no neutral ground

This past summer, we got a dog. I like to refer to her as a nine pound pooper. My family likes to call her Daisy. I was against getting the dog, and of course, the family of women I live with, was all for it. My daughter helped me by creating a chart. The chart showed me that if we buy the dog, over time, my happiness scale would go up. It was a very well done chart, so much so, it helped me understand how much she wanted a dog.

So recently when we took her to the vet. I had to take out a second mortgage to pay for the vet bill so I asked my daughter, “When does my happiness increase because so far all I see are my expenses going up?”

Honestly, we love the nine pound pooper.

Why didn’t I want a dog? Because I owned a dog when Karen I got married. A forty five pound Siberian Husky. She was a great dog. I was sad when we had to put her down but honestly, my life become so much easier. Now, years later, all I can see is how much more complicated my life will be because of Daisy.

I want to talk to you today about realizing how complicated our lives have become spiritually and how we can make them simple again.   Today is all about living simply. Let’s begin reading.

The Man said, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh. The two of them, the Man and his Wife, were naked, but they felt no shame. MSG Genesis 2:23-25

What is going on? God created a perfect and meaningful existence in the garden. There was relationship and trust. There is no shame, no sin or fear. It was so simple. The closest emotional analogy I can give you is holding an infant. Have you ever done that? It’s such a beautiful, innocent moment. I think that is how beautiful it was when there was only God, Adam and Eve. So simple.

Let’s read what happens one chapter later.

6 When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it – she’d know everything! – she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate. 7 Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on” – saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves. 8 When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God. 9 God called to the Man: “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.” 11 God said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?” 12 The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.” God said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?” 13 “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” MSG Genesis 3:6-13

One chapter later, what do we read? Adam and Eve tried to take control. What happens? There is shame and fear. They have become victims and they blame others for what they have done. God asks Adam, “What did you do?” Adam blames Eve. God asks Eve, “What did you do?”   Eve blames the serpent. It’s like a reality TV show now. Relationships are broken. One chapter later, it’s no longer simple, it’s complicated.

Please see this. When they trusted God, life was simple, there was freedom. The moment they tried to take control, they entered into bondage and life became very complex and very hard.

Let me ask you. What do you work on more? Are you learning to trust God more or are you trying to take more control? Another way to ask this is, “Do you feel like your life is simple or do you feel like it has become so complicated?”

When Jesus shows up, He is inviting people to not get so caught up into things that don’t matter. He wants them to relax. Let’s read.

22-24 He continued this subject with his disciples. “Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.

25-28 “Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?

29-32 “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

33-34 “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. MSG Luke 12:22-32

This is an invitation from Jesus to be in a relationship with God again. The Garden of Eden type relationship. Simple. Freedom. For us to trust God, relax and enjoy what He wants to give us. His warning is that people who don’t ‘get it’ will fuss and yammer about everything that doesn’t matter. Life will always be, ‘the worst day ever’ or it’s ‘political’ with endless frustration about what I don’t have and how hard it is.

When the Pharisees in the Bible heard Jesus talk about deciding to love Jesus or money, they said this:

When the Pharisees, a money-obsessed bunch, heard him say these things, they rolled their eyes, dismissing him as hopelessly out of touch. MSG Luke 16:14

Is this kinda the way you view Jesus’ invitation to a life that is relaxed? He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to relax and enjoy what God has to give you. He wants you to let go of all the non-sense in this culture. And inside you you kinda roll your eyes? In your mind you think, ‘here we go again’ and feel like Jesus hopelessly out of touch? Jesus didn’t have to take kids to school and sports. He didn’t have an Ex-wife or husband ruining His life.

Let me ask you. What do you work on more? Are you learning to trust God more or are you trying to take more control? Another way to ask this is, “Do you feel like your life is simple or do you feel like it has become so complicated?”

I want you to see that we are no different than Adam and Eve. When we trust God, life is much more simple; it’s freedom. When we try to take control; it’s bondage, life becomes so much more complex and hard.

Quick time out for those who might be arguing with me in your mind. This discussion about control and trust can drive some folks nuts. When I say, ‘Trust God and life is much more simple,’ I am not saying every day is a pajama day and movie night. There will be hard times. There will be busy life stage with kids. I’m talking about the condition of your soul.

When I say, ‘when you try take control, life becomes so much more complex and hard,’ I am not saying that you don’t live an intentional life. You need to be disciplined and structured to some degree but you aren’t the center of the universe, God is.

I want to talk about four ways we know that we have taken control and allowed our lives to become spiritually complex and what we need to do to return our relationship with Christ.

