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?

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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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04/07/2019

WATERMELONS AND MISSIONS

 Faith Promise Commitment Sunday


Romans 10: 9-15


Introduction:

>My Watermelon Enterprise Adventure

>The Logical steps involved…

I. THE INITIAL SEED

II. GERMINATION AND NEW LIFE

III. THERE IS THE MARKETING PLAN 

IV. THE DELIVERY

V. SEALING THE DEAL!

What does God want to do through you in reaching the world for Jesus this year?

WATERMELONS AND MISSIONS

Romans 10: 9-15

Introduction:

When I was a young boy, probably around 9 or 10 years old, Dad bought a truck load of watermelons from a fellow who had a large watermelon patch. Then he drove the truck into our small town and parked it close to the railroad tracks at an intersection close to downtown. We put up a sign: “Water Melons for Sale—50 cents.” And I had the privilege of sitting on the back of the truck with the watermelons and selling to all the interested customers. Of course, the best part of the job came when we grew a little hot and tired. Dad would cut open a watermelon and we would enjoy the cool refreshing fruit. And of course, we would have watermelon seed spitting contests. 

I don’t think Dad made much money for our enterprise. I really think he did this just for fun. It was a slow time for the crops on the farm and this just gave us something to do.

Those were simple times and wonderful memories.

As simple as it was, there was a logical progression in our watermelon enterprise. Someone had to prepare the ground, plant the seeds, care for the plants, and finally harvest the watermelons. Then he would have to find a market to sell his produce. In our case, Dad provided the market. So the watermelons had to be loaded into the truck. And, as much as we loved watermelons, there were way too many for us to eat, so we had to create a market in order to sell the watermelons. That involved a location, advertisement (in our case a simple sign), and an agreed upon price. The customer would select the watermelon that he or she thought would be the best, pay the price and then take it home to be devoured. Each stage of the process was essential—the farmer, the market, the truck delivery system, the sign telling the public the watermelons were for sale, and the actual act of selling the watermelon, and finally the consumption of the product.

And, while the Gospel is not the same as a watermelon enterprise, there are some commonalities in the mission’s process. Our scripture in Romans 10: 9-15 reminds us of the important details. Let’s consider:

I. THE INITIAL SEED

a. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believer in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

b. Before a person can come to that realization, God Himself must take the initiative. We who are born spiritually separated from God are not capable of doing anything about this unless the Holy Spirit awakens within us the consciousness of our lost-ness and our need for a Savior. And the Holy Spirit is the One who draws us to Jesus who has already gone before us and paid the price for our redemption and forgiveness. He has conquered sin and death and He wants us to accept what He has done so that we can be brought back into the family.

c. Those watermelons all came from a seed that had been planted. There is a sense that we who are saved have become seeds that need to be planted and reproduced in the lives of others.

II. GERMINATION AND NEW LIFE

a. Verse 13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Interestingly—and I’m sure deliberately—that verse is repeated three times in the scripture: Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21, and here in Romans 10:13. In the scripture when things are repeated, it is for the sake of emphasis of something vitally important. “Everyone”—Jew, Greek, Black, White, Rich, Poor, American or Non-American—“Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”

b. Those healthy watermelon seeds planted in the right type soil, and given the right amount of sunshine and rain, with the right temperature, will produce more delicious watermelons. And those who truly repent of their sins and call on the Lord for salvation will certainly be saved!

III. THERE IS THE MARKETING PLAN 

a. Verse 14 says it this way, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

b. If Dad had bought that load of watermelons and parked the truck in the shed back on our farm, no one would have known we had watermelons for sell. We would soon have a truck load of rotten melons to dispose of!  And unless people are made aware of what God has done through Jesus, and made aware of how much they need Him in their lives, they too will be lost!

c. And that brings us to the purpose of our service today. There is a world out there that needs to hear about Jesus. Let me share just a few facts about the current need:

i. I read this week there are currently at least 2000 languages in which the Bible is not yet translated. And there are many more that only have a portion of the Bible translated.

ii. We often hear about the 10-40 window—referring the Latitude and Longitude of an area that extends from North Africa through the Asian continent. We are told that this area is the least reached area for the Gospel in the world. And 2/3 of the world’s population is located in that area.

