Monday, February 9, 2015

Submit and Follow

    How many of you here this morning have ever heard the alarm go off on a given day and said, “I really don’t want to go to work today.  I just want to sleep.”?  How many of you have sat at work on Monday morning and thought, “I can’t wait for the weekend.”?  How many of you have gone on vacation only to return more tired than when you departed?  How many of you have ever felt the tinges of burnout?  How many of you who are retired find yourself busier than when you were working?

    If anyone here this morning didn’t answer yes to any of those questions, I want to offer my congratulations because the reality is, most of us fall into those categories at some point and time.  Most of us have felt the tinges of burnout, stress, worry, fatigue, and the like.  Most of us are worn to a frazzle and seem to have little energy for doing all the things we are supposed to be doing.  I ask you this morning, “why?”  Why do we find it so hard to find the energy and drive to do what needs to be done?  And if we are finding the energy, why does it seem like we have little or no happiness in doing such things?  Why is the mood of our nation and state and county, and perhaps even our church–especially on the denominational level so somber?

    You may have started to put two and two together at this point.  You may have started thinking about the line of questioning I am offering up and our Gospel lesson this morning where Jesus, after a long night of healing folks in Capernaum, gets up before the first rays of light and heads out to a deserted place to pray.  You may be thinking that I am going to put these things together and argue that you need to spend more time in prayer–that you need to take the time to recharge your batteries by connecting to your heavenly Father so that you can find the strength and energy to do everything that you need to do.

    I’ve done it before.  There are plenty of pastors who do and who continue to do such things.  But I’ve realized something. #1. I’ve realized that maybe two or three of you would take such a thing to heart, but you’d basically think to yourself, “Geez, now I have to try and find time to pray.  I have to try and carve out another space in my busy schedule to connect with God.”  For a time, you might be able to do it, but the odds are, within a couple of weeks, that prayer time will be cut shorter and shorter and shorter until it disappears.  The rest of you will either sit happy and content with your prayer lives or won’t even attempt it.  That’s the first thing I’ve realized.  The second thing I’ve realized is that admonishing you to do such a thing just reinforces the main problem.  Telling you, “pray to recharge your batteries so that you can accomplish all you need to do,” does not address the state of your heart.  It doesn’t delve down deep into the recesses of your soul to address the real issue.  And what is the real issue?

    Let me start in a rather intriguing place that doesn’t seem to have much relevance to our discussion so far.  I am going to start with the Sealy News’ story from a week or so ago about the Greater Church of Lucifer filing to do business in Austin County.  You may be scratching your head right now wondering how this fits.  Gimme a minute or so. 

    In the article, the founders of the “church” wanted to let everyone know they weren’t Satanists and that their intentions were purely benign.  They even said, and I quote, “There is a problem in following through blind faith. This is about self -empowerment and seeing oneself in a positive way.  The goal is to usher in a new age for the progression of mankind without the slavery of dogmatic thought.  We are all gods and goddesses of our own life. We are the captains of our own ship and have the right to control our actions.”

    Now, I know that these folks aren’t claiming to be Satanists or anything, but I will have you know this morning that there were some very similar words once uttered, and they came out of a snake.  But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ –Genesis 3:4.  You see, the serpent says, in not so many words, “Eat of the fruit so that you can be your own god.  You will know good and evil on your own.  You will have no need of the true God.  You can do it all yourself.  Be self-empowered.  Be self-reliant.  Control your own actions.”

    We know the man and woman ate of the fruit, and it has been downhill ever since.  Be reliant upon yourself.  Control your own actions.  Do all the things you want to do.  Why are you so tired?  Why do you burn out?  Why do you continually fill your lives with busy-ness refusing to say no to your work; to your family; to advertisers; to friends and others who put demands upon you? 

    Let me jump in with my own experience here, for it is no secret that not too long ago I faced the reality of burnout.  I will not say I wish I never went through it, for it taught me much, and led me to understand the Gospel.  However, I know now that it could have been prevented.  And no, I don’t mean by carving out time to pray.  I don’t mean by making sure I took my day off and used my vacation days.  I did all those things.  Really, I did.  So, why did I burn out?

