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Value - Fun 4.22.07

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          This hasn’t been the most fun week has it? I mean mass murders, drive-by shootings, office place violence, bombs killing hundreds, and even friends of ours in the hospital. It seems highly ironic that last Sunday I spoke on “Fun.”

          This week, during the news coverage of the events in Virginia, CNN interviewed William Bennett, former Secretary of Education. Regardless of what you think of his politics he said some very important things. Allowing me to paraphrase, he said, we should remember not so much the gunman but the heroes.

          This week, a 72-year-old man who was rescued from Nazi concentration camps repaid the debt of his rescue and long life by protecting promising young students from death. Years upon years of Boy Scout training paid off for one man who found himself bleeding, but in the midst of the chaos was given the peace and the knowledge to put a tourniquet on and save his life much less his leg. A man leading thousands was able to express words of God to comfort the grieving. Thousands more discovered what it means to value life, friendship, love, and the importance of God. This week, I was able to communicate over and over to students that we must have a standard outside of ourselves, perhaps God uses that to lead them to Him.

          Mary Karen Read,  wrote a scripture on a paper by personalizing it and putting it in her Bible some time ago, (show Jeremiah 29:11) “For I know the plans I have for Mary,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper Mary and not to harm Mary, plans to give Mary hope and a future.”[1] In no way could she know that her father would share this with millions upon her death. Mary’s actual living of this verse is more in line with what God really promises us in this verse, a future of eternity with him. And unbeknownst to Mary at the time her future prospering would be her life testimony living as long as there is mention of Virginia Tech.

This week another person was able to share her relationship with God with millions, “The purpose and love of my life is Jesus Christ. I don't have to argue religion, philosophy, or historical evidence because I KNOW Him. He is just as real, if not more so, as my 'earthly' father.” Lauren McCain wrote this on her MySpace site before she died on Monday. Her MySpace site led to many outpourings of love and support for her friends and her family. Looking at some of the other MySpace sites of those killed effected my life and faith.

It let me this past Monday to ask one of my female students who has a 1 year old daughter, “If you died today would your MySpace and all the things in your room reflect what you want your daughter to know about you.” I am praying the Lord uses that in her life.

     For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. Psalm 92:4

          How do you have joy in these times? I steal from William Bennett, you remember the works of God in the midst of it all. This past week there was great works of God. Reverberations of His grace going out everywhere, the calling of all who believe. I was accused last week of preaching one of the saddest sermons about fun that has ever been preached but that isn’t what today is. These are the days are that provide the joyous stories of tomorrow!

          The scriptures, especially the first four books of the New Testament are the stories of the days of Jesus Christ. I always imagine them being told over and over in many different places like we still do today. My father-in-law tells the same joke so many times that my brother-in-laws began numbering them and then would just say #7 and they would start laughing. The first time I got to meet my wife’s family my brother-in-law almost spit his lunch out all over the table from laughing so hard as they told funny stories about Lori.

          So Peter when he traveled probably sat around with people just telling them about his best friend. I imagine it might go like the following. Peter says something like, “there was this one time I’ll never forget.” And the annoying guy in the room says to his friend next to him, “He begins every story like that.” Peter continues saying, “we hung out at this one city for a long time. It was kind of weird to be there for so long because Jesus had been told by a messenger that his friend was sick. But we stayed there, for days. When we left we went to see Jesus’ friend. We went to an awesome place. Have you ever been to Bethany? Bethany is a great town. But you have to look up Mary and Martha. Martha’s busy, but oh man, does she make the best food! She does this little thing with her bread. I love bread.” Then Peter’s wife would look and him with the eyes of “get back to the point.”

I imagine Peter would say, “Oh sorry, we get to this city and there’s Martha. Martha was crying and came running at us. She was mad and upset, you know how busybody women get.” Then again his wife looked at him with her eyes. “I’m sorry, Martha is wonderful, anyway, she tells Jesus that her brother’s dead and he could’ve saved her. Jesus just looked back and said “Your brother will rise again.” We all blew this off like he was talking about the last days but he wasn’t! He wanted to go see the burial site.

