Cadence: Embracing the Moment

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Introduction

Cadence Review: Living in step with the Spirit.
Week 1 - Putting things in order (life is chaotic, but God is a God of order. He wants to bring order to your life)
Week 2 - Living with intent (being purposeful, thinking about our purpose. We don’t accidentally fall into God’s will.)
I am perhaps the least patient person in the world — the worst thing a company can do is give me a tracking number for my shipment.
(whole thing with UPS)
I can’t wait. I want the future to be here so badly. And I always have. When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to be in college. When I was in college, I couldn’t wait to get a job (which is hilarious in retrospect. College students - enjoy your life.). I wanted to get married and have kids—which is how I ended up being 30 with 5 kids.
I am not very good at living the present. I think many of us are like that. Maybe you’re the opposite of me, and you don’t care about the future, but you have a tendency to get stuck in the past, to relive the glory days or to agonize over what went wrong.
The problem is, when we get caught up in the past or the future, it actually prevents us from truly following God in the present. From living in step with the spirit, because we’re running ahead or lagging behind. Being in step, means moving at the same time, in the present moment.

Embrace the Moment

If we’re living in step with the Spirit, walking in cadence with God, then we are a people who embrace the moment.
That’s the main idea today: Embrace the Moment.

Matthew 6

We’re going to read a passage from Matthew 6, part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is talking about what it means to live in the kingdom of God.
Matthew 6:24–34 NLT
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
“Today’s trouble is enough for today” is an all-time great line. When we embrace the moment, we reject our natural obsession with the past and the future and we decide to focus on the present. Now, here’s the thing: there is nothing wrong with healthy reflection on both the past and the future. We look back to evaluate and that’s good. If it didn’t work before, maybe we should try something different this time. And we look forward to plan and prepare. If you don’t go grocery shopping, then you’re not ready when the craving for ice cream hits. You gotta plan ahead.
So, embracing the moment doesn’t mean ignoring the past or the future. It means not letting the past and the future rule us; it means trusting God with the things we can’t control and following him where he leads right now, in this moment. In this text we see two things that we can do