    I remember sitting down with the council during that time.  I was asking for a sabbatical, and I can remember plain as day one of the things I said during that meeting.  I said, “I feel like I have been carrying this congregation for the past year.”  Along with the arrogance displayed in that statement, do you see who I thought was responsible for the life and ministry of this congregation?  Do you see who I thought was supposed to make everything work?  Do you see who I believed was the one who made or broke this church?  It was all up to me.  It was all about me.  It was all on my shoulders.  And if prayer was all about recharging my batteries so that I could keep carrying this congregation and making it work and what have you, prayer was just a means to me doing what I thought I needed to do.  Prayer was about me trying to get God to do what I wanted Him to do.  Prayer was about me trying to impose my will upon God.  And if I stand up here this morning and tell you, take time to pray so that your batteries will be recharged and you can continue the frantic pace you have set, then I am simply being part of the problem.  So, this morning, I am not going to tell you to be like Jesus and rise early before you head to work to go get your batteries recharged.  That won’t change a blasted thing and you will still be tired.  You will still burn out.  You will still have no joy in your life, and you will still be somber and angry and upset.

    So, what will I do in this sermon this morning?  Well, actually, I’m going to press further through this biblical text and show you something very interesting.  Jesus goes off to pray, and His disciples have a freak out.  Literally, they wake up the next morning to find Jesus gone, so they go hunting for him.  Yes, that’s the word that is used.  They have to track Jesus down.  We get a sense of their motivations when they finally find Jesus, and they tell him, “Everyone is seeking you.”

    Now, most of us might take this to be a good thing.  Most of us would think, “Man, if only everyone would seek Jesus.  If only everyone would search for Him to find Him, everything in this world would work out.”  We hear these words of the disciples in a similar fashion to Jeremiah 29:11-13, “11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.”  Who wouldn’t want this?

    Well, Mark is actually telling us something very different here.  Let me read to you what I found in one of my commentaries, “When the disciples find Jesus, they announce, “Everyone is looking for you.”  The language is deceptive.  The Greek word behind “looking for” (zetein) occurs 10 times in Mark, and in each instance it carries negative connotations.  Its first two occurrences refer to interference of Jesus and obstruction of his ministry (1:32, 3:32); its next two refer to disbelief and faithlessness (8:11,8:12); and the remaining occurrences refer to attempts to kill Jesus.  “Seeking” connotes an attempt to determine and control rather than to submit and follow.  In this respect, seeking for Jesus is not a virtue in the Gospel of Mark.  Nor are clamoring crowds a sign of success or aid to ministry.  Here, as elsewhere in Mark, enthusiasm is not to be confused with faith.” (Edwards: Pillar New Testament Commentary on Mark)

    Seeking connotes an attempt to determine and control rather than to submit and follow.  Isn’t that how we tend to want Jesus?  Isn’t that how we tend to want God to operate?  Give me strength to do what I want to do.  Give me the joys of life and minimize my sorrw.  Give me insight to make the right decisions so that life will be wonderful and grand.  Prayer oftentimes becomes just this as we go to God and say, “MY will be done.”

    But Jesus looks at his disciples and says, “Let us go to the surrounding towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”  Jesus won’t be bound by claims on Him.  Jesus won’t allow everyone, including us, to determine and control.  That is not what He is here to do.  He is here to proclaim the Gospel–God’s kingdom is arriving in Him.  And He is inviting us to be a part of that Kingdom not by determining and controlling Him, but by following and submitting to Him.

    At this point, some of you might be getting a little twitchy.  Some of you might be thinking, “Does this mean I have to give up control of my life?  Does this mean I might have to change my ways?  Does this mean I might have to think and be different?”  The answer is, well, yes.  It’s nothing less than an entire change of your entire being.  It’s nothing less than an entire change of your attitude.  It’s nothing less than an entire change of your person and being as you relinquish control.  And you may ask me, “Now, why in the world should I do that?”

