Sunday Morning Live Stream: Come with Open Hands

Come With Open Hands
Luke 14:25-27
Sunday September 5, 2021

The story is told of a pig and a free range chicken who were good friends. The farm was out in the country and next to a church. Bright and early one Sunday morning there was a flurry of activity at the church – curiosity got the better of the pig. He called to his friend, the chicken, to see what was happening. Sure enough there was great excitement as the church was preparing for a potluck breakfast and everyone was invited.
Caught up in the church excitement the chicken came back and suggested to the pig that they attend the potluck breakfast.
The chicken cried. “Let’s give them eggs and ham!”
“Not so fast.” said the pig. “For you, that’s just a contribution, but for me, it’s a total commitment.”

I wonder who you relate to: the chicken or the pig? What is your commitment to Christ? Are you inviting others into relationship with Christ, how is your life reflecting/shining the Light of Christ in the world?

This morning I would like to explore Luke 14:25-35, where Jesus pointed speaks of the Cost of Being a Disciple.

The Cost of Being a Disciple
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Today I would like to focus particularly on 25-27:
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
We read in this passage and many other places in the New Testament that “large crowds” around Jesus. Remember the only means for transport was probably a donkey, or by foot. Many within this crowd probably walked a considerable distance to be journey with Jesus and were interested in what Jesus had to say. Therefore many within the crowd I am sure would have consider themselves already “followers of Jesus” however Jesus wanted them(us) to understand what it means to be a disciple. Jesus outlines what is involves to truly be a disciple. I wonder just how many in attendance that day realized they were only casual followers, “along for the ride,” and not committed followers willing to give up everything in their lives that conflicted with Jesus teaching of what it means to be a disciple.

If you were among the “large crowds” that day, would you be a casual followers or committed follower? I wonder… are we like many who look to Jesus to solve their relationship concerns, health concerns, financial concerns and quickly become disillusioned – snatching thing back into our own hands – unwilling to follow/trust/wait for Jesus when concerns are not instantly resolved? What if Jesus answer to our prayer is not what we want or we realize the answer Jesus provides requires sacrifice – a letting go of something we hold tight?

Jesus is very clear about what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus namely: it is a person committed to Him above everything else.

Verse 26 can be challenging as it reads, “Anyone who comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, – yes, even his own life cannot be my disciple.”
What does Jesus mean: Jesus says that this commitment is for “anyone who comes to me” Jesus is not speaking exclusively to pastors, missionaries, or even mature believers – he is speaking to everyone. who wants to follow Jesus.

 In Jewish culture the word “hate” was used to express lesser love, so Jesus was saying that we must love Him, Jesus,  much more than we love our closest family relationships.
A personal example to help illustrate: I remember the call/desire to go to Bible College - it required sacrifice - I needed to resign from my job “Cost Accountant” and give up my apartment.  I had little savings at the time as I had immigrated a couple years earlier and the money I brought from South African did not hold much value here in Canada.  It was a big sacrifice giving up all my security - I recall telling my parents of the decision.  My Mom said; “We pay for your education provided you promise you don’t become a missionary!  (Missionary Church)  How easy it would have been to say “deal!”   However I couldn’t because I did not know God’s plans for my future and I was going to trust God.  I loved my Mom deeply for saying that - she said it with love, with good intentions for me.  However I loved God more.  

I believe Jesus was not speaking of our emotional feelings, he was speaking of our level of commitment. Jesus must be first in our priorities and in our loyalties.

In verse 27, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
The people gathered there would have known to brutal death and that the person sentence would carry the cross to place of execution on the cross, there is no turning back. Dying to our old-self is now easy.. it is painful to see who we truly are in the dark places of our life.