Reject Distractions

The thing that makes it so hard to embrace the moment that God has given us to live is that we get distracted by all these other things and we can’t focus on the present.
Reject Worry
The main distraction that Jesus is talking about here is worry. He says, don’t worry about everyday life, because worry is distracting you from the moment God has given you, the day God has placed you in right now. We worry because we don’t know what the future holds. We worry because we’re not sure that God will take care of us. We worry because we don’t know what’s going to happen. And, because we don’t know what will happen, and we are worried about what might happen, we act in sin to try to prevent what we are afraid might happen.
Now, what’s interesting here is that the things Jesus is talking about are not things that I worry about—food and clothing. I just assume those things and I worry about all the extra stuff. It doesn’t really cross my mind that I won’t have food, I’m just worried my food won’t be good. It doesn’t really cross my mind that I won’t have clothes, I’m just worried that my outfit isn’t fresh enough to get some compliments. Which just shows how distracted we are. God has already provided everything we need, and most of the things we want, for so long, but instead of that leading to trust, it just leads us to worry about less important things.
There’s a story that Jesus told about a man who had a really big harvest. In fact, his harvest was so big that he didn’t have enough room in the barnS, so he decided to tear them down and build new ones. Then, he thought, I can be freed from worry. I can eat drink and be merry. I think most of us are in this guys’ situation—we’re not really worried about whether or not we’ll have enough food or clothes or basic needs, we’re worried that we won’t have extra food or clothes or the kind that we like.
But Jesus says, look at the flowers, they’re better dressed than Solomon. Solomon, was the richest, most extravagant king of all of Israel’s history. One time he commissioned 200 shields made of pure gold and hung them up in his palace. So listen, I know some of you are coming here on Sunday morning looking fresh, but you’re not “I-have-two-hundred-gold-shields-in-my-living-room” fresh. And Jesus says, even the flowers are even fresher than that. So why are we worried about all this stuff, this stuff that fades away, that goes out of style, that gets moldy in our pantries, when God has promised to take care of us?
Reject Fear
It’s the same with Fear, which is kind of like the twin to worry. They’re both about being ruled by the past and the future, by allowing our past hurt or our future uncertainty to prevent us from living the way God has called us to live.
Maybe you have experienced this, when something bad has happened in the past, we try really hard to prevent it from happening in the future. I didn’t grow up in Texas, so there are some things I learned about myself after moving here, both related to allergies. One is that I have seasonal allergies, which is not fun. And the second is that I am allergic to fire ants. I was doing some landscaping for a couple at the church I was at previously, and I was working under a bush and I thought the bush was poking me in the arm, but it kept getting worse so I finally pulled my arm out and it was not the bush, it was a bunch of fire ants just going to town on my forearm. So, naturally, I screamed and ran away waving my arm like crazy. And then I started to itch and swell and my body got hives and the couple had to take me to urgent care. So, needless to say, when I work outside now, I am on the lookout for anthills. And that’s okay to an extent. But if I were to avoid going outside altogether, or refused to do any yardwork because I was so afraid about getting bitten, then that would become a distraction and a barrier from getting done what needs to be done.
Our fear about what might happen can become a distraction from what God has called us to do. But the Bible says that
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
It takes courage to embrace the moment. Fear waits for the perfect moment, for the circumstances to change in order to walk forward, but God courage acts now, when God calls us—not later.
At the end of Paul’s final missionary journey, he felt God calling him back to Jerusalem, but everyone knew, including Paul himself, that if he went back to Jerusalem, he would likely be arrested and possibly killed. So as he’s traveling, in Ephesus and Caesarea, people are weeping with him, begging him not to go. But Paul did not allow fear to rule him. He said:
Acts 20:22–24 NLT
“And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
That is what it means to reject fear and embrace God’s moment. Paul didn’t know what would happen in the future, but he would not let uncertainty or fear rule him; he was compelled by the spirit, he had a task that he was called to do, and he would do it.
If we give in to our distractions, they will rule us. (Matthew 6:24)