    Here is why.  There are three times Jesus prays in the book of Mark.  There is this one when the people are trying to determine and control Him.  There is the time right after he fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish.  And then the final time in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It is no coincidence that Jesus faced His final temptation in a garden–just as man faced his first temptation in a garden.  It is no coincidence that Jesus prayed, “Father if it is possible, please take this cup from me, but not what I want but what you want.”  For it was the same struggle that man and woman faced when tempted to go their own way–to do what they wanted and not what God wanted.  But whereas man and woman failed in the first garden, Jesus succeeded in His garden.  Jesus accomplished what we could not accomplish by being totally and completely obedient to His Father–and our Father.

    And by accomplishing what we could not accomplish, Jesus became spotless, blameless, pure and holy.  He was sinless as He gave up control when we seized it.  If you read through Genesis chapter 3, you see the punishment man and woman received for seizing control.  You see that every good relationship established by God became broken, and the end result was death.  The end result of us seizing control of our own lives and our own fates is death.  It is grief.  It is burnout and weariness and anger and joyless living.  And Jesus took all of that upon His sinless self.  He took our grief and burnout and weariness and anger and joyless living to the cross where He faced the punishment we deserved.  He faced the wrath of God due to us for our desire to be in control of our lives.  He took our place because He loved us.

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all those who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

    And to the extent you believe this good news; to the extent you trust in the saving action of Jesus; to the extent you understand what He has done for you, then you will understand the joys of submitting and following.  You will understand the joys of allowing Him to be Lord of your life instead of trying to satisfy your own desires.  Work will not become a burden.  Worship will be a joy.  Prayer will be sought after as you continuously seek to submit yourself to the One who died on your behalf to bring you abundant life both now and forever.  Amen.


John Flanagan said...

I would rather say "believe and follow" or "obey The Lord". The Muslim fanatics and serial psychotics who follow the murderous tenets of the Koran, who rape children, behead non Muslims, stone their own daughters who leave the Muslim religion, who cannot and will not tolerate or co-exist with other traditions, who seek a caliphate to bring tyranny and death to the rest of the world....their favorite word is "submit". Indeed, while American and European Christians have been fast asleep or in denial, the march of Islam continues. In modern Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, violators of the Koran are still being mutilated, fingers and hands chopped off, hangings, death to Christian converts who do not "submit". We already know we must submit to Our Lord, but the Bible doesn't stress the word "submit" like the Koran, a book written by a psychotic murderer for other psychotic sickos to use as a guidebook for gaining power through terror.

Kevin Haug said...

Yeah, John, I know the feeling. It is much easier to get caught up in semantics, what other religions teach, and how we are perceived by culture than to actually submit our entire lives to Jesus.

Kathy Suarez said...

Islam means "Submission." A better word might be "commit" -- or "total commitment to Christ and the Gospel."

Mikel Haug said...

I think submit is exactly the word I would choose. I want to be under God's will. Christians have committed plenty of atrocities in the name of faith throughout history. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. The Quoran is not the source of evil you make it out to be, rather certain individual's misinterpretation. Please try not to confuse the Arabic culture with the religion of Islam. They are different.

Unknown said...

Thanks to both Haug's for their considered wisdom and thought on this text. Amen and AMEN!


BTW this submission stuff is not easy, at least for yours truly...

Kevin Haug said...

I don't think the submission stuff is easy for anyone, Carl. Welcome to the club. :-)

Anonymous said...

The founder of Islam was a violent man (to say it nicely) who committed the same atrocities that ISIS is doing now. The founder of Islam wrote the Quran and tells the readers to do the same. So the Quran is a source of evil, Mikel. Also, the god of the Quran as not the God of the Bible. He is a false god = evil.

Unknown said...

Well, Well, Well... As I understand it, and PLEASE correct me if I am wrong, the founder of Islam is a man named Mohammed, and is officially referenced as a PROPHET, and NOT as A GOD.

Muslims are also children of Abraham... Read Genesis 16.
Did God not promise Abram to be the father of many nations?

And If this was God's intention/plan, how can Islam be against the will of God?


Kevin Haug said...

