The 1 Thing The World Craves That The Church Can Deliver

In a further conversation, Craig shares that one of the EMTs who rescued him kept asking him a question. It was a simple one: “Do you want to call your wife?” Over and over again, Craig said no. But later, Craig said he later asked that EMT why he kept wanting to know if Craig would like to call his wife. The EMT responded, “I didn't expect you to live more than another hour considering the extent of your injuries.”

Craig's story begs the question: What does a person do with an hour to live? If that was all you had left, one hour, what would be the most important thing?

The one thing. This new series that I'll be carrying through the summer months is going to tackle this all important question. It is based on a little book that came out in 2004 by the same title. One great thing about the 1 Thing is the simple, concise way they hang on to the 1 Thing, even when it so hard. Let me explain with one of their observations...

In the early 20th Century, trains owned the marketplace. But something new was in the works, the Wright Brothers were at work along with others and the birth of aviation began. Railroads had the opportunity to invest, to be part of this new vehicle. They didn't have time. They were running the railroads. They lost focus on the 1 Thing: their 1 Thing was transportation.

I always say that Mark is my favorite Gospel because it is the shortest. But I have come to love the Gospel of Luke because Luke always keeps my interest with his great stories of Jesus and his collection of Jesus' parables. One of those stories is the one where Luke takes us and sits us down in the home of Mary and Martha. And it is the one we'll come back to again and again when we forget the one thing.

Luke 10:38-42 NKJV Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. (39) And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. (40) But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." (41) And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. (42) But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Oh, Mary did it! The 1 Thing that is needed, Mary figured it out Jesus said! Could it be having a great knowledge of Jesus? How about a good heart? Is it serving Jesus? What about doing all the right things of Jesus' teaching? Or what about justice work?

Those are all good things for sure. But on further examination of the story and Jesus' teachings, I think they tend to come up just a bit short of the 1 thing. So before I dig in here, did you know that in a Gallup poll, 82% of the USA said they desire to grow spiritually? Pretty amazing isn't it? I was partly stunned by that finding mainly because I think this is a key to the 1 thing.

Luke doesn't give us any indication of what Jesus taught Mary. Martha's actions tend to raise concerns about what we do for Jesus being the 1 Thing. What we know about Mary is that she sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word. Stop and let that sink in for a minute. The consensus from different experts in the Bible, pastors and others has been worded different ways. I'm biased to John Wesley's words when he read the words,Mary hath chosen the good part - To save her soul. Reader, hast thou?” What others, including Wesley, are getting at is that Mary knew the 1 Thing and the 1 Thing was to be in relationship to Jesus Christ. Period. Bold face. Underline. Highlight. This is THE WAY to grow spiritually (church was even originally called “The Way” in the Book of Acts).

But hold on! Another Gallup poll, found that 2/3s of the USA don't think churches are effective at it. 66% of people don't think churches are effective at doing the one thing...that would include people in the church. Now think back to Craig. In his one hour, it wasn't enjoying perfect health. He didn't think of working harder for God, knowing his Bible better or knowing more about his denomination. Craig said, “I realize now [God] cares about your heart (21).”

To know Jesus is to not merely know things, not merely say things, not merely practice things, not merely sing things. No – it is to stop the doing. It is to take follow in Mary's path. It is to take this it here...on this stage...and consider (no, consider is not the best word but I like it), consider with our whole being the truth – that Jesus is here in our midst. Right here. Right now.

Some are going to say as the authors point out regarding one pastor, “I'm not sure it is just one thing.” There is plenty of knowledge and theology that can cause us to debate it and doubt it. And yet, the great Fathers and Mothers of the Church, going back 2,000 years echo – there is only 1 Thing – and that 1 Thing is our choice to sit with Jesus, to say, “Jesus, you are the 1 Thing.”

Note: This is part one of my series of the same title.  Looking forward to what God has in store!

For a further account of Craig's Story, watch this video...

 References from "The 1 Thing" by Thom and Joanni Schultz. Group Publishing. 2004.

No Matter Where You Are...Trust God (Last Post)

(Author's Note:  This is the final part of my series on Trust God.  This was inspired by our VBS program and an idea recommended by Rev. Phil Schroeder and someone who is a gifted clergy.  If you think the ideas of Vacation Bible School are for kids, think again.  This has been one of the best series I've ever done for my own faith.)

Last words are important. They may not be well thought out but they are important.

Author, Oscar Wilde said with his last words, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” Adventurer Marco Polo said, “I have not told half of what I saw.” Actor, dancer and golfer Bing Crosby was quoted as saying, "That was a great game of golf, fellers." In true comedy fashion, Groucho Marx said, “Die, my dear? Why that's the last thing I'll do!”

But at 88 years of age, John Wesley spoke some of the most profound last words I think I’ve ever heard of. It was, Wednesday, March 2, 1791. His last words were spoken twice, with great fervour, "The best of all is, God is with us." He lifted his arms and said again, "The best of all is, God is with us."

They were words spoken with assurance, passion and conviction. When you think about his life, the starting of a new movement in Christianity that would become the Methodist Church, you can see how his words were grounded in the same last words of Jesus. It wasn't just in his head – he believed God was with him and Wesley lived accordingly.

