September 17, 2006
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Three students were discussing various versions of the Bible. One said, "I like the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. It is easier to read than the older versions." A second student said, "I like the Message. It's easy to read and it's pithy and to the point. I can use it in my daily prayer." The third student surprised them all and said, "I like my mother's version the best. She translated the Bible into action I can use in my daily life."
I really like that. Somebody once said, "You may be the only Bible someone else reads."
Having said that, as we continue our series titled "Reaching Out Without Passing Out" the only way we can be that Bible that Other people read is by Digging Deeper.
This is how Paul put it in Philippians 3:12-16 (NRSV)
 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.
 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
The Ushers handed you a couple more cards this week. We've talked about how to be a Barnabas and encourage one another in the faith. We've talked about how to Show and Tell and you've received a number of cards to carry to help you remember. And today, what we have are what I've called SPIRIT cards. Cards that deal with the Spiritual Basics of the Christian life. Not only are these for you, but they are also for you to pass along to someone else. Someone who you might have taken through the "Why I Am A Christian Sharing Card." If they ask how do you live the Christian life, this card is there to help you discuss the daily aspect of living for Christ.
So, let's look at the card and the Spiritual Basics of the Christian Life.
First let's talk about STUDY. In a particular church, whenever there was a time of testimony a certain man would always participate. Every time he'd testify, he'd conclude by saying, "Friends, I'm aiming to do better." After about 15 or 20 such testimonies the pastor finally said, "Friend, I think it's about time you quit aiming and started pulling the trigger!" (1)
Study helps us not only aim better but it also helps us pull the trigger, so to speak. You see, the Scriptures were given to us as a guide book on of how to live the faith. And when we take time to focus on God's Word through study, then that Word is with us always. When trouble comes, when temptation comes, even when times of joy come into our lives, God's Word is there to guide us.
There's a great scene from an Andy Griffith show episode titled "Horsetraders." It seems the Town Council is trying to get rid of the old cannon and appoints Andy and Barney to be the ones to sell it. At the same time, Andy is trying to teach Opie about the Golden Rule.
Opie comes into the Sheriff's Office one day and asks if he can leave his books. He tells Andy that he'll being going over to his friend Jerry's house and skating back. Andy asks, "How are you going to be skating back when you don't have any skates?" Opie says, "Well, I'm gonna get them, Jerry and me are making a trade. His roller skates for my licorice seeds."
Andy and Barney are both puzzled and Opie explain to them that he traded his cap pistol for the licorice seeds and now he's going to trade them for the skates because the seeds were a fake and didn't grow licorice sticks. Andy's a little concerned and tells Opie, "You know, you've been taught the Golden Rule, Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you?" And asks if Opie thinks he's been following that rule. Opie says "Yes, Tommy did unto me and now I'm doing it unto Jerry."
Andy says, I believe you're bending that rule just a little bit. And then goes on to explain the meaning and application of the Golden Rule to Opie.
Andy learned that through his study. Through his time with Scripture and he was able to lead Opie to a better decision. You see, through study and meditation, words of comfort, strength and praise bubble up into our memories and help us put what believe into action every day.
Second, there's PRAYER. In a Family Circus comic, little Billy was praying. He prayed, "Make me good. And if you don't get through to me the first time, please keep tryin' 'til I answer." (2)
That should be our prayer. As Jesus prayed for us and prayer should be an important part of our faith walk. Through prayer we are brought right to the throne of God.
A Canadian by the name of Ashleigh Brilliant draws cartoons to go with pithy sayings called "Pot Shots." There is one I really like. Two people with walking sticks in hand, are climbing a mountain in knee-deep snow. The caption reads: "Keep Climbing Upwards! You may never reach the top, but it's definitely in that direction." That's what Prayer does for our lives. It keeps us Aimed at the top, Aimed and moving toward God in all we do.
Then there is Worship. Weekly worship, even a daily time of worship with God is very important to our Spiritual lives. So much so that when we miss it others can tell. Such was the case when 4 year old Andrew made an honest mistake and spilled something in his house. His mother responded in a screaming tirade. The little psychologist made a very astute observation, "Mommy, you forgot to ask Jesus to help you be nice today, didn't you?" (3)
I'm not saying this just because I'm a pastor, Sunday Worship is something we all need. It's time to sit in God's presence amongst the people we know and love and be reminded how much God loves us. It's a wonderful time also of telling God how much we love what God has done for us through Jesus, His Son and the difference He has made in our lives.
Worship feeds our Spirit and Nurtures our soul. On those rare occasions when I've had to miss worship, I feel less. And I'm less able to cope with life and the frustrations of life. Worship is not only for God's benefit, but God offers it to us for our benefit. It may be the only nap some folks ever get.
And there's Service, too. We're called to Respond To God By Serving Others. A certain woman came to the pastor of a church out in West Texas. She asked if she could be a part of the Bible Study he was teaching. He gladly agreed, which eventually resulted in the woman's salvation. Curious, the preacher asked the woman what PROMPTED her to come in and study the Bible. She told the elder over a year ago her three-year old son was hit by a car and was critically injured and it was touch and go for a while. During that time, her next-door neighbor, who was a member of this particular church, was exceedingly helpful.
