Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

November 2018

The Messiah in the Torah: The Seed

The Messiah in the Torah: The Seed


We are coming into the season of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting, a time to get us ready for the Christ child who will come at Christmas. We know the Christmas Story. We have heard it many, many times and you probably can’t hear it too many times because it is a beautiful story, but during this season of Advent we are going to look how the Christ, the Messiah, is presented to us through the prophets of the Old Testament because the better we understand how Jesus fulfilled the role of this coming Messiah, the better we can wrestle with our own faith and how we understand Jesus to be a part of our lives.
So we go back to the pictures of the Christ in the Old Testament, especially those images of Messiah we find in the Torah – the first 5 books of the Bible, also called the Pentateuch or the Books of Moses. They are the books that most people can rattle off in order – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy! In these books, we find pictures of the Messiah that the people of God looked for for generations since the time of Moses. The Messiah - the coming one who will save them. The pictures of this Messiah from the Old Testament are designed so that when the Messiah comes, the people will be able to recognize him as who he is - the coming one, the savior, the Son of God.
However, we as Christians know that that didn’t happen. The Jews did not recognize Jesus when he took on the role of the Messiah. Jesus over and over again kept saying to the Jews, his own people – “You’ve got the evidence”, “You know the scripture”, “You’ve heard the prophecy”, yet they didn’t see it.
And even though we do understand Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the World, It is still a great benefit to us to go back and see what it is that the Hebrew scriptures say about the Messiah. Because it does help us to better understand the role of Jesus in our life and the better we understand who Jesus is, the easier it is to allow him to shape us and mold us into the people he wants us to be. The more we understand about God’s plan for this ‘coming one’ the more we can appreciate the coming of the Christ Child on Christmas.
We first look at the picture of the coming Messiah, the Christ, that we understand to be Jesus of Nazareth, as a seed. One of the great Christmas Carols is Hark the Herald Angels Sing but the form we sing is not exactly like the hymn that Charles Wesley wrote. In his original carol came the verse: Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us thy humble home; Rise, the woman’s conquering seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head. In this verse, Wesley is referring to the passage in Genesis 3:15.(read). Wesley understood that the seed that is mentioned in Genesis 3:15, is a picture off the coming Messiah. God is talking to Eve and telling her that even though she and Adam are being thrown out of the Garden because they disobeyed God, the serpent who represents Satan, will suffer a worse fate because an offspring of Eve – and we realize that this offspring of a future generation – will eventually be the one who defeats Satan.
In the opening scene of the move “The Passion” Jesus is praying in the garden right before his arrest and as he gets up to walk out to the disciples, there is a snake crawling around him and he takes his heel and crushes the head of the snake. That is a reference back to this passage where we are assured that the Messiah who comes, will be the one who defeats Satan, the serpent of the Garden.
Again, in the book in Genesis, in Genesis 22:18, Abraham is promised that through his seed, the world will be blessed and this passage has always been understood to be a reference to the blessings of Jesus for the world; the one who will come offering salvation to all. So just
from these two verses we already understand that God promised to Eve that there would come a savior who would defeat Satan and from Genesis 22 we now know that this Messiah will be a descendent of Abraham – in other words the Messiah will be Jewish. And from this Messiah, the whole world will be blessed – salvation will offered to all people. What this does to help us with our faith is to understand that from the very beginning of time – God had a plan to redeem all people which we see in the coming of the Christ; in this baby Jesus. It also reminds us that there is a continuity between Old Testament and the New Testament and that it is important that we come to know what is in the Old Testament in order to fully understand what happens in the New Testament. We read in Colossians 1:17 (read thru 20) we see that this was God’s plan all along – from before creation God planned to offer salvation to all people and this will come from the seed of Abraham.
Not only does this picture of the seed help us to see the promised of God fulfilled in Christ, the seed also becomes a picture of the believer and what happens to the believer as they allow Christ in their lives. The seed represents Transformation; the seed represents growth; the seed represents bearing fruit; and the seed represents the future.
Picture a seed. It has this really hard shell around it. Until you plant it in the ground and water it and then something magical happens and that shell opens up and a tiny shoot of a plant comes out and begins to grow. Without Christ in our life, we are like that seed. We are hardened, our hearts are hardened (that is another phrase used often in the Bible to describe people who aren’t open to God). Without Christ, we are that seed with a hard shell. But when we give our life to Christ – we are reborn. The New Testament uses the vision of dying and being reborn as a new creature. That is the picture from the death of Christ when he is buried and resurrected. We are in essence buried as one person and we rise from the ground as someone new when Christ comes into our lives. The shell opens up, our heart softens and we begin to allow Christ to change us.
We are a baby plant – Paul calls us ‘baby Christians’, the more we learn, the more closely we follow Jesus, the more bible study we do, the more we pray, the more we surround ourselves with God’s people, Christ is able to nourish us just like the water and the sun nourish that new plant. What often happens is that as a tender shoot, we neglect the nourishment, we don’t do the study, the prayer, the worship, we isolate ourselves and as a result we never grow in our faith, or our faith actually will wither and die. But as we allow Christ to nourish us, we grow and we become stronger. And once the plant grows enough, it gets strong enough, the plant begins to bear its fruit – fruit in this picture isn’t really talking about apples or pears, but the seed that the plant produces. All plants produce seed in one form or another in order to propagate itself. Once we have allowed Christ to nourish us and we grow strong, we start bearing fruit. We start bearing seeds that can propagate in the lives of others. Our lives bear witness to what Jesus can do in a life – our transformation is so that people can see Jesus in us.
Jesus’ words in John 15:16 remind of this command that Jesus gave us – go and bear fruit. And how do we bear fruit – by loving each other. Not just each other, those of us here in this sanctuary, but love each other. Love all people – and all that entails – caring for people, treating people with respect, providing for the needs of others…And how is this possible, only through allowing Jesus to live in us and through us.
From the beginning, from Genesis, the Messiah is presented to us as a seed. Remembering the purpose of that seed is to bless all people and to bruise the head of Satan. We come to see this fulfilled in Jesus – the Christ; the Messiah. But we also see that it is through allowing Jesus to live in us that this truly comes to pass. For as we allow Jesus to transform us, as we allow Jesus to come into our hearts and soften that shell and allow us to grow, it is through us that Jesus comes to bless all people, for as we allow Jesus to lead us to Love Each Other, to care for each other, that we will bear fruit, that the message of Christ will spread, there will be more people transformed and Satan’s plan to make us all miserable will be defeated.
So this advent, allow the Messiah, the seed of the Torah, to transform you, to soften that shell you have build around yourself, to allow you to grow until you can bear fruit and then through you, this baby born at Christmas, this Christ, this Messiah, will be a blessing to the world.
Amen!

