Dying to Live: A Sermon

Preached on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Missouri. Click here to listen to the audio.

Luke 9:18-27

We are launching a new sermon series today titled “Because of Christ, everything has changed.” This series is the second in a series of sermons related to our Setting Sail visioning process. Over the past two years we have prayed and dreamed together about what God is calling us to be and do and now we are launching out in faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, setting sail in obedience and anticipation of God’s dreams for us.

Today we begin our focus on Life-Changing Faith. Our preferred future is that First Baptist Church leads every person to follow the Way of Christ, discover their giftedness, and experience continual life transformation. All generations are rooted in a Biblical, hope-filled faith and experience the joy and significance of service.

In short, we follow Christ.

And because of Christ, everything has changed. Well, most of it has changed. I mean, a good percentage has changed.  Okay, well maybe not a lot has changed but way more than Susie or Ted. I mean, talk about zero change. 

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Front Porch Conversations

“If you could have lunch with one person who has died who would it be and why?” 

There are many people who have passed that I would like to sit with on a front porch, rocking slowly in two red adirondack chairs. We’ll shoot the breeze over some fresh-squeezed lemonade, my Great Grandma Weaver’s sugar cookies on a table between us, still warm from the oven.Red chairs

Like my Grandpa Baker whose stories slowly left his mind long before his body left this earth and before I truly understood the gift of his wisdom.

Like Robert Kennedy who still inspires me with his eloquent words and his passionate rhetoric. I picture his dog, Freckles, on the front porch, too. He’s enjoying a spot of sunshine and seems vaguely entertained by the squirrels dancing across the yard.

Like St. Francis of Assisi who was beloved by many including every animal on earth. He was like the Snow White of saints. But more than that, he seemed to get what living free in Christ was all about. I bet my front porch would be like a scene from Disney if Frances came over for a visit with birds and chipmunks and deer all sitting peacefully at our feet while we talked. Since it is my vision, the animals will speak as well adding fascinating insight about creation and the Creator and the disgusting behaviors of humans polluting their home.

Brennan Manning 1934 - 2013

Brennan Manning 1934 – 2013

But tonight if I had to choose one (other than Jesus, of course, because that is a given) it would be Brennan Manning, my favorite author and fellow ragamuffin. I’ve read almost every book Brennan wrote which numbers at 20 and own most of them as well.  They are well marked, highlighted and worn with multiple notes in the margin.

No author communicates the truth about grace more powerfully to me than Brennan.

No writer conveys the deep affection God has for me more convincingly than Brennan.

No leader calls out my false self more compassionately than Brennan.

No person challenges me to live free in Christ, beloved by God, and in fellowship with the Spirit like Brennan.

Brennan’s voice is the one I hear reminding me every day that I am God’s beloved.  That God not only loves me but that God actually likes me. God enjoys me. God delights in me. Brennan would quickly remind me that God likes me not because there is an ounce of good in me but because there is an abundance of goodness in Him.  What a humbling and freeing thing to remember.

Some days I really need front porch conversations with Brennan. I need him to remind me of all these things. Which he would do for an appropriate amount of time. And then he would kick my butt off the porch so I could go tell others.

Brennan died about two years ago. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person.  But I meet him in his books. I read again his familiar words, pretending we are in red adirondack chairs on my big, wrap around front porch. The lemonade and cookies are there. Even the animals show up. And for just a few moments, we have a much-needed front porch conversation.

So, what about you, friend: if you could have lunch with one person who has died who would it be and why?

He likes me. He really likes me.

likeme

The other day someone asked me my favorite thing about Jesus. 

It has been awhile since anyone has asked me that question. It reminded me of a recent lunch where I asked a college student what she loved most about her long-time boyfriend.  She had a momentary stunned look and then replied, “Wow.  No one has ever asked me that question before.”  She went on to explain a lot of things she loved about him and as words poured out of her, it was clear to see she loves him. Very much.  Yet to narrow it down to a favorite thing was a daunting task because her reasons for loving him where countless. Where should she begin?

The reasons I love God are countless. Where do I even begin? I could speak of His great love for me. I could speak of His amazing grace. I could give witness to His comfort in my times of pain. I could tell you stories of His faithfulness to me, to people I love. I could point you to people, including myself, who have been freed from all types of slavery by His mercy. All of these are reasons I love God.

But this past year another truth has become my favorite thing about God.  A truth that leaves me amazed and overwhelmed nearly every day.

The truth is this:  Not only does God deeply love me,  God genuinely LIKES me, too!

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