08/11/2019

“LAUNCH OUT…”

Luke 5: 1-13


Key verse: Luke 5:4—“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’”

Introduction:

--Illustration: Swimming Holes and Deep Water

_To tired and discouraged Fisherman Jesus said, “Launch out into the deep…”

I. THE FISHERMEN REPRESENT THE C________.

II. THE VOICE OF JESUS SIGNIFIES THE CALL OF THE H___ S______. 

III. THE OBEDIENCE OF THE FISHERMEN REPRESENTS THE NECESSITY FOR EACH OF US TO O_____.

Conclusion:

So, Church, hear the command of Jesus: “‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’”

We must not be content to just stay in the shallow water and just drift to the shore. It is time that we move out of our comfort zones into the deep water and start fishing!

“LAUNCH OUT…”

Luke 5: 1-13

Key verse: Luke 5:4—“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’”

Introduction:

I’ve never been a very good swimmer. Gloria can swim like a fish. I tend to sink. When I was a kid, we didn’t have any public swimming pools in my hometown. But we had irrigation wells and rice canals. The water being pumped into those pools and canals was ice cold. We kids would jump into that water and literally turn blue. After a few minutes we were so numb from the cold that we didn’t even notice it. We were kids and we had fun. The water was shallow even in those canals. The only danger of drowning would be because the mud in the bottom of those canals was so thick that a person might get sucked into the slime and sink in. To be honest, in those canals I was more concerned with snakes than mud. We would throw rocks into the area where we wanted to swim, and the snakes would swim away because of the disturbance.

So, my experience as a boy growing up was mostly in those shallow ponds and canals.  It was unnerving to me those few times when we were at a swimming place where there was deep water. I still have a panicky feeling when I jump into the lake and my feet do not touch the bottom. I can swim, but I must fight off that panicky feeling.

I’ve been on the Sea of Galilee. It is a lake that is huge. Tablerock doesn’t even begin to compare. Those fishermen back then would get into boats and row out away from the shore into the deep waters to cast their nets. 

But in this story, they had fished all night with no luck at all. They were tired and discouraged. You fishermen know that sometimes the fish just are not biting. So, they were giving it up for the time being. It was time to call it quits, go home and rest, and try again another day.

Pulling in their nets, paddling back to shore, exhausted and looking forward to some good ole shut-eye, I’m sure the last thing they wanted to hear was some land lover telling them to put back out into the deep water and try again. But they had heard Jesus and out of respect for him they were willing to chance it one more time. And you know the rest of the story…

As I was contemplating the time of the year, the approach of the new school year just days away for many, and the fall quarter almost here, those words in verse 4 seemed to leap out at me. The KJV translates it this way: “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught.”

Could it be that the Holy Spirit of God is speaking to us, Church?

Let’s reflect on this account from the life of Jesus and consider the implications God’s Word has for us today.

I. THE FISHERMEN REPRESENT THE CHURCH.

a. How often in the past have we heard the church referred to as the Old Ship Zion.; I’ve even preached on the passage in Mark about the Calming of the Storm where we are told there were many little ships accompanying the boat that Jesus and the disciples that day. But the only one we hear about being saved was the one Jesus was in. And I called their little fishing boat “Zion.”

b. General Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Crocker pointed out that many churches in America are struggling, outdated in design, and filled with graying congregations. Our District Superintendent is consciously leading us in restructuring how we conduct our District Conventions and Assembly to attract the younger generations. The way we have done church the past 100 years is just not drawing in our youth.  A few years ago, I attended a Leadership Conference (PALCON) whose theme was built upon the Wizard of Oz and the Words of Dorothy to her little dog, “Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore!” That was particularly funny to me since the conference was in Olathe, KS at MNU. The point was that society has changed so drastically that the old methods no longer are working, and we have to try and find a new way. At the M19 Conference I attended in January 2019, one of the speakers went so far as to say that by 2030 the church as we know it will no longer exist. Dr. Crocker echoed that warning at our District Assembly this year.

c. So, just as the fishermen had fished all night with no success, so many of our churches have tried to come up with an effective method of winning our youth with very little success.

d. And like the disciples in our scripture passage, so many churches are tired and frustrated and discouraged and about ready to give up. Let’s take care of our Senior Adults and when they are gone, we will shut the doors. And we are just treading water, slowly moving to the shallow water where it is comfortable. Getting ready to abandon ship!

II. THE VOICE OF JESUS SIGNIFIES THE CALL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 

a. Jesus was on the shore watching what was happening. He was raised near the Sea of Galilee and he knew the mentality of those fishermen. He knew they had given their best efforts. He knew they had the knowledge and the skills to earn a living catching fish. He knew that not catching fish meant families would go hungry and there wouldn’t be enough income to provide for the necessary living expenses of that time. And he knew that seasoned fisherman probably would not welcome advice from someone on the sidelines.

b. I must tell you, as a pastor who had been in full time ministry for nearly 50 years, I have trouble getting excited by all the new fads and methods that are being presented at various seminars and conferences. It is so easy to think, “I’ve tried something like that before and it didn’t work. Why should I try it now?”

c. But the key is to where the advice is coming from: Is it just another person’s invention or is the Voice of Jesus calling out for me to try it one more time!

d. In the scripture passage it is the voice of Jesus that interrupted their exasperation. 

e. And I am convinced that Jesus has a plan to reach the next generation. He didn’t explain to the fishermen what He had in store for them, He just commanded them to launch out into the deep and cast their nets once again. Their job wasn’t to understand—their job was simply to obey and leave the results to God!

f. I appreciate those who are exploring the possibilities and presenting new ideas and strategies for reaching our world. I value the challenges that our leaders present to us. We are the Called Ones; the Ones God has entrusted with evangelizing our world. 

g. My concern is that, during all the seminars and conferences, the ears of my heart are attuned to voice of Jesus. 

h. We must not be content to drift into the shallow waters of our comfort zone when He is telling us to “Launch out into the deep.

III. THE OBEDIENCE OF THE FISHERMEN REPRESENTS THE NECESSITY FOR EACH OF US TO OBEY.

a. I find myself thinking the thoughts that Peter thought. In verse 5 we read, “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

b.  Notice that the fishermen did not do anything different from what they had done all night long. The only thing that changed was that instead of doing what they thought they should do; they were now doing what Jesus told them to do.

c. You have heard the 7 last words of a dying church: “We’ve never done it that way before.” Or in eight words< “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work!”

d. It doesn’t matter if the strategy is new or old. What matters is that we are obedient to the voice of Jesus!

Conclusion:
So, Church, Hear the command of Jesus: ”Launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a draught.”

 I want you to take that command personally today. Yes, we as a church must not give up. We must continue going out into the deep and casting our nets in our efforts to win people.

But that command is for each one of us who are disciples of Jesus. It is time to get out of the shallow waters, your comfort zone, and move out into water that is over our head so that we must trust Jesus. Instead of coming to church to get fed, maybe it is time to come to church in order to fish for souls. Maybe you should be volunteering as a greeter, or a parking lot greeter, or an Assistant in Sunday school, or even as a teacher or a choir member. Maybe it is time you walk across the street or down the road to a neighbor's house and invite that family to come to a church service with you and then take them out to eat after the service. Maybe it is time that you host a Neighborhood Bible study in your home. 

Hear the voice of Jesus in your own life:  Launch out into the deep. Just do it and trust Jesus with the results. 

It is only God who can save people our job is to allow Him to use us to bring people to Him.

Who are you bringing to Jesus?

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08/04/2019

FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY

 John 6: 1-14


Introduction:

>Illustration: A Stressful Day on the Farm

>An Attempt to rest and grieve turns into a full day of intense ministry

>At the end of the day, exhausted and hungry, a Miracle is in order

I. FIRST OF ALL, THEY RECOGNIZED THE N___.

II. SECONDLY, THEY TOOK INVENTORY OF THE R_________ A___________.

III. THEY O_______ JESUS.

CONCLUSION:

The Feeding of the 5000 set the conditions for Jesus’ Discourse where He said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.”

We may not have the resources we think we need, but if we have Jesus that is enough!

FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY

John 6: 1-14

Introduction:

I was raised on a farm in Central Eastern Arkansas. Back in the early 60s we didn’t have the advanced technological equipment that many farmers have today, but we were more advanced that the days when they used mules and horses to farm. On our farm back then we had cotton and soybeans and some corn. Later we rented additional land and included rice in the mix. When it was time to plant the cotton, Dad had an old H Farmall tractor that had a 4 row planter attached to the back. Each hopper had to be filled regularly and then seeds would be dispensed through metal tubing to a device we called a “Hill dropper.” It would allow a certain amount of seed to be released every 8 to 10 inches... The problem occurred when the “Hill Dropper” would get stuck. So there was a running board across the back of a planter and Dad would sometimes get me to stand on that running board and make sure the seeds were being dispensed properly and to warn him if the hoppers started getting low on seed. I remember one day that was so hot and dusty. I would walk back and forth on the 2 by 10 running board watching the hoppers, watching the turning of the hill droppers. The dust was awful, I was hot, and in just a few hours I was getting really tired. At one point dad yelled back, “Jim, how are you doing back there?” And I responded, “I’m so tired that I don’t even have the strength to spit! “ Dad laughed, and then we took a water break.

As miserable as I felt that day, now, some 55+ years later, I have fond memories of those experiences. 

And I can tell you, on those strenuous work days our big meal was at noon. And I guarantee you I had the strength to eat plenty!

Fond memories.

In this account of the feeding of the 5000, it had been another stressful work day for Jesus. From the other 3 Gospels we learn that just prior to this day Jesus had learned of John the Baptist’s execution John was a relative of Jesus, but he was also the forerunner of Jesus who had the awesome responsibility of announcing to the world to prepare for the arrival of the long-awaiting King—the Messiah Jesus. News of his execution must have hit Jesus and his disciples hard. In the moments after learning of John’s death, Jesus took disciples to their boat on the Sea of Galilee with the intentions of slipping away from the crowd so that he and his disciples could rest and allow their sorrow time to express itself. But when they reached the shore to which they were going, the multitudes had guessed correctly as to their destination and had actually reached it ahead of Jesus. They were waiting for him and the disciples. And any idea of retreat and rest was quickly replaced with ministry. All day Jesus taught the crowds about the Kingdom of God and had healed everyone in the crowd who needed to be healed. 

I can tell you that ministry is hard work. I’m sure the disciples and Jesus were tired—probably more so that I was on the back of the planter. And the multitudes had walked a great distance and been in the heat of the wilderness all day long.

As night approached it was obvious that the people needed food, and if they didn’t get food, they probably would be too weak to make it back home. 

What do you do when you have a crowd of hungry people and you are too far away from the store to buy supplies? 

Let’s consider:

I. FIRST OF ALL, THEY RECOGNIZED THE NEED.

a.  The other Gospels point out that Jesus stated they had to have food in order to have strength to go home.

b. I can’t begin to fathom how thousands of people were so determined to seek out Jesus that in their rush they failed to pack an adequate picnic basket. Now they were facing a dilemma. How were they going to find food in this wilderness area?

c. Let me reflect on this in our context. We have people who come to our church services from all over the United States and beyond. There are vacationers who are looking for rest and recreation. There are relatives who come to see family members. They are friends who have a chance to get away for a few days and since they have friends in Branson, they come to visit. And there are those who are discontent with their current situations who come looking for a change. Many are considering retirement and are checking the area to see if this is where they want to live. All kinds of people, many different reasons, who are here, looking, thinking, dreaming. 

d. In my 37 years here I have found out that many of those who come here for vacation are trying to salvage a strained marriage. Many are wanting something different and they are searching. And they and so many others are hungry—even though they may not even realize it. There is emptiness in their heart they are longing to fill—They are hungry for truth, for meaning, for fulfillment.

In our town we have 100's of International workers from all over the world. And we have 100's of people who are homeless who are living in weekly rental motels or in tents out in wooded areas. We have those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. We have people living in abject poverty. We have senior citizens who have no family to help them. The list goes on and on. You don’t have to look very far to discover the needs are great.

And we are the Church—the Disciples of Christ. How do we discern the needs of those multitudes who flood the streets of Branson?

