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Response: Coming to God as a Merchant or as a Lover?

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Last week, we had a break from our typical Sunday services, celebrating "Soup-er Bowl Sunday."  Our food drive brought in 2,287 pounds of food for Dulles South Food Pantry -- 1,536 pounds from Falcons fans and 751 pounds from Patriots fans.

Pastor Ed Allen interviewed Redskins punter Tress Way, and they talked about living life not as a poser, but truly for Christ.   We finished up the service with cake and fellowship, and a grand group effort sorting the food.

Next week, Ed will continue the series on "How to Relate to God."  With that in mind, here are some thoughts from Kevin reflecting on last week's sermon and the concept of coming to God as a Lover rather than as a Merchant:

Lord... what am I doing wrong?

I cannot tell you how many times I have felt compelled to ask this question in my prayers.  Indeed, I hadn't given the question much thought until today's sermon.

I can tell you quite honestly that I know in my head that my relationship with the Lord is not based upon bargaining.   After all, I know that I cannot expect that a few good deeds will make the Lord look favorably on me (read that -- solve whatever problem I am facing).  The Lord is not going to solve my problems simply because I read the bible and prayed a few times this week. 
But even though I know this in my head and my heart, in my desperation to alleviate my suffering I will quickly revert back to the tools and techniques I crafted as a two-year-old.   
As two-year-olds we learn the power of bargaining -- and our earthly parents encourage this learning by participating in the process.  
We learn that if we ask in the right way, we can usually obtain what we want (especially for those of us living in Northern Virginia).  At two years old we begin learning how to ask at the right times, in the right places, of the right people -- so that we can get immediate payoffs.
It's not surprising then that we wonder what the magic recipe is that will enable us to experience the Lord's power where we think it is really needed... (like in our bank accounts or hospital rooms).
But our relationship with the Lord is different. 
Unlike our parents, the Lord has infinite patience, infinite capacity, and infinite capability.  When we foolishly try to bargain with him, not only do we demean all that he has done for us -- we also diminish and devalue the true nature of our relationship with him.
Why do I emphasize the word foolishly?  Because I realize now how clueless and insulting my plea for help must sound to a Loving God.  
God Loves me, and he loves my family.  Indeed, he loves me so much that he paid a price beyond anything I might imagine, so that I and others like me, might have a chance not only to reconcile but also to have a relationship with him.

The Lord does not want me to come to him as a merchant trying to purchase a bit of his power for a few small trinkets.  Instead, the Lord wants us to come to him as a lover, soaking in the deliciousness of his nature, delighting in his presence, and sharing with him the intimate details of our perceived successes and failures.  
Giving up the way of the merchant is difficult because we have so many years of practice on that path.  But the way of the merchant is not a path to freedom. 
Perhaps the next time I pray, I'll share with the Lord the most intimate details of the challenges I am facing in my life, my home, and my business.  I'll tell him of how I feel tempted to be fearful -- and how much I rely on him for his strength and his love, I'll tell him of my hopes for the future and ask for his guidance and support knowing that my plans, without him, cannot be fully fruitful.  Most importantly, I will let him know how much I love him each day -- from the glorious first kiss of morning sunrise to the playful smile on my daughter's face, to the enchanting joy of a star-filled sky.
Lord, please help me remember the next time I call out in anguish -- to pray the prayer of the Lover and not the prayer of the Merchant.
I ask this in the name of Jesus,   

Sermon Response: Managing Our Bodies

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Over the past few weeks, we have been engaged in the study of "Self Management."  Though our previous examinations of "time management" and "financial management" were extremely important, their importance pales in comparison to today's study -- which focused on how we manage our bodies.

The sermon began with JaRee Thompson and her Crossfit coach Kristen talking about how they came to love the idea of fitness -- and the importance of body fitness in their personal and spiritual lives.  What was immediately clear from Kristen and JaRee's testimony was that successful athletes emerge from using the right motivation, to pursue the right goals, which ultimately yield personal progress in the right direction.  Kristen provided us a clear example of this by telling us that she didn't really make progress in losing weight until she changed her motivation from the goal of losing weight to the goal of improving her athletic performance. 
JaRee then shared today's scriptural message from 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20 regarding the sexual immorality and the sins we commit within and against our own bodies.  
The critical point of this passage for today's sermon was that even in today's world we too often fail to recognize the importance of our bodies as physical temples for the living God.   For the Corinthians, this problem expressed itself as sexual immorality -- where the social mores of Corinthian society found it acceptable and commonplace to join with prostitutes -- even as part of the local religious rites and culture.  Recognizing the potential danger of this, the Apostle Paul strongly warned the church of Corinth that their bodies were not their own -- that they were in fact, part of the body of Christ -- so that for any member to consort with a prostitute, would be the same as uniting Christ with a prostitute.
Although our the social mores of Northern Virginia might make consorting with temple prostitutes less likely, as believers, our bodies are still part of the body of Christ.  As such, what we do to and with our bodies remains critically important.  In today's world of fast food, desk jobs, internet pornography, and stressful schedules it is far too easy to eat too much, exercise too little, and surrender our minds and bodies to nameless images rather than trying to pursue real relationships.   Today's members of the body of Christ face new temptations, but Paul's admonition is as valid today as it was in the first century following the crucifixion.  As members of the body of Christ, we must take special care -- not only to avoid doing things that would be harmful -- but more importantly, to do things that would be beneficial.   In strengthening ourselves we strengthen the body of Christ.
But we must also be cautious about keeping the right focus.   Strengthening the body for the purpose of getting 6 pack abs -- is not the same as strengthening the body for the purposes of honoring God.  As we work to strengthen the body, we must take care that we do it for the right motivation, as this will help us to set the right goals so that we can make progress in the right direction.
Gateway folks, do you have any further thoughts about this topic as you try to live it out this week?