Sunday, January 28, 2018

Deliverance: connected3D

READ MATTHEW 10:1–4.

What is the secret to living a long life? I asked that question one time to Sassy Marriot! Sassy was 100 years old when I asked her that question. She was a member of the first church at which I preached in Stamford, Texas. She was 100. She lived alone! She was at church every Sunday! Her answer: “A Dr. Pepper everyday!” Sassy was the first woman in the state of Texas to receive a master’s degree in education, but she was not a medical doctor!

What do you think? What factor is the most important factor in living a long life? Susan Pinker, a Developmental Psychologist spoke recently about that exact question.

Listen to what she said (click here).

Tim Hicks was at a conference last week, and he heard someone say roughly the same thing. People who have good relationships or connections with people, but who do not eat healthy or exercise. They live longer than people who eat healthy and exercise, but who do not have good relationships or connections. In other words, said that presenter, “It’s better to eat twinkies with friends than to eat broccoli alone!” Those are words to live by!

Does this surprise anyone? When Susan Pinker revealed the conclusions of her research she seemed surprised. I don’t know if Ms. Pinker is a person of faith or not. I only know she is a Developmental Psychologist. I will say this though: The conclusions of her research should not surprise people who know much about God. Her conclusions should not surprise you. They do not surprise me!

I’ve said this to you at least one thousand times in the years I have been here: God created us for relationship. It is in our spiritual DNA. We were created by a communal God (Father, Son, & Spirit). And we were made in the image of that God. Scripture is filled with passages that describe God’s design for our communal life.

READ GENESIS 2:20–25.

In the beginning, God created the male, but he was alone. Everything in the world was “good,” but the male was alone. So God created a female to go with the male. And the Bible puts it this way:
This one finally is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She will be called woman because from a man she was taken. This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:23–24
From the very beginning we were created to be in community with each other. Psalm 133:1 is a passage often quoted:
Look at how good and pleasing it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.
This was one of many so-called “psalms of ascent.” They were sung by the worshippers each year as they made their way toward Jerusalem for religious festivals. Can’t you see it? Jewish family as they drew closer to Jerusalem. Coming from all over the country. In all directions. As they got closer and closer this group would merge with that group. Relatives, friends, family that had not seen each other since the last festival. As they drew closer and the crowds grew larger, they would sing these words together.

Why do you suppose God required the Jews to come to Jerusalem a few times each year to worship? Why not just worship where they were? Why make that long trip? I think it is because God wanted these families to come together. I think those relationships were that special to God. It’s what God made us for!

Is it any surprise that when Jesus was among us He chose 12 apostles to work and live with? Jesus didn’t have to do that. He could have spent all that time by Himself. Every now and then pop into the city to present a sermon. Sign a few books. No, Jesus, while He was here among us, modeled our need for community and connection.

In Romans 12, Paul speaking about the church, says: We are many members. But when we come together, we make up a single body. A body that is equipped to tackle God’s mission in this world together.

In Matthew 18, there is that passage that is often quoted in worship. But it really is not about worship at all! Jesus is speaking about the reconciliation between brothers and sisters. He says, “If you see someone who is caught in sin, go to them…”. “If they refuse to repent, bring someone with you…”. “If they still refuse to repent, bring the matter to the church…”. Because, Jesus says, “Where two or more are gathered, God is there in their midst.” Why is God there in those situations? Because reconciliation is that important to God. Relationships, community, connection is that important.

There is also that passage is I John:
If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another… I John 1:7
Notice how that sentence is structured. “If” we walk in the light. “If” we walk in the light like God walks in the light. “Then” we have fellowship with each other. In other words: When we have fellowship with each other. We are walking in the light—just like God. When we have connection with each other, we are like God. Because in those times we most obviously reflect the image into which we were created.

I want you to see that the Bible’s emphasis on community and connection is pervasive. It is a thread that runs from Genesis to Revelation. God made us to connect with each other. So, it is very appropriate that when we gather in a place like this to worship. That we remind each other of God’s original design for us.

Connection, in our time, is perhaps more difficult than in any other time in human history. The gospels give us only a snapshot of Jesus’ ministry. I often wonder what happened during the “down time.” The time that is not written about. The days and weeks it took to walk from one town to the next. Jesus spent that time alone with his closest disciples. They walked together. They ate together. They camped out with each other. There wasn’t much else competing for their time or their attention.

Throughout most of history, similar stories could be told. The 20th century, however, ushered in significant changes to our world. It has been said that life in our world changed more in the 20th century than it had changed in the previous millennia. Think of the changes: To transportation, to communication, to science, to technology. So many of these changes have blessed our lives and made life easier.

I’ll just say it, I’m glad I do not have to leave my warm house in the winter to use the restroom! I’m glad I can see in my home at night because of electricity. I’m glad I can get in a car and drive across Texas or into Missouri in just a few hours to see my family. Many of these changes have blessed our lives in immeasurable ways. But we also know that these changes have posed some serious challenges to the connections we have with each other.

This morning Christina Jontra spoke to us during our Bible class about technology. I want to be careful here. I’m not one of those that says: “Technology is bad!” “We should get rid of it all!” “Cell phones and computers and iPads are evil!”

Like most other inventions in our world, there are some great blessings that come with this kind of technology. It allows us to communicate with people around the world in an instant. It puts helpful information right at our fingertips.

As many of you know, I continue to teach graduate courses for LCU and ACU. Many (if not most) of my students are international. They are able to take courses about Christianity and religion from their homes in Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe. That would have been impossible 20 years ago.

But we also know that technology brings many challenges. Christina spoke to us about many of those. But she didn’t spend much time talking about this one: As much as technology allows us to connect with each other around the world. It sometimes creates a barrier to connection among folks in the same room.

Hear me clearly: I’m not telling the teenagers to throw away their cell phones. I’m not telling moms and dads to shut down their Facebook accounts. I’m not saying all technology is bad. I’m saying that technology is like most other things. It is a tool that can both help and harm. With a brick, you can build a house. You can throw that same brick through a window and hurt someone. That same is true with technology. We need to make sure that our cell phones are not controlling our lives. The only way I know to do that is to set some boundaries. To disconnect from our devices on set occasions so that we can connect with each other.

Beginning this morning, we are initiating our next STAND@Home campaign, connected3D:
  • Disconnect to Connect
  • Deepen Internal Values
  • Develop External Boundaries.
As a reminder, this STAND@Home ministry exists to help families conform themselves more and more into the image for which God created them. We want to help you build stronger marriages. We want to help grandparents be better equipped to minister to their children and grandchildren. We want singles to learn how to engage God’s mission from their particular life station. We want parents to feel better equipped in the spiritual formation of their children. We believe more spiritual formation occurs in the living room than will ever take place in this room. That’s why we care so much about that ministry. And this morning, we have seen once again that these topics are not nice, trendy topics of conversation. They are at the heart of God’s heart. God wants us to connect with each other. And we want to help you fulfill that part of God’s mission for your life.

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