Genesis 22: 1-12
LUKE 9: 51-62


Click here for INSERT for WORSHIP

October 13, 2019

Oh, the places you’ll go!  You’ve got brains in your head.  You’ve got feet in your shoes; you can steer yourself in any direction.”    Theodore Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss taught many of us that lesson when we were children.   WE EACH have the potential to be amazing people and in this journey called life we will go many places and experience many things but … the real challenge is whether we are ready to travel to those places for God and for Jesus Christ with our experiences being related back to our faith walks; our faith runs; and our faith lives. Does the Holy Spirit coach and direct us?

Paul wrote, “ We are the ones who serve by God’s Spirit.  We are the ones who have a righteousness that is not our own but comes from the faithfulness of Christ.”   We, like Paul in his letter, “have not reached the goal of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus but we should be pursuing it.”  Paul said we should “be glad in the Lord but also we each need to stay on track” … and through this series over these few weeks I want each of us to focus on how we continue to build up our faith through a workout for life here on earth that gets us ready for the eternal life to come.

I was tempted to come out here this morning in a jogging outfit because we each are truly in a race and so often put aside our commitment to God’s goal so that we can be better engaged with the world and all it offers us.  On Friday, I was a guest on one of Philadelphia’s most popular morning talk radio shows and after I asked Dom Giordano, the show’s host, whether our conversation on air could begin with prayer, I was surprised when he said that after more than 25,000 guests in his 30 year radio career that was the first time someone asked to  pray with him on his show and then we prayed.  Frankly, I was disappointed to hear that no one had ever asked to pray on air with him before because I know other faith leaders have been on his show … other people who are identified by the media as Christians.  Church … when we go out into the world with all of its tempting storms we each need to be prepared to represent the Kingdom of God!

I would hope that if you were asked what your dreams in life are that one dream … one hope … one wish was that you could represent our Lord Jesus Christ better every day.   That you want to be right there with Paul in stating “I forget what’s behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me.  The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus … our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul writes.  “We look forward to a savior that comes from there … the LORD JESUS CHRIST.”  Church are you with me … is that your goal?  Your dream?  Your hope?  Your plan?  Your life?  Are you walking your walk with God or setting God aside?

Are you doing what you can to make that dream your reality?  Are you ready to HEAR GOD?  And, are you ready church to respond when God is calling you specifically?

It doesn’t just happen to connect with God … we each need to take on certain steps to build up our strength in faith because the magnetic power of the world easily draws us away from the Creator … from the Holy … because so many of our friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and the pseudo celebrities we watch on TV offer us something that seems so good but is so temporary and so often runs against God’s directions and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I have always enjoyed discovering quotes with meaning and in our bulletin insert this morning I have shared a favorite from that great Olympian who went head-to-head with Adolph Hitler in Hitler’s stadium and embarrassed Hitler to the entire world by proving that a black man … the grandson of slaves whose masters thought nothing of buying and selling human beings created in God’s image … Jesse Owens ran his race, beat the Master Race of Hitler;; winning Olympic medals basically shoving them right into Hitler’s mustachioed face.

But it is Owens words that I want you to read several times this week so the bulletin insert isn’t just fodder to place in the pew when you leave or the nearest trash can … I intend that our bulletin insert is a guide for each of us and Owens’ words are these: “We all have dreams,  In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”  

If you are with me in wanting to build your faith I want you to just write those words of Owens down somewhere each day this week … the best time would be in the morning as your day starts but I want you to add the word faith before the word dream.

My football coach’s name with Richard Paul.  Coach Paul was also my junior high gym teacher.  One essential lesson that he taught me was this … “to be ready for the big game it doesn’t take muscle it takes flexibility.  So, boys you need to learn how to stretch.”  I can still see his face and his ever present baseball cap standing in front of us and having us go through various stretching exercises …

In our faith walk we need the flexibility … we need to be capable of stretching for God and be prepared to follow how God wants to use us.   After all these years of life I have realized that most people who find church comforting but can’t seem to mold the church experience into walks of faith frankly can’t even touch their toes for God because they don’t become flexible in their daily faith lives and that requires some stretching.

