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HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 14 (Mt.5:25-26) “Before Court”

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Matthew 5:25-26, See also Luke 12:57-59.

I humbly suggest a better idea than what Jesus says in this passage. Live your life in such a way that nobody ever wants to take you to court. Jesus actually said this anyway…Its really not my idea. I should give credit where credit is due! This seems like a simple passage. Jesus knows we live in a fallen world and that we are going to face many trials. It seems clear to me that Jesus was using his own advice found in Matthew 10:16 where He says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” I translate that passage this way, “Sly as a snake — Innocent as a dove!” I love that passage.

Jesus is a strategist. He is a holy and innocent strategist. I think that we as people have to be very careful about this thing called strategy, because every single one of us is tempted to justify our motives of why we do what we do by simply saying, “its just strategy.” It would be very easy to take advantage of people and call it taking Jesus’ advice about being shrewd. But Jesus also commands us to be innocent. And even stronger than innocent, He calls us to live above reproach. The fact though, is this, Jesus calls us the Sheep, and the people of world, the Wolves. You are to live as a sheep, not a wolf.

I grew up on a farm and for many years we had hundreds of sheep…there may have even been a time where we had a thousand sheep…if not…it seemed like it. I learned from my experience that sheep are fast. Sheep can be very dumb and at other times be very smart. Its easy to cause sheep to panic. Sheep will protect the things they love, like their babies. Sheep are very playful with one another. Sheep love to eat. So, in reality, its a fair comparison for Jesus to call us sheep. Does this sound like ewe? (Bad sheep joke there.)

It does sound like us. Now, we didn’t have wolves on the farm, but we had coyotes.(Close enough.) They would sneak in and kill and steal and destroy. Jesus said, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” Are you ready for me to get personal? Here’s the deal. If you behave like a wolf, you are a not a follower of Jesus, even if you give yourself the “Christian” title. People who call themselves Christians but have the behavior of a wolf are what I call “Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing.” (I said it like I meant it.) I’m not talking about a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” I meant it when I said, “sheep in wolves clothing.” These types of people are really very insecure and weak, but they hide behind their title of Christian and their position of power and they appear tough/wise and strategic, but really are not. This type of person is what we, in America, call a Bully. Bullies really aren’t tough like a wolf…they are insecure inside and have the timid character traits of a sheep, but they put on this tough exterior of words, and positional power and hold all that over people, thus, acting like a wolf. A sheep in wolves’ clothing.

Don’t be a sheep in wolves’ clothing.
Be a sheep. (If this title bothers you, then please take it up with Jesus.)

If you are a sheep then you will have to trust in your Shepherd to protect you. You will have to sometimes finish last and rely on the promise of The Shepherd, “The last shall be first.” This one promise is critical, and it encourages us to live like sheep with confidence in the fact that the Shepherd has our backs! Jesus is our Shepherd and He made sure there would be a Bible created, loaded with wisdom, that would help us live our lives as the kind of sheep, He will return for, and spend eternity with. This Hydrate series is simply a form of teaching from the things Jesus said in the Bible. “Hydrate” is a “thinking out loud” about all the things Jesus commanded or taught in the gospels of the Bible. Hydrate is meant to inspire you and induce within you a desire to focus more on Jesus Christ and understand what He believes about you and asks of you.

All Jesus is saying in this teaching is, “If someone is taking you to court, settle it ahead of time.” He is saying, “Don’t let others determine your future.” I think Jesus is saying, “Your future is your reputation, your position, your hard work, don’t hold onto it all too tightly, but don’t let its’ future be determined by anyone else other than you and me.” Jesus is warning you and me in this passage, to make sure we don’t live in such a way, that we end up being controlled by other people. Jesus is saying the best hands to “land” in are God’s hands and the 2nd best hands to end up in are your own. If you allow yourself and your future to be left in the hands of another person…that’s just not smart and its a form of prison. Its especially not smart when its your adversary. IF you are headed to court with your adversary, settle quickly and keep your future in the hands of God and yourself…not anyone else!

Try to settle ahead of time.
Take the High Road.
Be sacrificial.
Be like Jesus…who was led “like a lamb to slaughter.”
Do what is necessary to make sure you are able to keep your eyes on eternity. That means be “sly” and “innocent.”