II. SECONDLY, THEY TOOK INVENTORY OF THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE.

a.  John 6: 5-6—When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this only to test him for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

b.  Jesus tested Philip and the others. He knew there was no place available to buy the quantity of food it would take to feed the 1000's in the multitude. And he knew that, even if there was such a supermarket, they would not have enough cash to pay for such an order. So the disciples were forced to do some searching and give some thought to the dilemma.  Of the 4 Gospels, John’s Gospel is the only one that identifies the source of the 5 loaves and 2 small fish. Verses 8 & 9 read: “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’”

c. Isn’t it amazing that in a crowd of 5000 men plus women and children, they could only find one person, a child, who had any food with him. And even more remarkable, the boy gave the food to Andrew.   With no more food than was found, it is surprising that Andrew even bothered to mention it to Jesus. I wonder what he was thinking. Maybe he was just trying to show Jesus how hopeless the situation was. Or, just maybe, he was thinking that this Jesus, who had turned water into wine, could do something with these meager items.

d.  Now here’s the thing: When we consider the enormity of the task before us, and then inventory our current resources, we find ourselves in the same mentality as the disciples: Our resources are so small, how can we possibly feed the spiritually hungry who come to our city?

e. I can tell you, no matter how many churches we have in our area and no matter how many resources we have in those churches, humanly speaking they are inadequate to meet the need of the masses around us. The need is so great that our human resources are never enough.

f. And in our local church, we don’t have enough teachers, we don’t have enough greeters, we don’t have enough nursery workers, we don’t have enough space—you name it and we find ourselves woefully inadequate to the task before us.

g. What are we going to do?

That brings us to the next step:

III. THEY OBEYED JESUS.

a. Verse 10—“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” (An all you can eat fish dinner!)

b.  I can only speculate as to what the disciples must have been thinking? “This is a waste of time—what’s the use of having them sit down when we know we don’t have enough food for more than one or two?” But they did what Jesus told them to do. Maybe they thought God would send manna from heaven as He had done to the Israelite's in the wilderness. Maybe they thought Jesus was going to have them rest for a while on the soft grass in the late evening so that maybe they would be rested enough and regain enough strength to make the trip back to their homes. Who knows what they were thinking, but the bottom line is, they trusted Jesus and obeyed His command.

c. They may not have known what else to do. They may not have thought they had enough resources at their disposal to adequately feed the multitude. They may not have understood how Jesus was going to handle this situation. But they obeyed. They did not have to know the what or the how. But they trusted Jesus enough to just obey His command and leave the results to Him.

d. And so we have the song we sing, “Little is Much When God is in It.” The loaves and fishes were multiplied enough to feed the men and those women and children who may have been with them and still have enough to fill 12 baskets with leftovers—more food in the end than they had in the beginning!

Conclusion:

This miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 set up the discourse a short time later where Jesus stated, “I Am the Bread of Life.” We so often focus on the physical aspects of this miracle, but the real lesson is, it doesn’t matter if we have a lot or a little. What matters is, WE HAVE JESUS—AND HE IS ENOUGH!

 Yes, we should do our best to feed the hungry and provide shelter and provisions for the homeless and the helpless. But more than that, we must give them JESUS. We can’t relieve all the problems in this world. After all, even Jesus told his disciples in another place that we would always have the poor with us. 

But the only One who can give meaning and hope and fulfillment and ultimately eternal life is Jesus.

So, instead of focusing on what we cannot do or what we do have, let’s proclaim Jesus.

Peter learned his lesson. Remember what he told the lame man at the Gate called Beautiful at the Temple: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” (Acts 3: 6).

So here we are about to partake of Communion. It is such a simple thing we do. We take a small wafer of bread and a tiny cup of grape juice and remember it represents the Body and Blood of Jesus.

As we partake of it today, remember the 5 loaves and 2 small fish that fed the 5000 

And remember the words of Jesus: “I am the Bread of life.”

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07/14/2019

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHILDREN TO THE KINGDOM

Matthew 18: 1-9

Introduction:

>Illustrations of Childhood Memories

> The Reality of Growing up, but the importance of becoming once again like little children…

I. BECOMING LITTLE CHILDREN AGAIN

a. S_________

b. T_________

c. L_________

II. THE VALUE OF CHILDREN

a. Why VBS is Important

Conclusion:

So, today, we Bless our children. We pray this will be a week where memories are created for a lifetime.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHILDREN TO THE KINGDOM

Matthew 18: 1-9

Introduction:

When I was a boy there weren’t any video games. We had to use our imagination. I remember playing “kick the can,” and “King of the Mountain and “Hide & Seek.” I remember once when we didn’t have a football so we used a Clorox Jug and pretended it was a football. 

When I was probably 8 or 9 my friend and I wanted our own club house. There was an old chicken house that wasn’t being used anymore, so we scrubbed that building and cleaned it up and that became our club house. Since we didn’t have a club, we made up one and created rules and plans. One of the rules was that there were no girls allowed. That got us into trouble because my aunt and cousin were living with us at the time while Uncle Lawrence was stationed overseas. Cousin Judy complained ( tattled) on us, and we had to revise our rules!

 

In Central Eastern Arkansas it never snowed much, but maybe once a winter we would get a 5 or 6 inch snow. We would make snow forts and stock up snowballs and prepare for a big snowball fight. We were conquering heroes engaged it major battlefield tactics. It was heady stuff! 

In grade school we sometimes played Red Rover. And we played Pop the Whip until one of the boys got his collar bone broken and the school made is quit playing it.

I remember that when I was in the first grade there was a merry-go-round on the playground—the kind that you pump with your feet to make it spin faster. It was near a tree that had a limb that hang pretty low. Some of us boys would stand on the Merry-Go-Round while it was spinning and jump off and try and catch that tree limb and swing to the ground. We were told not to do that anymore, but I had to try it one more time. That is when I got my first spanking in school.

` Eventually we outgrew many of those games. I’m not sure why, but I think it had to do with a new interest—Girls.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Yes, there comes a time when we have to grow up. Our fantasy games are replaced with real life, responsibilities, and self-preservation! But there was something in those childhood days that we should never lose.

And so, Jesus, when asked by the disciples, “Who is the greatest?” pulled a little child out of the crowd and said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” 

I am sure Jesus wasn’t talking about us again acting foolishly, taking reckless risks and excluding girls from our pretend clubs.

And this passage isn’t the only place where Jesus singled out the importance of children. In Matthew 19 we read, “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.’ After he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there” (Matthew 19: 13-16).

With these scriptures in mind, let’s consider what it is that the Holy Spirit wants to say to us today.

I. BECOMING LITTLE CHILDREN AGAIN

a. As I reflect on this command to become little children there are some characteristics that I believe Jesus was pointing out to us: Here’s a few that come to mind:

i. SIMPLICITY. Children see the world through fresh eyes. We adults often over-analyze or complicate the simple things of life. I think of the Family Circle cartoon where Little Billy is told to come straight home from school The cartoon shows him smelling the roses, watching the butterfly, petting the dog, stepping in the water puddle, getting a drink from the water fountain and several other little distractions before he gets home. He took time to enjoy the simple, the everyday wonders that are all around us.   But we Adults are in too much of a rush to get from point A to point B. I just drove about 2200 miles this past week—from Missouri to the East Coast and back again. I drove on the Interstates that were filled with thousands of cars and trucks, all hurrying to get to somewhere else. We live such fast-paced lives that we miss the simple little miracles of nature that are all around us.

ii. TRUST.  Children are inclined to trust Adults. In our perverted world full of predators, we have to caution our children not to take candy from strangers, do not talk to strangers, and never get into cars with strangers. Why do we have taught this to kids? We do it because Kids have the natural tendency to trust, and, therefore, are easy targets for the evil world.  Trust is good if it is channeled correctly. We adults need to regain that natural tendency to trust and channel it towards trusting God!

iii. LOVE. Children have a way of expressing love that is wonderful. I came home a week or so ago and my children and grandchildren were at the house. When I came through the front door our youngest granddaughter, 2 year old Emily, jumped into my arms and gave me a big hug. And, of course, when she does that, my heart just melts. We Adults must regain that ability to communicate our love to one another and to God appropriately. I know we have a bunch of’ ”huggers” in our church family and I’m not complaining. But showing love is about more than a hug—it is about really caring about others and looking for ways to build up one another. It may mean sharing someone’s heartache, rescuing someone who has gotten themselves into some kind of trouble, it means showing kindness and being forgiving, not holding grudges.

I’m sure there are other characteristics in Children that Jesus was thinking about, but I think you see what I mean—Becoming like a little child doesn’t mean being “Childish.” It means being open and loving and sincere. It means being like Jesus. But there’s something else that we should consider:

II. THE VALUE OF CHILDREN

a. In Matthew 19 the disciples complained because people were bringing their children to Jesus to have Him bless them. And Jesus told them very sternly that it was okay—Children are important to the Kingdom!

b. This next week we are having Vacation Bible School—as you can tell by the stage decorations. The theme is “Shipwrecked, Saved by Jesus!”  Our congregation is made up of lots of Grandmothers and Granddads, and lots of Aunts and Uncles. We really do want to imitate Jesus in receiving Children into our care so that we can touch their lives and pray blessings on them.

c. And in receiving Children, we understand that “Kids will be kids!” They will talk when we want them to be quiet, run when we want them to walk, be distracted when we want them to pay attention. And we have to watch them carefully and prevent them from running into the streets, or jumping off chairs or steps or porches and getting hurt. They may think they are Superman when they have a cape around their neck, but they really can’t fly!

d.  But in all their energy and excitement, let’s harness their imaginations and channel into them the Love of Christ. And that love will come through each of us.

e. Sam Luce tells how his church had stopped doing VBS until just a couple years ago. Then he listed the reasons they starting having VBS again. He wrote:  

1. We live in a very pluralistic society that doesn’t value church but values traditions. There are many parents who have young kids who either don’t go to church or infrequently attend church but have great memories of VBS. They want their kids to have those same memories and will put their kids in VBS before taking them on the weekend.

2. Having 15 hours in the VBS week to speak new truth or reinforce what is being taught at home is invaluable. The new regular attendee’s standard is now 12 to 24 Sundays a year. VBS gives you a nice chunk of time to drill down into core truth that kids need in the world we now live in.

3. Partnering with parents starts with equipping parents. Doing VBS with this in mind makes VBS more valuable than a simple stand-alone program.

 

4. VBS has to be a whole church focus. It can’t be something your department does. I did a department-focused VBS years ago and just finished a church-driven VBS. The difference is night and day.

5. Reaching new families has to be a focus but not the whole focus. We want to reach new families but we also need to build the foundations of the families we have. One of the reasons we write our own VBS is because we want a VBS that speaks to the specific culture and values of our church that no VBS curriculum could ever do. There are tons of great ones out there, but for us, VBS is more than an outreach tool, it’s a gospel shaping delivery device for the whole family.

6. Our church has changed. We care about the weekend service still, but we care more about intentional ways to help with spiritual formation and discipleship in a variety of ways outside the weekend service.

I want to add to that list the most important reason of all to have VBS:  Children are important! In fact, they are so important that Jesus insisted they be allowed to come to him to be blessed. They are so important that Jesus said if anyone would harm a child, it would be better for that person to have a millstone tied to his neck and he be cast into the sea—that was the Bible version of the 20th Century Mobsters threatening some with “Cement Overshoes!” Children are so important that we Adults must become like them if we are ever going to get into Heaven!

Conclusion:

So, today, we bless our children. We pray this will be a week where memories are created for a lifetime. And most of all, we pray that lives will be forever impacted with God’s Love and Saving Grace!

Now: About becoming Little Children again:

>Do you really believe God is your “Abba Father” who really cares about you?

>Do you bring your problems, your concerns, your hurts to Hi so He can “Make it better”?

<Do you need to step out of your Adult Role and re-discover the joy of God’s Wonderful Creation, trust in His Greatness, and rekindle that “First-love” in your relationship with God?

Wouldn’t this be a great time to come and kneel in his Presence and ask Him to help you have that Child-like Faith that is required for heaven?

Click The Photo To Watch Today's Sermon

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07/07/2019

THE BLOOD OF CHRIST

Hebrews 9: 11-22


Introduction:

>Independence Day—Our Flag stands because of those who shed their blood to protect our freedoms!

>Personal Illustration: Giving Blood …

>But it isn’t our blood that we are considering today—It is the Precious Blood of Christ.

I. THE PATH FOR OUR SALVATION WAS THROUGH A TABERNACLE NOT MADE WITH HUMAN HANDS.

II. JESUS’S SHED BLOOD WAS THE PRICE FOR OUR FREEDOM. 

III. THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST REMINDS US OF THE VALUE OF LIFE—OUR LIVES!

Conclusion:

>Illustration from History—John Wesley’s response to being robbed…

>As we prepare for Communion, reflect on the Importance of the Blood of Christ!

THE BLOOD OF CHRIST

Hebrews 9: 11-22

Introduction:

It has been a great week as we celebrate Independence Day—all week long. Last week our Jubilee singers gave a great Christian Patriotic Musical presentation. If you didn’t get to see that, I encourage you to go to our Facebook page and watch the video. You can go through our web page—Bransonnazarene.com to access it.

This week I saw a post on Facebook showing the American Flag. Below it was a reminder that the flag is there because of the blood that has been shed to protect our Nation. In the few centuries since the beginning of our nation 1000’s has given their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

And among other things, that statement triggered the thoughts of the sacredness of Blood. 