Balaam and His Donkey

Balaam and His Donkey

This is Christ the King Sunday. The last Sunday in our church calendar year. This Sunday reminds us that the ultimate understanding of our Lord Jesus is as our King, our ruler, the ultimate authority in our life. Today before the beginning of a new church year, before we begin our wonderful season of Advent, we take a moment to remember who this baby we will celebrate turns out to be - Christ Jesus who ascends to the throne and sits at the right hand of God and from there we are to see Jesus as our King - the one to whom we look to rule all aspects of our lives.
A while back during one of the Bible Study classes the passage we were looking out referenced this man named Balaam and someone suggested we have a message on Balaam because they didn’t know who he was. And when I thought about this Christ the King Sunday, for some reason Balaam came to mind because the account of Balaam’s life teaches us the importance of giving Jesus our allegiance as king, the importance of paying attention to Jesus’ rule in our lives.
So let’s look at this man named Balaam. It is significant that the people of God are a real peripheral part of this story. The Hebrews are mentioned, but they don’t have a key part in what is going on. That’s part of the point of the story – that God can use even people that are not part of the people of God, people who are not even believers in the one true God to do what he needs done or to teach us something important about being God’s people. About through someone outside of God’s people to teach us how we really need to look to God for our instruction and our obedience. Balaam was not a Hebrew, he was not a believer in God, in fact he was not even a worshipper of idols. Balaam was a free lance giver of blessings and curses and would work with any group of people who worshipped whatever god. It appears that Balaam was sort of the world renowned blesser and curser. This was a time in history when people truly believed that certain people could bless or curse others and it would really happen. So you would hire Balaam to bless or curse an individual you knew, or leaders of countries would hire him to bless or curse other countries and it seemed to work! Balaam was known to be the best in his field!
As our story about Balaam begins, the Hebrew people are in the process of the conquest of the Promised Land. Remember they wandered through the desert of the Sinai for 40 years on their way to the promised land – the land of Israel today - but God didn’t just give them the land, they had to go in and militarily conquer it. Of course, God told them he would help them as long as they called on him to help and trusted in how he told them they should defeat certain cities and certain nations. The Hebrew’s were doing a pretty good job of defeating the people who were there and occupying the land and so the leaders of neighboring countries were getting nervous as to whether or not these people of God were going to come after them next. The King of Moab was one such king. He was scared of these people of God and scared of what they were going to do to him and to his country should they decide to come and invade his nation. So the King of Moab, a man named Balak, decided to hire Balaam to come and curse the Hebrew people so if they did invade his nation of Moab they would fail. So the King of Moab sent an envoy to Balaam to ask Balaam to come to Moab and curse the people of God.
So the team from the King of Moab arrives at Balaam’s house and tells him what they want to hire Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. You see the Israelites are camped on the border of Moab and Balak is really getting nervous. But Balaam is very serious about his work and so he tells the envoy that he must spend some time in a trance to see if this was really what he was supposed to be doing. So Balaam goes into a special room and into his trance and comes back to the envoy and tells them that the God of the Hebrew people spoke to him and that the Hebrews were endowed with a special blessing that Balaam did not have the power to reverse. These people, Balaam said, were ‘uncursable.’ So the envoy travels back to Moab and reports to Balak the King.
Balak assumes that Balaam is just playing hard to get and that he had just not offered Balaam enough money, so Balak sends the envoy back with a sweeter deal to try and entice Balaam to come and curse God’s people. Not