I would like to pause and reflectively look at verse 27
In order to carry the cross, you need Open Hands, you need to let go of what you are currently carrying in your hands.
Perhaps somewhere in your travels, the load you are carrying has become heavy and you are weary. Are you willing to slow down, pause, stop and to take a look at what is in your hand/what you are carrying? How easy it is sometimes to think we are carrying the cross and somehow we are actually carrying our own stuff/junk. Bitterness, anger, jealously, expectations, agendas, plans….
Are you willing to sacrifice what is in your hand in order to carry the cross.

“How do I open my closed hands to offer who I truly am and receive forgiveness and know the love of God’s embrace in the messiness of life?”

If we are committed to Jesus we need to follow His example to pray.
Scripture tells us on many occasions Jesus withdrew to pray, to spend time with God. It is the Prayer is beautiful– it is the means by which we communicate with God – it enriches and deepens our relationship with God as we lay down our junk/stuff – letting going of the old self asking forgiveness to be embraced in God’s love.

Do we approach prayer casually or with commitment. Do we come with a list “Honey do-…. of things God needs to take care of while we continue doing our own life OR do we come in full surrender before God – revealing who we truly are deep inside… asking Good to forgive/redeem – listening to God’s living from that place?
If we long to be disciples, committed to Jesus we desperately need to be honest and vulnerable to stand with Open Hands letting go of our junk. It is only by having Open Hands that we can receive God’s love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and healing.

Jesus, our Saviour, our Redeemer was physical crucified – died on the cross – he died and rose again so we are reconciled back to God.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

What do you see when you look to the cross on which Jesus died? What does it say/mean for you?
When I look at the cross… I see immense love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion, reconciliation, healing….

I wonder if the beam, the cross we are invited to carry as committed followers Jesus, as disciples – is a life transformed by the holy Spirit – a life that reflects backs to others love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness…. what we have received from Jesus.
I believe when we can begin to reflect Jesus in such a way to others when we live as committed followers of Jesus, disciples.

The disciples after walking alongside Jesus, living life together realized the power of prayer. The disciples realized that prayer was key, top priority in Jesus’ life and it needs to be key in our life too. God is most interested in relationship – an open, ongoing relationship that takes commitment. Life is a process of learning to walk with God, learning to relate and communicate with God in prayer. Be committed to live with open hands and an open heart reflecting Christ – carrying the cross – pointing others to Jesus. Amen.

Sunday Morning Live Stream: Measuring Up

Measuring Up
Assorted Passages
June 20, 2021

I love a good, fresh baked cookie. I really love a good Peanut Butter cookie actually. Not the ones that are hard like a brick because they have been baked too long… no, the really soft ones that melt in your mouth when you eat them.

We have a friend of ours who one day made Peanut Butter cookies. I wasn’t there that day, but I can imagine the scene as she got all her ingredients together and prepared to make what was hopefully to be wonderfully tasty peanut butter cookies. She was following a recipe that was in the family, passed down from someone else, and was known to be quite good! And all should have been good, except that on the copy she was given, the measurements on one thing were wrong.

Rather than calling for teaspoons of baking powder, the recipe she was following called for tablespoons. She thought that sounded odd, but followed the recipe anyways. Subsequently to say, said cookies did not turn out as planned. And as she tasted the cookie, it was obvious… they were dry, powdery, and tasted like eating sawdust.

The best part of this story though is that knowing these cookies were bad, she purposely waited until some unsuspecting company came over and gladly served it to them like nothing was wrong. Rumor has it that they were so dry that when the company coughed as they ate it, dust came out their mouths.

Having the right measurement matters. It is pretty hard to have an accurate recipe if the measurements are off. What do you use to measure your own personal value and worth? What do you use to measure whether you are worthy of acceptance or love from others, or even God Himself? What are you measuring yourself by? It is pretty hard for you and I to have an accurate view of who we are and who God sees us to be if the measurements we use are off.

Key idea:

Truth has to be the standard of measurement

Unless we come to the standard of actual truth, we will never be able to see ourselves accurately. I want to land in Scripture to show you the standard of truth by which we need to measure ourselves, but first, we need to look at the problem at hand.