Technically, Carl, Islam is not according to the will of God. Remember, Abraham took Hagar as a concubine because he thought God was taking a little too long to fulfill the promise He made to Sarah and himself. God promised to look after Ishmael, but the blessing went to Isaac.

Unknown said...

So when the rules don't fit about the inheritance going to the first born son, somehow the children of Isaac make up a story about God changing his own rules, and suddenly the inheritance goes with the second born? Can you see my confusion?

How can we be sure that the Isaac and descendants version is accurate and really Objectively TRUE? Sounds kind of egocentric to me. Delusions of grandeur maybe? Kevin, do you have a sibling? Do you and your sibling always see eye to eye on the events of your childhood? Who was the favorite child? I wonder, would your sibling agree?
And since I am talking to you Would you tell me that your siblings version of the story(Memory) was wrong and in effect a false memory/religion?

So that makes your story the GOSPEL TRUTH?
and any other story "Not according To The WILL OF GOD"

Really curious...


Kevin Haug said...


There is a history throughout Scripture of the youngest inheriting. Jacob and Esau, Joseph, David, etc. Chalk it up to God's unexpected nature of operating against human "wisdom." Ultimately, God chose to redeem the world through a cross instead of a Kingdom, which most of the known world considered greatly foolish.

And I think you could ask yourself, on the matter of trusting the sources, which story came first. We know Islam's root. We know the religion started with Muhammed--many years after the start of the Jewish faith. One could ask why the memory lay so dormant for so many years and then suddenly resurfaced...

Kevin Haug said...

Oh, and Carl, I forgot. I don't claim to have the Truth. The Truth is a person, not a set of ideas, concepts, or precepts. There is no way I can put such an arrogant claim out there. However, I think I can claim rightly and with confidence that the Truth has a claim on me, and that is the Gospel!


Unknown said...

The Truth has a hold on you.... Amen, without a doubt. Just
wondering, does the Truth's hold on you exclude the possibility of
SAID TRUTH, appearing to others outside the Great state of Texas in
another form?

I mean the Universe is a pretty big place, why some people would tell
you that the universe might be at least 10 times larger than Texas
itself. Not sure, these are the same ones who tell me that the Earth
is way older than 6000 years. So their claims may be specious if you
know what I mean.....

With the TRUTH having a hold on you, as it does, can you fully Know
the MIND OF GOD, and decipher whether the TRUTH might choose to
appear in another form, somewhere else, you know, "Technically

My question is serious, I need to know....


Kathy Suarez said...

This, of course, is my question, too. "Truth has a claim on me, and that is the Gospel!" Can't you see that you are going around in a circle? You have made yourself the ultimate arbiter of Truth. We know from history that the Saints committed themselves to Christ, but submitted to the authority of the Church in matters of interpretation. You are your own authority. You interpret what is and what is not Truth. This is a free country, of course, and you can believe what you want.

Kevin Haug said...


I can only know the Truth in so far as He has revealed Himself. Thus the question boils down to how God has revealed Himself to us. Christianity professes that God has revealed Himself in the covenant with His people and then fully in Jesus. Which means, do you trust the witness of those who have passed this revelation down to us? Do you trust those who wrote the words which lead us to The Word? If Scripture can be trusted in this manner, (and I believe it can) then your question is answered.

Unknown said...

well I choose to believe A)in Jesus Christ as my savior, AND B) that the Earth and the Universe are more than 6000 years old. And I am NOT persuaded that Adam and EVE opened a dinosaur petting zoo and amusement park, to raise money to sent their boys to Oral Roberts University, or even the fine Lutheran college there in Seguin and on to Medical school. Oh, I know that there are those who would insist that if the BIBLE says it, it MUST BE LITERALLY SO... but I see evidence which points to a LARGER REALITY, which in my mind allows for both to be true.

I am incapable of making a determination as to whether or NOT saying that Islam is or is NOT according to the will of God,
what if Abram's dalliance with HAGAR was also the will of God?
Such judgments and determinations are FAR beyond my pay grade.