only was Balaam going to be given a large sum of money, but when he got to Moab, it would also be given a position of the highest honor in the nation and the power that goes with such an honor. But Balaam, it appears is a man of integrity and he will only bless or curse if the god of whatever people he is dealing with will allow him to do so. Keep in mind that Balaam believes in everyone’s gods, no god is better or worse than the other, and works and listens to them all. So for Balaam, the Lord God of the Hebrew people, our God, is just another god to him. But this time when Balaam goes into his trance to talk to this God of the Hebrews, the one who had told him not to go last time, now tells Balaam to go ahead and go to Moab – but God tells Balaam, Balaam is to say exactly what God tells him to say and Balaam is to be completely obedient to God whatever God tells him to do. So Balaam tells the team from Moab to go and tell King Balak that he will come. The team of ambassadors goes back to Moab and in the meantime Balaam prepares to head out. He gets out his donkey and packs an overnight bag and then Balaam and his donkey head out to Moab.
Now it appears as if Balaam has had a change of heart along the journey. The money and power sound good to him and so he’s thinking that regardless what this god had said to him, he was going to go ahead and curse the Hebrews. And this makes God angry. So Balaam is riding his donkey and all of a sudden the donkey veers off the road and into a field. Turns out the donkey had seen an angel standing in the middle of the road with a big sword ready to kill Balaam – but Balaam hadn’t seen this angel and couldn’t figure out what the donkey was doing and he began to beat the poor donkey who bypasses the angel by going in the field and now continues down the road. You’ve heard that old saying “No good deed goes unpunished”. That is what is happening here. God is trying to get Balaam’s attention to get him to do what he had said he would do and not curse Israel, but Balaam isn’t paying attention – yet the donkey is and for saving Balaam’s life, he gets beaten. A little while farther down the road, the same thing happens again. But this time they are in a narrow part of the path and the angel is standing to one side with his big sword, and the donkey is just able to squeeze by the angel but it so doing, Balaam’s leg is grazed by a retaining wall. Here again, the donkey has saved Balaam’s life and Balaam beats and curses the donkey for grazing his leg against the wall. The donkey continues on with Balaam on his back through an even narrower path, and the sword yielding angel is standing in the middle of the road and the path is so narrow the donkey cannot get around this angel this time so to save Balaam’s life, the donkey just lays down. Well Balaam just loses it and begins screaming at the donkey and beating him and telling him to get up and get going and all manner of nasty words toward this donkey when the donkey turns his head around to Balaam and says, “What is your problem? I have been your donkey for years and have traveled numerous times with you and have always taken you where you need to go. Don’t you figure something odd is going on here if
I am acting this way? Don’t you have any faith in me at all?”
At this moment Balaam looks up and sees the angel and his sword and realizes that this poor donkey has been trying all along just to save Balaam’s life. The angel says to Balaam, the God of the Hebrew people has sent me to remind you that you are only to do what God tells you to do. With this new experience, Balaam learned not only the power of this Hebrew God, but that he really needed to do what he had promised to do all along and go to Moab and do only what this God led him to do.
The point for us being, that we are often blind to what God is trying to get us to do. We just blunder along, trying to do things our way, ignoring what God what wants us to do; even though God sends us message after message, God speaks to us through happenings or our thoughts or other people and we just don’t get it because we are so focused on doing what we want or doing it our way. So we are blinded to what is right in front of us, just like Baalam.
Jesus our King sends us his spirit which is all around us and trying to guide us to live as his people and he tells us that if we will just pay attention, if we will just listen to him then things will work out the way they should. So when all the normal ways to get our attention don’t work, he will try something foolish or unexpected like a talking donkey…….
The story of Balaam reminds us that if we would just open our eyes and our ears, if we would just spend some time considering Jesus the king of our life, if we would just listen to him, then we would know that Jesus is always there leading us and guiding us and instructing us in the way we should go – and we could avoid a lot of the turmoil we feel within ourselves – if we would just pay attention to the leadership and care of our King. He is there, we just have to look and repeat who he is! Amen!