Often times we hear of a need for various types of blood. I have on several occasions given blood when the Blood Mobile was in town. I finally stopped because my veins were stingy, and the technicians had trouble getting my blood. The last time I went to give blood I was stuck something like 8 different times. Both my arms were black and blue. They finally gave up. I left with all the blood I had when I started!

I’ve always found it amusing to see large, athletically built men who when giving blood would faint. It just happens to certain people. Being big and tough doesn’t mean you are not skirmish at the sight of blood. 

Dr. Paul Brandt in one of his books told how he finally became comfortable with the sight of blood. He saw a young woman who was unconscious from an accident and ghastly pale from loss of blood. When she received a transfusion. He marveled at how color and life returned to this woman who had been near death.

Indeed, blood is the force that gives life to each of us.

There was a time when I was experiencing dizziness and weakness. The doctor checked my blood and found I was anemic. I thought the reason for my shortness of breath was my weight—which certainly didn’t help. But I found it was because of my blood deficiency—my blood was not carrying enough oxygen to the cells in my body. Our blood is pretty important!

And as important as our blood is to our life expectancy, the Blood I want us to think about today is the Blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on our behalf in order that we could be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with God. It is His Blood that gives us Eternal Life!

People who have no understanding of Christianity may have difficulty understanding our talk about the Blood of Christ. Understand that when we speak of Jesus shedding His Blood for our sins, we mean that Jesus gave His Life on our behalf so that we can be saved. 

The writer of Hebrews went to great lengths to explain that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Jewish religious rituals and that He is superior in every way to the practices of sacrifice as outlined in the Old Testament.

Let’s consider what this passage has to teach us about Jesus giving His life—shedding His life blood to seal the New Covenant –the New Agreement we have with God.

I. THE PATH FOR OUR SALVATION WAS THROUGH A TABERNACLE NOT MADE WITH HUMAN HANDS.

a. Verse 11 says, “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands; that is to say, is not a part of this creation.”

b. In the Old Testament we read how Moses led the Israelite's out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where God met with Moses, giving Him the Law—The Ten Commandments—and instructions on how the Nation of Israel was to live and worship God. Those instructions included the establishment of a Tabernacle—a Holy Tent—that contained the Ark of the Covenant and represented the Presence of God in their midst. This Tabernacle was the focus for their religious life until the Temple was built replacing the need for a tent, emphasizing the permanence of God’s Presence. These were physical structures, built according to God’s specifications but, nevertheless, built by human hands

c. And with that tabernacle, there were the blood sacrifices of animals—sheep, goats, bulls, heifers—that were necessary in order to have a relationship with God.

d. But with Jesus the New Covenant relationship no longer depended on a physical building such as the Tabernacle or Temple. The focus of the New Covenant was Jesus Christ Himself—the sinless Lamb of God, born of the Virgin Mary. It was not a human building; it was the spiritual Temple created by God. And it was in the spiritual dimension that our relationship with God is established. 

e. We don’t need a Temple built by Human Hands. We have a Temple established in the Spiritual Realms—Jesus Christ Himself.  And it is not the blood of animals that opens the way for us to enter God’s Presence. It is His Life—His shed Blood, that made it possible.

II. JESUS’S SHED BLOOD WAS THE PRICE FOR OUR FREEDOM.

a. Verse 14 says, ‘How much more, then, will the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.”

b. The reason we were created was to bring glory to our God. We do that by choosing to serve Him, forsaking sin and seeking His will in our lives. The highest level we can reach in this life is to fulfill our created purpose of serving God. And the scripture tells us that this is only possible because Jesus offered Himself to God. And His sacrifice—the shedding of His Blood—is how our minds are cleansed so that we no longer live under the control of sin that leads to death—but, instead, are set free to serve the Living God!

c. Romans 7 speaks to this when Paul describes how sin serves as an evil taskmaster who forces us to do things that are sinful even when we think we would never do those things. Then, at the close of the chapter Paul writes, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7: 24-25).

d. Do you see what the writer of Hebrews is saying? The only way we can serve the living God in the way God intends is through the Covenant God has established that is sealed with the Blood of Christ. He died so that we could live for God!

III. THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST REMINDS US OF THE VALUE OF LIFE—OUR LIVES!

a. Humanity was created in the Image of God. But because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, all humanity was plunged into a state of separation from God. But instead of wiping out humanity and starting over, God put into place a method whereby humanity could again find favor with God. But the sacrifice of animals as sin offerings only provided temporary relief from guilt. But God had a bigger plan—a plan that involved more that outward ceremonial forgiveness as was the case in the animal sacrifices. God’s plan was to literally change a person’s heart, to purify him from sin’s control and to make him a new creation.  That God considered humanity that precious is astounding. But it would take something more than what had been available in the Old Testament sacrificial system. It would take a person who was sinless and who was willing to give his life in exchange for the souls of mankind. Such a price was beyond any of us—for we are all born in sin the Bible says. But Jesus considered humanity, God’s creation, so valuable that He was willing to lay down his life to save us. Romans 5:7 says it this way: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possible dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; While we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

b.  In Matthew 16: 26 Jesus said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Of what can anyone give n exchange for their soul?” In other words, one soul is worth more than all the wealth in the world. 

c. And so, Jesus, knowing the worth of the Soul set free, chose willingly to shed His own Blood, laying down His own life, in order to pay the Redemption Price to buy back our souls from sin’s bondage and to set us free to serve the living God.

Conclusion:

Illustration from history: When evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791) was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature. As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out, "Stop! I have something more to give you." The surprised robber paused. "My friend," said Wesley, "you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here's something to remember: 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'" The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit.

Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before! "I owe it all to you," said the transformed man. "Oh no, my friend," Wesley exclaimed, "not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!"  --Our Daily Bread, October 1, 1994.

We have been celebrating our Nation’s birthday this week. Let me say this: If we forget and forsake our Christian heritage our nation will eventually fall. That is the way it has been in history for other nations, and that is what we can expect. 

It is so important that we not forget that it is the Blood of Jesus that instills true freedom. Let us proclaim Jesus as long and as loudly as we can!

In a moment we are going to once again partake of the Sacrament of Communion. A sacrament is when a simple, common thing is used to somehow impart spiritual grace. Communion is an act of duplicating the Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples and especially the moment he shared with them the Bread and the Wine saying they signified his Body and Blood which would be broken and shed for them as a seal of the New Testament. 

This morning, before we take the Communion elements, let’s take a moment and reflect on what Jesus has done for each of his. He gave His life in exchange for our souls. With His Blood He paid the Ransom and Redemption price so that we could be freed from the guilt and control of sin and be restored to the Family of God.

I would ask you right this moment to bow your heads and shut your eyes and ask God to search your heart to see if there is anything keeping you from being in His favor. If there is something that isn’t right in your heart, confess it to the Lord right now and ask for His forgiveness. He is willing to forgive each one who will truly turn away from sin and turn to God for deliverance. It is the Blood of Christ that makes all that possible.

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6/30/2019

AMERICAN PRIORITIES

  1 Peter 2: 11-17


Introduction:

Values embraced in Ozark Mountain Country and supported by God’s Word:

I. GOD

II. FAMILY

III. COUNTRY

Conclusion:

Take time this week to reflect on these 3 priorities. Determine that they reflect your priorities and values…

AMERICAN PRIORITIES 

1 Peter 2: 11-17

Introduction:

So we celebrate this week our Nation’s birthday—Independence Day—the 4thof July!

I’m proud to be an American. I am proud to be from the heartland of America. Several years ago our then District Superintendent considered changing the name of our district—Joplin District—to “Heart of America District” because of our geographical location which is pretty much in the center of the 48 states. And here in Branson we enjoy tourists regularly who come from coast to coast.

 A few years back there was a scientific survey to determine what values define the people who live in Ozark Mountain Country. From those results it was determined that our most commonly held values pertain to God, Family, and Country.  This area is predominately Christian. We consider our families to be of essential importance. And we are patriotic—we stand for the Flag and the National Anthem and we support our troops and our veterans. 

For the few minutes we have this morning, let’s consider these 3 values:

I. GOD

a. Our loyalty to God is number one. This is Biblical.

b. Of the 10 Commandments, the very first says,” You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 3).

c. We know from the Old Testament that false gods were prevalent in the Ancient World. And they were the downfall of Israel and Judah.  Somehow we tend to think in this 21st Century that we are much more enlightened than those in ancient times. But in reality we are just as guilty.

d. On the list of priorities, whatever is most important in our lives is in fact a god to us. I hear so many who say they love God, but when it comes down to it, Work, Wealth, and Self prove to be more important than loyalty to God.

e. Jesus, quoting from the Old Testament stated, the two most important commandments are, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and Love your Neighbor as yourself.”

f. This morning, as we consider the values we embrace, I challenge you to set aside some time this week and take a piece of paper and pen and list the things that are most important to you—say the top 10. And consider just where it is that you place your loyalty to God in that priority list.

II. FAMILY.

a. I cannot stress enough how much we should value our family. Families are the building blocks of civilization. In the very beginning God created Adam and Eve and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply.  Paul in his letters to the churches he helped establish stressed the importance of family. In Ephesians 5: 21—6: 9 he gives detailed instructions to husbands, wives, children and parents. The key words are “submit, love, respect and obey.”

b. In 1 Timothy 5: 8 Paul stated, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

c. Remember the story in Genesis 14 of the first recorded war. The warring kings who swept through the land took Lot and his family and their possessions as prisoners. Abraham quickly took men from his clan and pursued and rescued Lot and recovered all the property that had been taken. Why did he do that? It was because he understood that he had a responsibility for his family.

d. As we celebrate our Nation’s Independence this week, I challenge you to stop and consider your own family—the members of your household and your extended family. Is there someone who is in need of your love and support? I don’t mean you have to take over responsibility for their livelihood. But I do think we have a responsibility to extend our love and compassion to others—and especially to our own relatives.

e. On our vacation last week, we took time to drive an extra 150 miles to visit two of my uncles—my mother’s brothers—who are in declining health. We wanted to let them know that we love them and to thank them for the contributions they have made in our lives. Is there someone to whom you need to reach out and connect? Maybe you just need to make a phone call and tell someone in your family you love them. Wouldn’t this be a good week to do that?

III. COUNTRY.

a. In our scripture reading today, 1 Peter 2:17 says, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

b. Remember this was Peter who wrote this. He lived in the country of Israel when it was under the control of the Roman Empire. The emperors who ruled the empire were certainly not Christian. They worshiped pagan gods and even declared themselves to be gods.  Nevertheless, Peter stated that we should “honor the emperor,” or “honor the king” as some translations say. 

c. Behind that statement is the realization that God has allowed our world to be organized into various nations. And those nations pass laws that give structure and stability to civilization.  And In Romans 13:1 & 2 Paul said it this way: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

d. In parking lots across American there are many tents set up for fireworks stands. In the Branson area there will be many fireworks displays—including the Wednesday evening fireworks at the Landing. In our minds those fireworks are objects that signify celebration. But we must remember they also remind us of the wars that have been fought, the cannons that have been fired, the rockets that have been launched, and the lives that have been sacrificed in order to provide and defend those freedoms we enjoy.

e. So, Men and Women who have served in our armed forces, we salute you. We owe you our very lives. Our country, established by God, purchased with the blood of our founding fathers, and defended with the blood of our brave and loyal patriots. Thank you.

f. In my high school English class we were required to memorize several lines of poetry from English Literature. One of the poets, Richard Lovelace, wrote the poem “To Lacasta, Going to War.”. And the one line that I still remember was based on a man who was about to go off to war and his sweetheart was begging him to stay, His reply to her was, “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more!”

g. In Ozark Mountain Country we believe in our country. We support it and we honor the men and women who defend it.

h. I challenge you to take time this week to give God thanks for our Nation, to pray for healing in our land, and to tell a veteran that you appreciate his or her service!

Conclusion:

These values we embrace: Loyalty to God, to our families, and to our Nation.

Hear again these words written by Peter to Christians who were trying to survive in a pagan world:

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority, whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2: 13-17).

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06/23/2109

Thank you Dylan and Madi for such a wonderful service today. 

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06/16/2019

Peters Dilemma

Thank you T-Beau for your great message.

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06/09/2019

THE HOLY SPIRIT

 John 14: 15-27


Introduction:

Illustration: THE INVISIBLE FRIEND

The Holy Spirit may be invisible, but He isn’t imaginary—He’s real! 

Jesus told us about the Holy Spirit in John 14. In Acts 2:1-4 we read of the Coming of the Holy Spirit.

I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR I__________ F______.

II. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD’S P________ P_________ IN OUR LIVES.

