Monday, February 20, 2017

The Disciples Path: What Does A Disciple Look Like at Meridian Street UMC

Matthew 28:18-20 
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Billy Graham, the 98 year old Evangelical Christian Evangelist, has a column in the IndyStar every day.  I have to admit I don't read it often, but it is on the page that has the crossword and sometimes I will look to see what he has to say.

This past Monday, the question that was asked was --- How do we walk with God?

Billy in his answer said this --- "By nature we are cut off from God, because we have sinned and turned our backs on Him."

We don't profess that as United Methodists, we believe that God is always with us, even when we "turn our backs on Him."

That answer from Billy Graham got me thinking --- Do we as Methodists understand discipleship different than a Southern Baptist like Billy Graham --- or our Roman Catholic friends?

The answer I got is YES.

Our understanding of Discipleship is different --- and that is OK

We throw the word Disciple around all the time --- but the question I want to wrestle with is --- What do we mean?

When I think about Discipleship --- a lot of images come into my mind.

The first image is that of a Boy Scout or choir boy --- you know what I mean --- somebody who always does good --- always does what is right.

But is that a Disciple?
          If so, I know that I will never qualify.
          I am no boy scout or choir boy!

I began to research what others said about being a disciple

What I found most fascinating as I began to research this notion of Disciple, was that people began using additional adjectives to help describe what they meant.
          I came across words like "real disciple" or "mature disciple"

These authors began to suggest that there was a hierarchy of Discipleship --- and that they had the key to the real thing.

The other thing I found interesting, was that many times, these various authors did not agree on what exactly was required to become a "real" or "mature" disciple.

But before we dig too deep let me state what feels like a pretty consistent definition of a disciple.

Discipleship is the ongoing process in which followers of Jesus grow in their knowledge of the Biblical stories, develop a character that is modeled on Jesus and live faithfully, all of this is done to glorify God. 

Greg Ogden writes:
discipleship is “… an intentional relationship in which we walk alongside other disciples to encourage, equip and challenge one another in love to grow toward maturity in Christ.”

One of my favorite quotes on Discipleship came from Debbie Salter Goodwin when she wrote:
“Discipleship isn’t something you can add to life like a special trip. Discipleship becomes the life of any follower of Jesus. To raise a generation of disciples who will continue to change their world with the transforming message of the gospel requires parents and others who themselves are making this same commitment.”

Of course part of the challenge is to understand what defines that relationship with Jesus.

And it is here that it gets interesting --- and to be honest, I start to find myself excluded.

Some lists have what I would call a "litmus test" of beliefs that one must assent too.

Things such as:
  • Belief in a literal and inerrant interpretation of the Bible
  • Belief that Jesus experienced a physical resurrection (rather than a spiritual one)
  • Believe that Mary was born immaculately
  • Be opposed to certain hot button social issues of our day

By many of their reckonings, I have to confess to you --- I do not qualify as a disciple of Jesus, or at least as a "real" or "mature" disciple

But I think it was an article by Charles Arn, in Christianity Today that really captured my attention.

Arn writes:
May I suggest that, for all practical purposes, a "disciple" is synonymous with an "assimilated church member." Or, at least, it should be.

If you agree, then try this exercise with your church leaders: list the qualities of an ideal member for your congregation. How would such a person act? What would he say? How would she feel?

Once you have listed the ideal qualities of a disciple, examine your church's programming to see how—or if—you are helping people reach this ideal. After all, it seems reasonable that church activities are intended to lead people toward some goal.

I find this fascinating, because it makes discipleship contextual --- a disciple at Meridian Street United Methodist Church might not look exactly like a Disciple at St Thomas Aquinas, or Common Ground.

He goes on in the article to suggest that there are nine characteristics that we might want to examine.

  1. Understands and identifies with the goals of our church.
Do you know what the mission and vision of Meridian Street is, and what our goals are to accomplish that vision?

  1. Attends worship regularly.
Regular attendance has been show to be essential to a person being committed to the ministry of the church.

When one starts missing church it is often the first warning sign that they are likely to drop out.