          As we walked to the tomb Jesus began crying. As soon as he started crying I was wailing. Just buckets of tears, I hated seeing Jesus cry. When we got to the tomb everyone was messed up crying, buckets of tears, people were blowing there noses. When we got there in this messed up state Mary, Martha sister, was there. She’s great too! She is a wonderful friend, a very passionate person who always likes to be with people. Anyway, Mary was crying and mad at Jesus too! Then Jesus asked for the tomb to be opened. He wanted to see the body which we all knew would stink like crazy! I mean Lazarus didn’t smell wonderful to begin with.” The whole group would laugh, even though whoever heard Peter tell a story before, knew that one was coming. “It was a weird request. No one wanted to do it. Martha didn’t want to do it but after people began refusing Jesus said,

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” [2]

We all got ready. I mean we had all been hanging out with Jesus long enough to know that something different was going to happen. I don’t know what I thought would happen but it certainly was what I did see. We dried our eyes and listened as Jesus went into this beautiful prayer. You know the prayers I’ve shared of his our wonderful and this one was great! He said,

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” [3]

“Isn’t that prayer beautiful? It sure measured our faith, even Thomas started to brighten up and not think we were all going to die that day. Then Jesus yelled into the tomb, Lazarus come out. AND HE CAME! I think I almost fainted! It was awesome. People started running up to Lazarus. I just ran up to Jesus hugging him, just saying wow! Wow! You are God! He just smiled and started laughing and we were all laughing and then he went to Lazarus and we all started singing! It was awesome.”

          Tell of the work of his hands and it produces joy.

For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. Psalm 92:4

          Death may surround us, sorrow my be all around but those are the times when only God can deliver. Those are the times that I have learned that the human spirit doesn’t come out, but the spirit of God shines. Not an institutional structured outpouring, but immediate real living out of the faith, genuinely done. In the midst of sorrow, the work of the Lord produces joy. That real joy in the future produces the real fun!

Think about this story and how I imagined Peter might have shared the story. Even if you read it in the gospels word for word there is humor. The After-Party has been reading Job together and we have been busting up at the insults that Job and his friends tell each other. These people shown in the Bible as examples for us to follow are full of fun and joy, along with other emotions but just like us they sought fun rather than heart-ache!

          How could we even think that we serve a God who only desires mourning, solemnity, and boredom when we look at the Hebrew Scriptures. God calls on the Hebrews to celebrate 8 feasts and one year long party! Those feasts you can find in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Esther.

     2     Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

3     The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. [4]

          This week the worship planning team had a conversation about Weight Watchers. Karissa was sharing about how many people she has convinced to give Weight Watchers a try and I am happy she told me about it, especially as I get healthier.

We began to speak about the fact that the biggest barrier for her friends to use Weight Watchers is a misunderstanding of the process. For me, I thought I would have to pay a lot of money to go here other people talk. She shared with me another way it could be done. I also thought I would have to obsess about food but then she just shared with me how the plan really worked and I was in. Another friend of hers was hesitant because she had friends who were on Weight Watchers and only ate vegetables at lunch because they used up all their points. All they did was whine about how hungry they were and eat green beans. Her friend didn’t want to have to eat green beans. So Karissa shared the plan and her friend was amazed at the choices those women had made, they took a simple process and made it miserable for themselves. Her friend saw that it didn’t have to be bad and so she was in.

          It didn’t take long for us to see the relevance of this conversation to our own ability to share our faith. Everyone wants to not be obese and be healthy. The process however of getting there has been so poorly shown before our eyes that we don’t want to experience the cost. If our faith is lived out before people like the pain of someone on a harsh diet who would want it? We love our God, look at what he does for us! Who doesn’t want to have a real loving relationship with God, a life filled with divine purpose? This whole movement, this following of Jesus is the best thing that has ever happened to me! It’s fun! I must let people know about the real process of growing in Christ! The joy that exists, the real freedom I have and show it through the fun!


[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Je 29:11

[2] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jn 11:40

[3] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jn 11:41-42

[4] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Ps 126:2-3

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