iii. And we are living in what is often called the “post-Christian era.” By that is meant that our culture has become less responsive to the Gospel message. Like so many, I am a fan of the Jeopardy program. I watch it regularly and am humbled at my lack of knowledge to the answers of the various questions. But what really amazes me is when those contestants who have proven their superior knowledge by even qualifying to be on the show are confronted with simple Bible questions. Often times they are completely ignorant of the basics teachings of the Bible. That tells me that right here in America there are supposedly educated people who need to hear about God!

d. The point is, there are millions of people in our world who do not know about how Jesus loves them and offered himself in their place as a sacrifice to atone for their sins so that they could have eternal life in heaven. And we, Church, are the ones who have been given the assignment of taking the Gospel message to every nation on earth and making disciples for Jesus! We are not saved to sit in the shed hidden from the world. We are saved to stand out in the world and make it aware of the Gospel! We are all called to be “Witnesses…unto the uttermost parts of the earth!”

e.  Let me share just a few facts about our Nazarene denomination. Our General Secretary released these statistics of our 2018 church year:

· Global reports show total current membership for the Church of the Nazarene at 2,579,243, a net increase of 28,869 (1.13 percent) from 2017

· The denomination welcomed in 146,988 new Nazarene's this year.

· The fastest growing regions in membership were Africa (7.3 percent) and Eurasia (5.28 percent).

· There are currently 30,712 churches in the denomination, a decrease of 163 from last year's report. Of the churches listed, 23,062 are considered officially organized, a gain of 134 in that category. 

· The Church of the Nazarene has 18,290 ordained elders, 1,002 ordained deacons, and 10,434 licensed ministers.

o We currently have missionaries in 162 different world areas.

IV. THE DELIVERY

a. Verse 15 says, “And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

b. The Church of the Nazarene has always been a missionary minded organization. And in our efforts to promote missions we have a wonderful plan in place so that every church regardless of size is asked to contribute a percentage of its income to the World Evangelism Fund. That Fund provides a basic salary for all our full time missionaries, freeing them to focus on ministry instead of having to always be trying to raise money for support.

c. Faith Promise is the way our local church can participate in sending and supporting those who are called to take the Gospel to those who have not had the opportunity to hear about Jesus. It is the basic support system in which each of us can participate.

V. SEALING THE DEAL!

Today, we are not trying to sell watermelons. We are participating in a sacred plan to take the Gospel to all the World. 

I would challenge you, if you have not already, to ask God what He wants you to give to support the missionary arm of the church.   This is not about what you think you can do. This is about what you think God wants to do through you.

You have your Faith Promise information sheets before you. In a moment we are going to give you the chance to give to God the commitment sheet indicating your desire to support world missions. 

The Church is the storehouse through which God provides for missions. In our church we simply ask you to prayerfully make a commitment to God and then turn in the sheet without signing it so that the Church will have an idea of how to plan in the year ahead.

Only you and God know for certain the commitment you have made.

We are going to pray, and then our praise team will lead us in the missionary hymn “We’ve a Story to Tell the Nations.” As we sing, I would ask for those of you who are ready to bring your Faith Promise Sheet to the front and place it on the altar as a commitment to God. We will gather those sheets and add up the total and report to you in the evening service. 

Let us stand and pray…

Click The Photo To Watch Today's Sermon

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03/31/2019

JERUSALEM BY WAY OF JERICHO

  


Luke 19: 1-9

Introduction:

>Our destination leads us through many communities…

>Jesus, who had “set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem,” passed through Jericho.

I. IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER THE C______ ITSELF.

II. THE E__________ THAT ACCOMPANIED JESUS.

III. AND SO, WE MEET THE M____ H______ PERSON IN JERICHO.

Conclusion:
>So many lessons…

JERUSALEM BY WAY OF JERICHO

Luke 19: 1-9

Introduction:

The shortest distance that I have found to my home town and my mother’s house is 180 miles. I take Highway 65 south through Harrison to a little community just south of Clinton, AR, called Bee Branch. From there I turn on a cut-off road that connects at Gravesville with highway 124. I follow it through Quitman and then turn south to Rosebud and Highway 39. I follow 39 to Searcy where I get on Hwy 67 for about 5 miles to Bald Knob. At Bald Knob I take Highway 64 that leads through Ward, Augusta, Patterson and finally to McCroy. There are other routes that I have taken from time to time, but that route seems to be the shortest and the fastest. 