III. THE HOLY SPIRIT APPLIES THE B______ OF J_____ TO OUR LIVES.

Conclusion:

In Acts 19:2 Paul asks the question that we need to answer: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

THE HOLY SPIRIT

John 14: 15-27

Introduction:

Illustration:
 Our daughter Jenna always has had a vivid imagination. She was young—probably 5 or 6 years old. Gloria and she had gone to Wal-Mart and now they were in line to check out. Suddenly Jenna turned and hit at the person in line behind them and said, “Watch out! You are stepping on my Friend!” You see, she had an imaginary friend and she was protecting her! I don’t remember the name of the imaginary friend but for several days Jenna talked about her friend. He was invisible to everyone else, but in Jenna’s imagination he (or she) was very real.

Today, we are celebrating an invisible friend, but he is not imaginary. He is very real, very powerful, very loving. He is called by several names: The Paraclete, The Comforter, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, The Holy Ghost, The Holy Spirit, and sometimes, The Spirit of Jesus.

Just a few hours before His Gethsemane experience and arrest, Jesus was in the upper room with his disciples. He had washed their feet and given them a lesson on serving one another, They had eaten the Passover meal together. Jesus had dismissed Judas to go finalize his act of betrayal. And then Jesus spent time in a final discourse before they left the room. We have that discourse recorded in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John. And then his final prayer before leaving the room, the High Priestly Prayer is found in the 17th chapter that we touched on in last week’s sermon. 

In the passage we read today in John 14 He gave more details about the Holy Spirit that would be coming to them after he left. 

In Acts 2: 1-4 we read how, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples---the Holy Spirit that He had told them about in John 14:

Acts 2: 1-4 says, “When the Day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

In Peter’s sermon that occurred immediately after this, he quoted from the Old Testament Prophet Joel, saying, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on your servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2: 17-18).

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, remembering the Day the Holy Spirit came in a new and dynamic way, ushering in what is called “The Church Age,” “The Age of the Holy Spirit,” and even, “The Last Days.” This is the age in which we are living. 

And on this day, we call “Children’s Day” and in which our children have taken an active part in the worship service, let’s not forget that the promise of the Holy Spirit included “Our Sons and Our Daughters!”

I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR INVISIBLE FRIEND.

a. As I mentioned in the opening illustration, He is invisible but He is very real. We may not see him with our physical eyes, but we can see the difference he makes when He is here. There’s an old cliche’ that old timers would say about Christianity and the Holy Spirit, “It is better felt than telt” By that they meant that experience God in our lives is more wonderful that we can possibly describe!

b. The Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God (see Romans 8: 16). 

c. He convicts us of sin. When we are about to do something wrong and our conscience is pricked, and we get an uncomfortable feeling in our stomach and our heart begins  to beat really fast—that is the Holy Spirit warning us that we are about to do something displeasing to God.

d. He guides us to Truth. I have heard so many say how before they became Christians they would try to read the Bible and just get confused. But when they accepted Christ into their hearts, suddenly the Bible made more sense. That is because the Holy Spirit was instructing them through God’s Word.

e. The Point is, this invisible Friend is not an impersonal and inanimate object like, for instance, the wind. He is not just an energy force like, for example, a jolt of electricity or a laser beam. He is alive and personal. He speaks to us, rebukes us, blesses us, guides us. He is a Friend and more than a Friend. He doesn’t just stand beside us; He lives inside us. We are filled with His Presence!

f. The Holy Spirit is here to point us to Jesus. What better Friend could we have than that?

II.  MORE THAN A FRIEND, THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD’S POWERFUL PRESENCE IN OUR LIVES.

a. In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Greek word of “Power” in this verse is “dunamous.” It is the word from which we get our word “Dynamite” andDynamo.” As such it represents great energy. But it also means “Authority.” The Holy Spirit empowers us with strength and authority to be witness of Christ and Salvation to the entire World.

b. In Philippians 2: 13 Paul wrote, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” The Greek word translated “work” is “energeo” from which we get our word “energy.”Think of it: It is the Holy Spirit—God’s Presence in us” that gives us the energy to fulfill His purposes!

c. I think of how often we feel so tired. There are times when I just have to sit down and rest. At times like that the idea of going to visit someone in the hospital, or coming over and leading a Bible study, seems like an impossibility. But then I get up and go do what I feel God is telling me to do and I actually feel better while doing it than I did when I was sitting in my recliner at home. I have to believe that it is more than an adrenaline rush that I feel—it is God giving me energy beyond myself! He is at work in me and through me, energizing me, “to will and to act according to His good purpose!”

d. Remember how Jesus said, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain be moved into the sea and it will be done” (Matthew 17:20)? It is God’s Spirit that is activated when we put our faith in God and His Word! He responds to our trust in Him. And when we pray, the Holy Spirit unleashes power that otherwise would not be unleashed.

e. The Holy Spirit is Powerful—He is the Spirit of Almighty God!

III. THE HOLY SPIRIT APPLIES THE BLOOD OF JESUS TO OUR LIVES.

a. Jesus died for our sins some 2000 years ago. But the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus, takes what Jesus did on the Cross and applies to our spiritual hearts when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Theologians sometimes call the Holy Spirit “The Administrator of the Atonement.” 

b. I can’t fully explain it. In fact, I can’t fully understand it. But this I know: when Jesus went to the Cross He did so not because of His sin but because of yours and mine. And He suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins, shedding His blood—that is, laying down His life—in place of mine. And when I accept His death as payment for my sin, I am forgiven and cleansed of my guilt, pardoned as if I had never sinned, regenerated into a new person, and adopted into God’s Family. And it is the Holy Spirit who takes what Jesus did and makes it current and relevant and active in my heart right now! Thank God for the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives!

Conclusion:

What more can I say about the Holy Spirit? He is my Comforter, my Helper, my Counselor, my Disciplinarian, my Protector, my Teacher, my Friend, and so much more. 

In our Wednesday Evening Bible Studies on the Book of Acts, we are reminded that the Book of Acts is sometimes called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” 

And next Wednesday’s lesson on Acts 19 we are confronted with the question Paul asked some believers in Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2).

On this anniversary date of the Coming of the Holy Spirit ushering in what we call “The Church Age” I must ask you the same question:

“Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”

So often we say we believe in Jesus and we accept Him as our Savior and realize that He forgives our sins. But then we act as if all we have to do is turn over a new leaf, and on our own resolve to do better. But that isn’t enough. We can never have real victory over sin and real and lasting peace and joy in our hearts until we invite the Holy Spirit to fill us and purify us, and empower us. 

Have you received the Holy Spirit?

If not, isn’t it time you invite Him to take control of your life?

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06/02/2019

TRUTH THAT SANCTIFIES

 John 17: 13-23


Introduction:


>Personal Illustration of learning the importance of Truth.

>Learning to “Handle the Truth”

Let us examine 3 important words in this High Priestly Prayer of Jesus:

I. SANCTIFY

II. ONE (UNITY)

III. GLORY

Conclusion:

May the Truth truly sanctify us as we accept it in our hearts and minds today!

TRUTH THAT SANCTIFIES

John 17: 13-23

Introduction:

I had a wonderful Dad. He really was my best friend. He was a hard worker, provided well for his family. And I never doubted his love for me. My Dad taught me that He would not tolerate stealing and He would not tolerate lying. And he would not tolerate me drinking. I tested him on the first two things and found out he meant what he said. When I was in elementary school I didn’t actually steal anything, but I kept some things that I knew were stolen. When Dad found out he marched me straight to the store and made me confess my crime to the store owner and pay for the notebook and pencils I had received. We call that restitution---making right those things we have done wrong. I was probably in the 1st or 2nd grade, but it was a lesson I never forgot. “Thou shall not steal.”

As a teenager, I played hooky one day, and made up a big story about what I had done—of course denying doing anything wrong. Later Dad found out the truth and I was disciplined appropriately with a belt. That was another lesson that I never forgot. I remember not too long after that I had done something else I wasn’t supposed to do. When Dad confronted me, I thought to myself, “It’s better to punished for what I did than to lie about it and get punished for lying as well as what I had done.” It is better to tell the truth than to try and cover up a misdeed with a lie.

Because of how Dad had responded to the stealing and lying, I was afraid to try the drinking. I figured he would kill me. I know now that he wouldn’t have gone that far, but back then I wasn’t sure!). And I know the punishment would have been severe.

In the long run, it is always better to tell the truth—even if it means some unpleasant consequences in the moment.

We live in a world that is rejecting the idea of absolute truth. Society tells us that truth is the common consensus of the people—whatever society agrees upon. It is wrong because society says it is wrong. But if society says it is right, it is right even though it may go against what has been considered right or wrong according to the Bible.

 Do you remember the quote: “You can’t handle the truth!”? The line originated from a scene in the movie A Few Good Men wherein court martial lawyer Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) exposes Colonel Nathan R. Jessup’s (played by Jack Nicholson) false testimony surrounding the death of a Marine named Santiago (shown below). When pressed by Kaffee to tell the truth, Colonel Jessup abruptly yells "You can't handle the truth!"

In the account of the trial of Jesus in John’s Gospel we read the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate: “”Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’

“”’You are a king then!’ said Pilate.

In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’

“’What is truth?’ retorted Pilate…” (John 18: 36-38).

Pilate could not handle the truth. Neither could those Jewish leaders who insisted that Jesus be crucified. 

And in our society, many people who have heard the truth have rejected it. And so we are confronted with the LGBT agenda, the redefining of marriage, the continuing debate over abortion, and the violent drug culture, sex trafficking, and all matter of deplorable evil. Why? Because people refuse to accept the truth!

Truth, absolute Truth, is the rock bottom foundation standard that God has placed in His Creation. To reject Truth is to reject Him. To embrace Truth is to Embrace God. 

And so we come to this passage in John 17 where Jesus prays what is often called “The High Priestly Prayer.” He prays for Himself, for his immediate disciples and then for all those in future generations who would believe in Him. And we read His words in verse 17: “”Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”  The “Your” in this verse is Father God, the One to Whom Jesus is praying! And as Jesus continues praying, he mentions becoming, “One” and He says those who believe are given “His Glory.” 

Let’s take these few moments to explore the meaning of these words in His Prayer:

I. “SANCTIFY THEM…”

a. If you were to ask most theologians just what the word “Sanctify” means, they would probably say, “to be set apart.” And that is true. But there is more to it than that. It also means, “To be made Holy.” You put those two meanings together and you have can say, “To be sanctified means to be made righteous and fit for God’s purpose.”

b. Let me illustrate: I’m of the old school. I still wear a coat and tie on Sunday morning. You will almost never find me wearing a tie any other time, unless it is something very formal like a wedding or a funeral. Suits and coats and ties are clothes that I own that I only wear on special occasions. They are “set apart” for only those occasions. I have my ever day clothes that I wear the rest of the time.  In a similar manner, when I come to God, confess my sins, accept Jesus as Savior and embrace His truth, I am made holy and God prepares me to do His special work of being a witness of the Gospel to the entire world.

c. Holiness has many shades of meaning. Holiness implies ownership—everything that belongs to Him is holy. I belong to God. Since I belong to Him, I am holy.   Holiness implies purity. Peter in Acts 15:9 testified that when they received the Holy Spirit, “He purified their hearts by faith.” Holiness implies ethical behavior—I conduct myself in a manner that glorifies God  Holiness implies surrender and commitment. In the Old Testament we read how Joshua ordered the people to prepare for crossing the Jordan River into the Promise Land, to “Sanctify themselves” or, as our modern Bibles translate the command, “Consecrate yourselves.” That means getting rid of anything that interferes with total commitment and obedience to God.  Holiness implies power. Because when we receive the Holy Spirit we are empowered to be His witnesses to all the world.

d. So Jesus states that we are sanctified by Truth and God’s Word is that Truth.  In the beginning verses of the Gospel of John Jesus is called “The Word.” He is the embodiment of all the Promises of God. The written Word, the Bible, is God’s Special Revelation to us so that we can know the story of Jesus and God’s plan for our Salvation. By accepting it as Truth, God does the powerful work in us of Sanctifying us, making us holy and fit for service for our King! 

II. ONE-NESS or UNITY

a. As Jesus continues His prayer and focuses on the future believers (you and me), He prays in verse 21, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” This one-ness or unity is a result of being Sanctified by the Truth! When we are made Holy, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts and we are spiritually one with God. God the Father is over all and He has made Jesus the head and we are the Body of Christ—not an organization, but an organism—a living expression of God working to advance His Kingdom by redeeming mankind.

b. I know that when we consider the many different denominations of Christianity, we wonder about that Unity. How can we be One when we are so many? Again I remind you, we are not taking about organizations—different bodies of people who organize themselves into a functioning unit with man made constitutions and rules. We are talking about the Living Body of Christ, the people of God who recognize Jesus as Lord and seek to serve Him with their entire beings. And just as our physical body is composed of various parts—lungs, heart, fingers, toes, etc., with each part doing what it was created to do and contributing to the well being of the body, so The Body of Christ, the Church, is composed of many parts each doing what they were called to do, But each one is under the control to the Head—Christ. The many parts combined form the One “Body--The Church.

c. When the prayer summit movement came to Branson, many of our pastors begin to refer to the Church of Branson that was composed of many congregations—Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Pentecostal. II is that unity, that sense of harmony, that realization that we serve One Lord, , and that realization that the Holy Spirit is working in each of us that demonstrates our One-ness, our Unity with each other and with Christ!.