If you fight for the things of the world and win…it’s probably the only reward you’re going to end up with. (I Hope you REALLY enjoy it!) Jesus warned us in other passages of the Bible by saying something like this…I paraphrase… “If you do anything on earth for a reward, that is the only reward you are going to get.” Then He says, “Store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven!” Think of it this way…To those who live for this world…this is as close to Heaven as they are going to get. For those who sacrifice now and live for Heaven…this is as close to Hell as they are going to get.

There is so much more to live for in eternity. Don’t fight so hard for the now.
Fight for eternity.

Are there THINGS in your life, that you have in your own grip so tightly controlled, that God can’t even use it, because you won’t let go of it and trust Him with it?
Here are some ideas when I say “Things you control”…
“Your” work’s success.
“Your” Marriage.
“Your” Children.
“Your” Money.
“Your” Security.
“Your” Habits.
“Your” goals.
“Your” material items.
“Your” stress.
The list could go for miles…

I don’t want to get to detailed on this one. You are smart enough to know if you are holding on to something to tightly and controlling it.
The question is, will you be honest enough with yourself to admit that you are trying too hard and holding on too tightly with____________________________________? (I dare you to fill in the blank and then trust God with it!)

Here are some closing thoughts. Jesus says, “settle things quickly before you go to court.” Now, why again? Because if it goes to court you allow your life and future to be determined by someone else other than you or God. That’s not a good place to be. So…think about the following Bible verses and work with a determined heart to live accordingly.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Romans 14:19

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Matthew 22:21

Is God “speaking” to you right now about some change you could make in your life about anything that you have just read.

Who are you waiting on to make the change for you?
You are “sly” enough to know that you are the one who makes change in your own life.
Stay sly…and remember…its more important to be innocent.
Sly and Innocent are what Jesus asks you to be.
To know Jesus asks us this, is empowering.
You own the daily choices that determine WHO holds your future.
Keep your future in the hands of God and yourself.
That’s the good life.

Ugandan Sunday! Whoa….

What words can I possible use to explain such an ovewhelming day in Africa? Let’s get right to it.
We got to sleep in a little today because the church service didn’t start until 10am. Breakfast was at 8 and then we gathered as a whole group to get our plan. The group of nearly 60 split up into 4 groups to go to 4 differnt villages to experience and participate in a Church Worship Service with the Ugandan people. I chose to attend the largest worship venue and village because I wanted to see a large gathering and how it all goes every Sunday. I chose to go to True Vine Ministries where nearly 1000 people gathered in a Church building made of concrete and an A-Frame roof that had a few ceiling fans stirrin the humid and deoderant-less air!!!

Wow is an understatement. I’ll start by saying that the worship service started at 10 and we got out at 1:30 and everybody kept saying it was as short service. They said that often it can go until 4 pm. I have never seen such joyful and energetic worship music. Dancing, jumping, screaming, and praise. Very good music. Done with great quality and authenticity. I know you’ve heard it before…that high pitched very fast tongue roll…la,la,la,la,la…if you don’t know what that sounds like, ask Kelli my wife to do a rendition for you. She an nail it!

But really…I am sitting in a service with some of the poorest people in the world and they have nothing but praise and thanksgiving and joy for the Lord.

The most adrenalin rushed moment for me was when…without hardly any warning the pastor of the Church said that we are going to have an Amerian Pastor preach this morning. I thought to myself…”I wonder who that is going to be?” Well it turned out that when we broke up into 4 different groups that morning…I was the only pastor in our group. Yep! Imagine. 1000 Africans joyful and praising God that the “white-boy” is going to deliver a message! Gulp. I walked up…pretended like I knew what I was going to do and in sheer panic mode dug into my mind of past messages and chose to just begin with Genesis Chapter 1. I can only say that God came through for me as the Scriptures say He will. We had fun and I encouraged the crowd and found myself getting into rythym with my translator. What a rush. All I can say is, Thank You God for such a great honor.

