What Brings Fulfillment

Continuing the Sermon Series “Seven Essential Questions.”

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

I am not that guy. You will not find me in tears over the loss of a car. I have had cars I have liked more than others. It did bother me a little when I totaled in my Buick but it didn’t take me long to get over it. I also do, like most people, get excited when I get a new car but that is because it is something new, at least to me. 

There was another commercial on several years ago. I can’t really remember what they were trying to sell and I looked around on the internet for the commercial but never found it. It had a line in it that said, “The point of a car is not to get you from point A to point B. The car is the point. 

I couldn’t disagree more. But, perhaps that is because I am not a car guy. I don’t like working on them. In fact, I will hardly work on one. I know very little about how the engine and all the components work. I also have little interest in learning. I know were the gas goes. In a pinch I could change the oil and maybe the spark plugs. Beyond that, if it won’t go, call a mechanic. I probably know a little more than that, but I think you get my point. 

I have come to a point in my life that I am not all that excited about driving. When I need to go somewhere, I go. If I don’t need to go somewhere, the keys usually stay in my pocket. The real point of this is a qualifier. I am not a car guy. Cars don’t get me thatexcited. I am a guitar guy. Some people collect cars, I collect guitars. My collection is small, by collection standards, but it is still more than I need in reality. Still, I like them. They are my thing. 

This guitar is one of the oldest in my collection. This one is Sybil. I name all my guitars. I haven’t had this guitar all that long, just less than 10 years. Cindy sometimes makes fun of my guitars and says something like, “You can only play one at a time.” But she has given me one for my birthday on two different occasions and another for no particular reason at all. They always make me happy.

Over the last few years, I have added to my collection. I had one for a long time. I added a second, but it was stolen. Then I added three pretty quickly when I felt like I needed a few different guitars for different purposes. I got Sybil specifically to keep in my office.. 

I have really tried to limit myself. Each of my guitars are part of the collection for a different reason. Two were added for their ability to plug into a sound system. Three are different types of electrics. The rest are there because they have a different sound or so I could have one in my office. One other is not actually a guitar but a baritone ukulele.

I love my guitars. But, I think it is important to say here, while I love my guitars, they are not the source of my happiness. Guitars are not the basis of my happiness. Guitars do not bring me fulfillment. I do find happiness and enjoyment in playing them, but it is really more about the music than the instrument. I hope the same is true for all you car guys watching online this morning. 

I have a wish list on Amazon. I have a lot of different things on it including a few guitars. After Cindy gave me one of those birthday guitars, one I had on that Amazon wish list, I went online to that guitar and a few others that the new one eliminated the need in having. I wasn’t and didn’t eliminate them all. One of the things I found myself doing, however, was looking again, with wanting, the other guitars still on my list! 

Here, I had in my possession a brand-new guitar. I hadn’t had the guitar 12 hours and already I am staring at my computer screen wanting something else! I said to myself, I said, “Self, you are being ridiculous. You have a brand-new guitar you have hardly played yet. You don’t need another guitar right now. Stop, enjoy what you already have before worrying about going out and wanting more.” 

I am not alone in this. We see something and we think to ourselves, if only I could have this, then I would be happy. One of my other things about buying a new guitar, I save my pennies, sometimes quite literally, so nothing comes out of the family budget and nothing goes on credit when I am buying that new guitar. For me, and others that tend to be like me, we scrimp and save for months or even years to buy that thing that would make us happy. Finally, the day comes when we have money to go out and buy that joy maker and we go out and pull the trigger and buy it. 

At that moment of purchase, we are overjoyed with what we have just done. We want to brag on it. We want to show it off. One of the first things I did after Cindy gave me that guitar was to take a picture and put it on Facebook. We are quite happy, and we want everyone else to be happy for us. 

We are happy that is, until the new wears off. We are happy until we see the something new, pretty bauble and then we want that. We are no longer happy. We want that, whether that be a new car, a new guitar, a new deer rifle, new furniture, the list of possibilities is endless. And, if we can make that new purchase, then and only then will we be happy. When we get it, for a time we are happy and then the new wears off or we see something we think is newer or better and we must have it and the process starts all over again. 