  1. Experiences spiritual growth and progress.
Disciples he argues have to be committed to wanting to learn, question, stretch and grow in their faith.

  1. Has taken the formal step of becoming a member of the church.
He suggests that the practice of making a formal commitment to membership helps with accountability in our journey of discipleship.

  1. Has friends in the church.
According to Arn, the typical active, assimilated church member has over seven friends in the church; drop-outs have less than two.

  1. Is using his/her spiritual gift.
Arn says that giving one's time and talent to the church is even more important than giving one's money, from an assimilation perspective.

Plus, he says: a role or task in the church provides a great opportunity to make friends.

  1. Is involved in a fellowship group.
Those of you involved in a small group know that are one of the best ways to build common bonds among each other.

  1. Tithes to your church.
As Jesus says in Matthew's Gospel:
"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be, also" (Mt. 6:31).

  1. Participates in the Great Commission.
Hopefully you know the great commission: it is our scripture for this morning.  It is the call to each disciple to go and make more disciples.

I think Arn is onto something. 

And for us at Meridian Street I think we can make it even simpler.

A Disciple is someone who lives out the membership vows.

If you are a member, do you remember the vows that you took when you joined?

They are found in our hymn book, but to be honest, they have been modified a little since the hymnal was printed.

But from our Book of Discipline it states the vows one takes to become a member:

  1. To renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin;
  2. To accept the freedom and power God gives them to resist evil, injustice, and oppression;
  3. To confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put their whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as their Lord;
  4. To remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world;
  5. To be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries;
  6. To faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness;
  7. To receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments

What is missing from those vows?
  • Creedal statements
  • "litmus tests"
  • no literal mandate or inerrancy of the Bible

The promises we make in the United Methodist Church are designed to help us grow in our discipleship.

Over the next few weeks, Matt and I will focus on particularly #6 in which we promise: To faithfully participate in Meridian Street United Methodist Church's ministries by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.

We will spend time going into depth on each of these concepts to help us grow as disciples of Jesus.

A couple final thoughts:

Charles Spurgeon, the great British pastor of another age, once gave us a great reminder:
“Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion that the Sunday school is intended to ease them of their personal duties. The first and most natural condition of things is for Christian parents to train up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Let holy grandmothers and gracious mothers, with their husbands, see to it that their own boys and girls are well taught in the Word of the Lord.”

While his language is a bit old fashion the truth remains.  It is our responsibility to disciple our children and grandchildren.

And in case you think, I don't have any children living close by --- let me remind you of what we promise when we baptize a child.

We --- the congregation --- promise to help the parents to raise their child as a follower of Jesus.

We must work together in helping each other grow as disciples.

But before we can help another, we must make sure we are on the path as well.

I hope that you will join us in one of the four groups that we are starting next weekend.
  • Saturday at 9 am in the Parlor, 
  • Sunday, at 10:30
  • Wednesday at 5:45
  • Thursday at 6:30 at 3 WiseMen in Broad Ripple

Join the conversation, and continue the journey toward discipleship.

One Month To Live: Leave Boldly

1 Corinthians 3:12-16 (The Message)
Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you'll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won't get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn't, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won't be torn out; you'll survive—but just barely.
You realize, don't you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God's temple, you can be sure of that. God's temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.

It is my hope, that these few weeks have gotten you thinking. 

Thinking about how you would live your life if you knew that you only had one month to live.  But maybe even more -- how do you want to live the rest of your life --- however long that will be.

What would be your priorities, what are the things that you would want to accomplish? 

Those last three weeks brings us to today --- to what I think is the most important principle of the four.
·         Living passionately
·         Loving completely
·         Living humbly
Today’s principle is: LEAVE BOLDLY.

Leave boldly – we all want to make a difference in life – we all want somebody to remember us and what we lived for.  We want something that will outlive us; we all want a legacy.

Harold Kushner said,
“I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending, that haunts our sleep so much as the fear … that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.”

I think, without a doubt, my favorite place is the beach.

If I was to retire tomorrow, and could live anywhere, I would love to live on an island in the Caribbean.