After the service we hurried back to the hotel and freshened up a bit and then headed off to a local Ugandan Hospital. I was not prepared for this experience. When we arrived we found nice looking buildings on the outside and somewhat cleanliness on the inside but it was basically a military style barracks where rows of beds were filled with sick and dying people. There is no medicine. Two doctors rotate through the wards only two times per week. So we showed up with toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes, and some hard boiled eggs and water. Oh, how grateful the people were. We explained that we were not doctors but we just were Americans who traveled over to serve them and show them how much we loved them and wanted to know if we could pray for them. They were so grateful.

The first patient we prayed for first needed some immediate medical attention. It so happened that 3 guys with us were EMT’s and had a few supplies with them in thier backpacks. The man we first came across had just been hit by a car in the leg and had nasty 4 inch wide and 8 inch long chunk of flesh missing from his lower leg around the chin bone. When we removed the nasty wrapping there was no broken bone, but this huge wound. All the guys could do was ask me to hold the man down and try to tell him he was okay while they took care of the wound…without any pain medicine. The intense pain made the man scream, but he knew we were trying to help him. Once we got the wound cleaned up, we gave him one antibiotic pill and some water and prayed he would be healed and get some rest. As I sit in the comforts of my hotel room, I know he is still there in a hospital with no medicine, no glass in the windows and no screens. The EMT guys went back there tonight with some more medical supplies, pain medicine and some blankets. Other patients we prayed for were dying of Aids. One man had what could only be described as a flesh eating disease all over his legs and he was begging us to cure him. All we could do was ask God to cure him and leave him in the hands of God. Believe it or not…the man was comforted and grateful we were there. I feel so helpless in the whole situation. Another man had Malaria…the #1 killer of people in Africa (damn mosquitos). All we could do was pray. Another man had massive adominal pain and on and on and on. When we finished in the Male Ward we had a few minutes to go over to the Children’s Ward. We announced that we were not doctors but Christians and we loved them and wanted to pray for them and give them a few supplies. Well, due to time we could only pray one big prayer for everybody. The translator announced that I was a pastor and that I would pray one prayer for everybody and that God would be okay with that. When he announced this…all the desperate moms and dads grabbed their sick children out of the cribs and rushed up to me and held thier babies out to me asking me to help them and touch them and pray for them. I was so overwhelmed. What could I do. I just looked up to God and cried out a prayer for God to come through and His will be done. The parents were so thankful and I walked away feeling so….(words can’t describe.)

When we were finished there, we went back to the hotel to clean up. I have never scrubbed my hands and arms so hard. That hospital is a place of desperate sickness where diseases of biblical proportions exist. I believe God will heal many of those patients. The presence of God here is real and obvious. Its hard to explain.

We then headed off to an orphanage where 5 years ago a 70 year old man in Conneticut retired from is engineering career and chose to move to Africa and serve orphans who have lost their parents from Aids. He started with one orphan 5 years ago and no property. Today at 75 and several acres and the best kept facilities and yard I have seen in a long time he now has 50 orphans with the age range of between months to 17 years old. These orphans gathered in a small room with the 30 who chose to go. Imagine nealy 80 people in a room that was a small living room. These 50 kids sang to us for 30 minutes. The room was mostly concete so you can imagine the acoustics of 50 vibrant and joyful African children crowded together, swaying together and singing at the top of their lungs. I wept as I heard 50 orphans who have no parents because of Aids sing over and over…”God is so good….God is so good…God is so good…He’s so good to me.”

I will never be the same.

Its 1am and I have to get up at 6:30 tomorrow. I must get to bed.

I must say this at the risk of offending some. Please don’t be offended and simply try to understand my point. Its a good point if you think about it deeply.

All day today I heard the most desperate and poor people of the world sing worship songs to Jesus Christ. The only slow song I heard all day was these orphans singing about how good God is.
Nothing slow…or singing about broken desperation.

Every song was full of gratitude and praise and thankgiving. Full of energy and dancing for joy.

What is it about so many Christian songs that are originating out of America that are so full of sorrow and desperation and brokenness? We can do better. We are so blessed.

If you are reading this…I am honored. I pray that you will make a journey to Africa.

You need Africa. I would have never thought that I needed Africa more than Africa needs me. But its true.

I will never be the same. I must come back. Our churches must do more.
To whom much is given…much is required.

Good night.
I pray your Sunday is a blessed one.