Monday, November 29, 2010

November 28, 2010- The First Sunday of Advent

Its beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas. And yet, for some reason, the tradition of the church is to spend the first Sunday of Advent holding in tension the memory of Christ’s birth and the expected second coming of Christ when God’s work will be complete in the world. It’s a strange way to start, but perhaps a healthy dose of both will help all of us to experience the profound story of God’s love.
My hope, is that through my clumsy perspective, Christ will tap on our shoulders and show each one of us at least part of what he meant in the apocalyptic words that Matthew recorded.

"Expecting Again"
Rev. Sarah Varnell

Matthew 24:36-44

To be honest, passages like I just read in Matthew make me nervous as a preacher. And most commentaries dismiss it as “apocalyptic,” with little explanation for fear of slipping into prediction mode. Help a preacher out!

I’ve been unpacking reasons why that may be the case for far as I see it there are some positives about it and some negatives, let’s start with the positives:
(1) in talking about the second coming of Christ, we offer a proclamation of the hope we have that God is not finished with us.
(2) its a reminder that we need to be in a posture of living each day as though it is our last.
(3) the second coming is a sound teaching of the Church, we say in the mystery of faith, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
The negative aspects for me are,
(1) many preachers and theologians have used this text to scare people into believing for fear of judgment and hell
(2) truth is, though I believe in the second coming, most of what I know is that it is a mystery…no predictions here, and
(3) at first glance, it just doesn’t seem so “Christmas-y.”

Several years ago now, when I was a young sixth grader in my youth group, we went on a trip to a neighboring church for an event called “judgment house.” Being a child that from an early age majored in Sunday School answers, I was curious about judgment house. Some of the older members in our youth group attended the year before, and they were anticipating the outpouring of emotion as they refocused their lives on God. When we arrived they ushered us into a mock-living room. In the living room a parent and a teenager were eating dinner together, mostly fighting. The teen was obviously very rebellious and stormed out of the room against her father’s will. We walked into the second room where the same teen was participating in underage drinking with her friends and succumbing to all kinds of peer pressure, and then she got into a car to go home. The next room, the car was clearly in an accident, and then the next room was the judgment room. The young girl, recently deceased found herself in front of the throne of God, the person that played Jesus said to her, “I’m sorry, but I do not know you,” and with that men dressed in all black with their faces covered came from the shadows and drug her away as she screamed, begging for God’s mercy. As you can imagine, I was a bewildered 6th grader and I was in tears, literally sobbing. Then we moved into the final room-- the decision room--and one woman approached me as she figured my sobs meant that I was “ripe for saving,” and she said, “Would you like to be saved?” I couldn’t get past the scary men dressed in black that drug that girl away, and my head was filled with her screams, so I exclaimed “me??? What about her?? She’s the one that needs to be saved from those bad men!” And the woman instructed me that that was the point of the play, that if we are like that girl God will turn us away. All I could think was, “but I thought God loves everyone, everyone, even her!”

As Andy reminded us last week about Thanksgiving, if we don’t give voice and explanation to what we see God doing in the world, then others will do so on our behalf.
Our society already offers a dialogue for the second coming, articulated in the modern voice of the “end times.” The Left Behind series, and several movies including one of the most recent ones 2012. And, someone is always predicting the “day” convincing people they are the prophetic voice even though Jesus clearly states that NO one knows the day or the hour, not even Jesus himself knows, only God the creator knows the fullness of creation’s story. I can even recall a story about a church near my hometown several years back that the pastor convinced his membership that Jesus was returning, and to give all of their possessions to the church. After he got what he needed, he ran off, nowhere to be found, leaving many good-hearted people with nothing except a bunch of doubt in the hole where faith once was.

Even one of my most beloved modern music prophets, with a John the Baptist exterior and lyrics like honey, Bob Dylan sang in apocalyptic tone, “Ring them bells, ye heathen from the city that dreams, Ring them bells from the sanctuaries cross the valleys and streams, ‘cause they're deep and they're wide and the world's on its side and time is running backwards and so is the bride.” Just last week when we had that big storm I was listening to a local radio station, the DJs, with no religious context, and they commented on how apocalyptic the sky looked as a storm brewed above. Humans are curious, and culture leans toward provoking our fear, anxiety, and need for control.

