Look Around 
Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 07:07 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
What should you do when you are lost? Tony Nasuta, a leader in search and rescue operations shared several steps at a recent Kiwanis meeting. (You can review them all at

After stopping, the second step to get found when you are lost is: Look Around. When you are lost, if you only look where your going, you'll miss where you should be.

Adam Sandler in the 2006 movie, Click! tries to solve being lost by using a magical remote control. He fast forwards his life, skipping everything looking for the pot of gold at the end, ignoring his parents, wife, children, friends; until he finds out he had lost his whole life.

Only when he rewinds his life does he look around and see the love he lost by focusing exclusively on the next deadline, the next job, the next promotion. Loved ones surrounded him, but while he was on "fast forward" they were just a distracting blur. He finally looks around, and sees the love that he lost. Tragically his last words are: Family comes first.

If you are lost, look around. There is a different way waiting. A way out. A way home. A way to love.

Look, God is All Around

Where could I go to escape from your Spirit or from your sight?

If I were to climb up to the highest heavens, you would be there.

If I were to dig down to the world of the dead you would also be there.

Suppose I had wings like the dawning day and flew across the ocean. Even then your powerful arm would guide and protect me.

Or suppose I said, "I'll hide in the dark until night comes to cover me over." But you see in the dark because daylight and dark are all the same to you. - Psalm 139:7-12 CEV

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Weeds in God's Backyard 
Sunday, July 20, 2008, 08:00 AM - Sermon
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

If God is good why is there evil?

When confronted with this question, Jesus tells a story about someone who sowed good seed in a field only to find weeds came up with the good plants. He chooses to let the weeds grow with the good wheat until the harvest time when they are separated.

Good is from God, not Evil

“God needed her”, is sometimes said when folks are searching for words to erase the pain of someone's grief. Or someone will want to explain away the pain of real evil, by saying, “It was God's will.” Right here we find that God does not will evil. God is the creator of Good, not of evil. God no more creates evil than a gardener creates weeds.

Where does evil come from if not God? Some take this story of Jesus to mean there is an evil twin of God, an anti-God. (It is a story, you can tell because he says, “Someone” and “may be compared”.) Well I'm not an expert on Satan I've been told by some he is misunderstood; but I'm here as God's salesperson. I was taught while selling computers that when a competitor is mentioned, to pretend that we never heard of them…they must not be very important. Compared to God, any devil or demon you wish to bring up isn't very important. The less notice the competition gets the better, and that goes for God and Evil as well as computer stores against internet vendors.

Yet it is true that without God, there would be no evil. A farmer told me once that a weed is only a plant that is growing where you don't want it. If you had a dandelion garden, a rose would be a weed. The creation of good makes evil, like light defines dark, and a garden defines weed. The best way to keep weeds out of your garden is not to give them any room to grow, to have the garden filled with such good plants, other plants don't have room and resources to grow.

The Seed of Evil Flowers when the Good Sleep

So God making a garden—have you heard about God and a garden before? A garden is in some way an opportunity for weeds. C.S. Lewis advanced many ideas about God. One of them was that Evil was where God is not. The absence of God, where God doesn't plant—there is opportunity for evil outside of God's garden. Remember from the creation story what our job was in God's garden? I'll remind you from the Contemporary English Version of Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God put [us] in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it.” Where does evil come from? One way to approach the question of the creation of evil is to consider that evil might be from humanity's neglect of God's good garden. We have allowed weeds to creep in and take root.

Edmund Burke is attributed with saying, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing.” In Jesus' story we have the enemy coming in and sowing the seed while all people are sleeping. We have to outdo evil, making no room for it to grow in our community or our hearts.

Vacation Bible School was a great time for that. We opened our hearts and doors to the neighborhood and welcomed folks in for songs, sport, service, and stories about God's Big Backyard. I like to think we planted in God's garden this week. Teaching children about service, about the Bible and about getting along with others.

There are others as well, from Good Neighbors in our building with some of our members as volunteers, to GASP Grandparents against sexual predators, to RIGHT committee, Residents Improving Goodyear Heights Together. We can plant good right here.

God's Forbearance is Why Evil Continues

Our reaction to evil weeds is to root them out; kill them dead. No doubt that will be the number one comment at the door today will be: “Pastor, sometimes you HAVE to root out weeds.” We do have our limits and that is why God has given us governments and police, we just can't be good enough and do enough good by ourselves to chase away all opportunity for the evil.

Yet I'm glad that God doesn't root out weeds. First, sometimes, I might be a weed in God's garden, but God waits on me and others until the harvest. We should do the same. But we see to believe that the bad can't be better, that the stumbled cannot arise, that the addict cannot choose not to use, that a human being is a waste…we are more judgmental than God. We are claiming discernment, being able to surgically remove evil without harming good, a skill that God says we do not have.

Ever move away from someone when they take an oath, “May God strike me dead if….” A few steps away in case God's aim isn't all together perfect. God doesn't risk friendly fire casualties. God's soldiers, I believe, have the worst aim of all the avengers. God knows that, and tells us to refrain from the rooting up of evil.

