not to be alone with someone

of the opposite sex other than our spouse. 

 

I’ve had some church members challenge me on this principle,

saying we’re too legalistic or too uptight: 

after all, shouldn’t our spouses be able to trust us,

and vice versa?  Yes, we should trust our spouses. 

But let me tell you something . . . .

we shouldn’t be so quick to trust ourselves! 

You never know for certain the intentions of another,

and you also never know what kind of natural chemistry

is going to arise between any given

man and woman who are thrown together. 

 

Jeremiah observes,

 

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

 

And Paul rightly warns,

 

I Corinthians 10:12, 14

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall! . . . Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

 

What the Bible means by idolatry is anything that takes away

our rightful devotion and obedience to God. 

Fleeing from idolatry means staying away from

those relationships and situations that can potentially

corrupt our character and bring harm to ourselves and others.

 

Sometimes these intruding personal contacts are in your face,

like Potiphar’s wife! Sometimes they can be pretty subtle,

because the activity or people may not be bad in and of themselves—

they may just be detrimental for us in our current circumstances. 

 

ILL:  When I was a student at Eastern, between taking

graduate courses and teaching undergraduate ones,

I had almost no time with Leslie.

 At one point my cohorts were

putting the squeeze on me to join their weekly poker night. 

I didn’t have anything against playing cards with friends,

but I kept fending them off. 

 

I’d say, “I’d love to, really, but I just can’t do that to Leslie.

She deserves all the time I can give her.” 

They were mostly younger singles who thought

I was just an old fuddy-duddy. 

(In fact, just being the kind of guy who could say

“old fuddy-duddy” made me

an old fuddy-duddy in their eyes.) 

 

But the much older English secretary who overheard the conversation

came up to me later and said,

“Michael, you give me hope for the male side of the species. 

You keep looking after that wife of yours.”

 

Point: You have relationships in your life that are intrusive.

It’s just the nature of being a social creature.

So whether these intruding relationships are in your face,

or trying to get in under the radar,

be on the lookout for them

and flee them when they become apparent.

 

An added challenge we have today is that we have

virtual intrusions as well as live ones. 

We need to flee the pornography and the immoral movies

and the trashy romance novels as well as

the corrupting relationships. 

 

The very day I was writing this point,

I went on-line to the normal MSN launch page,

and there’s a Victoria’s Secret model putting her

push-up bra right in my face! 

(I’m not kidding—it wasn’t just a picture, but video.)

 

I’m a pastor, and my friend and administrative pastor Blake Folden

has access to everything I browse on-line.

But don’t think for a moment

that I wasn’t tempted to click that ad!

I fled temptation simply by sticking to the task

I originally had in mind and going to it

not the siren song of the virtual woman! 

 

Remember,

 

Proverbs 13:20 

He who walks with the wise grows wise,

but a companion of fools [even virtual ones] suffers harm.

 

So this overall point is pretty simple: flee intruding personal contacts. 

Whether they’re obvious, subtle, or virtual, just don’t go there. 

God’s not in them, and you want to be where God is.

3. Lean into those people who spark compassion in you—God may be using you.

 

ILL: I wrote this third point of the sermon on a Saturday in mid-December

because I wanted to complete a solid draft early so I could truly relax during

the holidays before other time-consuming responsibilities hit this month. 

 

Fortunately, Leslie’s mom had taken the kids that Saturday,

Leslie was at work, and I finally had a clear, extended block of time

to just sit and prep.  It was beautiful . . . . 

But at the Men’s Breakfast I sat next to a friend

whose wife was in the hospital.

I learned that she was much improved

and open to visitors. 

 

So now I had a choice to make:  do I just compartmentalize,

get home as quickly as possible, and get this sermon done? 

Or do I set aside my plans and go see his wife,

who is also my friend? 

 

To be honest, I was tempted to just get home and start writing. 

But on the way home the Lord did a little business in my soul

and reminded me that the very point I was going to be

writing about was leaning into people

who spark compassion in us! 

 

How was I supposed to exhort you to let God use you to love others

if I wouldn’t let Him interrupt my plans to do the same through me? 

So I trusted God and stopped off to see this friend,

and you know what?  It meant the world to her! 

We talked and prayed, and I walked away

as refreshed and encouraged as she was. 

 

Point: Honestly, she was so grateful that I visited, you would

have thought I was Jesus in the flesh for her.

According to the Bible, in a sense I was. 

That’s who we are for others

when we love them because of

Jesus’ presence and work in our lives. 

 

Let me show you something astonishing.  Paul explains:

 

I Corinthians 12:12-13, 27-28 [Retain on screen through the next para.]

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. . . .

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

 

This is what’s astonishing:  who’s the body of Christ?  We are!

This is true both collectively and individually when we follow Christ. 

And Paul lists all sorts of abilities and gifts God scatters among us

to share with others through Christ’s presence and power. 

Look in particular at the one I’ve underlined: 

“those able to help others.” 

 

It’s true that some of us are more gifted, more natural, at helping than others. 

ILL: For example, my Adult Ministries staff team has two

administrative assistants who are truly a Godsend to us—

they have this ability in spades, and we love them for it! 

 

But all of us who are following Jesus should be

exercising this gift of helping others.

If it’s not our second nature already,

we should start leaning into it

so it becomes our second nature.