We live like the Hulk. We store up life’s hurts and disappointments and hold onto anger. We live angry. We have that edge about us. Because people have hurt us, we want to take control and get even with everyone. We take that anger from work to home to church, all over. Some people are physical with their anger, they are loud or smash things. Some people store it up and stuff it and they later have ulcers, headaches and sleeping issues. Others are passive-aggressive by going quiet or doing little manipulative things to hurt others.

If this is you, someone or something has deeply hurt you in your past. Now you are using your anger to try to get your way. You are trying to take control and it will always leave your spiritual life a mess.

Jesus invites you back into that Garden of Eden relationship again. You can forgive. It may not be fun or easy, but you can forgive and go back to just trusting Jesus.

Maybe you live like Eeyore. Maybe every day is the “Worst Day Ever!” for you. Do you know this person? They complain and are negative all the time. They feel they have been short changed and they try to take control. This person notices what others have and what they don’t have. It’s a compliant. This person has notices who makes the team and who doesn’t. It’s a compliant. This person feels like they are always on the outside and criticizes others.

If this is you, you think God owes you something, you don’t have it and you are very discontent. Now you are using your constant negative attitude and complaints to try to get your way. You are trying to take control and it will always leave your spiritual life a mess.

Jesus invites you back into that Garden of Eden relationship again. How? You focus again on what God has given you, His grace. It’s more than you ever deserve. When you focus on His grace, His mercy, His love for you, your heart changes. You can go back to just trusting Jesus.

Maybe your Knickers in a Knot. Do you know what that means? Today it’s called bullying in school but back in the day, you would grab someone from behind and pull up…. ouch. Your knickers are now in a knot. That means you are always offended. Everything that happens, hurts or offends you. Everything tends to stick with you and you try to take control and be hurt. What people say, what they do, it sticks with you and you are offended. Then everyone has to deal with your wound.

If this is you, I love you enough to tell you, you are way too self-focused. Now you are using your wound to try to get your way. You are trying to take control and it will always leave your spiritual life a mess.

Jesus invites you back into that Garden of Eden relationship again. How? You can realize you are not the center of the universe, God is and He is up to stuff. You can go back to just trusting Jesus.

Example: When someone’s kid is cut from the sports team, what does everyone do? They complain, they argue, they criticize. Did you ever think that maybe, by being cut from the team, you might become friends with other families on another team? Maybe God wants you to connect with those families and by your kid being cut, God can work through you to build those relationships. Maybe God doesn’t care if your kid gets the D1 scholarship, maybe He cares about the family He wants you to connect with. We complain, normally, because we don’t see things from God’s point of view.

Maybe money has quietly become your god. You believe, and you would never say this out loud, that you would be better off with more money than more God. Right now, make this decision: would you rather win Power Ball or be in a relationship with Jesus? Doesn’t it tell you something that you just took a few seconds to think through that? We think, if I had 50 billion dollars, I would be set. We gladly ignore a relationship with the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of the Universe for money. Wow. And so you pursue money, success and validation and strangely have no time for God. Why? We put our trust in money, appearances, comfort, success, not God; so you take control and pursue our god. We feel stress and worry because we have to make it happen.

Do you have a business? Running for office? Building the sales team? Building the youth group, the church? Building extra sales for more profit? How will you make it grow? Time with God? Or, will you work late into the night… again? You will get up, ignore God, to build your empire on your strength and then wonder why you are tired, burned out and stressed. You should be because you are ignoring every principle God puts out there for health.

Actually, me talking about money rubs you the wrong way. For me to read scripture that says provide for your family, save for retirement and give 10%, kinda offends you. Like the Pharisees, it’s kinda out-of-touch.

If this is you, let’s be honest, you pursue what you love. You are stressed and burned out because you living on your strength. You are trying to take control and it’s making your spiritual life a mess.

Jesus invites you back into that Garden of Eden relationship again. Reset how you live. You cannot deny that God placed Sabbath rest into the order of creation. If you ignore this truth, you ruin your soul. Like denying gravity and jumping off a bridge, you realize how real it is when you land. You can live with God and go back to just trusting Jesus.

So what do we do if we are the Hulk, Eeyore, knickers are in a knot or if money, success and validation has become our God? Hebrews tells us.

Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!  In this all – out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through – all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. MSG Hebrews 12:2-4

The reason life can be difficult is because it’s a marathon and we are weighed down. Weighed down with things that don’t matter. Weighed down with sin. You can make it simple again. You can take off every weight that is crushing you today.

The answer is: Living Simply.