I purposely mentioned some of the towns I must drive through on the route home. Those communities serve as landmarks as I make my way to my destination. I know things about those communities that are important—where the McDonald’s Restaurants are in Marshall and Clinton and Searcy. The Wal Mart in Clinton is a frequent stop on the way—just to get out and walk around a little while. And, of course, I know where the cleanest restrooms are on the route.

What I am pointing out is, when I am traveling to a certain destination, there are places that are important before I get there.

In Luke 9:59 we read a few weeks ago that Jesus, “Set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem.” Last week we discovered that the route to Jerusalem took him close to certain friends that he stopped to see—Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He was going to Jerusalem, but on the way,  he passed through their home area, so he stopped by to see them.

Today in our Scripture we know that Jesus was still on the way to Jerusalem. And the route he was taking brought him to the ancient city of Jericho. We aren’t sure how long he stopped over, but we do know that He touched people as He passed through. At the close of chapter 18 Luke tells us Jesus was met by a blind beggar as he approached the city. And Jesus healed him. Matthew and Mark tell us that he was met by 2 beggars as he was leaving the city—one by the name of Bartimaeus (Matthew 20: 29-31 & Mark 10: 46-52). And they too were healed.

But the scripture reading today tells us of another miracle that occurred while he was in the city—a hated tax-collector repented of his sins and became a changed man and a follower of Christ.

Let’s focus on this incident as we walk the road with Jesus to Jerusalem as he passes through Jericho.

I. IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER THE CITY ITSELF.

a. Jericho is located about 15 miles Northeast of Jerusalem close to the Jordan River. It is on the modern-day West Bank in the area occupied by the Palestinians today. Historians and Archaeologists tell us that Jericho is the oldest known inhabited city, dating back some 11,000 years from today. It is the oldest known walled city. It was the first city that the Israelite's under Joshua’s leadership conquered after they crossed the Jordan River into the Land God had promised to give them.  When Joshua’s army destroyed the city, Joshua placed a curse on the site, saying, “Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundation; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates” (Joshua 6: 36). In 1 Kings 16:34 we read: “In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of the firstborn son Abiram and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.”  It was common in Bible times for cities to build on top of where cities had existed. Archaeologists tell us that there have been at least 20 Jericho’s rebuilt on top of each other in the 11,000 years since it was first founded. Jericho currently has a population of close to 20,000 people. At the time of Christ, one source says there were some 12,000 priests who lived in Jericho because of its close proximity to Jerusalem. And Jericho has the distinction of also being the lowest city on earth at 846 feet below sea level. In the Bible Jericho is also called the City of Palms. Because of the natural springs in the area, it is truly an oasis in a desert area.  We are told that Jericho is located in a very fertile agricultural area, and that the residents of the city were fairly wealthy. It makes sense, then, that the city would be a headquarters for the tax collectors of the area. They would be there to collect the taxes as people brought in their produce from their farms. And, the head tax-collector was a man named Zacchaeus. 

b. And Jesus, having left Galilee, a very mountainous area along the Sea of Galilee, had followed a route that descended to the lowest city on earth. From there he would begin the ascent up the mountains to the city of Jerusalem—his destination. I have to wonder what Jesus was thinking as he entered this ancient city. He must have thought of how Joshua had marched the Israelite's around the city until, on the 7th day the walls collapsed, and they burned the city. He must have thought of the long history dated back to the very beginning of civilization when Jericho was first founded. I’m sure he was aware of the vast number of priests—descendants of Aaron-- who lived in the city—the religious backbone of the Jewish worship structure.  When Jesus left Jericho, he knew it would be uphill all the way. Jericho was a good place to stop over to rest. And one might think he would consider staying at the home of one of the priests.   But Jesus had another mission in mind as he made his way to Jerusalem. There was a man in Jericho who needed a Savior. And that was the one Jesus intended to visit.