And when I reflect on our children growing up, some of our greatest adventures were family holidays to the ocean.

I can’t tell you how many times we loaded the girls up into our van and drove to Florida for a week of fun in the surf and sand.

And one of my favorite memories is watching, and sometimes helping them build sand castles.

They would build these great castles that connected to one another. 
But it didn’t matter how high they would build the walls and it didn’t matter how hard they would work, because the next morning after the tide had rolled in, we would always walk out to the beach to find that all their hard work from the day before had been completely washed away.

I think that is a great illustration of many things in life.
          You do the dishes --- but a few hours later they are dirty again
          You make the bed in the morning – but that night they are messed up
          You eat --- but a few hours later you are hungry again
          And the list goes on and on

And it may feel like every day at the end of the day everything you do gets washed away, but what’s really happening is you’re building a legacy.

We all want to live a life that matters.
We all want to leave a legacy.

Listen to what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:12-14
1 Corinthians 3:12-14 (The Message)    
Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you'll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won't get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn't, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won't be torn out; you'll survive—but just barely.
You realize, don't you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God's temple, you can be sure of that. God's temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.

Every day of our lives --- we are building a legacy --- and we get to choose what kind of materials we will build with.

And this passage suggests that there are three materials that stand the test of time and will build a legacy that will last.

The first is:  VALUES

These are the core beliefs that we have that come from God.

And if you remember in our good Wesleyan fashion that those values, those convictions come from what we call the quadrilateral.
·         Scripture
·         Reason
·         Tradition
·         Experience
All four should help us understand and develop a core set of values that define our lives

Let me try to illustrate what I am saying.

Let’s say that I tell you that I just found this book that is really inspiring and I think it might just change my life. 

It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Body Building.

Imagine that you came up to me and gave me this book and you said to me,
“Steve, I know this getting older (my middle daughter likes to say I am almost 60), this getting older thing is kinda bumming you out, so I know that you are trying to get in shape and that you are exercising. I want you to take this book and the whole church has decided we want to give you six months off just to become like this because we think it would be really great to have a pastor that looked like that.

And so I said, that’s great. That’s wonderful.

So I take six months off, and I come back and you’re so excited.
The great day has finally arrived.

You’re anticipating me looking something like this, and I walk up and . . . and I look exactly the way I look today.
How disappointing.
And you say, “Steve, didn’t you do this? Didn’t you read the book?”

Sure, I read the book. It’s my favorite book now. I love this book. I’ve read it six times. I read it once a month. It’s amazing. In fact, I highlighted all the parts that moved me so deeply. Some parts about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life really made me cry. It was amazing, and not only that but I also memorized two chapters on his workout plan and I can recite them word for word. In fact, I can even tell you what the Greek word for biceps is. I just studied this thing over and over. It’s my favorite book now.

But you say to me:  “you mean you didn’t go to the gym?”

No, I didn’t go to the gym; I was too busy studying this book.

“You didn’t eat right?” --- No, I didn’t eat right.

“You mean, you didn’t do anything that’s in this book?” --- No, I just read the book. I just studied the book.
I just -- I love it. It’s just so amazing.

And you’d think that’s silly, wouldn’t you?

But that’s what a lot of people do with this book.

They go to Bible studies over and over again, and they come here week after week and hear me or Matt preach, yet they don’t put it into their life.

They don’t live it out.
They don’t make God’s values into their values.

Sure, you can KNOW the Bible from cover to cover, but if you don’t live it out, you don’t really believe it.

If we want to leave a lasting legacy, we have to build VALUES, or CONVICTIONS into our lives.

There is a second material that we must build with if we want to create a lasting legacy and that is CHARACTER.

Character is how we react to situation is life
Character is how we live the values that we claim as our own.

But I want to be very clear here – especially for those of you who have being reading the Shook’s devotional book, One Month To Live
This is one of those places where I strongly disagree with them, and was tempted to throw out the baby with the bath water, but the ideas that they present are too compelling to let some of their theology get in the way.

They argue repeatedly that God builds our character especially through the problems, pressures and people that God puts into our lives.  They believe that God allows bad things to happen to us to make us a better person.  I DISAGREE.