She took care of the mother's other son. She cooked dinner for the family, she did her shopping, she cleaned the house, washed the laundry. She did all of that without a single complaint or asking for anything in return. The lady continued by saying that she knew her neighbor had something that she did not have. I knew that she was a member of this church but that's all that she knew about her.
This neighbor was always friendly and invited the mother to church. But prior to her son's accident, this Mom had nothing to do with the other woman. That was because Her mother told her that members of the church were judgmental, rude, and obnoxious toward anyone who was not a member of the church.
She concluded tearfully that her neighbor was nothing like she had been taught. But instead her neighbor was just the opposite. While her son was in the hospital, her neighbor encouraged her to read the Bible. In time she began reading the Bible and she soon discovered that her neighbor had something that she did not have and that was a caring Savior named Jesus Christ.
Helping others when they are in need while expecting nothing in return makes a dynamic impact in the lives of all people. (4) And it's a part of who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to live as the Abnormal, professed followers of Jesus. We're called to Respond to God Through Service.
We're also called to be Involved through Fellowship with other Christians. Being with other Christians works as a reminder and a strengthener. It works like an anticorrosive for our spiritual life.
I'm sure you remember Jesus telling us we are the salt of the earth. He said if salt loses its savor or flavor it gets tossed out. The people of Jesus' day understood what he was talking about.
In that part of the world, Salt was collected from around the Dead Sea. The Salt Crystals were often mixed with or contaminated with other minerals and impurities. Since the actual salt was more soluble than the impurities, rain could wash out the salt. That "unsalty salt" was worthless. If someone gave it to you, you'd probably throw it on the ground, just like Jesus said, and it would be trampled by people.
The Greek word that was used for "unsalty salt" is moraino. It's the root word of our word "moron." Christians who are contaminated by worldly attitudes and try to witness look like Morons. A Christian who lives like the normal people and tries to tell others about this abnormal Savior who offers life and hope, and a changed life, look like fools.
That's why it matters where we go, who we spend time with, what sites we visit on the Internet, what Movies we rent, and what books and magazines we read, even what TV shows we watch. How can we enhance the flavor of life, if we've become contaminated?
When we gather together we help each other. We encourage each other. We hold each other accountable, so that we are ready to go back into the world. That's why it's good for all of us to attend a Sunday School Class.
Fellowship in the way that Acts describes it, means that we act in a certain way toward one another. And it also means that we DON'T act in certain ways toward one another. The best way to explain it is to look at some of the more than fifty "one another" passages in the New Testament. Here's just a few.
Love one another (John 13:34-35, Gal 5:14)
Encourage one another (Heb 3:13; 10:24-25)
Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10)
Build up one another (Rom 14:19; 1 Thess 5:11)
Be kind to one another (1 Thess 5:15)
Live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16)
Accept one another (Rom 15:7)
Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
Have concern for one another (1 Cor 12:25)
Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
Forgive one another (Eph 4:32)
Pray for one another (James 5:16)
Don't judge one another (rRm 14:13)
Don't slander one another (James 4:11)
So, you see Fellowship isn't just getting together. It's a way of life and it's a way of treating others. When we fellowship with one another in this manner then we become more like Christ.
Then finally there's the Telling, the fulfilling of the Great Commission. Our Study, Prayer, Worship, Service and Fellowship all get our hearts and minds ready for that opportunity to Tell. Study, Prayer and Worship help us get ready to live as Christians in a non-Christian environment.
I've asked the ushers to pass out some Pretzels this morning. When they come by, take one and pass them on. I'll explain why in a minute.
Meanwhile, I want you to imagine a good old fashioned backyard BBQ. There's grilled steaks. Some slow cooked ribs and brisket. There's baked potatoes and corn-on-the-cob. You've been smelling it all cook what seems like hours and your stomach is growling.
You set out all the platters of food, people grab steaks and ribs, potatoes and corn and then somebody hollers out, "Please pass the salt." But then you discover that there is no salt. The host explains this is a salt-free meal. In fact, they didn't salt the meat, potatoes, or corn before they cooked them. Most of us would be ready to pack it in and go home. We know that salt enhances the flavor of food.
And that brings me to why we handed out Pretzels. You'll notice they're SALTED Pretzels. I hope a simple SALTY Pretzel will help you remember that Jesus said: You are the salt of the earth. You can eat it now, but you might want to save it for later, because the SALT will make you THIRSTY.
One of the things that salt does, it make you thirsty. You and I are called to live the Spiritual Basics so we make others thirsty. Then we're called to show them where to get Living Water. We're not called to force them to drink, we're simply called to Dig Deeper so we can show the way more effectively.
1. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), September 2001
2. May 15, 1996, Bil Keane
3. Christian Parenting Today, May/June 1991, p. 73
4. Ray Searan, Assembly of God, A Model For Evangelism in the 21st Century,
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