There are people with a different kind of problem. They have a legitimate need and agonize over their decision, sometimes for weeks or even months. When they do finally pull the trigger and make the purchase they then agonize, even mourn the spent money. Some even make themselves sick over the loss of money because that money is the source of their happiness. A friend of ours has said, “They are so tight when they hold a penny, they make Abraham Lincoln squeal. It is the same problem but instead of a car or a guitar or whatever, for them, it is money.

There are still others who attempt to find their joy in alcohol, drugs, food, gambling and other forms of destructive behaviors. We think something is missing from our lives so we go in search of that missing elements in an alcohol bottle, drug abuse, improper use of foods with things like over-indulgence, and yes, I know, I am speaking to myself again, and with various forms of gambling. 

Still others, search for their joy, fulfillment and happiness in their leisure time activities. I will be happy when hunting season comes again. I will find fulfillment on the end of my fishing rod. I will find joy when I can spend my day reading or practicing my music or playing a ball game. Without this activity I am not whole or complete. 

God did not make us to be musicians or athletes or academics. We may have God given gifts in one of these areas or many more, but this is not what God created us to do. You can’t practice all day every day. We can’t spend our lives with our nose constantly in a book. You can fill in other blanks as necessary. Further, some of these things can be taken away. Athletes age and can no longer compete at the same level. Do you remember me mentioning a stolen guitar? If that is where I find my fulfillment and joy that would mean someone could rob me of my joy simply by stealing the right something of which I place such great importance in my life. 

If we depend on any or all those activities to find our happiness, joy and fulfillment, we always come up short. When we come up short, our lives will never be all God intends them to be or calls us to be. 

What God did create us to be is disciples, servants, His children. When we start looking at things from that perspective, it begins to change the way we see things that we believe are our sources of happiness, joy and fulfillment. 

Do you want to find fulfillment? Do you want to have joy? Do you want to be happy? Paul, in our lesson this morning, gives us a pretty good clue. “…make your bodies a living sacrifice…” In other words, if we want to find our true place of happiness, joy and fulfillment, if we want that peace that passes understanding, we first have to stop worrying about ourselves and place in the forefront of our lives our real intended position as disciples, as servants, as children of God. 

Do you want to feel fulfilled? Go work on a house with Habitat for Humanity. Be a scout leader. Volunteer at one of the schools. Go be a pink lady, or a pink man and volunteer at the hospital. The possibilities for service are endless. Fulfillment is going to come when we realize that we are not the most important thing in the world and start reaching out to make the world better for other people. 

You want to know joy? Be a real disciple in your giving, not only to your church but to the real work of God in the world. Support what our ladies are doing with Loose Threads, Pack Pals. Sponsor a child for education in a third world country. Support the work of agencies that work to bring clean water to parts of the world where clean water is scares. I promise you, there are more places to give than any of us have money. There are more places that can use our time and talents than we have of either. Wherever you choose to give, what you give will make a difference. 

Here is what it comes down to. If you want to find real fulfillment you must be transformed. We must move from a self-centered focus to a servant focus. We are called to be at work in the world, using all God has given us to move forward the Kingdom of God in this time and place.

Several years ago, I came to understand, every church needs at least two ministries, one it does for the community it is in. The other that reaches past the city limits to serve God’s world. Every Christian needs at least three ministries, one for their church, one for their community, and one for the world. They can be the ministries done by the local church or ones they do elsewhere. The big thing is, to have ministries that touch the world around us in the name of Jesus Christ.

In his memoirs about surviving the World War II concentration camps, Eli Wiesel, author of the classic book Night, claims that he and his father motivated each other to survive. Wiesel needed to stay alive to take care of his elderly father. That became his motivation for surviving the concentration camps. He knew that if he died, his father would give up hope and die also. 

Wiesel wrote, “The Germans tried to get the inmates to think only of themselves, to forget relatives and friends, to tend only to their own needs. But what happened was just the reverse. Those who retreated to a universe limited to their own bodies had less of a chance of getting out alive, while to live for a brother, a friend, an ideal, helped you hold out longer.” 