Ever since my experience with the judgment house, I have been convinced that the way to the gospel is not fear, but that we are ushered into God’s fullness by God’s overwhelming love and convincing grace. In our United Methodist heritage, we affirm the Second Coming of Christ, and God’s saving work in each of our lives through prevenient grace that knocks on the doors of our hearts and our part in receiving the grace through sanctification and justification as we repent of the sin in our lives.
For many of us, this happens most everyday... somewhere along the way we are convinced that we live by the grace of God.

In the passage from Matthew, the people are doing ordinary… everyday things, and we’re told that Christ comes like a thief in the night. So often, death and illness come that way, taking us from health and life…or an accident that changes everything. Most of us know what it is like for life to suddenly change in the blink of an eye.

So, the obvious question is, should we fear Christ the same way we fear a thief breaking in to our warm home?

Let’s consider that the first time Christ came into the world it interrupted creation, and though the ripples extended into all of human history, initially it only changed the life of a young mother and her husband, a motely crew of shepherds, and some wisemen from the east. The only one who worried was a king, who feared that a tiny baby would threaten his kingdom, and he was right… that baby had more power in his little finger than that king even knew was possible.

In this season of Advent, we still come expecting to hear a word from God. We come, like young parents expecting a second or third child, wondering if the spark felt at birth will be the same as it was the first time we heard that God was coming as a baby.

During college, I had the privilege of working at a camp in the summertime, and also for a weekend during Christmas break for the traditional “Christmas Camp.” Christmas Camp is exactly what you would expect it to be- we made all sorts of festive crafts, sang every carol we could play in the key of C on the guitar, told the story of Jesus around a campfire, and lit candles under the stars as we sang Silent Night. The preacher for the weekend spoke mostly about looking for God in unexpected places, that the season of advent is a promise that God is always doing a new thing- no one expected that the Messiah would come as a helpless baby, but that’s exactly what God did. She encouraged the kids, and the counselors for that matter to be on alert for God. One of the kids in my group, Levi, happened to be autistic and had a very big personality and he took this quest for Jesus very seriously. At breakfast one morning, as we sat in the lodge with the mountain fog around us outside the windows, Levi looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “Jeeesus is here.” I laughed to myself, but smiled as I encouraged him to stay on the look out as we watched the sun poke out and melt the fog around us. Later that day as we hiked through the cool forest, we heard the leaves crinkle behind us and he tugged at my arm asking, “Jeeeesus is behind us!” We peered into the brush to find a deer, standing perfectly still. Since we were at camp, it seemed logical that he would find God in the beauty of nature, so we celebrated the deer and went on our way. Later that night as we gathered around the campfire, with the stars shining beautifully above us, and as each of us held our candle to match the starlit sky, Levi’s eyes were as wide as could be, and with the tenderness of a new mother he said, “Jesus is here.”

In every moment of my life, the happy, the sad, and the indifferent, I try to have the hope and the faith of Levi that “Jesus is here,” and the Jesus foretold in scripture is, so good that he does not need our weapons or our wanting… and that when we are judged, we will be judged through the nail-scared hands of Jesus… love that compels, convicts, and has the power to change us…love that bids us come, as advent would suggest, expecting…

My favorite scene from C. S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is when the children learn that Aslan is a lion, which raises concern. The older sister, Susan states that she will be nervous meeting a lion, and Mrs. Beaver responds, "That you will, dear, and no mistake, if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else silly." The younger sister Lucy, looking very worried asked, "Then he isn't safe?" And Mr. Beaver replied, "Safe? Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

In the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The invitation this advent season is to simply be on the lookout-- to expect that God will do something new-- to clean out all the clutter of consumerism and sugar plum fairies long enough to expect that God will reveal fullness of grace and love in your heart, if there’s room.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November 7, 2010 - All Saints Sunday

Ephesians 1:11-23

Today is All Saints Sunday, the day when the church pauses to recognize that we are surrounded by saints. On this day we read out the names of those who have died in the faith in the certain hope that they are not dead but continue to live in and through us in the power of Christ.

One of the reasons I love All Saints Sunday is that the church is in the business of producing saints. I can almost feel you squirm in your seats when I say that. But it's true.

The church collectively is made up of saints, those ordinary people who have been called by Jesus Christ to live sanctified lives, lives that are so caught up in the plans of God that they are called saints.