Have you heard about colony collapse? Bees are dying. Entire colonies disappear. If we don't have bees, friends, we don't have food. Some have told us that the overuse of pesticides have killed our lifeline the honeybee. We don't have very good aim even with rooting out the “bad” insects, how much less able are we to place moral judgments on nations and people.

Good and Evil will be separated in the end

Leave the judgments to God in his own time and own way. We need to be busy planting good instead of killing evil. For if we kill evil instead of planting good…we will win by having bare ground. Instead tend God's good garden, enjoying the goodness God has given us.

Advanced permission is given for non-profit, for-prophet use of the above at no charge as long as it is reproduced unedited with notices and copyright intact. Written copies are provided after they are preached as a courtesy for the personal, private, appreciative use of the congregation of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church, their families and friends to support the ministry of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church and its pastor the Rev. J. Christy Ramsey. Join us Sundays! 8:15 Traditional Worship and 10:15 Blended. Mingle in our Gathering Room between services and take advantage of Christian Education opportunities.

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Stop Being Lost 
Wednesday, July 16, 2008, 06:26 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
What should you do when you are lost? Last week, I listed seven steps given by Tony Nasuta, a leader in search and rescue operations. The first step is the most important, whether you are lost in the woods or lost in the spirit.

The first is Stop

Stop rushing around, you'll only get further lost. Tony says it is easier to find a person who stays put. If the lost keep moving, they can avoid the searchers who can bring them to safety.

Spiritually we rush around. If we had a place for a bumper sticker on our spiritual journeys, it might read:

I'm Lost...but I'm Making Excellent Time!

Have you thought about people that are trying to find you? A mentor, church member, classmate, friend, stranger, pastor, co-worker, parent, even a son or daughter could be "looking" for you spiritually. An author in a spiritual book given to you last year, a lecturer on a podcast in that email last week, even a guy like Luke who is in that Bible that has followed you around since childhood and never caught up to you as an adult could be your rescuer. Any of these can be the ones to lead you out of the wasteland.

Give others an opportunity to find you; STOP for a while. There are many ways to STOP, going to a worship service is my favorite, but there are other rest stops. For you and yours it might be a retreat, a mental health day, golf, a spa trip, shopping, a walk, or coffee. Be available to those who are looking for you. They just might lead you out of the wilderness to safety, if you let them catch up with you.

Rest Stop

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. -- Matthew 17:1-8 NIV

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How To Get Found 
Wednesday, July 9, 2008, 01:16 PM - Extra Christy, Radio
What should you do when you are lost? Tony Nasuta, a leader in search and rescue operations, recommends six steps (plus a bonus one for those who finish early!)

1. Stop
2. Look Around
3. Look for Landmarks
4. Calm Down
5. Sit Down
6. Wait

and for the advanced...
7. Go High

These work for those who feel spiritually lost as well. The next few extraChristys will examine these ways to get found if you're lost in the spiritual wasteland.

All of these have a common theme: Let yourself be found. It occurs to me that the above list makes a good worship order. From gathering in spiritual song or silence moving to the landmarks of scripture and life experiences, through the siting down to listen and finally ending with the waiting on God in prayer. All of these together helps us to go high and get found!

If you get lost before Sunday worship (or are lost now!) try to Stop! Look! and Listen! you might be surprised what you find...or who finds you!

Lost Are Found

By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, "He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends." Their grumbling triggered this story.

"Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!' Count on it-there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue. -- Luke 15:1-7 (The Message)

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In Your Name 
Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 08:05 AM - Extra Christy
According to the PBS web site and the documentary, Not in Our Town, in 1993, in Billings, Montana the Jewish cemetery was desecrated, the home of a Native American family was painted with swastikas, and a brick was thrown through the window of a six-year-old boy who displayed a Menorah for Hanukkah.

The community's response could have been more guns, higher walls and pervasive video but instead the people of all races and religious backgrounds began to attend a black Methodist church threatened by skinheads, volunteers painted over the hate messages, along with other acts of support and solidarity.

The one response that intrigued me was hundreds of people of all faiths who put a paper Jewish Menorah in the windows of their homes. The police chief, Wayne Inman, urged that for every act of vandalism against a home displaying a Menorah, 10 more homes should put one in their windows. They did.

Instead of separating in fear in the face of hate, the people of Billings came together in faith showed the face of hope. They stood with each other, saying, You hate the ____, you hate me, because they are us. (For a dramatic take on this theme, see the end of movie In & Out)

Now, some college students in Columbus have started a similar movement on Facebook, a social networking web site. They have changed their name to include the middle name of "Hussein" in response to the attacks on Barack Hussein Obama, a Christian, by fearmongers and racists. I wonder if some of the students grew up in Montana.

We all are us. The sooner we learn that, the closer to the kingdom of heaven we will be. (By the way, by this and other courageous acts of solidarity and support, acts of hate have dramatically decreased in Billings.)

We All Are Us

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -- (Galatians 3:28 NIV)

If God had willed he would have made you one nation. But He did not do so, that he may try you in what has come to you [as guidance]. So, compete with one another in good works; Unto God shall you return; altogether; and he will tell you the Truth about what you have been disputing.-- (Qur'an 5:48)

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