Seek the Kingdom

So, instead of being ruled by the distractions of worry and fear, instead of being caught up in yesterday’s trouble or tomorrow’s trouble, we are called to seek the kingdom of God, today. What does it mean to seek the kingdom? It means remain laser-focused on God, on being with him, on following him, on living in his world, not this world. And it means doing what is right, what he has called us to.
Focus on God
The first way that I believe we seek the kingdom is to focus on God. This is what Jesus is saying about the birds and the flowers: look around you. God is working everywhere and, if you’re looking, you can see his goodness all around. He cares for the birds; he cares for the flowers; and he cares for you.
This is really one of my big prayers during this time of prayer and fasting, that I would become more aware of God’s presence and action and speaking in my life. Because I believe that God is working and speaking, but that I’m missing it. I think sometimes we miss God in the small things because we’re not paying attention.
You know, when you’re a kid and you wake up to get ready for school and you have clean clothes in your drawer, and then you open up the pantry right there is a big box of Reese’s puffs, and then your lunch box is on the counter packed and ready to go. And it’s all like magic. It just appeared. You didn’t do anything to make those things happen. But I’m assuming you, like me, never really thought about the magic of it until you got older. You, as a ten-year-old, never gave a thought to the fact that it was your parents who did those things, who made sure you had food and clothes and everything else that you need. In fact, maybe the only time you thought about it at all was when that thing wasn’t there and you complained because you had to eat honey nut cheerios or wear your second-favorite shirt to school.
And isn’t that what we do with God? We take for granted the literal hundreds of good things he provides for us each day; we don’t see or acknowledge that those things are good gifts from God. But as soon as something doesn’t go the way we want, then we’re very aware of God—what’s the deal God? Why didn’t you give me this God? Why’d you take that away God? And we dwell on that, on what he didn’t give us yesterday or what he might not give us tomorrow, instead of focusing on his gifts in this day, in this moment.
Embracing the moment means looking around to see God’s work and presence in your life each day, in the little and the big things. I want to take a moment, right now, to each of us reflect on God and his gifts and thank him for 3 things that has given you. Don’t wait. Right now. First three things you think of.
Do the Right Thing
The second way we seek the kingdom is to live the kingdom. Jesus says here in this text to live righteously, or you might say, to “do the right thing.”
That phrase gets a lot of use, so I’m not sure what you think of when you hear it. Maybe you think of the Spike Lee movie. Maybe you think of your parents trying to teach you to do the right thing. Maybe it has a negative connotation of a legalistic, moralistic, no-fun version of Christianity where it’s all about the things you can’t do.
That’s not what I mean by this, and that’s not what Jesus means by living righteously.
I want to read a passage from the theologian Fleming Rutledge as she explains righteousness:
The meaning of the word “righteousness”…is a world away from our idea of legalism and moralism. When we read in the Old Testament that God is just and righteous, this doesn’t refer to a threatening abstract quality that God has over against us. It is much more like a verb than a noun, because it refers to the power of God to make right what has been wrong.
Righteousness is the power of God to make right what has been wrong. Which means that for us to be righteous is to join God in the ways he’s already working to make right what has been wrong. That’s what this whole sermon Jesus has been preaching is about: reversing who gets blessed, shining our light, fulfilling the law of Moses, turning the other cheek, praying like Jesus—it’s all about what it means to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God, a kingdom where God is making right all that has been wrong. Doing the RIGHT thing means following the calling of God to remake the world—through worship, through evangelism, through service. All the stuff we talk about at church, we do because it brings us into the mission of God.
And here’s the thing, we can’t do this, we can’t participate in this, if we’re distracted by the things we can’t control—by the past, by the future. If we’re ruled by worry or fear or anything else that’s distracting us, we can’t do the right thing.
I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes when I think about all the things that need done, it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I’ll do a brain dump write down all the things I need to do, for work, for the kids, for our finances, for our house. And I’m like—this is impossible. I’ll never do all this.
And it’s the same, but even more so when I think about all that’s wrong with the world. One of the things I’ve come to realize in our foster care journey is just how connected everything is. Like I want to see the foster care crisis in the United States ended, but the problems in foster care are related to poverty and racism and incarceration and crime and mental health and on and on. And that’s overwhelming. How can we make right all that’s wrong. And the truth is, we can’t. That’s why it’s God’s mission, and we’re just joining him in it.
So, Karly and I use this phrase that she stole from Emily P. Freeman who has a book/podcast called The Next Right Thing. I can’t fix everything that needs fixed at my house this afternoon, but I can do the next right thing. I can’t “fix” the foster care crisis, but I can do the next right thing
That’s embracing the moment, to follow the Spirit’s lead in this day, this moment, and trying to live righteously, to do the right thing, the next right thing, and trusting the past and the future to God.
Decision Time
As we close, and the band comes, I want us to think about the ways Jesus embraced the moment. Think about the time that Jesus was on his way to a miracle, and a woman touched his shirt, so he stopped where he was and spoke to her, healing her. I’m sure the man whose daughter was sick was freaking out, worried that she wouldn’t be okay. But Jesus wasn’t worried. He was able to embrace the moment because he knew that God had it under control.
Even on the night of his arrest, the Bible says that he was anxious about what was coming next, but didn’t allow fear to control him, and he followed the will of God in each moment, accepting his arrest and his death, because he knew that on the other side of his death was new life, resurrection, salvation. We ultimately can trust God to take care of our past and our future because we believe that Jesus can breathe new life into anything. Even if tomorrow everything goes sideways, God can bring it back on track. So we embrace the moment.
Today, you can have that new life, the security of your tomorrow, if you choose to follow Jesus. etc etc.
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