The most important thing we do collectively is the week-in, week-out worship of the church gathered. How many troubled souls find life-giving sustenance and nourishment each week in the worship of the church. There are many folk out there who couldn't make it if it were not for what they receive on a Sunday morning.

Those words reminded me, a preacher, of the importance of the work as the church, gathered and scattered. Today I'm thinking that one of the most important things we do here is that ordinary equipment we receive to be saints, to be those whose lives are caught up in God's work in the world - saints.

When we hear the word saint, we’re often too quick to think of Mother Teresa or Saint Francis. But I want us to think today in a more mundane, ordinary sense of saint. In fact, I'm talking about you.

According to a great preacher, a saint is someone whose life manages to be more than a “cranny through which the infinite peeps.” We hold the saint’s life up and through it we get a glimpse of the infinite and the eternal, a sighting of God. The saint is someone who somehow manages to live in two worlds. (1)

And the apostle Paul celebrates those saints! The saint's faith has enabled him or her to release some of the tight grip by which most people hold on to this world and then is paradoxically able to receive this world as a gift. With an eye on the infinite, the saint manages to be thoroughly involved in the finite. The saint manages to chart his or her life by the stars, but walks on thoroughly solid earth.

In my experience, saints are best known through seemingly small, earthly gestures, deeds of love and mercy made all the more holy because they are so earthly. Many of those we will remember today did not set out to be saints, they just were in their many very earthly actions.

Too often saints are depicted as people who are so extraordinary that we could never identify with them. Their commitment to God and virtue is unwavering, their trust in divine providence unshakable, and their unselfish service of others puts everything that we do to shame. Such a depiction is unfortunate, because someone who was not first a genuine human being would probably never grow into the kind of holiness to which we are all called.

What actually makes a saint? Extraordinary feats of courage or self-denial?

No! It is the love that God has bestowed on us that makes us children of God. And as children of God, we are already saints, because divine life flows within us and through us. The differences between individuals have to do with the degree and character of our willingness to cooperate with God’s grace and to be like God.
Most of them are hidden in obscurity, known only to those who were in some way touched by their lives. But these are saints of God nonetheless.

The saints we have known are people who shared their possessions, who grieved over the tragedies of the world, who did not fall into the traps set by power plays, who sought to make the world better, who showed mercy, who lived authentic lives and who did what they could in the name of peace. They lived the beatitudes in their daily lives, even if they had to pay a price for their integrity. We all know such saints.

And if we are honest, we must admit that we too can become saints as they did. When the saints come marching in, we can be in their number. We are already God’s children. With the grace of God, who knows what we might yet become?

Don't you see that makes it all the more amazing that in ordinary places you can still find these practical saints, folk whose faith has enabled them not to be worn down by the cares of life, not to avoid those who are in need, not to steel themselves against the feeling and responding to some of the hurt and the sorrow of others?

On this All Saints' Day, like Paul, I give thanks to God for the saints, all of them, including you. It is no small achievement - whether one is in a hospital ward, or a hardware store, or a high school classroom - to live like a saint. Amid the cares of everyday life, somehow to keep your eyes fixed on the things of God, to reach out in compassion to others, to testify to God's promised kingdom in the middle of our kingdoms and their demands - this is no small spiritual achievement.

I hope that in the church you receive the gifts you need to keep at it. I hope that you receive the encouragement, the equipment, the grace needed to keep on keeping on.

And what about those days when you don’t feel so encouraged? Saints are people who can hold together the glorious promise of our inheritance in heaven which sends the author of Ephesians into ecstasy not on the rich and powerful but on the poor, the hungry and the tearful. And sometimes the saints are themselves the hungry and the tearful.

There has much in the press this year about the fast-tracking of Mother Teresa to sainthood, but the secular press was wrong-footed by the so-called revelations that for most of her life she was serving the poor and giving herself to prayer at the same time that she was doubting God presence and care. That seemed to the world as a negation of her faith and dedication, but the church nodded wisely and knew otherwise. (2)

Indeed our readings today point to the fact that the truth lies elsewhere: they remind us that Christians are called to hold all those truths together, that doubt and despair are not the negation of faith but at times integral components of it. And those we honor today as saints give us examples we can follow precisely because, in many cases, they struggled.