There are lots of things that we mistake for the truth. There are lots of things that we use to measure our worth, value, acceptability, likeability, lovability and status with. Yet as good as they may sound, yet are impersonal, biased, unfair, ever changing, and not trustworthy. And as good and solid as these standards seem for measuring up who you are, because they can’t do the job accurately, they will always disappoint and leave a core part of your life feeling empty.

a. Possessions & Wealth:
i) The idea that the more I have, the more I buy and accumulate, the greater my material value, the more important I am. Because of what I have, I am better than others.
ii) We see this happen today in the wide disparity between how those who are in higher classes are treated vs lower classes.
iii) The pitfall of this is that no amount of stuff or money can truly make you complete and satisfied. There will always be someone who has more, and seems more successful. Even those who appear outwardly to have everything are driven to have more by their own insecurity and belief that they need more to be someone. And you could become driven, no matter how much you have, to have more so you can be more. 
iv) Truth has to be the standard of measurement.
b. Body image
i) If I look a certain way, have a certain figure, have a certain style, etc… then I am attractive, then I am noticed, then people want me and will like me and maybe love me.
ii) Social media, tv, internet tells us what body image we ideally need to have.
iii) Starts young, and continues on through adult years.
iv) No matter how you look, there is always someone who will be more fit, be better looking, etc…
v) Truth has to be the standard of measurement.
c. Position and Power
i) If I have the prized spot on the team, the #1 job in the office, I move up the corporate ladder, I am someone who can tell everyone else what to do, then will I be respected, then will I have value, then will I matter.
ii) Often, the view from the top seems to be the loneliest. And the higher you get, the more isolated it seems you can get from those who used to accept you just for who you were.
iii) Truth has to be the standard of measurement.
d. Driven to be perfect – grades, sports accolades
i) This is the idea that what ever you do, just don’t fail. Those who fail have no value. This could be at school with grades, on the sports team (scoring and being the best of the best), never letting anyone down at work and never failing, being the perfect parent who never does wrong to your kids. And if you fail in any of these, you must be the worst person on earth.
ii) It sounds drastic, but it is a real fear people have. Failure scares people, and that failure needs to be avoided because somehow, failure makes you less of a person.
iii) Some of us have grown up in homes where failure wasn’t an option. Maybe today on Father’s Day, the image you have of your dad was someone who pushed you really hard, and drove into you the idea that failure made you less of a person.
iv) Being driven for success with no chance ever to fail isn’t a healthy standard. Why? Because it is impossible, and it sets you up to fail. Avoiding failure = failure. And when not failing becomes how you measure up to others, you will become more and more insecure, more and more driven to have to be better and prove yourself, and in the process, you fail.
v) Truth has to be the standard of measurement.

e. Relationships
i) This is the idea that as long as I have a relationship, (a boyfriend or girlfriend, a spouse, the right amount of friends) that I suddenly have value, meaning, belonging, acceptance, etc… I need others to complete me and make me measure up to where I should be.
ii) If this is you today, don’t buy in. People cant fill that need. First, it puts an unhealthy expectation on others that they can never fill. Second, if the relationship hits rough times, your own sense of worth and value is shattered. Third, you are putting unhealthy expectations on yourself that you have no value outside of what being with someone gives you. And when you don’t have someone, you feel empty, unlovable, unacceptable, worthless. Fourth, it opens the door to people pleasing and co-dependancy.
iii) Truth has to be the standard of measurement
f. Busy-a-holic
i) This is the idea that as long as I am busy doing for others, and busy doing things, I have value to people, to society. People will want me, I will measure up to everyone else around me.
ii) Two words: Burn out. And when that hits, you wont be able to do all those things that give you “value”. And that is devastating. Identity and meaning is lost.
iii) Truth has to be the standard of measurement
g. Image and reputation
i) What people think about me is ultimately what gives me value. So I work hard to always put out a good image, always be strong, always be likable, always have an image that people can accept.
ii) Problem is, when image and reputation are what matter, the rest of life that does not match up gets ignored, hidden, and shoved away behind a mask. And you live a double life.
iii) And at some point, the mask always crumbles and the truth always comes out. You can’t base your value off of how well you live a double life.
iv) Truth has to be the standard of measurement

All of these things that we often find ourselves looking to, even without realizing it, lead us down a road to disappointment. They leave us longing for more. And they leave us with a failed view of who we are. And they certainly do nothing to show us how God sees us.