I am Not willing or capable to make a judgment as to what is or is not according to the Will of God. (TECHNNICALLY OR OTHERWISE)

I fear that in making such judgments, we as Christ's Earthly body, might err in OUR judgment, and loose from the HIS Kingdom, or impede the path of those who might otherwise have believed.
Not good as I understand from my reading of scripture...

What with my own hindsight being somewhere close to 20/20 In retrospect, I recognize numerous errors in judgment where I might have presumed to make judgments based upon my own limited understanding of "God's rules."

Maybe I am alone in my hubris.

Might I lift up, for your consideration the case of either the divorced or impoverished, where through no fault of their own, Children of God have found themselves in situations where they have made decisions which might, to the more affluent, properly heeled and pious among us,(we know who we are..)the good, hard working, Caucasian and middle class, church going people) appear to have led them down the path of degradation and moral turpitude... It is so clear to us,we can see clearly how the decisions made by these persons has led them to their current state, so we dismiss and JUDGE them.

Perhaps it is my past contact and current relationship with said classification of persons that causes my hesitation in hastily judging others.

I think I read, in a book once where a very wise man, a "Prophet" to some, many, years ago, TOLD His followers "JUDGE NOT, LEST YOU BE JUDGED."

I try to be cognizant of said advice when I am called upon to judge the validity and merits of another persons culture or beliefs.

I fear that hasty judgments might have consequence deleterious to the over all goal of sharing the good news of The GOSPEL of JESUS CHRIST. Not that such errs have ever occurred previously... just remember: "NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION...."

Would. that we left such judgments up to God. Maybe the world would be a better place.



Kevin Haug said...

You see, Carl, I think you fail to realize some very, very important things as you engage the religions of the world.

Many believe that religions are superficially different but fundamentally the same. It is not so. For religions are generally superficially the same (ethics) but are fundamentally different.

Every religion, and I mean every religion (those who have studied this in depth also confer this) says, "If you want God to accept you and love you, then do this."

There is only one exception: Christianity. Christianity alone says, "You are accepted by what Jesus has done, now do this."

This means, in my estimation, that Christianity is either very right, or very, very wrong. This is no judgement, per se on any other religion, but just the facts. So, because of the law of non-contradiction, either we are right and the other religions or wrong or we are wrong and the other religions are right. This is the logical conclusion that we must adhere to. This is the Gospel we proclaim.

I do not think it arrogance but a matter of whether or not one believes the Truth is a concept or a Person.


Unknown said...

OK, concerning "the law of non contradiction" (when and where was I when this one passed?):-)

Whether or not Islam is based on False doctrine, My concern is that I would not want to show disrespect for the beliefs of another, only to learn at a later time that my Statements/judgment were responsible for some Second Amendment lovin', Gun toting, wacko "Christian" mad man somewhere deep in the heart o' Dixie,to behave like the nut case atheist in N Carolina did recently using his "God Given Second Amendment Right" to Gun Down his Muslims neighbors. Over parking issues, REALLY?

I don't know about you Kevin, but I that type of WITNESS doesn't serve our cause very well.

My Jesus needs neither Smith, Wesson, Colt, or Winchester to bring about his Kingdom..

What is our RESPONSIBILITY for the words we Speak when we speak ill of or condemn the beliefs culture or actions of THE OTHER. After all words have meaning, and have been known to inspire ACTIONS.

As I recall Brother Martin has some real issues in this regard, with reference to the Children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...


Kevin Haug said...

First off, Carl, words do indeed have meaning, and they greatly affect the way we interact with others. But let me see if I understand your argument correctly. Please correct me if I am wrong.

If (A) another has a belief which I consider wrong, then (B) I am justified in carrying out violence against that person.

And, since said logic has been used to justify violence against others, then we should dispense with believing in A lest B happen.

Do I have the gist of this correctly?

If I do, then I need to point out the logical fallacy of this argument. Point B does not necessarily follow. There are few people as conservative and fundamentalist as the Amish. Yet, you don't hear of many Amish terrorists do you? Why? Because one of their main fundamentals is to eschew violence!

Amish, and many other Christians know that at the heart of Christianity is the One who died forgiving His enemies and calling us to love and pray for them--not kill them.