Wiesel had the right idea. Where do we find fulfillment? We won’t find it in a car, a bottle of alcohol or in abusing illegal drugs. We won’t find it in our parents, our children our friends as they can’t give it to us, but we might find it, not from them but in service to them and others.  We aren’t likely to find our joy anywhere else. We won’t even find it in a guitar. But, if we use that guitar, or most anything else for that matter, as a tool to help us be a servant for God and others, there is a really good shot at finding our happiness, our joy our fulfillment. Because at the end of the day, if we want fulfillment, we first must remember to serve, because, in the grand scheme of things, its not about us.

I hope your weekend is blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission granted for non commercial use

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Am I Accepted

Seven Essential Questions – Lent 2020

While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:1-11, New Revised Standard Version).

An art buyer went by a butcher shop and saw a kitten lapping milk from a saucer. It wasn’t long before he saw the saucer, a valuable piece of pottery.

He entered the shop and offered the owner two dollars for the kitten. “Sorry, no,” said the proprietor.

“Look,” said the collector, “that kitten isn’t a good pet, but I like kittens that. OK, ten dollars.”

“Deal,” said the butcher pocketing the ten-dollar bill.’

“For that sum, I’m sure you won’t mind throwing in the saucer. The kitten seems happy drinking from it.”

“No way!” said the butcher. “That’s my lucky saucer. I’ve sold 27 kittens with that saucer!”

The buyer wasn’t interested in redeeming unwanted kittens. He wanted pottery. We can be like that. We have more interest in the thing than the life.

Sometime back I read an interesting article. In Japan, when a piece of valuable pottery breaks they hire a goldsmith or a pottery specialist who mixes a lacquer resin with powdered gold and use that to put glue the pieces together. Instead of trying to hide cracks, likely impossible, they use the cracks filled with gold to enhance the pottery’s beauty.

Translators say the Japanese technique is “golden repair.” The result is a process making a piece of art and a philosophical statement. The Japanese say the break and repair is part of the object’s history. Most of us would toss it. To a good eye, broken becomes beautiful.

We need golden repairs in our lives. We hide brokenness. A friend hurts us, we retreat into our core. We lose a job or have a pay cut and pretend it’s OK. A marriage begins with hope and ends with alienation. A spouse, relative, neighbor, friend becomes abusive to us. We are silent.

We have a drinking problem but embarrassment denies help.  Or, we turn to alcohol or drugs to mask pain and problems.

Life can break us in painful ways we often deny. We’d rather disguise cracks than get a golden repair. We think, “Look at me. I’m a mess. There’s nothing desirable here. I can’t be desirable to God. God knows all I’ve done, every mistake, every sin. God can’t forgive me. I’m useless.” I am also wrong.

We don’t understand. We’ve never been so run down, run over driving our thoughts to a useless destination. People are that way. They are broken, trying to navigate life with as little pain as possible.

He was in worship every Sunday but refused communion because of a past sin. He never said the sin, only that he wasn’t worthy. Jesus served Judas the Last Supper. Have we done worse than Judas?

He couldn’t go to worship. God hated him. He was a thief. With “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” He wasn’t forgiven, was he?

She tried suicide three times. A trusted professional abused her. It was her fault. She was an adulterer. God can’t love her. It was better to die.

Too many believe they are worthless. They see brokenness. They can’t be loved. They are worthless. Even a dog couldn’t love them.

We began the series, “Seven Essential Questions” by asking, “What matters most?” Next was, “Who is God?” Today we ask, “Am I Accepted?”

There is good news and bad, the bad news is, no, not on our own. The good news? God’s grace accepts us, good news for people of faith in Jesus.

Many people tormented the Woman at the Well due to her lifestyle. She drew water in the heat of day, avoiding people. Jesus saw past her sins and brokenness. He offered acceptance.

Matthew and Zacchaeus, tax collectors believed to cheat people to make a living. They had no friends. Jesus changed these two. One became a \ disciple. The other, brings him home. He accepted and redeemed both.