All Saints’ Day is about aspiration: God asks ordinary people do extraordinary things. In everything we play our role as revealers of grace -- singing God's graceful melodies -- by responding to the needs of the world, letting our light shine so that our world may know that God is alive, seeking beauty, healing, and justice in our midst. You can aspire toward holiness; you can be a person of stature, grace, and hospitality; you can share God's healing love and break down barriers of race, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality throughout the ordinary business of everyday life.

Walking through our beautiful Nave earlier this week, I was reading the names, familiar in the families that are still at Church Street and wondering about their stories. The sun streaming in on the bright fall day reminded me of a story about a man who brought his son to beautiful Duke Chapel on a similar sunny day. The sunshine shown through the numerous stained glass windows. The father said to his little boy, "Those windows show pictures of the saints. Do you know who the saints are?"

The little boy, looking up at the brilliant windows, said, "Yes. The saints are the ones who the sun shines through." He was right. The saints are the ones who the Son shines through. Saints are those who embody the truth of Jesus' promise, "If you abide in me, I will abide in you." They are the ones through whom we see the Son. (3)

For all the saints, who from their labors rest, we give you thanks this day, O God.

For all those dear people who loved us, who told us stories of Jesus, who lived the faith before us and exemplified the path of discipleship, we give thanks.

Remembrance of the saints and their witness reminds us that we are not here by our own efforts. Rather, we are here in your church by their gifts and grace. And the saints remind us too that, "In Christ you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. This is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory."

Let us pray
Lord, help us so to live that others might profit by our example. Give us grace to live faithfully in our time and place, to live the Christian life in such a way that others might see our lives and want to follow you because they see some of your light reflected in us.

Lord, give us the strength we need to serve you all our days, to be faithful in all things great and small, and to love you not only with our hearts, but also with our hands, to risk ourselves in loving acts of service to you and to our fellow human beings, your beloved children. Give us strength to be saints; in the power of Christ. Amen.

(1) Tom Long, Christian Century

(2) Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith, Time

(3) Bishop Wil Willimon, Reflections on All Saints Sunday

October 31, 2010 - Prodigal Lives Like Ours

Prodigal Lives like Ours
Luke 15.11-32

[The King’s Search]
    In the last of Tolstoy's "Twenty-three Tales" he tells the story of a king who is searching for the answers to three questions:
    +How can I know the right time to begin everything?
    +How do I know the right people to listen to?
    +And what things are most important and require my first attention?

    His search took him to the hut of a wise old hermit. Dressed in pauper's clothes, the king visited the hermit who lived deep in the forest.  As he approached the hermit, he saw that the hermit was on the verge of collapse. The king took the shovel the hermit had been working with and finished the job of digging his garden.
    At sundown, a bearded man with a terrible stomach wound staggered to the hermit's yard.  Unknown to the king, the man's wound had been dealt by the king's own guards who were keeping watch in the forest.  Gently, the king cleaned the wound, bandaged it, and stopped the bleeding.  Night fell, and the king slept on the threshold of the hut.
    When he awoke, he tended to the bearded man's wound and checked on the hermit.  The wounded man, overcome by guilt, made a confession to the king. He had been lying in wait for the king to return from the hermit's hut so he could kill him.  He was seeking revenge for a judgment the king had made against his brother some time in the past.  The king listened intently and then promised to send his own doctor to tend the man's wound.  Then he prepared to take his leave.
    Remembering his mission, the king asked the hermit the answers to the three questions.
    The hermit patiently explained that the king had received his answers on the previous day.  When the king had come upon the sickly hermit, he had finished digging his garden for him.  This was both the right thing at the right time and the most important matter at hand.  Had the king chosen instead to leave, he would have been killed by his enemy in the forest. Secondly, he helped the wounded man, which was again, the right thing at the right time.
    The hermit continued, "Remember then,
        +there is only one *time* that is important.  Now!" It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.
        +And then he added, "The *most necessary person* is the one with whom you are for you cannot know whether you will ever have dealings with any one else.
        +and the *most important thing* and the thing which requires your first attention is to do that person good, because for that *purpose* alone are we sent into this life!"(1).

The question that haunts me today is whether we are living with purpose – or just living? Tolstoy struggled with this question; you can see him working to answer it throughout his writings. We too must find purpose for our lives. We need a sense of purpose that shapes the way we live, the way we spend our money; the way we give our money; the great projects to which we give our lives.