You will see in the insert’s questions today I am asking about what in your faith walk has “tightened up” to the point that you might pull a muscle and fall down.   These are the key areas of faith stretching … faith flexibility … PRAYER … READING GOD’s WORD … NOTICING GOD in our travels basically alert to experiencing the Holy.

Jesus in today’s Gospel reading again reminds all of us that being a true believer; being a follower of the Son of God is an active ongoing experience.  This summer as we studied the book of James we repeatedly heard the lesson of Scripture that “faith without works is dead … that dishonoring the poor is dishonoring God … that we are to love our neighbors without favoritism and we are to show mercy not judge.”  Today we heard Jesus simply say “Follow me” but then he said that anyone looking back towards their human connection is not fit for God’s Kingdom.  It’s not about raising your hand once in church or stepping up to the altar of God with a momentary ‘I believe,’ which is what all too many traveling road show speakers fulfill their personal destinies through.  They count the number of forward stepping people as their mark of success as do some pastors and preachers but that’s not bringing people to faith because faith is changing who we are for God.   So, James words come right back to us this morning as we made a decision about building our faith … James writes, “Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone; faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”


So, lets get down to some simple stretching that we each can do without disrupting our all important schedules too much.   I am going to briefly focus on the three keys but there are books written about each of these areas of faith development.

PRAY … Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to the Father, who is unseen.”  In Jeremiah God told the prophet, “Call to me and I will answer you.” Paul’s advise is spot on, “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer with thanksgiving present your requests to God. Pray without ceasing; rejoice always!”

So, to start stretching your souls for your faith walk … find a quiet place without distraction, which means your cell phone gets turned off and a DO NOT DISTURB SIGN GOES UP.  The stretching prayer is not a laundry list of wants for you or the world … the stretching prayer is a conversation with your best friend.  Pause to listen and reflect.  Give it time but pray in space that is just yours and God when you can give God more than a quick 5 minutes.

The second, which to me is essential is GOD’s WORD.  The creations of modern technology means that each of us, our children, our grandchildren, and every person with a Smartphone should have the Bible with them all of the time.  I recommend the YOU VERSION, which is free.  My Bible APP gives me a verse of the day and much more but what if its stretching we are talking about that means we do the same exercise over and over again … I can’t tell you how many times I have repeated the same exact stretches that Coach Paul taught me so many years ago before I have played basketball, hockey, tennis, baseball, football and any other sports I have done in my life.  So, in our faith life we need a routine and my suggestion is to find one chapter in PSALMS and own it.  READ IT REPEATEDLY … in different translations but not once a year or during your idea of a Holy Season … every day is best because every day we venture out into that world but at least once a week … if you have a PSALM, mine is Psalm 63, GREAT but if you don’t find one today and then read it each day this week and then again next week … God will speak to us using Scripture.

The last and perhaps the most essential stretching exercise in our journey to build our faith and have a workout for life is discovering God in this world.  It might be as simple as some flowers or birds or squirrels.   Last week I sat in the backyard and watched the wind … ok, I didn’t see the wind but I watched the trees bend and move and God was so alive in those moments for me;  I needed God alive in those moments because once again God’s presence was directed to Dave without anyone else having to be part of the experience.

NO matter where you are on this journey of life we each share … we all need to grow in the Lord … we all need to experience more God; more Jesus; more Holy Spirit but God has decided we are in charge of deciding how that will happen or if it won’t happen at all.  Scripture is pretty clear on what we have to do to get to the life eternal and no it’s not just saying we are Christians because that is not faith that is not life changing belief … that is simply a descriptive word we want others to believe without any evidence.

I often with we had ‘kneelers’ here in church so that it would be easy to get on our knees before the Holy but are you in a place in your faith life where you can touch your toes for God?  Where people notice through your love for all that you are different from the world … a follower of Jesus looking ahead not grasping onto the worldly things in your rear view mirror?

Oh, the places you’ll go!  You’ve got brains in your head.  You’ve got feet in your shoes; you can steer yourself in any direction.”   And, might I add … you have God calling out to you … Jesus’ words teaching you and His death and resurrection saving you … and the Holy Spirit … well the Holy Spirit is our personal trainer and next week we will take a look at how people who are ready; people who are believers and stretched out to live our faith lives can get better through God’s Holy Spirit.


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