Thankful for Suffering


Thankful for Suffering?

One of my favorite stories of the Apostle Paul happened in the city of Philippi. Paul went to Philippi to spread the Gospel, to teach people about Christ. He was in the town square where he usually went to teach and preach, and once again Paul got in trouble for preaching about the love and grace of Jesus Christ. He was arrested. Now remember, Paul wasn’t violent; he wasn’t an imposing figure; he wasn’t a large man - the many times he is arrested he always goes willingly. However, for some reason when he is arrested in Philippi they are so worried about him that they take him in chains to the prison - which was actually a dungeon. They take Paul to the most secure portion of this dungeon, which was down several levels underground where it is dark and damp and full of vermin. Not only did they lock him in a prison cell in the farthest part of the prison, they also attached his chains to the wall and put his feet in stocks. Now, what is your mood going to be? I’m sure I would be vacillating between anger at the over reaction to my crime and fear at where I was and misery over my circumstances. And I know I would be whining…… How uncomfortable, if not painful, it would be to be shackled to a wall, sitting on a hard stone ledge with your feet up in stocks……. Yet, the Apostle Paul sits in this environment singing praises to Almighty God. Just think about that for a moment.
During this time of November we think about what the scriptures teach us about GivingThanks. Today we address what is probably the hardest aspect of giving thanks - giving thanks in all circumstances. We know we are to say “Thank You” when someone gives us something nice. We know we are to say “Thank You” when someone says something nice about us or does something nice for us, We say “Thanks” to God when something great happens to us. But our focus verse today is the passage from 1 Thessalonians where Paul says “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Does God really mean that in every circumstance that we are to be thankful? How can we possibly be thankful when things go horribly wrong? How can we see the blessing in the midst of tragedy that comes into our life?
There are three approaches to this verse in Thessalonians. The first one is to put on some sort of other-worldly expression of thanks that totally ignores the reality of what is happening around us. It is the person who is smiling in the midst of tragedy saying, “well praise God and give thanks in all things”. They come off as just being weird or a little crazy or on some type of mood altering drug. The second approach is that in the midst of tragedy there is an obvious ray of hope that allows us to be thankful - like when you totally destroy your car in an accident but no one is seriously hurt. Certainly we can be thankful for that. But that is a pretty obvious example and we as people of faith are taught that we need to focus on the blessing rather than the tragedy - we focus on the fact that everyone is OK instead of the fact that our car is totaled. This instance represents that Biblical teaching that we are to focus more on what God is doing for you than it is on what has gone wrong. It remembers the words of Paul when he says in the book of Philippians that he has learned to be content in all situations. He has learned that because he keeps his eyes on the sovereign Lord whom he serves and not on his own expectations or his own desires or even his own comforts he can give thanks.
But what do we do when the tragedy outweighs the blessing? It is easy to give thanks when the car is wrecked and you are not. You and your passengers are worth far more than the car. But what if that hadn’t been the case. What if there had been loss of life in that car crash? What if you suddenly lose a family member you are close to in some type of sudden accident or horrific disease? What do we do with the loss of a child? How could anyone give thanks fire or flood has taken everything you own? How can you give thanks when you see a high school devastated by a shooting? What about the young woman or the young child disfigured from abuse? What about when we are betrayed or disappointed by someone close to us; someone we love dearly? Does God really expect us to give thanks in situations like that?
And as difficult as it is for us to understand - the answer is “yes”.
These types of situations are the ultimate test of our ability to trust God no matter what.
They bring us to the same place as Job - where we find the ultimate story for God’s call “To give Thanks in all circumstances.”