II. THE ENTOURAGE THAT ACCOMPANIED JESUS.

a. We know that the 12 Apostles traveled with Jesus. And most of them probably had family accompanying them. And by this time Jesus had been in his public ministry for nearly 3 years. The small country of Israel had heard so much about him—his miracles, his message, his compassion and love, his confrontations with those who oppressed the people—and everyone would jump at the chance just to see the extra-ordinary Rabbi. There were those who followed him from Galilee, those who joined them as they made their way towards Jerusalem, and those who just stood on the sides of the roadway just to say they had seen Jesus! Certainly, those blind beggars would have been in that group—and their families and acquaintances. Luke 19: 3 tells us there was a crowd—so many, in fact, that one short tax-collector couldn’t find a place along the route where he could see. 

b. In John 12: 26 Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” And so, the crowds flocked after Jesus, following Him as he pressed onward to Jerusalem.

c. There is a lesson for us here. We are happy to follow Jesus to Gospel singing's and time of excitement and joy. Nothing wrong with that—we should want to celebrate our Salvation Experience and our love for God. But Jesus had a way of “rattling their cages” so to speak. He would say and do things that shocked them and sometimes even made them angry. Remember how we are told after the Miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 and the discourse that followed on Him being the Bread of life, many were offended and stopped following Him. And Jesus had even turned to the 12 and asked them if they too were going to leave him. (See John 6: 60-71).

d. Would you have been in the crowd following Jesus that day? Would you have been willing to follow him up the step elevations on the road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem? Would you follow him today if it meant driving 5 miles out of the way to pick up someone who needed a ride to church? Would you be willing to postpone Sunday dinner in order to deliver that person back home—or better yet, would you be willing to take that person to dinner with you and maybe even pay for their meal?

e. I love our church gatherings. I love the Gospel singing's and the wonderful fellowship we can have with our Christian Brothers and Sisters. But what if Jesus placed me where there were no other Christians? What if he asked me to visit someone who was in the hospital or maybe even in jail? Would I follow him there?

f. And so, Jesus and his entourage walked down the streets of Jericho. I wonder what they were expecting to happen, if anything. Two blind beggars had already been healed just outside of town. Surely the rest of the time would be uneventful.  But Jesus was on a mission.

III. AND SO, WE MEET THE MOST HATED PERSON IN JERICHO.

a. Luke 19:2 reads, “A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.”

b. Of all the people in Jericho, a city full of priestly families, sick and blind beggars who sat along the road hoping for handouts from the wealthy residents of the city, the last person that one would think Jesus would visit would be Zacchaeus. He was not only a hated tax-collector—he was one of the chief tax-collectors. And nobody likes a tax-collector—even today. But back then, a tax-collector would have been a Jew who was extracting taxes from his own people to give it to the Romans—the hated Romans who were occupying their nation. And tax-collectors were notorious for overcharging and then skimming off the surplus for themselves. They were all considered to be traitors of their own countrymen and greedy thieves. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best liked and 1 being the least liked, a tax-collector would have been -10. They were the lowest of low—worse that drunkards, worse than prostitutes. Worse than the worse in their society.

c. But this tax-collector—for whatever reason—wanted to see Jesus. Maybe it was just curiosity. Maybe he wanted to see if there was any way he could collect money from the crowd following Jesus. Or maybe he was growing sick of his life and wondering if there was any chance, he could change. Whatever the reason, we read in Luke 19: 3 & 4, “he wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short, he could not see over the crowd. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him since Jesus was coming that way. “

d. But the shocking fact in this account is found in verse 5: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

e. I have to confess. If I were looking for someone with whom I could stay and rest for a while, I wouldn’t pick the most hated person in town. I would want to stay with someone who shared my interests and who really wanted to have me in their home. But Jesus saw people differently. Once when he was accused of eating with sinners and publicans (another word for tax-collectors), he had said, “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick” (See Luke 5:31).

f. And before the day was over, the hated tax-collector Zacchaeus had not only repented of his sins and accepted Jesus, but he had also paid back four times over the amount of taxes he had collected unjustly.

Conclusion:

There are so many lessons in this account of Jesus’ journey through Jericho.

Ø Even as we press towards our ultimate destination, we must take time to notice those who need our compassion along the way.