The way we do that is by paying attention to compassionate

feelings and thoughts that arise in our heart and mind. 

I just gave you one example with my friend in the hospital.

But I know each of us can think of times when an encounter

with a family member, a friend, a colleague, or even a stranger

has sparked compassion in us. 

 

And each time that happens, we always have a choice to make: 

will we set aside our own agenda and help the person,

or will we continue to serve our own needs that we think

are very urgent at the moment, but are probably

not quite so urgent in God’s economy? 

If you really want to be used by God,

then you have to pay attention to the compassion

that He sparks in you and act on it. 

 

When you do, and you become responsive to others as a habit,

there’s no telling how God will speak through you

to encourage and guide others:

 

  • If you have children, I know they make a lot of demands

and you can’t just jump to on all of them

or you’d never get anything done. 

But keep your heart soft and compassionate,

and when that compassion sparks, don’t ignore it

—God’s probably trying to use you. 

Drop what you’re doing, and lean into your child.

 

  • When you’re at work, when a co-worker’s situation sparks compassion

in you, offer support.  At the very least, offer to pray for them. 

I’ve worked in the Air Force and public schools and colleges,

and I’ve never encountered anyone, even the most vocal atheist,

who resented being prayed for when the chips were down. 

In many cases you can simply say a short prayer

out loud for them right on the spot: 

“Lord, I ask that you comfort Mary and help her

in this situation.  Amen.” 

That’s all it takes, but it may be

the very voice of God for that person

at that moment.

  • When you can tell that someone in your Life Group is hurting,

and you feel compassion, but you don’t want to intrude on their life . . . 

intrude.  Be gentle!  But intrude:

“You seem a little down to me.  How are you doing? 

Is there something you want to talk about

or that I can pray for or that I can help you with?” 

Few would be offended by this type of inquiry.

And God might just use you at that very moment.

 

You can think of many more scenarios from your daily lives,

but you get the point: 

When God sparks compassion in you, trust Him and lean into it. 

Blow that spark into a flame and see if the Holy Spirit

is working through you to bring God’s

comfort and care to another.

 

Communion:

In each of these three actions we discussed today,

 

  • paying attention to encounters that challenge you,
  • fleeing destructive personal contacts,
  • and leaning into people who spark compassion in you,

 

the key motivator and empowerer is Christ.

We need Him, because we often mess these things up

when we try to do them with our own strength.

It’s through Him that we open ourselves fully

to allowing God to work His purposes through us. 

 

We’re going to take communion today as a reminder of how Christ

gave His life for ours and was raised again by God the Father

so that we, too, can live fully and forever in Him. 

 

Let me show you something interesting that happened at the Last Supper

that we don’t often analyze when participating in the Lord’s Supper ourselves.

In . . .

 

Luke 22:19-20 [we read:]

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you….”

 

Amazingly enough, just after Jesus makes this confirmation

that He’s going to his death for his disciples as their ultimate atoning sacrifice,

they get into squabble that’s mind-boggling given the context!

Jump down to . . .

 

Luke 22:24-27 [which is still set at the Last Supper.]

24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.

 

How did the disciples ever get on this topic?!  You can just hear them talking now:

 

“Man, what does Jesus mean that He’s going to die?  I’ve been really looking forward to His rule as our Messiah, the King.  If that kingdom ever comes about, you can bet that I’m going to be the greatest among us! 

“No you aren’t. I am!”

“No you’re not!”

“Oh, yes I am!”

 

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall and seen how this thing went down?  Anyway, Jesus had to jump back in to stop the scuffle:

 

Luke 22:24-27

25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

 

So here at the Lord’s Supper, we have Jesus offering up His life for theirs—

and for ours—and in response the disciples get into an argument

over which of them is them is the greatest!

 

They’re just like us! We have a hard time escaping the world’s

constant message that the one being served, the one who has

wealth and power and prestige, is the greatest.

 

But Jesus flips this cultural and human value on its head and reveals that

God is empowering us to join His Kingdom, which is a realm where

the highest glory is in serving others through our relationships. 

This is what Jesus calls us to and empowers us to do

through His death and resurrection and subsequent

presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. 

It’s through our faith in Jesus

that God is in us and our relationships!

 

So let’s worship Him as the juice and the bread are distributed.

Note that they come together in two stacked cups. 

We’re taking communion as followers of Jesus Christ,

so whether you’re here as a regular participant or a visitor,

feel free to share in the Lord’s Supper with us. 

 

Let’s sing out our love to the Lord. And after a couple of songs,

I’ll lead us in taking the elements together.

 

Worship

 

Individual Prayer & Taking of Communion

Let’s take a few moments to ask God

where He’s working through our relationships.

Who should we be listening to more carefully? 

Who or what should we be avoiding? 

Whose lives should we be speaking God’s grace into? 

 

It’s Christ, who gives us the life and power

to live out God’s plans for our lives.

Let’s thank Him for this great gift and ask Him to work in us. 

While you’re praying, go ahead and take the bread and the cup.

In just a few moments we’ll return to worship.

 

Return to Worship

 

Closing Word

As we go our way this week, let’s keep in mind that God’s in the midst

of our relationships.  Let’s pay attention to His voice in others

and allow Him to speak to others through us.

May God bless you and keep you this week!  [Band’s walk-out]