Job was a good man. God thought Job was a good man so he must have truly been a good man. He had everything that anyone would associate with a good life. He had a lucrative source of income - land and livestock; he had a large close family, he had vast wealth. He was happy and content and we would call him a ‘religious’ man. He was close to God and lived for God. And in a matter of days he lost it all. The land, the livestock, his hired help, his family. Everything….. and then he finds himself covered with boils - that hurt and itched so bad he would break clay pots and use the pieces to try and scratch. There wasn’t anything else bad that could happen to him - even his wife came to him and said, “Why don’t you just die?” So his support system is not even there - his friends stop by and tell him that this is all his fault. So lets just make Job feel as bad as we can. There were no “I’m sorry’s” or “I’ll pray for you” or “We’re here to help you” - just accusations and insinuation that Job has led some secret dastardly life that has finally caught up with him. And what does Job say, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away - Praise the Lord.”
Praise the Lord? He’s sitting in an ash heap at the edge of town and has nothing left of his life and his friends are harassing him and he is in serious pain and he says, “Praise the Lord?” Job continues to say, “Even though the Lord slay me, still I will trust him.” What God wants us to hear is that there comes a point in our lives when we can’t find that bit of blessing in the hardship, when the pain far outweighs the good we can see. It is at that point that all we have left is to trust in a sovereign God - a God that we believe with our whole being is still present and is still in charge and who knows our pain.
When we gather for worship, we gather in order to worship God for who he is and for what he has done. We worship God for his character as much as the amazing things he has done. Giving thanks in hard situations must follow that same wisdom. Even if we find it hard or even impossible to thank God for some specific thing in our lives we can still give thanks for who God is. Paul did not say to thank God ‘for’ every circumstance, but ‘in’ every circumstance and this distinction is very crucial. It means that even when you can’t find anything about the circumstance to be thankful for, you can and you must, still thank God for being there; for being present; for being in charge; for being sovereign. That is what ‘sovereign’ means - that no matter what is happening we know without a shadow of a doubt that God is present; that God knows what is going on and that God has control of the situation. You can still thank God for his love and mercy, even in a time when it feels so distant. You can still trust God as Job did and as Paul did. That trust becomes evident in thanking God for who He is even when what is going on makes no sense, is painful and leaves you bewildered and hurting and just devastated.
We need to remember that God never tells us to do anything without promising us that God will, not might, God will, be there to hold us up. Philippians 4 says:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Where God wants us to be is that when tragedy strikes, the first reaction is to cry out to God. Not thanking him that the tragedy happened, but thanking him because we know that he is there with us and as we cry out in anguish and we cry out in pain and we even lash out at God, trusting he is there.
But God gave us something else that we can be thankful for - God gave us each other. God gave us a family of believers who are ever present in our moments of greatest need. Always remember that. God gave us each other to help one another, to support one another, to pray for one another, to just be God’s presence with one another. Never think, “Oh, I don’t want to bother others with my problems” or “I don’t think there will be those who will care I am in pain” or “I’ll just suffer in silence in the midst of all these people who care about me.” “I can’t give up enough of my pride to allow others to help me - even if God has told me to.”
God gave us each other so that we always have physical arms to hold us in God’s name. That is one of the greatest benefits of being part of this community of faith. There isn’t a person here who would not be available to help - or to pray - for anyone else here and by not taking advantage of what God has given us in this congregation, we deny the opportunities God has given us as his people to be thankful for one another and to be thankful that God has made us a part of this community of believers. I read this great statement somewhere, “The pews of our church are avenues that carry us to one another in our suffering.”
When Paul was singing his Thanksgiving songs in the dark, damp, dank dungeon, the guards and the others prisoners were amazed. And it was because of Paul’s thanksgiving that others in that prison became believers…….. Amen.