III. The Glory

a. Jesus prayed in verse 22, saying, “”I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”

b. How do you define “Glory”?

In the Gospels we read how Jesus took 3 of his disciples and climbed a mountain. And while on that mountain, Jesus’ appearance was changed,Matthew 17: 2 says, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” We have to assume that brightness was a manifestation of God’s Glory. In the Old Testament, we read how when Moses came down from the Mountain with the Ten Commandments, his face glowed. He had to wear a veil over his face because of that glow that terrified the people. He had been in the Presence of God and that glow was God’s Glory shining on his countenance. “Glory” is the Victory, the Joy, the Peace we have because we are One with God.

The Songwriter wrote, “It is glory just to walk with Him whose blood has ransomed me, It is rapture for my soul each day. It is joy divine to feel Him near where’er my path may be, Bless the Lord is Glory all the way! “

--(It is Glory Just to Walk with Him, # 610 In Sing to the Lord  Nazarene Hymnbook)

Conclusion:

Jesus prayed this prayer for us just hours before He was arrested, tried and crucified. He promised us that He would give us the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us (John 14:17). And today, we are still reaping the benefits of His prayer. 

May His truth sanctify us, make us one with Him and the Father, and give us His glory—the glory He shared with the Father.

As we close the service today, Let us consider Truth—His Truth. May we allow it to make us truly His!

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05/26/2019

FROM DEATH TO LIFE!

  

Galatians 2: 11-21

Text: Galatians 2:20 

Introduction:

Memorial Day—a day to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Paul points to the One who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us and then shocks us with the testimony that we too should be crucified with Christ!

I. WE ARE SAVED BY F_____ IN JESUS CHRIST. 

II. OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD REQUIRES US TO D__ O__ TO OURSELVES.

Conclusion: 

This morning, are you struggling with temptations of allowing your “EGO” rule your life instead of allowing Christ and His Holy Word to rule your life?

FROM DEATH TO LIFE!

Galatians 2: 11-21

Text: Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives In me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Introduction:

This weekend as we pay our respects to the men and women of our armed forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, let us not forget the it was our King, the King of kings, who paid the ultimate sacrifice to free us from the tyranny of sin and restore us to the Family of God. It is that King whom Paul served. And it is that king to whom we have dedicated our lives.

In this letter to the Galatians, Paul addresses that ultimate sacrifice when he confronts Peter and testifies of being crucified with Christ.  We owe our salvation to the sacrifice Jesus made when He suffered and died for our sins so that we could be forgiven. 

But when Paul shifts the focus slightly and begins talking about each of us being “crucified with Christ,” We may get a little uneasy. It is one thing to realized Christ was crucified, but it is something else to speak of crucifying “Self.”

Illustration: 

One of the things I learned as a young boy was that I had better take care of myself. My dad taught me how to defend myself and even told me that if I found myself in a situation where I realized that a fight was inevitable I should go ahead and throw the first punch. If I did that I would have an advantage over my opponent.  Understand that this was in the 50s and 60s in a rural area way before there was the zero tolerance that is in most schools today. But the problem was that I tended to be sympathetic towards other and really didn’t want to hurt anyone. One day my friend and I got into an argument over how to do a job we had be assigned to do. The argument became more and more heated and I realized we were not going to agree no matter what. And then I remembered about throwing the first punch. So I threw it and the fight was on. I definitely had the advantage. I had my friend penned down and was delivering some pretty hard punches. But then I had the thought, “I’m going to hurt him if I keep this up.” So I backed off and let him up. That was a big mistake. He was taller than me and had longer arms and very quickly began to get the best of me. Fortunately, we both realized that what we were doing was pointless, so we stopped. He walked off and I was left to do the job we were assigned to do by myself. I could rightfully say, “I did it my way.” But our friendship certainly was strained. My “Ego” had put our friendship in jeopardy! 

While I fully understand the principle, Dad had taught me about striking first if there is no other option but to fight, as a Christian I also have learned that taking care of myself first is not always the right thing to do.

Paul in this letter to the church in Galatia writes that the best way to take care of self is to put self to death and let Christ live in us!

In this passage Paul tells of a time when he had confronted Peter over a self-serving act. In our Wednesday evening Bible Study we are on a journey through Acts. After persecution had become severe in Jerusalem many Jewish believers had fled to other places to live. Some of them had traveled North some 300 miles to a town called Antioch in Syria. It was there that the Church actively began evangelizing non-Jewish people—Gentles. Barnabas had been dispatched from Jerusalem to help pastor the church and he had drafted Paul to help him. The Book of Acts doesn’t tell the story, but from Paul’s letter to the Galatians we learn that at some point Peter himself had spent some time in Antioch. And while he was there he had associated with those Gentile believers—even sitting at the table and eating with them—a definite no-no in Jewish behavior. The Jews didn’t even go into a Gentile’s home, much less sit at the table and eat with them. I would speculate that this happened before Paul and Barnabas had taken the question of what to do with Gentiles to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. The Jewish believers who had been sent up by James did not yet understand the scope of God’s Grace. And Peter, worried about what they would think of his association with the Gentiles, withdrew from the Gentiles and sat with the Jews. Paul knew that this was an insult to the Gentile believers and realized that Peter needed to make things right, so Paul confronted him. 

Recently I spoke of the difference between original sin and acquired depravity. Acquired depravity consists of those actions and attitudes that we have learned from childhood on. A sanctified believer can have a heart purified from original sin and still need to unlearn those incorrect actions and attitudes that they have acquired. Peter, a sanctified, Spirit-filled Church Leader, an Apostle of Christ, had to face up to a mistake he was making. And God used Paul to help Peter get it right!

As Paul recounted this incident, his mind turned to his own spiritual relationship with Christ. And thus we have this powerful testimony of what God wants for each of us. Let’s consider the principles Paul outlines in this passage:

I. WE ARE SAVED BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.

a. In verses 15 & 16 Paul writes, “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles, know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

b. Paul makes it clear that being a Jew doesn’t give them any special rights. Both Jews and Gentiles are saved the same way—by faith in Jesus Christ.

c. Up until this point in the developing Christian Church, it was believed by many that Christianity was just a branch of Judaism. Just as Gentiles who converted to Judaism had to embrace all the law and traditions handed down to the Jews through the ages, so many believed that Christian believers also had to fully convert to Judaism.  But Paul pointed out that not even the Jews had been successful in completely keeping the law, so how could they expect the Gentiles to be successful.

d. Remember who Paul was: He was a Pharisee—the most conservative of all the Jewish sects. He was devoted to the law. And up until he met Christ on the road to Damascus, he had fully believed that Believers in Christ were heretics who needed to be eliminated. So when he said that no one could be justified by the law, he was speaking from firsthand experience. All the efforts to earn a right relationship with God had only left him frustrated and miserable. And he, like all the other believers—Jewish and Gentile alike—had found salvation—justification in the eyes of God and reconciliation with God --could only be obtained by putting one’s faith in the fact that Jesus had purchased our salvation through his sinless life and his atoning death on the Cross.

e. And that brings us to here and now. I have on occasion encountered people who were good. They had never been out in deep sin. They were not drug addicts or alcoholics. They never cheated on their spouse. They never stole from anyone. Their word was their bond. And when they are told that must repent of their sins, they balked, saying, I am a good person. I’m not a sinner. But like the Rich Young Ruler who had kept the commandments from his youth up, they were relying on their own self and not putting their trust in Christ. And that is the greatest of sins!  Let me say it right here and now: No matter how good a person you are; no matter how trustworthy you may be, unless you accept Jesus as your Savior and place your faith, your trust, your hope, your life in Him, you cannot be justified before God!

f. But God’s grace is such that, whoever you are, not matter how good or how bad you have been, if you will call out to God, turn away from your sins and commit yourself to following Christ, You can be saved. John wrote in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

g. That is the beginning point of our spiritual journey. God forgives our sins, removes the guilt of those sins from us, pardons us, and adopts us into His Family!

h. And, Peter, don’t you forget it! Paul wanted to set the record straight. Peter needed to be reminded--and so do we!

II. OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD REQUIRES US TO DIE OUT TO OURSELVES.  Let’s analyze verse 20:

a.  “I have been crucified with Christ…” The Greek language emphasizes the “I”. My “Ego” has been put to death with Christ.  This “ego” is what Paul in Romans 6: 23 calls “the old man” (kjv) or “the old self” (NIV). It is that sinful nature that stands in rebellion against God, insists on having its own way, and tempts us continually to obey it rather that God! Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, humanity is born with that sinful self, and it takes an act of God to deliver us from its control  And Jesus, who was tempted in all points as we but who was sinless, took our sins upon himself when he went to the Cross. His crucifixion was to put to death our sinful nature. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul said it this way: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  When we vicariously accept Christ’s death on the Cross as our death to sin, our sinful self is “Crucified with Christ.”

b. Verse 20 goes on: “…And I (ego) no longer live, but Christ lives in me…” ` When sinful self is dead, then Christ is free to reign in our hearts as Lord of our lives. Our life is hidden in Him and He is in control.

c. …The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” “Faith” is “believing, trusting fully, obeying completely to the the best of my ability, staking my life on the fact that Jesus is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do!  It is “seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) instead of putting my own desires and physical needs first. It trusting God even when logic says otherwise.

d. Let me give you an example of how our Self has a subtle way of usurping itself and leading us in a direction contrary to God’s Word: I received an interesting phone call this past week from someone who lives out of state. He explained that he and his lady friend would like to get married but that if they did their pension plans would be interrupted. He wanted to know if they came to Branson would I perform the marriage ceremony so that they would be “married in the eyes of God.”  Now I understand the problem—I’ve run into it before. The government often places a financial burden on older folks by reducing their retirement funds through taxes and other requirements.    But when He told me he wanted to be married in the eyes of God, I had to explain to him what I believe the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches us to obey the laws of the land. To live together without being legally married is not God’s plan. I didn’t say this to the man, but I will say it now. God has another word for couples who pretend to be married but who are not legally so: He calls it “Adultery!”   And the whole issue is this: Are you committed to obeying God and living a morally pure life, or would you rather trust in your retirement funds and live in sin?

It’s easy to say, “Jesus is all I need!” But when our Self insists on more how are we going to justify it before God?

Conclusion:

On this Memorial Day Weekend, we remember the price for our freedom as Americans. How much more should we the remember the price Jesus paid for our salvation. He has opened up the way for us to be Children of God. We are called to Holy—because God is holy. Paul nailed it when he pointed out that real spiritual life comes by allowing our sinful self, our sinful pride, our sinful ego, to be crucified with Christ.

This morning, are you struggling with temptations of allowing your “EGO” rule your life instead of allowing Christ and His Holy Word to rule your life?

The best way to Honor Him is to yield fully to Him. 

Wouldn’t you like to do that right now?

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05/12/2019

A CHILD OF GOD

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!


Pastor Jim Cariker May 12, 2019


Romans 8: 12-18

Introduction:

>Illustration: An Adopted woman discovers her birth father…

>Romans 7 is an account of defeat—but Romans 8 describes the victory of a Spirit=filled life. In Romans 8: 12-18 we learn that…

I. THE FIRST PRIORITY IS TO LIVE A SPIRIT FILLED LIFE

II. ADOPTION INTO GOD’S FAMILY COMES WITH BEING SPIRIT -FILLED.

III. AS SPIRIT-FILLED SONS AND DAUGHTERS WE HAVE THE PRIVILEGES OF FAMILY.

Conclusion:

Illustration: A mother gives her life for her son…

A CHILD OF GOD

Romans 8: 12-18

Introduction:

 I read a news article this week about a woman who had been adopted out at birth. As a result of Ancestry DNA testing, she discovered her biological father and connected with him. Some interesting things stood out to me in the story.  Even though she was a grown woman, she had never known her biological Dad. Through her research a few years earlier she had found her biological mother, but when she reached out to her, the woman did not want to connect with her daughter. The daughter of course was hurt, but she had put it behind her and moved on. But, in the news article, she stated that she had never even considered trying to find her biological father. It just never occurred to her. She assumed if her mother wasn’t interested in her, then neither would her father be. But after discovering the name on the results of her DNA testing, she contacted the man and found out that he had no idea that he even had a child who would be her age, much less one that had been given away in adoption. It seems he and the girl’s mother had a fling that ended after a short time and he was never told that the woman was pregnant. After the shocking discovery, this girl who had never known her father and this father who never knew this daughter even existed, connected in a positive way. She found out she had brothers and sisters and was able to make the trip up to Iowa to meet this family that she had not known existed. It was a touching news story.