Bad things happen – and character is developed in how we respond to them.  But, I do not believe that, God causes them to happen.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in the book of Psalms. The 81st Psalm, when God tells that he can bring forth honey from the rocks.

Character is how we respond, how we react to the rocks of life --- but I don't believe that God does puts the rocks there to chisel away the rough spots.

The third material that we need to build a lasting legacy on is COMMUNITY.

Being connected to other people, other people who are on the same path as you is so important!

It is so important to be in relationships with people who are on the same journey with you in a small group so that you can grow together, people who are going the right direction.  Not people who have it all together, but people who are headed in the right direction and want to journey with you!

If you’re too busy for a small group, then you’re just too busy.

But at the same time, you need to invest yourself into the larger community because together we can make a huge difference.

A few years ago, LARRI (Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery of Indiana), the agency that I helped create and was founding president of in response to the floods in Northwest Indiana in 2008, had a recognition for their volunteers.  It was an amazing event.  I was invited to give a blessing, but the greatest part of the evening was listening to the ways that LARRI had changed people’s lives.  People whose homes were devastated shared about how they were given hope because of LARRI, but the real power was listening to the volunteers – how helping others had changed their lives!

As I was leaving the event, someone came up to me and said: “you should be so proud of what LARRI has become and what they have accomplished.”

That is the kind of community we need to build:  A community that makes a difference in the lives of those who are dashed against the rocks of life.
And when we do that --- we taste the honey that God brings forth from the rocks!

When you think about it, you quickly realize that everything that you own is like a sand castle.  Here today, but gone tomorrow.

Everything gets washed away, except three things:
·         VALUES
·         CHARACTER
·         COMMUNITY

Sometimes we feel like we can’t make a difference.
What can we do?
How can we leave a lasting legacy?
After all we’re not wealthy or powerful?

I remember a great story that was told in one of the Chicken Soup Books:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. 
Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. 
The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? 
You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said…”
I made a difference for that one.”
Perhaps Helen Keller summed it up best:
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

If we knew our time on earth was running out, we’d want to do all we could to make a difference for others.
We wouldn’t want the regret of a life misspent and self-absorbed.
We would want to know that we honored the God we love by being the very best stewards of all God has given us.

If we truly want to grow in our character and our faith, then we must be willing to change our goal from one of safety to one of sacrifice.

One of the first and most important ways we can begin to care more about others is to pray for the poor and oppressed throughout the world.
          Pray for their needs.
          For their healing.
          For religious and political freedom.
          For food and clean water and vital medicine.
When we start praying for hurting people, we begin caring about them, and we want to learn more about the details of their lives.

It connects our hearts to theirs.

We’re more mindful of what we have, how we can use it, and why we’ve been entrusted with it.

I need to say one more thing --- if you haven't done as well as you would like in:
          Living passionately
          Loving completely
          Living humbly
          If you haven't built the legacy that you desire

Start today --- live as if it is the gift it truly is!

God is willing to forgive us for the past --- it is time to start living fully in the now!

God has given each of us time, talent and treasure.
          How we use them will define our legacy.

I challenge you to leave a lasting legacy.

And if you do that --- then you will leave boldly when the time comes!

Prayer for Refugees

Loving God, you invite us to humble service.  But we confess that too often our service is not for your Kingdom, but for the kingdoms of this world.  We don’t put you first; we don’t strive for your justice.

Help us Lord, and heal us.

Show us what it means to be a follower of you in the United States of America in 2017.  Give us a vision on what you desire of our lives.

We have to be honest Lord; we are struggling --- struggling with the siren call of our society.  A call to protect, isolate, separate and judge one another and to build kingdoms of this world and too often the noise drowns out the the call of your kingdom.

We hear you asking us: have we fed the hungry, have we clothed the naked, have we visited the imprisoned, have we cared for the widow and the refugee.

Lord, we know what you require of us --- and we have fallen short.

We know that you were a refugee once --- that you were forced to flee from Bethlehem and resettle in Egypt.  We are reminded time and time again that you had nowhere to lay your head.