Take a moment and read those last words of Jesus that Matthew recorded:
Matthew 28:16-20 (NKJV) 16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

When those first disciples were living alongside Jesus, being a disciple was a common expression. Other teachers also had disciples and they were learning to be like their teachers. Jesus even pointed this out when he said, "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher." Luke 6:40 (NKJV) Being a disciple, at its core, is about becoming imitators.

We are to become like Jesus AND we are to go everywhere inviting other people to be like Jesus, baptizing them, guiding them, and teaching them. Jesus didn’t want people to just believe a certain way. Jesus didn’t reduce, “…faith to mere mental assent to correct doctrine…” as Dr. Maxie Dunnam once observed. Jesus was saying it was about our heads and hearts, our bodies and our souls

To go into the world, means being transformed people, being people who are starting to look like Jesus, live like Jesus and love like Jesus. To go into the world means going out of our country to places like Ecuador like our youth team or going to Indonesia like Pete andAshley Greenwald who are missionary pilots our church is supporting.

It also means going out of our comfort zones too. It means that in our neighborhoods, our schools and our workplaces, we look, live and love like Jesus too. It doesn’t mean you become someone else but that you imitate Jesus as only YOU can do! It does mean you have to trust in Jesus as only YOU can trust in him!

In 2008, our family was the first family in the start of the United Methodist Church in Paulding County. Were there other churches people could go to? Sure, but we were going to start a new church for the purpose of making disciples. We were following Jesus’ last words. And like Wesley, we had reason to believe God was with us. We still do. But new churches aren’t the only place disciples are made.

The Great Commission does not apply more or less to me because I'm a pastor than it does to you…and you…or to anyone. This has been a misunderstanding in the church regarding pastors as the one to do the “work.” It is for EVERY Christian to be going into the world to make disciples. Disciples are made at VBS. Disciples are made at a lunch meeting. Disciples are made at a business network meeting. Disciples are made in a doctor’s office. Disciples are made in the school cafeteria. Disciples are made hiking the trail or hunting in the woods.

Disciples are made with an invitation. You don’t have to know everything to extend and invitation and you don’t have to know everything to respond to one. What you must remember is no matter what, no matter where you go…Trust God for it is God who is inviting you and me to be like Him. And what He starts, God will bring to completion!  

No Matter What Happens…Trust God

What are you afraid of?

What was your first memory? I can tell you mine because fear kinda marked it permanently. I don’t know a whole lot about the details. I know that I was just learning to talk. I know that I was still able to sleep in a crib because that is where I remember waking up. What I remember was waking up from a nap, in a strange bed, in a strange house and with a bunch of peacock feathers staring at me. I just screamed…eyes! Eyes! Eyes! Till my mom came to get me.

I can tell you I’m not scared of peacocks at all because of that experience. But I can tell you that there have been plenty of other things that have caused me to be scared. Being diagnosed with cancer was one, but so was doing a nighttime scuba dive and being caught in low tide. I was scared on my wedding day and I was getting a little scared when our cat went missing a few weeks ago.

Ask yourself honestly, what is something that has scared you recently?

There are two very important truths we need to hear…Christians are not exempt from storms.

1.  We face storms because we are human. (2 Cor. 11:25-26, Paul’s shipwrecks and storms)
2.  We face storms because we are Christians (Jesus warned us: Jn 16:33)

 I don’t know where the idea comes from that Christians should expect to have life easy and free of troubles. Somebody thought it must be so but they must have missed this story…

Matthew 8:23-27 NKJV Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. (24) And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. (25) Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" (26) But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (27) So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

Some have tried to read these words and portray them as Jesus wasn’t actually talking to the waves at all but his men. Surely, Jesus, the good teacher, couldn’t do that! He couldn’t REALLY talk to the waves. But William Ritter, pastor and theologian (and one who knows something about storms), says no, we need to be careful how we handle a text like this. It cannot be dismissed so easily by demythology. Comparing the two versions fo this story helps too because Mark has additional info in 4:35-40. Ritter digs in a bit deeper….

Jesus doesn't say: "Peace, be still." It would be nice if he did. But it would be far too mild. A better translation would have Jesus saying to the waves: "Hush! Be silent." Better still might be: "Shut up! Cease and desist.

The purpose of this story isn’t about being courageous like Jesus. No, Jesus is shown to be the ONE who is over all the forces at work in this life. Ritter…
Ultimately, you see, this is a story that tells you three things:

 1. Who Jesus is ... one who even wind and sea obey.
 2. Where we meet him ... when the storms of life are raging.
 3. How much we ought to trust him ... a whole lot more than we do!

Today, as we prepare for Vacation Bible School and a week of teaching our young people about trusting in Jesus, we have an opportunity to renew our faith - our trust in Jesus.  At the table of Communion, we put our trust in the words of Jesus that he is who he says he is - God's Son, the Savior of the World - the one over the wind and the waves.  The One who cares for us in the midst of our storms.  Are you willing to trust Him?

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