But as I contemplate the importance of Mothers’ Day, one of the things that stood out to me was the woman’s statement that she never even thought about trying to find her biological dad. Her search had been for her biological Mom. Finding the Dad was just by accident.

In our society it seems to me that as important as Fathers may be, Mothers still rank as the most important. 

I had a very close relationship with my Dad. But whenever I did something wrong, it was the hurt or disappointment in my Mother’s eyes that had the most impact on me. And, at times, Mom served as a buffer between me and Dad when he was considering how to discipline me.

Our scripture passage today is found in Romans chapter 8, a chapter devoted to the Spirit-filled life. In chapter 7 Paul wrote about the problem of trying to live by observing the law, or, in our case, how to try to live a holy life in our own power and the resulting defeat. Without God’s help, no man can keep all the details of the Law. Sin is so powerful in this fallen world that it will force you to do things you never thought you would do, that you never even wanted to do, but which you were powerless to resist doing.

Romans chapter 7 is depressing as we realize the domineering power of sin. But then the whole tenor of defeat gives way to victory as we read Paul’s words in 7:24 & 25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord?”

Then Paul in chapter 8 explains the lifestyle that we have when we allow Jesus to take control of our lives.

Romans 8: 12-18 tells how we must live according to God’s Spirit instead of following our own human desires. And then He explains how God has adopted all of us who have allowed His Spirit to become their guide. This is holiness being lived out in our individual lives. 

Let’s focus on verses 12 -18 found in this tremendous chapter on the Spirit-filled life: 

I. THE FIRST PRIORITY IS TO LIVE A SPIRIT FILLED LIFE

a. Verse 12 says, “…We have an obligation…”  That obligation is not to fulfill the desires of the flesh but is to be led by God’s Spirit.

b. In Matthew 6:33 in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had said,Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Paul in this passage is saying the same thing. We have an obligation, a privilege and a mandate to make pleasing God the number one priority of Life. That is the essence of Holiness. 

c. On this Mothers’ Day it is easy to think of the priorities of a true mother in regard to her children.  She will sacrifice her own desires so see her children cared for. I’ve heard of mothers in refugee camps literally starving themselves to death because they chose instead to give their ration of food to their hungry children. That’s the kind of discipline, determination and love that is involved in the Spirit-filled person’s life.

d. This means that no matter what, we choose to do what we think God wants us to do. If we have a chance to make a large amount of money but it involves shady practices, we choose to honor God instead of money. If it means a promotion at work that will take away too much time from my wife and family, we choose family—because devotion to family honors God. If it means dressing fashionably but in a way that distracts from modesty and provokes impure thoughts in others, that we choose modesty—because modesty honors God.

e. You get the picture—You have an obligation—and that obligation is to live a Spirit –filled, Spirit- controlled lifestyle!

II. ADOPTION INTO GOD’S FAMILY COMES WITH BEING SPIRIT -FILLED.

a. Verse 14 says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” In John’s Gospel, John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

b. It is God’s Spirit that awakens us to our need for a Savior. It is God’s Spirit that draws us to Jesus. It is God’s Spirit that applies the atoning sacrifice—the Blood of Jesus shed on our behalf—to our spirits to cleanse us from the guilt of sins committed. It is the Holy Spirit who through the power of Christ purges our hearts from the sinful nature with which we are each born, and it is God’s Spirit that completes the transaction of Adoption into God’s family.

c. Some of you know much more about the process of adopting a child than I do. Gloria and I were married for several years before we had our first child. We were beginning to think that we wouldn’t be able to have children. We signed up as foster parents for a while, thinking that might lead to adoption. But it didn’t work out that way. We learned quickly that adoption involved attorneys and adoption agencies, or special arrangements through doctors. And we learned it could be a very expensive process. Before we had a chance to really figure it all out, Gloria became pregnant with Jenna. 

d. In the social network, adoption normally takes professional help from several different sources. Someone who knows the ins and outs must guide adoptive parents through the legalities involved.

e. But when we give our hearts to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to take control, He leads us through the spiritual adoption process. He makes it possible for us to become children of God!

f. There are several ways to look at this. There is a sense where everyone is a child of God because God is Creator. But when Adam and Eve sinned creation was plunged into a different state. Because of that sin, we are born in sin and estranged from God. But because Jesus took our sins upon Himself and died for us, when we accept His death as payment for our sin, then we are brought back into a right relationship with God. No longer are we estranged from God; we are reconciled with God. In other words, we are brought back into the family and re-instated as sons and daughters of God.

g. On Mothers’ Day, we often reflect on our own wonderful mothers and the relationship we have with her. But some, like the woman in the opening illustration, never had a chance to know their natural mother. They were rejected. Others had mothers who were neglectful or abusive, leaving the child feeling insecure and unloved. But regardless of the relationship you may have had with your human parents, because of what Jesus has done, the Holy Spirit brings us into God’s family where we are never forsaken and are loved with an unconditional love. 

h. No wonder the Gathers could sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!” You are loved. You are important. God considers you to be His very own!

III. AS SPIRIT-FILLED SONS AND DAUGHTERS WE HAVE THE PRIVILEGES OF FAMILY.

a. Listen again to verses 15-17: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

b. I know you know this, but it is still amazing. When we are co-heirs, we often think we get equal shares of the inheritance with each family member. But “join-heirs” or “co-heirs” don’t receive a portion. Each one in fact receives it all. So, if I am a co-heir with Jesus, then all that He possesses is mine, as well.  There is an interesting passage in Ephesians 1: 18-20 that speaks to this inheritance: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and the incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” >Think about it the mighty power of God, so powerful that it raised Jesus from death to everlasting life is the same power that God has made available to us.  And the Glorious riches of God are made available as an inheritance to each one of us who are children of God. 

c. So many Christians struggle through life half defeated, fearful of their shadow, fearful of being rejected by others. At the same time, if they would just receive it, they could be living in His incomparable power. Later in Romans 8:37 we read, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

d. Let’s not act like we are half dead, afraid of failure or defeat. Let’s live with our heads held high. We are not “worms” doomed to wallow in the dust of self-pity.  we are Children of God. Let’s rejoice—the victory is ours. It has already been won through Christ. The Holy Spirit of God assures us that we have no reason to fear but every reason to rejoice!

Conclusion:

Romans 8 is chapter about the wonder of a Spirit-filled life. That’s the life that we can all live because of Jesus and His death in our place to atone for our sins.

I read this short article this week as I was preparing this message. It was told by Dwight L. Moody:

When the California gold fever broke out, a man went there, leaving his wife in New England with his boy. As soon as he got on and was successful, he was to send for them. It was a long time before he succeeded, but at last he got money enough to send for them. The wife’s heart leaped for joy. She took her boy to New York, got on board a Pacific steamer, and sailed away to San Francisco.

They had not been long at sea before the cry of “Fire! fire!” rang through the ship, and rapidly it gained on them. There was a powder magazine on board, and the captain knew the moment the fire reached the powder, every man, woman, and child must perish.

They got out the lifeboats, but they were too small! In a minute they were overcrowded. The last one was just pushing away, when the mother pled with them to take her and her boy. “No,” they said, “we have got as many as we can hold.” She entreated them so earnestly, that at last they said they would take one more. Do you think she leaped into that boat and left her boy to die? No! She seized her boy, gave him one last hug, kissed him, and dropped him over into the boat. “My boy,” she said, “if you live to see your father, tell him that I died in your place.”

That is a faint picture of what Christ has done for us. He laid down his life for us. He died that we might live. Now will you not love Him. What would you say of that young man if he should speak contemptuously of such a mother! She went down to a watery grave to save her son. Well, shall we speak contemptuously of such a Savior? May God make us loyal to Christ!

Source: Anecdotes and Illustrations of D. L. Moody, D. L. Moody

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05/05/2019

HOLY HEART—HOLY LIFE

1 Thessalonians 5: 12-24


Introduction: 

live like Christ…

>1 Thessalonians..Paul sets the Standard

I. HOW WE TREAT O______ (12-14)

II. HOW WE VIEW L____.

III. HOW WE CAN LIVE UP TO THE S________

Conclusion: There’s a saying that I have heard many times in the church world. It is, :”Let go and Let God…” Let God live His life in you and through you!

HOLY HEART—HOLY LIFE

1 Thessalonians 5: 12-24

Introduction: 

When I was a kid, I was basically a good kid. But there were those moments. I remember in high school when I got into an argument with one of my classmates, and in the heat of the moment I called him a name—“fat boy.” The boy was slightly overweight and I’m sure my insult must have touched a nerve. A couple of years ago I was able to reconnect with that person on Facebook and renew our friendship.  And guess who the fat boy is today!

One of my favorite teachers in school was Ms. Sophie Fore. I had her in chemistry class. I was feeling pretty smart one day and in class she was asking us questions. I said something stupid—like, “You are the teacher—you should know these answers.” And just like that she expelled me from her class. I was horrified. I begged her to let me stay in class and promised not be disrespectful again. She finally relented and I learned a lesson on being respectful.

Looking back on my life, there are several scenes that I regret—even after I became a Christian. I have not always had the right attitude. I have not always had a positive spirit. I sometimes can be a real grouch. But I am still a work in progress.

 John Newton is credited with saying, “I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, "By the grace of God I am what I am.”

As a new Christian I had a lot to learn about how to live as a Christian. One of those things I learned was that without God’s help I could never do it.

Paul’s first letter to the Church in Thessalonica is thought by many scholars to be one of the earliest--and perhaps the earliest-=-of all the writings in the New Testament. Writing to a people who lived in a pagan world, a city of an estimated 200,000, right in the lap of the Roman Empire, Paul spelled out some principles that were essential for these new Christians—and that are just as essential for Christians today if we are going to live up to our potential as victorious witnesses for Christ.

According to Acts 17, Paul was only in Thessalonica for 3 weeks. He spoke in the Jewish Synagogue, and as happened frequently in his journeys, the unbelieving Jews stirred up so much trouble that Paul’s life was in danger and he had to leave.  In this letter Paul states, Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10). Then in 1 Thessalonians. 4: 3 he says,“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…”

And Paul in this letter carefully explains to these baby Christians what “Sanctification” means. Some commentaries refer to this letter as a “Handbook on Holiness” because Paul so clearly instructs them on how to live a holy life.

Somewhere in my library there is a book entitled Holiness in the Marketplace. As the title suggests, the author points out that holiness, which must first be experienced in the heart, must also be displayed in how we live our lives. 

Paul, after taking time to give information about the Second Coming of Christ and what will happen to Christians who have already died, he concludes this little letter with more instructions on how to live out holiness in their daily lives. 

Let’s focus in on these “final instructions.”

I. HOW WE TREAT OTHERS (12-14)

a. Paul makes it clear that we should show respect to others—and especially to those who serve us in the Lord. “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” I have discovered over the years that respect for authority does not always come easily. I remember times when I served our district as President of the Nazarene Youth International. I worked hard with my board to plan activities that we thought would be beneficial to the youth on our district. We struggled with the many possible consequences before we made our decisions. I was amazed at how many people would jump to conclusions and question our motives. Many never took time to consider the process we had gone through before making our decisions. They just jumped to conclusions that came from uninformed knowledge and misrepresented information. God help us to not fall into that mindset. Rather than criticize our leaders, let us pray for them that God will lead them and bless them and use them for His Glory. And showing respect should also go for those who are in authority over us even in the secular world. Listening to a sermon by Dr. James Merritt a few weeks ago, I was reminded how David treated King Saul. For a period of about 10 years King Saul sought to kill David because he considered him a threat. But those times when David could easily have killed Saul, he refused to do so.  David knew that God had placed Saul in the position as King. The office of King was an office ordained by God. David’s treatment of respect for Saul was not because of the wrong Saul was doing. It was because of the God ordained office that he held. As Christians in America we would do well to exercise that same kind of respect. 

b. Paul’s instructs his audience to “Live in peace with each other…” and to warn those who would be trouble makers—the idle and the disruptive. That presents a real tightrope to follow: How can you live in peace and at the same time warn the idle and disruptive. The very act of warning such people often causes more strife. But in other places we are told to be ministers of reconciliation. In other words, we should develop skills of smoothing over conflicts and restoring peace. That takes the skill of real negotiators. Paul tells us some of the graces we need if we are to be successful: “…encourage the disheartened, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” I have to tell you, those traits don’t come easily. They are traits that only come by discipline and are developed with maturity. Gloria and I  were just out of college. We were serving as youth pastors. The church was in the process of building an activity center that would have an apartment in it for us, but the construction was behind schedule. We found ourselves having to live in tight quarters with several other people. In that tight living space personalities can clash. I remember one young man who became very demanding and I confronted him about it. The discussion got very heated and I seriously considered punching him. But God gave me grace to turn and walk away. Whether he was wrong or I was wrong really wasn’t the issue. The issue was whether or not we could work through the conflict in a mature, Christian manner. I confess at that time as a young Christian it was one of the hardest things for me to turn and walk away. There was a time in my life that I would have thrown that punch.  But that would not have helped the situation—it would only have dishonored the Lord.

c. What I am saying is that these instructions Paul was giving are not always easy to follow. On our own there are times when we will fall short. I think it was C. Everette Lewis who said something like this: “To spend time with Saints in heaven—that will be glorious; But to spend time Saints here on earth —now that’s a different story!”