This is why truth has to be the standard of measurement. And the only place we can ever find solid, foundational, 100% trustworthy, complete, and perfect truth for our lives today is in God’s Word, the Bible. So let’s take off our clouded lenses for just a few moments, and look with fresh eyes, and hearts open to the Holy Spirit to speak to us the TRUTH by which we can base ourselves in.

Psalm 139:1-18
1) He knows you
God knows everything about you. He knows you intimately and personally, completely in a way that no position, no amount of power, no possession, no reputation, no relationship, nothing else ever can. He made you, formed you, knew every detail of you whom He was creating. Every day of your life has been detailed before Him, and He wrote the pages. And even now, He watches closely and personally because He wants to know you. And there is nowhere you can go where He can’t see you, hear you, or reach out to you.

Truth has to be the standard of measurement. And in this case, the first truth is that you have a Father who truly does know you… every detail.

Jer 31:3, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:37-39,
2) He loves you
Not only does the Father know you, but even in spite of knowing your failures and mistakes, He still loves you so much. He loves you with an everlasting love. This means it never ends. From before time began to after time ends, He will still be loving you.

He loves you so much that He, knowing even that you and I didn’t deserve it, came in the person of Jesus, so that He voluntarily could give up His life for the consequences of all the wrong and evil you and I have and ever will do, so that we could be made right with Him. When we didn’t deserve it, He showed His love by dying for us.

And this love does not end. It can not be stolen or taken away. There is nothing that can remove us out of His never ending, all surrounding, overwhelming, impossible seeming love of God, our Father.

1 John 3:1, 1 Pt 2:9, Gal 4:7, John 1:12
3) He invites you into the family
Because of His seemingly crazy and unexplainable love for you, through what He did for you in Jesus, He invites you to be a part of His family as His child! He is your Father, you can be His child.

He invites you out of the way of life you used to live, where it was empty in relation to eternity, was driven by yourself and your desires, into a life driven by His light and goodness. He invites you to become His child, His special people, chosen by Him to be set apart for Him to share the wonderful goodness of your Father.

He frees you from being a slave to disobedience into being His child, living in the legacy of an heir to the rich family inheritance of eternity with Him that He leaves for you.
And through receiving the truth of His invitation to you, and believing in it and acting on that belief, He gives you the right (legal right, not just a fleeting option) to become His child.

Truth has to be the standard of measurement. And when we are looking at who we are, whether we have worth and value, whether we are accepted, likeable, and loved, we measure up simply because He knows us, He loves us, and He invites us into the family. This gives us value, purpose, and meaning. This gives us significance. This gives us life. This is the measurement that matters.

The amazing thing is that we had nothing special about ourselves. Nothing that should attract God to us. Nothing that He should show us any sort of consideration. By any other standards, we did not in any way measure up. Yet God, even though He is the creator and King of the universe, even though He holds all of life in His hands, even though creation trembles before Him because of his sheer power, awesomeness, and majesty, even though we can not physically be in His full presence and fully see Him physically because we would be annihilated, even though we are told to have a healthy holy fear and respect for Him, even though we by nature are people who continually sin and disobey on an epic level towards Him and there is nothing in this universe that would cause Him to show us any special consideration, this very God also is our Father. And as our Father, His heart is filled with love for us. Through Jesus, He invites us into relationship with Him. His heart is filled with infinite mercy towards us. And He longs to spend all of eternity with us, a Father with His children forever. And this Father’s Day, you have the option to bring Him the gift of your heart and your life.