Take Up Your Cross

TAKE UP YOUR CROSS

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus knows that when he gets there he will be arrested, beaten and crucified - and as was the custom for all condemned criminals Jesus knew that he would have to carry his own cross up to Golgotha where he would be nailed to it and there he would die. He knew that and he had been trying to prepare his disciples for this to happen. He kept trying to tell them that he was going to die when he got to Jerusalem and they just wouldn’t believe him.
So on this particular trip to Jerusalem Jesus tells them again about this trip, how it will be the last one, how he will go to his death in Jerusalem and once again the disciples say NO! this cannot happen.
Finally Jesus just stops, and pretty much says to his disciples, “Look, you all have been following me for almost 3 years. You have heard what I have taught. You have heard what I have said to you. And here is is, listen! Now, you have to make a decision. If you really want to follow me; if you really want to be my disciples this is what you have to do. You have to deny yourself, you have to carry your cross, and then you have to follow me. If you want eternal life, that is the ticket - deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
On this Stewardship Sunday, that is what we need to think about. We see Stewardship in terms of giving to the church. You have heard what the church wants from you - financial resources so the church can exist - practical things like keeping the lights on and the heat running on a cold winter morning. Necessary things that keep as existing as a church - music and pastoral leadership. Necessary things like opportunities to learn through Sunday School and Bible Study and other times when we gather to learn.
And we may think of Fellowship things as being frivolous, but according to scripture gathering together to just enjoy one another’s company is vital to understanding our role as the people called to be Sweetwater Presbyterian.
And most important - stewardship is being the arms and legs of Jesus living out in the community what Jesus lived out for us when he fed the hungry and healed the sick and cast out demons and cared for whomever would come by and ask him for help. Without mission we cannot be a church. So as much as we hate to talk about money, money is essential to being a church. Even Jesus and his disciples had money in order to operate - Judas was the treasurer and carried the money bag used for their expenses.
But real stewardship is so much more than money. Stewardship is hearing what Jesus tells us is required of us as his disciples. And what did he tell us - in order to be his disciple, in order to be the church, we have to first deny ourselves. What that means is realizing that if you are a disciple of Jesus your life is no longer about you. Hear that again, you life is no longer about you. The focus of you life is no longer what make you happy, or pleases you, or about your dreams and desires. You life is about being the person Jesus knows you can be. A person who doesn’t live for themselves but submits to the plan and purpose God has for your life.
Does that mean you will never have fun or get to do things you enjoy or be able to buy that new iPhone you really want? No. Denying yourself doesn’t mean you have to sell everything you have and go to live in a monastery and do good deeds and pray all day.
Denying yourself just means you have to change your perspective on what life is all about - and it isn’t about me - its about Jesus.
Deny yourself, Jesus says, and then he says, Take up Your Cross. Take up YOUR cross. Jesus carried his cross and now he says to us - Your Turn. I carried mine and now I am challenging you to take up yours.
So what does that mean? It means that each of us is given responsibilities; each of us is given gifts; each of us have a special place in God’s plan and we need to pick up that responsibility and do it. Almost sounds simple. Here, God says, here is your talent. Now go use it like I ask you to. Don’t bury it under a rock. Don’t use it exclusively for yourself. Use it for God’s work. Use if for the work of the church.
So this is what it takes to do that. You need to spend some time with God and figure this out. Sometimes you know what you are good at and sometimes you don’t. And all our talents are not visible talents like singing or speaking or playing an instrument. Some our talents are being able to organize or cut our materials for Sunday School or cleaning or taking someone who is lonely out to lunch or fixing a meal for someone who is hungry or praying for those who you know need prayer.
God asked Jesus to take up the cross and die and he did it. God asks you to take up your cross and do what he asks you - even if it is hard cause he surely isn’t going to be as hard as it was for Jesus.
Jesus says, Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Follow Jesus. What does it take to follow Jesus? First it takes learning what he teaches - what he really teaches not just what other tell you he taught - what did he teach - feed the hungry, give to the poor, love your enemies, if you have 2 coats give one to someone who needs it, love God with all your hear, soul and mind, love your neighbor as yourself.
Stewardship. Stewardship is hearing the call of Jesus to Deny yourself, take up your cross and to follow him. To allow God to so transform you that true stewardship becomes easy because it is who you are.
Remember - to be here, to be a child of God, to live under the grace of Jesus, to have the promise and assurance of eternal life costs you nothing.
But to live with the peace of Christ filling you; to live with the joy of God in your life - will cost you everything you are.

As you think about that pledge card; as you think about that Time and Talent sheet remember Jesus’ words - If you want to come with me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus, will live a true and joyful life.