II. HOW WE VIEW LIFE.

a.  In these final instructions, after Paul tells us how we should be treating others, he shifts the focus to our own attitude towards life in general. 

a. “Rejoice always’ (16). Do you remember the reception Paul and Silas received when they were in Philippi? The city leaders had them beaten, shackled and thrown into prison. But instead of moaning and groaning about how mistreated they were, we find them at midnight singing the praises of God.  Over in Philippians 4:8 Paul instructed his readers to Always think on the good, the noble, the praiseworthy. In other words, always look on the bright side. Now you know as well as I that isn’t always easy. I tend to see the problems much easier than I do the solutions. I find myself sometimes focusing on what I can’t do rather than what I can do. And when I am in that mindset, I find it much easier to complain to God rather than rejoice in God. It takes real effort to change my way of thinking!

b. “Pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances…” It is hard to give thanks when my back is hurting so much, I can hardly walk, or when my bank account is empty and I have bills that are due. And, if I’m not careful I might pray the wrong kind of thanksgiving—like the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank God I’m not like this tax-collector” (See Luke 18:11). But I can take time to remember the promises of God and thank Him for “His Grace that is Sufficient” and that Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I can thank Him that “He will make a way when there seems to be no way.” But to pray like that with sincerity I must discipline myself to focus on God’s power, not my own.

c. Then Paul continues with a reminder of our outlook on God: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat Prophecies with contempt, but test them all, hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (19-22).  Again, I wonder how often I have failed. “Quenching the Spirit,” means “to put out the fire” or “to diminish the power of God.” A “ho-hum” indifferent attitude does that. Or by doing things that reduces my ability to truly worship God with enthusiasm—like staying up too late on Saturday night or neglecting my own prayer life or by having a critical spirit —I quench God’s Spirit’s ability to work in me or through me. 

d. And sometimes I am suspicious of others who claim to be speaking for God. Yes, I must test the Spirit to discern the truth, but when I do and find them to be credible, I shouldn’t put them down! I heard a pastor who was having a very successful ministry, winning lots of people with creative methods, describe how lonely he felt at district meetings because the other pastors didn’t want to have anything to do with him. 

e. God forgive me when I quench the Spirit because I am jealous of someone else’s success!

III. IN PAUL’S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS HE POINTS TO THE ONLY WAY WE CAN LIVE UP TO THE STANDARD

a. In verses 23 & 24 he writes, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

b. How can I live in peace with others and respect those in authority and have the right outlook on life? Can anyone be successful to that degree? And the answer is that in our own power we will certainly fail. But when we fully surrender to God and allow Him to “purify our hearts” and we give Him the controls of our life then He will enable us to be victorious.

Conclusion:

Paul set a standard for living a holy life. In other places the New Testament makes it clear that the foundation for such a life is that we love God with our entire being and love others. When we ask Jesus into our hearts, He forgives us our sins and begins the process of helping us mature in our outward lives. By allowing the Holy Spirit to take over the controls of our life, we have our hearts purified. And from there we constantly strive to live up to that Standard—in other words to become more like Christ every day.

This morning, where are you in your spiritual journey. Are you struggling to live up to the standard we read in the scriptures? Do you feel like a failure in your efforts? Could it be that you are trying so hard in your own power that you have not allowed God to do His work of transforming you and empowering you with His Spirit?

Today, you know you have asked Jesus to be your Savior. You know that He forgives you your sins. But have you taken the next step of saying, “Lord, I can’t do it on my own. I release control of my life and give it to You. Holy Spirit, fill my heart and live through me. I give myself to You.

There’s a saying that I have heard many times in the church world. It is, :”Let go and Let God…” Let God live His life in you and through you!

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04/28/2019

THE RISEN LORD LIVES!

  1 Corinthians 15: 1-11

Introduction:

>Illustration: The Hallucinations in Grief

>But Jesus’ Appearances were real.

>Paul gives us the Preaching points of the 1st Century:

I. CHRIST D___ FOR OUR S___. (Verse 3)

II. HE WAS B________ AND HE R____ A_____ ON THE THIRD DAY. (Verse 4)

III.I AM W_____ I A__  BY THE GRACE OF GOD…”(Verse 10)

Conclusion:

Lent and Easter is over, but what about now?

THE RISEN LORD LIVES!

1 Corinthians 15: 1-11

Introduction:

Has it ever happened to you? Someone close to you dies. And then, you are in Walmart or some other store and off in the distance you think you see that person. It has happened to me a few times and it can be a little unnerving. Of course, when I’ve investigated, I found the person who I thought was my deceased friend was really someone about the same build or with a similar hair style or wearing a piece of clothing similar to the style my deceased friend wore.

More startling is when you are home alone—or in the church building alone—and you hear a sound and you look and for a moment you have the image of that deceased friend in your mind. Of course, there was no one there. The sound was just the building creaking or your dog or cat or church mouse moving around. But it is a little unnerving.

Psychologist Dr. John M. Grohol speaks to this in an article posted on PsychCentral.com :

One possible grief reaction rarely described, researched or discussed is seeing illusions or hallucinations of the loved one. Scientific American brings us the story:

Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations [and illusions] associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved’s passing.

As the study’s abstract notes, these hallucinations decline with time:

82% of the subjects at 1 month, 71% of the subjects at 3 months, and 52% of the subjects at 12 months experienced illusions and/or hallucinations of the deceased spouse, which were generally experienced as pleasant and helpful.

There’s not a lot of information about these images people see, probably because they usually aren’t considered disturbing by the people who view them, and grief has long been viewed as an intensely personal experience (one where a researcher asking intrusive questions might be unwelcome).

So, if you lose someone dear to you, and then think you see them sitting on a park bench or walking up the stairs in your house, don’t be alarmed. That’s just your mind’s way of not quite being ready to let go of the person who’s meant a lot to you.

Many of you have experienced this. It is normal. 

But what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15 is not the same thing. Mary Magdalene did not see a ghost or have a hallucination. She talked and touched Jesus. The two men on the Road to Emmaus were not hallucinating. They walked about 7 miles with Jesus and had him talk from the scriptures about His death and resurrection. The disciples and Thomas really did see Jesus. The 500 or so to whom Jesus appeared and spoke were not experiencing mass hallucinations. Paul’s Damascus Road Experience really did occur—Jesus appeared and spoke to him when he was struck down by the bright light.

Yes, Grief is real and sometimes our eyes play tricks on us—but that was not what happened on Easter and the weeks that followed. 

Paul sums it up this way: “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…he was buried , …he was raised on the third day. and he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that,  he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15: 6-8).

In our scripture today (1 Cor. 15: 1-11) we have the primary outline of the message the first century preachers proclaimed. Let’s consider:

I. CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS.

a. At the time of his crucifixion, I am sure that there were many different opinions as to why he was executed.

b. The Jewish Leaders thought Jesus was being put to death because of the threat he presented to their control over the people. They controlled who offered the sacrifices on behalf of the people. They controlled the marketplace where the animals to be sacrificed were purchased. They controlled the prices that were required for those purchases. They controlled the political establishment especially in the religious hierarchy. They possessed power and prestige in their own eyes as they ruled over the people. Jesus posed a very real threat to all that. He had to be put death in order to preserve their power structure.

c. The Romans thought they were executing a criminal—an insurrectionist who was a threat to Roman Rule. The charges that were brought against him included that He claimed to be a King. That amounted to rebellion against Caesar and was punishable by death. Of course, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent of those charges. But he thought that by handing Jesus over to be crucified he would be able to silence that uproar that threatened to bring accusations against him before Caesar. He thought that by handing Jesus over to be crucified he would bring peace to the city. He wanted to keep in good relations with the religious power structure in Judea. His philosophy was “Silence the man—Silence the Mob!”

d. At first the followers of Jesus must have thought that Jesus was being put death because of his popularity among the people There was no doubt that Jesus was the leader of hundreds and perhaps thousands who had witnessed His miracles and heard his words about the Kingdom of God being at hand. They thought their rising movement was being robbed of a great leader.

e. But after the weeks following the Resurrection Jesus spent teaching them about the Kingdom of God and they came to realize that Jesus died not because of all those other reasons—He died as the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.

f. And today,  we must realize that He died for your sins and mine. He paid the debt that we could never pay on our own. 

II. HE WAS BURIED AND HE ROSE AGAIN ON THE THIRD DAY.

a. We celebrated Easter last Sunday. And we know that had Jesus remained buried in the tomb, we would not be experiencing the Salvation that is so freely available today. Death, our final Enemy, was defeated. Instead of being the end or our existence, Death for the Christian has been turned into “Sleep for the Weary,” peace from the stresses of this life, and the beginning of a whole new existence for eternity.

b. In my nearly 50 years as a pastor I have conducted  hundreds of funerals .And  we don’t have to say “goodbye” to a loved one. Instead, we can justifiably say, “See you later” to those who have put their trust in Jesus. This is because Jesus is described as the “First-fruits” of those who have died. If He is the “first-fruits,” then we will be the “Next fruits” because His death and resurrection set us on the pathway to life everlasting.

III.I AM WHAT I AM BY THE GRACE OF GOD…”

a. Dr. Don Owens, former General Superintendent, used to talk about His “Popeye” Sermon. Remember how Popeye would eat that spinach and show bouts of great strength usually against his archenemy Brutus, and sing, “I am what I am—I’m Popeye the Sailor man!”

b. It is not spinach that makes me what I am as a Christian—it is God’s grace. Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor from God.” It is God extending His love and mercy towards us by offering us something other than what we deserve. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And then in Romans 6:23 we read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We deserve death. We have earned it because of the sins we have committed. But God instead offers to us eternal life. Now that is Grace!

c. Paul had been a persecutor of the church. He had given his approval to the death of Stephen and had probably been instrumental in the beatings and executions of others who were followers of Christ. But God had transformed him so much that now He was one of the chief leaders of the Jesus movement. How did that happen? It happened because God extended His grace to Paul

d. And today, no matter how deep into sin you may have gone, God is still in the transformation business. He offers to your forgiveness, cleansing, and eternal life.

e. And , of course, that Grace is what sustains us and enables us to grow as Christians and blesses us in so many ways as we put our trust in Jesus and continue in the faith. How many times have you heard it said, “I would never make it through this if it were not for Jesus”?   Truly, “His Grace is Sufficient!”

Conclusion:

We have just celebrated Easter. The Lenten season leading up to Easter was a time of personal commitment focusing on our spiritual life, putting aside those things that interfere with our focus on holiness.

Now that Easter is over, it is easy to let down our guard and drift back into a less disciplined lifestyle. 

But Paul’s words to the Corinthians reminds us that Easter and the Resurrection is just the beginning.  

We are called to live for Christ every day. It is His living Presence that enables us to live victoriously. We don’t have to give in to temptations—Jesus is here for us to show us the way. We don’t have to be beaten down or defeated by the cares of this life—Jesus is here to strengthen us and to show us the way. We don’t have to be afraid of embarrassing ourselves by witnessing to others—Jesus is here to give us the words and the courage and boldness to share with others the Good News of Salvation. We don’t even have to worry about death—Jesus has already faced it, experienced it and defeated it. And our life is found in Him! 

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04/21/2019

THE END OF THE BEGINNING…

  

RESURRECTION SUNDAY!


Luke 24: 1-12

Introduction:

>The road to Jerusalem led to a hill just outside the city called Mount Calvary.

>His death on the Cross…and then His Resurrection:

I. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE BEGINNING OF E_________ L____.

II. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW R__________ WITH GOD.

III. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE VALIDATION THAT OUR H____ IS NOT IN VAIN.

Conclusion: The Lord’s Supper is a memorial to His Death, Resurrection, and a reminder of His Coming Again!

THE END OF THE BEGINNING…

Luke 24: 1-12

Introduction:

In Luke 9: 51 we read, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”

Last week we celebrated His “Triumphal Entry” as he descended on a donkey’s colt from the Mount of Olives amidst a cheering crowd along a cloak strewed road way with tree branches waving. He entered the gates of Jerusalem as he began a very eventful week. But Jerusalem wasn’t the end of the road. 