Ø Even large religious communities like that in Jericho have people who need that special touch.

Ø We need to develop “Spiritual Eyes” to see those who may be hiding in the trees or in the back ground, curious about our Christ, but unwilling to make the first move. And Like Jesus we should be willing to see them and reach out to them in Christ’s name.

Ø And the worst person, the most unlikely person to be changed, may be the one Jesus wants us to reach out to. So, what if everyone else thinks we are making a mistake. Every person is precious to God regardless of their status in society.

Ø And we must remember that Jesus wants to stay with each one of us—to live in our hearts. And we need to clean up our act so that He will be welcome—even if it means going to a person we have wronged and making it right.

Ø Jesus didn’t come to entertain the saints. He came to rescue those who are lost. God help us to make that in priority in our own lives!

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03/24/2019

A SWEET REST FROM THE ROAD AHEAD

Luke 10:38-42

Introduction

>Friendship statements…

>So Jesus stopped from his journey to Jerusalem to visit his friends…

I. THIS WAS NOT JESUS’ DESTINATION—IT WAS A S___________.

II. THE REST STOP BECAME A T_________ EVENT.

III. THE LESSON AS IT RELATES TO US.

Conclusion: 

What lessons do you think you would need to learn if Jesus stopped by unexpectedly at your home?

A SWEET REST FROM THE ROAD AHEAD

Luke 10:38-42

Introduction

Let me share with you some statements I found this week about friends:

"A friend is one who warns you."(Old Jewish proverb)

Some people make enemies instead of friends because it is less trouble. (E.C. McKenzie.)

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You, too? I thought I was the only one."(C.S. Lewis.)

Friends are like good health; you don't realize what a gift they are until you lose them. (Unknown.)

  

Prosperity begets friends, adversity proves them. (Unknown.)

A friend is a person who does his knocking before he enters instead of after he leaves. (Unknown.)

A small boy defined a friend as "Someone who knows all about you and likes you just the same." (Unknown.)

Our opinion of people depends less upon what we see in them than upon what they make us see in ourselves. (Sarah Grand.)

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. (Aristotle.)

And I really like this little essay on What is a Friend? -- What is a friend? Friends are people with whom you dare to be yourself. Your soul can be naked with them. They ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you are. They do not want you to be better or worse. When you are with them, you feel as a prisoner feels who has been declared innocent. You do not have to be on your guard. You can say what you think, as long as it is genuinely you. Friends understand those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. With them you breathe freely. You can avow your little vanities and envies and hates and vicious sparks, your meanness's and absurdities, and in opening them up to friends, they are lost, dissolved on the white ocean of their loyalty. They understand. You do not have to be careful. You can abuse them, neglect them. It makes no matter. They like you. They are like fire that purges to the bone. They understand. You can weep with them, sing with them, laugh with them, pray with them. Through it all--and underneath--they see, know, and love you. A friend? What is a friend? Just one, I repeat, with whom you dare to be yourself. (C. Raymond Beran, in Bits & Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 3-4.)


(All of the above quotes are from Sermonillustrations.com).

In our scripture passage we are introduced to a very important family composed of 2 sisters and a brother—Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. It is interesting that this is the only time they are mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but we know them more intimately from the passage in John 11 where the sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick and then Jesus came and restored Lazarus to life. This account in Luke’s Gospel gives us a picture of two contrasting personalities of Martha and Mary. And this brief window into this moment in their lives also gives us a glimpse of something about ourselves.

Let’s spend a few moments seeing what it is the Holy Spirit wishes to say to us from this passage.