It is quite easy to disagree with another's beliefs and say that one believes those beliefs to be wrong without losing respect for another--especially when, again something at the heart of Christian theology--that other is created in the image of God.

But let's take this a step further and use your own language and words in your post. You labeled certain individuals pretty quickly: "Second Amendment lovin', Gun toting, wacko "Christian" mad man somewhere deep in the heart o' Dixie,to behave like the nut case atheist." Right here you have judged the beliefs of two separate people who belong to certain groups in society. You've labeled their beliefs wrong, and so one might ask: would it be justified to do violence against them given your words?

I very much doubt that you are calling for violence against the wrong beliefs of said wacko Christians or nut job atheists; yet your judgmental condemnation of their beliefs and actions is palpable.

And yet, should we not point out the wrongness of such beliefs? Should we not point out the wrongness of such actions? Of course we should. We would be betrayers of the truth if we kept silent in the face of such things. You, yourself do it all the time. We all do, and we must if we are interested in pursuing what is right and just and true.

Unknown said...

It is generally wrong, having named and labeled the behavior of an individual to incite violence against said personage. Except in extreme cases, (see WWII Germany) As I recall the only subjective (non Scientifically objective word I used in my description was "Wacko". perhaps DEVIANT would have been a better term. For some reason I make a distinction between the objectively quantifiable characterization based on something other than one persons personal biases about the validity of another's faith tradition. I don't know how you feel about the Anabaptists, I lived among them in PA for 30 years, so I know a bit about them . I CAN NOT prove scientifically that their faith tradition is False. Where as in the example of the "Gun toting RIGHT WING deviants, using the label of "Christianity" I do have a real issue with them Hijacking my Faith tradition.

Kevin Haug said...

You are still judging, and it is not scientifically verifiable. They would equally argue you have hijacked their faith tradition. Which of you is right? What is your measuring stick to see who indeed is telling the truth?

You need something more than your own experience or personal revelation here.

Kevin Haug said...

Let me rephrase that in terms which may be a little less inflammatory. You believe you have a theologically superior position to those "deviants." Yet, those "deviants" are sincere in their convictions, very devout, and readily proclaim their faith to others. On what basis, other than appeal to "your faith" which essentially is personal revelation, do you make your claim of superiority?

Unknown said...

I am sure that Charles Manson, his followers, and David Koresh were also SINCERE IN THEIR BELIEFS...

The judgment that put Manson away was Not mine alone...
Well gosh, the words I used DO have Specific with scientific definitions: "deviant" see the DSM, it is NOT just my own judgment. Right WING, Violent... Is Racist the term sticking in your craw here?

Are you a "Bubba"? Does your congregation target that particular demographic? Well I guess they need a place to worship too.

Let me see if I can find a definition we can agree on here, people who harbor hatred for persons of a different racial or ethnic group, to the point of provoking, and engaging in violent speech or actions against person perceived to be of that group. Can we agree to that definition? For purposes of This argument we needn't examine any more closely the degrees of prejudice.
"FLAG WAVING, GUN TOTING" both observable, and objective... "Christian" would be SELF PROFESSED. What is there to argue with?

'nuff said!

I trust that as a scholar and man of considerable intellect, you will find within my response satisfactory response to your inquiries.


Kevin Haug said...


You did not answer my question. Please try again.


Unknown said...

OK, let me see here, Are you looking for the phrase that before the recent spat of Clergy Sex abuse cases meant something different: "HE TOUCHED ME" My statements/beliefs are based on my personal experiences of THE TRUTH First and Foremost, the understanding, belief and practice of my fellow believers as practiced by ORTHODOX Christian believers, based in Scripture and established over the past several Millennia.

Does This answer your question?

Kevin Haug said...

That does answer my question. So, if the orthodox tradition based in Scrpture says unequivocally that Jesus is the Truth, that Ishmael was born not according to God's plan but was born out of Abraham's lack of trust, and that those outside of Christ's teaching are not teaching in full accordance with God's full revelation in Jesus, why the questioning of what I said earlier? Unless you are appealing to a different orthodox tradition of Christianity?