We read how he entered the Temple, created havoc as he drove out the money-changers, upsetting the business enterprise of exploiting pilgrims of their funds to line the pockets of a crooked Jewish hierarchy. During the week He taught in the temple courts, cursed a fig tree, gave clues on what to expect at the end of this age. And then Jesus and his disciples had partaken of the Passover Meal in which he introduced the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper signifying his death and resurrection that was about to occur. The Thursday evening Garden of Gethsemane scene marked the beginning of what theologians call the Passion of Christ as he agonized over what was about to happen and surrendered with the words, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). And then there was the arrest and the mockery of a trial, the abuse by the hands of those Jews who pronounced judgment on him. The scene before Pilate is heart wrenching as Pilate declares him innocent, washing his hands, and then turns him over to be beaten and crucified. 

We read in Luke 23: 26 that the soldiers led him away, seizing a man named Simon who was from Cyrene, to carry the cross because Jesus was too weak from the beatings and abuse to carry it himself. And then in Luke 23:32-33 we read, “Two other men, both criminals were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.”

You do understand that when Jesus “set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem,” it wasn’t just the city that was his destination. It was the hill just outside the city, a hill we call Calvary or Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, that was his ultimate destination. He had made that clear in his efforts to tell the Disciples what they could expect when they reached the end of the road in Jerusalem.

The Cross was His ultimate test, His ultimate battle with the forces of evil, His ultimate victory for humanity. 

The Apostle John some 60 years later would write, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2: 1-2).

I cannot begin to fully understand what happened on that Cross.  I know that Jesus did not have to die. He had every opportunity to escape. And, we are told that he could have summoned 10,000 angels to intervene and save Him from the Cross if he had so desired. But He chose to die. He gave His Life in our place.

Theologians in their attempt to explain what took place come up with various theories—The Ransom Theory—His death paid a Ransom price to Satan; or a Ransom price to God’s Justice. The Redemption price—His death was a payment to buy us back from our slavery to sin. There’s the Moral Influence Theory that suggests His death served as a motivation for us to forsake our sins and turn to back to God. All of these point us in the right direction, but none of these adequately explain all that happened on the Cross.  2 Corinthians 5: 21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  How was that possible? I can’t explain it.

All I can say is that the death of Jesus on the Cross was the ultimate provision that God put into place so that by putting my faith in Christ, I find forgiveness and cleansing from sin and am brought back into the Family of God. Somehow, His Death was a substitute for my eternal death.

And so, Jesus finished the journey he had started in Luke 9:51. He followed the path that led to Jerusalem and ended on Calvary: The end of the road was  a Cross on which He hung and died.

And that was the end—of the Beginning. 

But today, we have come to celebrate the rest of the story. While the physical road ended at Calvary, the Empty Tomb on the third day after His death marked a new Beginning.

I. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE BEGINNING OF ETERNAL LIFE.

a. In 1 Corinthians 15: 20 it says, “But Christ has indeed risen from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

b. Once again, let me point out that the Resurrection was different from the raising to life of those who had died. Lazarus, and all the others who died and were brought back to life in the Bible, had to face death again. Theirs were miracles of resuscitation. But when Jesus came forth from the grave, he had defeated death and would never have to face death again. He is alive forever and ever! 

c. And since Jesus is the “first-fruits” we know that one day we too will be resurrected to eternal life. The end of the physical road opened up the way for us to have eternal life!

II. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

a. Up until this time, people were offering animal sacrifices to appease God, to find forgiveness of their sins, and to meet the requirements of the Law. These sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again, because they were not adequate to take care of future sins. But Jesus’ Death and Resurrection marked the end of the need for animal sacrifices. His death was the supreme and ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, past, present and future. And His Resurrection was the validation that Provision. So, now, because of the Resurrection God has provided access to Himself through our acceptance of Jesus’ death as an atonement for our sins. And, John 1:12 tells us, “Yet to all who did receive him to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

b. In 2 Corinthians 5: 14-15 we read, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

c. Today, we can sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God” because we have a relationship with God because Jesus opened up the way for us to be reconciled with the Father. Because of what Jesus has done, we who put our faith in him are adopted back into God’s Family. Romans 8: 16-17 tells us, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

III. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE VALIDATION THAT OUR HOPE IS NOT IN VAIN.

a. In 2 Corinthians 1: 19-20, Paul wrote, “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

b. In our everyday thought we sometimes use the word “Hope” to mean “Wishful Thinking.” For example we say, “I hope this happens, but it may or may not.” But For a Christian “Hope” is a reality that is yet to happen. I know God’s promises are true. I know there is an eternity waiting for me. I know God answers prayer. I know that when He says he will not forsake me, He never will!

c. How can I know this: Because Jesus’ Death and Resurrection seal the deal for us! God’s Word is true. We can depend on it!

d. That means I am never alone. If all my friends forsake me and the whole world seems to be against me, God is still there. I can lean on Him. Isaiah tells us God’s holds us with “His righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10), and Jesus in John 20: 28, said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

e. In Hebrews 6:18 & 29 we read, “…it is impossible for God to lie, [so] we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…:

f. All this is because of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection!

Conclusion:

The end of the Road was the beginning of eternal life, a new relationship and a validated hope. 

The living Christ has provided Salvation for each of us. And His dwelling place at the Right hand of the Father in Heaven guarantees us and Eternal Home.

I read this account that points to the significance of the Resurrection of Christ:

As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev's widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev's wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband. 

--Gary Thomas, Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26.

So today we celebrate the greatest event in history, the Resurrection of our Lord. Let’s end this service with the Lord’s Supper, a memorial to His atoning death and Resurrection and a reminder that He is coming again to claim His Bride the Church.

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04/14/2019

DESTINATION: JERUSALEM!

 Luke 19: 28-44


Introduction:

Ø Illustration: “I’d rather drive than fly!”

Ø Jesus walked…

Ø And now He was within sight of His destination…

I.  THERE WAS THE C_____.

II. THERE WERE THE ACTS OF C___________.

III. THERE WAS THE MOMENT JESUS REVEALED HIS I____________.

Conclusion:

>The personal decision…which will determine your eternity…

DESTINATION: JERUSALEM!

Luke 19: 28-44

Introduction:

I’m not a world traveler. While I recognize the convenience of flying, I would rather drive if at all possible. It’s a control thing. I like to control as many factors in my travel as possible. I don’t like checking into airports. I resent having to remove my shoes, empty my pockets, take off my belt, and remove anything else that might be metal. One time it was the tin fold from a piece of gum that caused me to have to have the security guy use the wand on me. I understand the need for security. But, I would rather drive myself.

In 2008 when I spent 10 weeks in Dominica I was anxious to get home. My flight schedule including boarding a plane in Dominica, changing plans in Puerto Rico, changing again at Dallas/Fort Worth, and then landing in Memphis. In fight from Puerto Rico to Dallas/Ft. Worth we heard the weather was stormy in Texas. As we got closer, we learned that a tornado had hit Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport and our fight was being diverted to Houston. In Houston we had to stand for 5 hours in lines to get back to the ticket desk only to find out that we were going to have to stay overnight before we could get on another flight. 

I’d rather drive than fly!

The next day after flying on to Dallas/ Ft. Worth, and then to Memphis, it was a relief to get off the plane to meet Jenna and her new boyfriend Matt, pick up my luggage and drive on to Mom’s to get my car and then on to Branson. Crossing that Arkansas/ Missouri Border, I felt like I was finally arriving. And what a joy it was to pull into my driveway at home!

In Luke 9:51 we read, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”

Now, in Luke 19:28 we read, “After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.”  He didn’t fly. He didn’t even drive. He walked from Galilee, through Samaria, down to the lowest city on earth—Jericho, and then the 15 mile climb upwards until he reached the peak of the Mount of Olives. From there, He could see the place to which he had so resolutely journeyed for weeks. 

He knew where he was going. And he knew why he was going. And he knew what was waiting for him when he arrived. I can only imagine what was going through his mind as he looked out from the Mount of Olives and saw his destination.

The journey had not been easy—and it certainly had not been uneventful. We read about the poor reception he received in Samaria that prompted James and John to want to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village. We heard the sisters Martha and Mary express their feelings when He arrived at their home to find that Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days already. “Lord, if you had been here our brother would not have died.” We witnessed his emotions as he stood in front of the tomb and wept before he called our “Lazarus, come forth” and changed a scene of sorrow to a celebration of joy! We walked with him through Jericho where he restored sight to at least 2 and possibly 3 blind beggars and transformed a short tax-collector named Zacchaeus from a hated thief to dedicated follower. 

And now, He is close to the end of his journey. Jerusalem is before him. And accompanying him are many people whose lives had been changed. As word spread that Jesus was approaching, the people began to gather along the roadside just to get a glimpse of him, to greet him, to cheer for him, and possibly to see another miracle performed by this Rabbi from Galilee.

But Jesus is still resolutely facing Jerusalem. There was his destination. There was his destiny. There was the Cross—His ultimate destination. Jerusalem.

But today, it wasn’t the Cross that the crowds were cheering. It was the Hope of Deliverance. The crowds had attempted to crown Him King earlier. Now that desire was re-ignited to fever pitch. It looked like a King was about to invade the City. And everyone was waiting with great excitement.

But for Jesus, it was Jerusalem. His destination.

Let’s consider the events unfolding on this day we call Palm Sunday—the Day of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus as he reaches His destination.

I. THERE WAS THE COLT.

a. Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village just ahead of them to obtain the colt of a donkey. It would seem that Jesus had made arrangements for this, though the details suggest some divine arrangement.  When I was just a young pastor once I was asked to visit with a man who was terminally ill who was reputed to be a rascal. When I called on him, he immediately wanted to make fun of my beliefs. He called Jesus a horse thief, based on his interpretation of this account. I tried to talk to him and even said a prayer for him before I left. I never got a chance to visit with him again. He died just a few weeks later. But Jesus wasn’t a horse thief. Someone who was a believer had made available to Jesus this colt that the disciples brought back to Jesus. And it was a colt that had never been ridden. But its destiny was to carry Jesus into Jerusalem.  And the whole scene was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy In Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  No wonder the people were excited. Jesus was meeting all the details of this prophecy. He was proclaiming himself to be their long awaited Messiah!

II. THERE WERE THE ACTS OF CELEBRATION.

a. They spread their cloaks on the donkey and on the road before him. This was an act of respect as they humbled themselves before Jesus. In essence they there saying, “We submit to your authority. We proclaim you as our King and ourselves as your subjects.” Spreading their cloaks was the equivalent of the modern day “Red Carpet Welcome.” 

b. And there were the Palm Branches that were waved and spread in the pathway. Luke doesn’t’ mention the Palm branches but Matthew does. (See Matthew 21: 8). Again, this was an act of respect, paying homage to royalty. 

c. And, there were shouts of celebration. Verses 37 & 38 tell us, “…the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  We should remember that God “inhabits the praises of His people” (see Psalm 22:3). When we come together to worship the Lord each week, we would do well to remember what God has done for each of us. He has rescued us from the clutches of sin and the destruction of hell and adopted us as His own sons and daughters. He has answered so many prayers, meet so many needs, guided us through so many storms. How is it that we can sit so quietly when God has given us so many reasons to shout for joy! And, of course there were the nay-Sayers. H. B. London of Focus on the Family fame called them “Joy-suckers’—they suck the joy right out of a person! But Jesus told those protesting Pharisees, “I tell you…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” This was a sacred moment, a divine event, that had been planned from before the foundations of the earth were laid. God was orchestrating the ultimate victory for His creation. It was a time to shout the victory!

III. THERE WAS THE MOMENT JESUS REVEALED HIS INTENTIONS

a. Verses 41-44 reveal what was really on Jesus’ mind and heart: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

b. The crowds were celebrating the miracles and the realization that the Messiah was arriving. But Jesus had his face resolutely set upon Jerusalem. He had come to save His people, but his people would turn away from him. And by refusing to accept Him as king on his terms, they were sealing their fate—destruction would come. In 70 A.D. the Emperor Nero would send his Roman army and it would destroy the city just as Jesus had described.

c. Jerusalem was the city that killed the prophets. Its grand act would be just a few days later when they chose to crucify the One who had been sent to save them.

Conclusion:

Today we remember Palm Sunday. That was the day Jesus acknowledged publicly by his actions that He was the Messiah 

And we once again are faced with a choice. We can choose to celebrate by praising God for the miracles He performs and acknowledging Jesus as our Messiah, our King, our Savior. Or we can be like the people in Jerusalem over whom He wept—people who failed to recognize Him and instead sealed their fate by rejecting Him.

It is that simple. What will you do on this anniversary of His Triumphal Entry? Your eternal destiny rests on your decision!

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