I. THIS WAS NOT JESUS’ DESTINATION—IT WAS A STOPOVER.

a. Last week we read in Luke 9:51 that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem…” He had set his sights on his primary mission—the redemption of mankind through his ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. And while there were many people and circumstances to encounter on this final trip to Jerusalem, none of them would stop him from fulfilling this purpose.  But the trip was over a period of time, and there were stops to take along the way—to touch people’s lives, to teach people about the Kingdom of God, and sometimes just to rest from the long and exhausting journey. And so we are told in verse 38, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him...”

b. We are not told how or when Jesus first became acquainted with Lazarus and the two sisters. It must have been early in his public ministry—or it could have been some friendship with his family that we aren’t told about. But it is obvious, especially in John’s Gospel, that these were not just mere acquaintances, not just another of his many followers—this was a family with which he was intimately connected.

c. There has been speculation about who they were. Some have suggested that Lazarus was in fact a priest and that Martha was a widow and Mary, the younger sister was somewhat “worldly”. None of these are substantiated by evidence—they are just over-active imaginations of people trying to flesh out the existence of this family.

d. And so, Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem where he knew that he would be arrested, tortured and executed, stopped in to see this family that had become his friends. Later on he would spend some time in Perea, just east of the Jordan River before finally entering Jerusalem on what we call “Palm Sunday.” It was while in Perea that we have the graphic scene described in John’s Gospel where Jesus was summoned by the sisters because their brother was sick. And Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead before going to their home. 

e. But now, in this scene in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is merely stopping over to see close friends and to rest a while before he continued on his march to Jerusalem and the Cross.

f. When I was kid, our family didn’t really take what I would consider vacations. We might take a day and go do something special—like the Memphis Zoo, but we never thought about going somewhere like Disney World or Pigeon Forge. When we made trips that would take more than a day or so, it was to visit family members. Mom’s brothers were in branches of military services—most of them in the Air Force. I have great memories of visiting Uncle Lawrence in Jacksonville, Florida and then later in Big Springs, TX. And there was the time we thought we would surprise them and we drove all the way to Florida only to discover that they had decided to surprise us and they had driven all the way to Arkansas. And there was Uncle Maynard whom we visited in Biloxi, Mississippi. We would be in their home and not really feel like visitors. We could just be ourselves because we were with family—people who knew us and loved us just the way we were.

g. And this account in Luke of Jesus visiting Lazarus, Mary, and Martha has that same kind of feeling—just old friends who knew each other and loved each other---people to whom you had no need to pretend—you could just be yourself.

h. Just a side note—I think this is the way the church should be—people with whom we don’t have to try to impress, people around whom we can just be ourselves, people who know us warts and all and love us anyways, people who are really just like family!

II. THE REST STOP BECAME A TEACHING EVENT.

a. You have to admire Martha. She was the hostess with the mostest! She wanted to make sure that her guests were made to feel welcome and that their every need was taken care of. And for her that meant preparing a big meal for Jesus and his band of disciples who would have been with him. I can imagine her busy-ness as she sent someone down to the bakery to buy bread and someone out to the butcher to get a leg of lamb. And cabinet doors opened and shut as she gathered the various pots and pans and the best dishes and silverware. She would have been a bundle of energy as she hurried about preparing things. From the way the scripture describes it, she had enlisted her sister Mary to help her but Mary had abandoned her after awhile because she just wanted to spent time with Jesus—“my sister has left me to do the work by myself…”(Luke 10:40b).  I know how she must have felt. I’ve seen Mom and Gloria at different times when company showed up. Everyone would be sitting in the living room laughing and talking while she was in the kitchen by herself trying to get the meal ready to serve. She would be missing out on the fellowship and conversation, but someone had to get things ready. I am so thankful for the Martha’s who have that gift of hospitality and are so willing to see that guests are taken care of properly.

b. Mary, on the other hand, seems to have been the contemplative person, the one who could sit and listen and be so enthralled by the conversation that they forget anything else. These are special people who by their attentiveness to the company and the presence and the conversation that they really make you feel engaged. You feel like they really care about you and really want to hear what you are thinking about. In our society where people are so quick to talk and so slow to listen, these kind of persons are precious.

c. But, when you get a doer like Martha together with a listener like Mary, there is a good chance of conflict between the personality styles. Let me underscore this: Both personality types are important and necessary. One is not better than the other—they are just different. They process information differently. They see things in a different light. They are better or worse—they are just different.

d. And the lesson comes when Martha gets so frustrated that she comes to Jesus to complain about her sister. The fact that she does is an indication that Jesus wasn’t just a guest, that he was a close friend that she could trust with the sharing of her frustration. And Jesus in essence said, “When it is a choice between doing for me or being with me, the better choice is that close fellowship.” There is a time and place for busy-ness, but sometimes the right choice is to take a breath and just sit and spent time with your friend.

e. Martha wanted the best for Jesus, but it was the best as she perceived it. She failed to recognize that in that moment the best for Jesus was quiet fellowship. Remember where Jesus was headed. Remember the determination expressed when “He set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem”? Burdened with the weight of his mission and the knowledge of the Cross, he needed quiet rest and the joy of just being with good friends. A banquet just didn’t seem right for the moment and the mood!