    The parable of the Prodigal Son is only wonderful if you don't look at it closely.

    For years, we have imagined ourselves the Prodigal Child on an impulsive spending binge, then imagine ourselves coming home to Daddy with our maxed out Visa card in our hands. Right on cue, Daddy comes out with a big embrace and a smile to say, "Don't worry; it's only money. You didn't do anything we can't fix. Come on home." If sin and redemption are like this, then sign me up!
    Now, look at the story of the prodigal more closely. By looking at the Biblical world, we can see how grievously hurtful his actions have been. Most of what he did cannot be undone.
1. In a rural village in Biblical times, wealth was in the land your family owned and farmed. The father has inherited this land from his father and expects to hand it down to his sons; each generation of the family will make its living on this land. Even as the current father holds the family land in his name, he knows that he only holds it in trust for the family and he will pass it along to the next generation.

[LAND GRANT]  My great-grandpa Chisam received a Revolutionary War land grant from his father. It was located in White County, Tennessee, not far from the Warren County line. The family story says: when the Revolutionary War was over, the new American government did not have the money to pay the soldiers, so they told them they could go into the wilderness beyond the Appalachian Mountains. There each soldier was allowed to stake a claim on all the land he could walk around in a day. So, my Revolutionary War ancestor went to White County and staked his claim. There he settled down to farm and raise a family. When he died, he passed it to his children and they to their children after them.
    Years passed, and my great-grandfather inherited this land grant when it was his turn. Unfortunately, he wanted to hunt and fish more than he wanted to farm. So, to support his family, he began to sell of bits and pieces of the land grant until it was little more than a large building lot where the house was located. And that went to some other branch of the family. So, by the time I came along, the old people in the family knew where the land grant used to be, but it belonged to many others – not to our family. I remember going to the home place and standing where I could look around at the land which surrounded it. It is a magnificent piece of land. For years afterwards, the old people would tell that story, and then they would just drop the subject. That was the legacy of great-grandpa. The land that came to our family from such a noble beginning is lost from the family forever.

This legacy, and the possibility of losing it, is what every Biblical family understood. The wealth the father holds, which he will pass along to his sons, is family land. When the prodigal son sells it off, the land is not coming back. This is a decision with permanent results.

2. Now, the younger son comes to the father and says, "Divide to me the share that will come to me." We are talking about his inheritance when his father dies. He is basically saying to the old man, "Let's pretend you are dead; what do I get?" It is a horrible request. None of us can imagine saying such a cruel thing to our parents. It is unthinkable. But, the younger son asks, "Let's pretend you're dead." The hurt is beyond measure.

3. Jesus does not say WHY the father agreed to answer the younger son's question or why he was willing to transfer the property to the boy. He just says that the father did divide the property and transferred it to the boy. Now, the boy goes to the village gate and sells it at a fire sale price.
    Understand that the sale is not done in secret; in Biblical villages land was sold in the village gate where everyone could hear the transaction for themselves. You must also understand that the boy cannot sell this property without the father's approval – and maybe his insistence. It is humiliating for him. The village neighbors see exactly what is happening, and they know what the boy is doing to their long-time friend. They do not like it. They also understand that land is something that families hold in trust from generation to generation. This fire sale strikes at the heart of the village solidarity and order that they all count on.
    As much as the boy is shunning his father, he is also shunning the village which has raised him. He is walking away from his friends who expected to know him and expected to help him raise children of his own. This is humiliating for the whole village.

4. Dividing farm land is not easy. Taking the younger boy's portion and cutting it out of the farm will place the remaining farm operation at risk. That land down by the creek which was perfect for grazing the cattle – gone. The vineyard that provided income – sold. The remaining farming operation must be reorganized and watched closely.

5. So, this is the prodigal. He willingly humiliates his father and the entire village. He turns his stake in their lives to cash and leaves town. He has said, "I'm through with you and everything you represent. I will never be back." And the village, in solidarity with the humiliated father, is thinking, "Good riddance."

    So, as you read the story of the prodigal son, I caution you not to get to attached to the younger son. He does permanent damage to his family and his village; he is not the character you want to claim for yourself.