As followers of Jesus, we are to be a people who seek justice, not only for us and those like us, but for all of God’s children.  Without justice, the message of Jesus is hollow and self serving.

Help us Lord, to examine our own lives --- to admit where we have fallen short.  And to seek forgiveness.

Help us to recognize who we are --- but more importantly WHO’s we are.
Only when we let the spirit rain free in our lives, can we become the individuals, and the community you desire us to be.

Help us to claim the power of Jesus.
Help us to claim his ability to heal --- and to forgive.
And help us Lord, to continue to follow that little child, that vulnerable infant, that had no safe place to lay his head.

If refugees, like you, can’t find a safe home in the church --- what have we become?

We pray these things in the name of Jesus.  Amen

One Month To Live: Love Completely

1 Corinthians 1:18-21      
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

Last Sunday we began our One Month To Live Series. 

I began by asking a rather simple question: If you knew you had one month to live, how would your life be radically transformed? 

I asked you:
Are you living the dash, knowing fully who you are and why you’re here?
Or are you dashing to live, hurriedly spending precious time chasing things that really don’t matter to you?

I hope that you have taken some time this week to wrestle with that question --- because I am convinced it is not only a profound question --- but if we take it seriously, it can be transformational.

As I met with the Monday morning Bible Study, I was asked if I knew the 2004 Tim McGraw song: "Live Like You Were Dying."  I chuckled when asked because it is a song that is on one of my running playlists --- songs that I use to try to encourage me to put one foot in front of the other.

The song really is this sermon series in verse.  But don't worry, I am not going to sing it to you:  But the song says

"I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin' 'bout the options
And talkin' 'bout sweet time"
I asked him
"When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How's it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what'd you do?"

"I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn't
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin'
Wasn't such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I'd do if I could do it all again

I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you've got eternity
To think about
What you'd do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

What would you do with it?
Today is the first day, of this new beginning --- what will you do?

Last week I shared with you the first key component of how we might want to live if we really embraced the idea that today is an unique, special gift.

The idea that I shared is that we must live passionately.

Passion is what drives transformation in this world.

Our passion for this gift of life has the potential to change how and why we live.
To stop going through the mundane routines of the world and instead seeing the opportunities to become a Kingdom difference maker.

Survey after survey that interview persons who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness agree on what they would change if they could go back and re-live their lives.

And that, of course, is relationships.

They would love more completely.

Or as Tim McGraw sang --- They would finally become the husband, that most of the time they weren't --- or the friend a friend would like to have.

I truly believe this is the most important of the four principles that Matt and I will share with you.

When we can learn to LOVE COMPLETELY, it changes everything.

The biggest problem with that is, in order to love completely --- we need to know that we are completely loved.

Jesus life is the perfect example of total love.
Yet, most of us don't see it that way.

We recognize that Jesus loves us --- but we often miss the completeness of it.

The author of John's letter tells us exactly what love is when he writes to us: (1 John 3:16 The Voice)
We know what true love looks like because of Jesus. He gave His life for us, and He calls us to give our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Complete love is sacrificial
·         No agenda
·         No requirements
·         just love!

But while Jesus shows us that kind of love, we often don't think we are worthy of it.

Until you KNOW that you are loved completely by Jesus
·         Until you KNOW that Jesus isn't Santa Claus and checking his list to see if you are naughty or nice
·         Until you KNOW that you are forgiven
·         That there is NOTHING that can separate you from the love of Christ

Paul writes in Romans 8:37-38 (The Message
. . . because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

·         Until we KNOW that, we will always feel unworthy and that unworthiness will keep us from loving completely.

But it is relationships that are the most important things in our lives.
And I don't have to tell you, but relationships are hard.
And what makes them so hard, is our unwillingness to recognize that we are totally, absolutely, completely loved!

Pastor Shook, in his book, "One Month To Live" illustrates that building healthy relationships is kind of like climbing a mountain.  And he suggested that there are three mountains that we need to climb over if we want to build, deep --- lasting relationships.

The first mountain is what he called: The Mountain of Misunderstanding.