III. THE LESSON AS IT RELATES TO US.

a. In the church world we often see two types of people: those who are busy doing things for God and the Church and those who are focused on study and prayer and meditation---the Spiritual Formation emphasis. It is easy for those in one camp to criticize those in the other camp. “He should spend more time in prayer.” Or, “He should get out of his prayer closet and go knock on doors.” And you know in your heart that both camps are necessary and that one camp without the other would be disaster. The need is for each of us to find a balance of spending time in both camps. We need to “Be” in His Word, filled with His Spirit, Empowered by His Presence. And then we need to “Go” at His Command and Do what He directs us to do. Remember how in the Book of Acts just before His ascension Jesus told His disciple to wait for the Promise of the Father—the Holy Spirit. And then, after they receive the Holy Spirit, they would be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth!

b. If Mary never helped in the kitchen, never helped set the table, never helped clean up after company left, then Martha would have been right to be upset. And if Martha never listened to Jesus, never engaged in conversation with Him, never really trusted Jesus enough to just relax in His Presence, then she would have truly been at fault. But later it was Martha who rushed out to meet Jesus, who indicated her trust when Jesus had declared himself to be “The Resurrection and the Life.” We all need to be reminded from time to time when we get things a little out of balance. Martha learned her lesson. Mary enjoyed the Words of Life. And Lazarus, who never said anything but of whom the sisters declared in John 11 that he was one whom Jesus loved (John 11:3) -- well, he experienced life indeed!

Conclusion:

There is a poem that most of you have heard entitled, “If Jesus Came to Your House.” 

If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two
If he came unexpectedly I wonder what you'd do
When you saw him comin' would you meet him at the door
With arms outstretched and welcome to your heavenly visitor
Or would you need to change some things before you let him in
Like burn some magazines and put the Bible where they'd been
Oh I know that you'd give your nicest room to such an honored guest
And all the food you would serve to him would be the very best
And you'd keep assuring him that you were glad to have him there
That serving him in your home was a joy beyond compare
But what about your family conversation would it keep up its normal pace
And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace
Would you be glad to have him stay forever on and on
Or would you sigh of great relief when finally he had gone
You know it might be interesting to know the things you'd do
If Jesus came in person to spend some time with you
(What would you do what would you do if Jesus came to spend some time with you)

--Songwriters: Robert S. Kelly

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. But on the trip, He thought it right to stop by to visit some friends. 

What lessons would you need to learn if Jesus suddenly stopped by unexpectedly at your house?”

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03/17/2019

DETERMINED JESUS

Luke 9:51-56

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

Introduction:

>St. Patrick—the Patron Saint of Ireland

>It takes Determination to be successful in reaching people for Jesus. And Jesus set the example.

JESUS WAS DETERMINED TO GO…

I. EVEN THOUGH HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY WAS N___ W___ R________ BY THE JERUSALEM RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT.

II. EVEN THOUGH HE WOULD BE O________ ON THE WAY.

III. EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE G_______ T__ D__ TO HIM.

Conclusion:

He determined to go because He loved us so much…

DETERMINED JESUS

Luke 9:51-56

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

Introduction:

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. For many this means Irish Green Shamrocks, Green Beer, Irish Whiskey, and all kinds of revelry. But the real reason behind this holiday is that March 17th marks the date of the death of St. Patrick, the so-called Irish Patron Saint. And his life was not about Irish Whiskey. And, no, he did not drive all the snakes out of Ireland. 