II. Adam Hamilton in his study on stewardship and money, titled:  Enough, takes this moment to look back at the Prodigal Son. He sees in the prodigal the modern tendency to live for the moment. The prodigal also demonstrates the life that is too busy with consumption to build anything or to work for anything.
        1. Many of have a bit of the prodigal son in us: We have the habits of squandering and wasting money.
        2. Society and the constant advertizing around us tell us that our life-purpose is to consume. Analysts tells us that one of the reasons for the current Great Recession is that Americans have been scared into saving more and spending less.
    What is it that comedian Rodney Dangerfield famously said? "I resemble that remark." Do we resemble this description of Americans squandering and wasting money? Maybe we haven't lost the family land grant single-handedly; but maybe we have spent so much on nothing that we cannot do some other, substantial things that require money.

III. So, what is our purpose as human beings and as Christians? While the ads that surround us tell us that our purpose is to consume, the Bible tells us that our life purpose is to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our money and possessions should be devoted to helping us fulfill this calling.

    Remember God's call to Abraham in the 12th chapter of the book of Genesis?

12:1  Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3  I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12.1-3).

Imagine God saying to you and to me: "I will bless you... so that you will be a blessing." Our purpose in life is not our own pleasure, as the prodigal son thought.
    The playwright George Bernard Shaw said it this way in the **Epistle Dedicatory** in the **Man and Superman**:
This is the true joy in life:
+the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
+the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap;
    +the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish, little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy (3).

[What's Your Purpose in Life?]
    Josh McDowell tells about an executive “headhunter” who recruits corporate executives for large firms. This headhunter once told McDowell that when he interviews an executive, he likes to disarm him. “I offer him a drink,” said the headhunter, “take off my coat, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed. Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, ‘What’s your purpose in life?’ It’s amazing how top executives fall apart at that question.”
    Then he told about interviewing one fellow recently. He had him all disarmed, had his feet up on his desk, talking about football. Then the headhunter leaned over and said, “What’s your purpose in life, Bob?” And the executive said, without blinking an eye, “To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.”
    “For the first time in my career,” said the headhunter, “I was speechless.” No wonder. He had encountered someone who was prepared. He was ready. His purpose, “To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.”(4).

If someone at lunch after church today leans across the table and asks you this question, what will you answer? What is your purpose in life?

[Whatever It Takes]
    A motivational speaker once said there are two kinds of people in this world: those who say *whatever* and those who say, *whatever it takes*. *Whatever* is the response of the shrug. It's a who cares? attitude, one of indifference and apathy. *Whatever it takes* is the response of the committed. It's a can do attitude that refuses to give up or give in. Think about those two responses when it comes to the Church's mission.
    Jesus said to love your neighbor. *Whatever*.
    Jesus said to go and make disciples of all people. *Whatever*.
        Jesus said there is more rejoicing over one sinner who is found than 99 that stayed within the fold. *Whatever*.
Now, lets change that response to *Whatever it takes*.
    Jesus said to love your neighbor. *Whatever it takes*.
    Jesus said to go and make disciples of all people. *Whatever it takes*.
        Jesus said there is more rejoicing over one sinner who is found than 99 that stayed within the fold. *Whatever it takes*.
Are you and I, like Paul, willing to do *whatever it takes* to win the world to Christ? (5).

[CONCL] Now, let's get practical. In Adam Hamilton's study, *Enough*, he is applying these principles to the way we use our money and resources. Getting practical means applying the great principles and purposes of our lives to the way we use our money and resources. He offers several practical steps:

        +Set goals. What do we want to accomplish in the coming year, in the coming five years? How can we use our money to reach that goal?
        +Develop a plan. The saying is true: "A failure to plan is a plan to fail." So, develop and plan and get started.
        +Do your giving intentionally. For many of us, giving intentionally means giving a percentage or a tithe of our income.
        +Focus on God's purpose for your life. Life does not grow until it is stretched. Choose God's great purposes for your life. Let God's purposes stretch you and call out your very best.

1. Tolstoy, Leo. "Three Questions," a short-story from Twenty-three Tales.
3. Shaw, George Bernard. The Man and Superman, penguin Press, 2001; p. 32
4. Dr. Gary Nicolosi, Sermons: “Preparing for the End Time”
5. Reverend Dr. Gary Nicolosi, Sermon