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Deeper Wider: What's Missing?

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This morning, Pastor Ed Allen preached from a passage we'd covered this week in our Deeper Wider devotional series, Matthew 12:22-32.  Our whole church is invited to read through the New Testament together this year, and this passage was in this week's readings.

This may seem like "Crazytown" to some -- it's the story of where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and when the demon was driven out, he could talk and see.  The Pharisees accused him of driving out demons by the power of Satan.

There had been lots of speculation about Jesus by this time, and he rarely responded.  But this time he did respond and pointed out that Satan would not drive out his own minions.  His explanation of what happened is that he had tied up the strong man -- he neutralized Satan to release this needy man from Satan's control.

And if he did it by the power of God's Spirit -- that was a sign that the kingdom of God had come.

Two questions arise for us:

Is this for real?

Some comments on that:

1)  There's no reason, based on the text itself, not to believe this account.

2)  All the parties involved react in a way that we would expect if it really happened.

The disciples responded with awe and wonder, but Jesus' opponents responded by saying he was using Satan's power.  But they acknowledged that it had happened!

3)  The only reason to disbelieve it is based on a prior assumption by the reader.

If you believe supernatural things can't happen, that's your preconceived belief.

4)  If it is true, everything changes!

What is the blasphemy passage about?

Jesus is not less important than the Holy Spirit.

Key:  Recognizing the Pharisees attributed the work of God's Spirit through Jesus to Satan.

They acknowledge the miracle happened, but they ridiculed and scorned it.  Theirs was a studied and willful decision to reject Jesus.

"...if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

The spiritual realm is another whole dimension.  Jesus broke that dimension, "the kingdom of God," into our world.

We're in a war zone in the spiritual dimension, between the forces of Satan and the forces of God.

Wild stuff happened around Jesus constantly.

If Jesus was right, those who deny it are missing out on an entire world.

Takeaways:

1)  We're in a battle zone.  Hell is always involved (and so is God).

So we need prayer.

2)  Sometimes hell is the primary cause.

Satan's purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy.  Jesus came to bring abundant life.

Even if hell isn't the primary mover in a particular case, let's not move in the direction of hell's purposes.

3)  Jesus is the key!

He unleashes the full power of the Kingdom of God on earth and in our lives.

He must be received and trusted in order to access that power.

Ed concluded the message with a personal story from his second or third year of ministry -- when a woman was actually possessed by demons, and with prayer from a group of people, the demons left.  And, years later -- Ed can testify that this woman's life was completely changed from that moment on.

If this story is true, it changes everything!

Deeper Wider: Better Relationships

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As a church, we're embarking on a journey of reading through the New Testament in a year.  This week, we finished reading the Sermon on the Mount, and Pastor Ed Allen spoke to us from Matthew 7:1-12 on Better Relationships.

First, Susie got up front to read the passage -- and shared a comment about the "Do not judge." passage.  She said she was looking for a church where she heard the message that God loves us.  We're uncomfortable with our own sins, but sometimes we're more uncomfortable with other people who are not uncomfortable with their sins.

It's often easier to believe that we are sinful than that God loves us.

Pastor Ed began the sermon with a summary of the Sermon on the Mount and what had gone before.  It's a sermon, not just a collection of random sayings from Jesus.

How could the hearers remember the sermon?  It was an oral culture, and it was almost certainly Jesus' "stump" sermon that he used often.

The sermon begins by telling us who is actually living the "good life" -- those who are part of the kingdom of God, under God's control.

Then he unfolds what life in the kingdom of God is like.  He looks at big ticket items like murder and adultery and traces our intentions back to their source.

Next he looks at religious life and pursuit of money.  Religion shouldn't be for show; it should be simple, sincere, and for God alone.

Our obsession with money and possessions demonstrates our lack of trust in God.  Seek God's kingdom first, and everything else will be added.

Now in Matthew 7, we see:  What does living life as a resident of God's kingdom look like in our relationships?

If we want to have healthy, life-giving relationships we have to utterly abandon the tried and true practice of condemning and blaming others.

It isn't that God will judge us if we judge others.  It's that in relationships, if we give out condemnation, we're going to get condemnation back.

Think of your crazy uncle's political Facebook posts.  Do they ever change your mind?  That's how effective we are hen we lead with condemnation.

The church in America has a bad reputation today -- a reputation for being judgmental.

Aren't we supposed to help others leave their sin?  "Judge" can also mean to evaluate and assess.

Yes, we're supposed to evaluate and assess, but that comes with a strong warning.  Look at Galatians 6:1-2 --

When we confront others who are sinning, it is to restore, not to punish.  It should be done gently.  And it should only be done by those who are spiritual -- not everyone is ready.

Then we looked at Matthew 7:6 -- Don't give pearls to pigs.

If we want to have healthy, life-giving relationships, we will not impose our "good things" on those who don't want them or need them.

Jesus was never condemning or condescending.

Jesus met people where they were and offered what they requested or what they truly knew they needed.

This isn't about the pigs and dogs who aren't worthy of my wise insights.

That's not what Jesus is saying.  Pigs don't need pearls.  They need food.

If you want to touch people's lives, show the incredible, radical peace and joy that comes from living life in the kingdom of God.

If we want healthy, life-giving relationships, take our concerns to God.

Ask, seek, and knock -- and God will surely answer.

What's the connection between these three ideas -- Don't condemn; don't be condescending; ask God?

When we violate these, we're almost always looking for something in the relationship that it can't give.  We're almost always making it about US.  We elevate ourselves above the other person.

Instead, ask God.

The world would be different if we did this.