From my experience, this is where a lot of relationships die.

Often in relationships -- misunderstandings can pile up quickly and kill a relationship.

In the beginning of a relationship, everything seems so beautiful and wonderful.  And then something happens.
Often it is something of no consequence, but that mole hill soon becomes Mount Everest.

Sometimes it is something rather mundane
Nancy and I were at the mall and while I was waiting for something she went off to look at the map of the mall to see if there was a store she wanted to go to (or at least that is what I thought she was doing.)
At one point I texted her and asked if there was an AT&T store in the mall.
She texted back: "Not at sign"
But the reality is what she was really saying was: "I am not at the map so I have no idea of there is an AT&T store.

Certainly not going to break up our marriage --- instead we were able to have a good laugh about it --- but for others, whom have already built a large mountain of misunderstanding it can become another boulder.

And I know of families that are stressed right now because one supported one candidate and the other supported someone else and they cannot fathom how, this person they thought that they knew could do such a thing.

Misunderstanding can be a huge mountain

The second mountain that we must climb is the Mountain of "Me First"
It just seems to be human nature to say: "I’ll meet your needs if you meet my needs first."
Our nature just seems to be one of selfishness.  But that selfishness created a huge obstacle in relationships.

This is not a new problem.

Paul addresses it when he writes in his letter to the Philippians:
Philippians 2:3-4   (NRSV)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

The third and final peak in this rocky range is the most deadly – the Mountain of Mistakes.  And we all make mistakes.

Just as we have misunderstandings and the desire to put ourselves first, we all have faults and we mess-up.

Many relationships are forever abandoned on the mountain of mistakes.

Every one of us has been hurt when someone else wrongs us. And it’s so easy when you’re hurt in a relationship to build this mountain of bitterness around your heart to protect yourself from being hurt again.

Relationships can overcome anger. The Bible says sometimes it’s healthy to get angry when you really care about a relationship.

But whenever you become bitter and you hold on to a hurt and you build a mountain of bitterness around your heart to protect your heart from being hurt, it only hurts you and it poisons your relationships and no relationship can overcome the mountain of bitterness that we can build.

If you really love someone, sometimes you’ll get angry.
And that’s okay if you express it in the right way.

These three mountains shape every relationship.

Too often, the climb is too difficult and we give up
          We give up on marriages
          We give up on children
          We give up on friends
          We give up on co-workers

But we don't have to give up.
We can become the kind of person who knows what it takes to get over the obstacles and keep climbing.

To really love the people in our lives, we have to overcome these mountains and learn to work through the mistakes and push beyond our self-interests.

We have to grow in our willingness and ability to pour ourselves into those we love, and empowering them to persevere after we’re no longer with them.

It’s not easy – relationships aren’t for wimps.

And it’s going to take some extra-ordinary help: God’s power to love completely.

So let me offer some quick tools to help with building relationships that are centered in God's complete love.

1.       We need to learn to accept each other as we are.  I am going to use a dirty word to some people --- we have to be tolerant of each other.

Too often we want to change somebody else --- get them to come around to our point of view.  Thinking we know it all.

The world would be a much better place if we would learn to listen (really listen) to each other with respect!

God loves us just as we are --- and we need to do the same.

2.       We need to practice kindness.

We need to cherish every moment and every opportunity because it might be our last.

We need to be the one who makes the phone call, or writes the email, not waiting for the other to do it first.

3.       We have to learn to give forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the key.
I love how Eugene Peterson translates Colossians 3:12-14 when he writes
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

When asked what they would change more than anything else, what people who have been given a terminal diagnosis say is:  RELATIONSHIPS --- they would love more, listen more, cherish more, forgive more.

You have been given a terminal diagnosis --- you just don't know how long you have to live on the earthly existence. 
How you spend that time is up to you.

I invite you to love completely
and to celebrate those things that you are passionate about.

I invite you to love completely because you have been completely loved --- no matter what.

A couple of you said to me this week that you were trying to figure out something drastic to do --- can I offer a suggestion.

Recognize that you are loved completely and LOVE COMPLETELY in return!