There was a woman caught in adultery. Adultery was a sin. It was also a capital crime. It meant death by stoning. They dug a vertical hole wide enough so the convicted could stand and deep enough to expose the head. They forced the convicted into the hole, filling it with sand and dirt. People took rocks and threw them at the convicted until they died.

The Sadducees and Pharisees made this more than an execution. They try to trap Jesus. If he says stone her, where is the grace he advocates. Saying not to stone, spoke against the law. Either way, he loses credibility.

Jesus said nothing. I can see the scene play out. Jesus squats and writes in the dirt. We don’t know what he wrote. Some say it was the accusers sins. Others think he asked, “Where is the man?” It takes two for adultery. If the woman was caught shouldn’t they have caught this guy? Where was he?

Either is possible. He likely wrote one of the two. What if, he also wrote, “You are loved by God. You are accepted?” It’s a possibility.

It fits God’s love of broken people. It fits spreading grace and love.

God’s acceptance is this story. If Jesus accepted her, guilty of a capital crime. Should it not seem that the rest of us have acceptance too?

Want more proof?  Acts 10. Peter has a dream of unclean food. He says he won’t eat unclean food. God says he shouldn’t call unclean what God cleans. He awakens, meets three men coming on behalf of Cornelius. Peter goes with them to Cornelius’ home. Peter wouldn’t usually enter. That’s what the dream meant. Gentiles came to Cornelius’ home to hear Peter. “I am learning God doesn’t show favor to any people. But in every nation, those worshipping God and do right are acceptable to God (Acts 10:34b-35).”

              “…those worshiping God and do right are acceptable to God.” Think about that. It doesn’t say, “Whoever worships, does right and doesn’t sin is acceptable.” For the adulterous woman, it doesn’t say, “Whoever worships, does right and doesn’t commit adultery is acceptable.” There are no other conditions, worship God and do right. That’s it. That makes one acceptable.

         Last week the Trinity our subject. One God, three persons. Jesus, God the Son says in John 14, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Acts 10:35 doesn’t change John 14.

         John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, speaks to Acts 10:35. We’ve talked about Wesley’s “Acts of Piety” and “Acts of Charity.” Acts of Piety include worship, the sacraments, generosity, and sharing with the community of faith. We find Acts of Charity in Mathew 25, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, etc. People are acceptable who know God and do what matters most. It’s about love God, and love neighbor.

         We don’t get there all at once. We live part of our lives before accepting God’s gift of grace. We accept that gift, but our lives don’t change overnight. We still sin. We still fall short of God’s glory. The difference is, we allow the Holy Spirit to work on us, to mold us and change us. That is God’s redeeming work in us. While we live out those acts of piety and acts of charity, God takes us from unacceptable and redeems us, making us acceptable to God.

         John was a sea-going man like his father who arranged for John to go to school. He wasn’t interested, going to work on a merchant ship. Later, he was forced into the Royal Navy. Sailors grabbed him. They forced him to duty. He tried to escape. He was flogged for the effort and almost died.

         Eventually, his captain traded John to a slave trading ship. He didn’t get along with the crew and that captain traded him to an African tribal chief for some African slaves. John became a slave himself.

         The chief’s wife treated John horribly. Here he did escape helped by a merchant his father asked to watch for him.  John joined the merchant crew to get home. A rough storm threatened to sink the ship due to a hole in the hull from the storm. He decided to pray. As he did so, a large piece of cargo slid into place, covering the hole. It saved the ship. John knew it was God. He became a Christian and studied anything Biblical he could find.

         He didn’t give up the slave trade. He captained a slave trader. He carried two loads of slaves to the Americas before he retired from the sea.

He went to school to be a priest. He came to understand slavery’s wrongs seeking its end it in the British Empire. He saw it end before he died.

         He also wrote this, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

         John Newton, as a Christian he enslaved people. Because of his work people died. God redeemed him to write the most beloved hymn in history.

God can’t redeem you? What’s so bad God won’t accept you?

         If you never hear another word I say, hear this!!! You are loved by God who wants a relationship with you. No matter what you did, God can and will redeem you. You, yes, even the likes of us are acceptable to God.

         Thank God for grace. Praise God! Could ask more than that?

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission given for the non-commercial use of this post.

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