And we know that Patrick was not even an Irishman. He was born in Britain in the 5th century A.D. and raised in a home where his father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest in the Catholic Church. At the age of 16 he was captured by a group of Irish slave traders and taken to Ireland where he was a slave for 6 years to a Druid Chieftain. In his Confessions Patrick revealed that prior to being taken into slavery he had not embraced Christianity and had been rather wild. But after being forced to live in what was considered the barbarian climate of the Irish, he remembered what he had been taught at home and came to realize his needed to embrace Christ. After his escape from slavery he returned to Britain and his family. He then entered the priesthood and served as a pastor for some 30 years. And then at the age when most in that time period were at the end stages of life, Patrick felt God’s call to go back to Ireland and evangelize. His experience as a slave in Ireland had given him a mastery of the Irish language and an understanding of the Irish culture that enabled him to connect with the people and gain their confidence. While it would be an exaggeration to say he introduced the Irish to Christianity, he certainly was successful in establishing the Church in that country which most had considered being unreachable. He had gone in spite of the lack of support from the Roman Catholic Church and against the advice of many. But He had gone with determination because he knew God had called him to do so and because he harbored a compassion for the people who had once enslaved him.

St. Patrick serves as a reminder to us that our salvation and the successful evangelization of our society only comes as the result of someone’s determination.

In our scripture in Luke 9: 51 we see the great example of that determination in Jesus. The NIV says, “He resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The KJV translates it this way:
“…he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” These words certainly echo the prophetic words found in Isaiah 50:7, “therefore have I set my face like flint…” In simple language, Jesus determined to go to Jerusalem.

Let’s consider what that determination involved:

I. JESUS DETERMINED TO GO EVEN THOUGH HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY WAS NOT WELL RECEIVED BY THE JERUSALEM RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT.

a. Early on in his public ministry, Jesus attracted great crowds of people. His healing ministry certainly made him a popular leader among the common people. As word spread of the miracles he performed, the crowds continue to grow so that often there were literally thousands who would gather at the places where he was to be. That popularity certainly caught the attention of the priests and leaders of Judaism. In the Gospel record  of Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem, there were several confrontations in which Jesus disputed with the acceptable traditions and practices of those religious leaders.  For example, there controversies over taxes, over marriage, and over the prideful attention-getting practices of the Pharisees. And there were those times when Jesus had spoken up in the Temple and taught crowds in the courtyards and healed sick on the Sabbath Day. And because of those confrontations and because of the way the crowds flocked after Jesus, the religious leaders became jealous and felt threatened. Rather than embracing Jesus, they looked for ways to silence him--even to the point of seeking to arrest him. For that reason much of Jesus’ ministry was outside Jerusalem in the northern province of Galilee. There he was accepted. There he was able to preach about the Kingdom of God. There people responded positively. So why, would Jesus even want to leave an area where his success rate was high to go back to Jerusalem--an area where the leaders wanted to silence him?  But, “He resolutely set out for Jerusalem” even though he knew the opposition he would be facing.

b. When things are going well it is easy to become comfortable. Everyone likes to be liked. The old Cheers jingle struck a heart chord with the words, “Everybody likes to go where everybody knows your name.” I can tell you that for me it is not near as fun to go somewhere where nobody knows your name. Even worse is to go somewhere where they know your name and they have already decided they don’t like you! 

c. Years ago, when I was a youth pastor in Coffeyville, Kansas, I worked for the Montgomery County Road Crew out of the County Engineer’s office. The man who had been the supervisor over the road crew retired and the guy who had been the assistant to the supervisor thought he would be promoted to that job. But the County Commissioners instead brought in a guy from out of the area for the job. And because he was an outsider, the road crew and especially the guy who had thought he would get the job, decided right up front they didn’t like the new guy. And they constantly were complaining about him and even defying some of his instructions. Somehow the guy managed to keep the job and eventually was accepted, but I’ve often thought how difficult it must have been for him. He had to have had a lot of determination to stay.

d. And Jesus knew that influential people in Jerusalem were against him—because they had already made that clear. But He determined to go to Jerusalem anyways!

II. JESUS DETERMINED TO GO EVEN THOUGH HE WOULD BE OPPOSED ON THE WAY.

a. Verses 52 & 53 tell us, “And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him, but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.”

b. Racial and Religious prejudices run deeply. But Jesus had ministered in Samaria before—remember the account of the woman at the well? At that time he had left Jerusalem and was headed north towards Galilee. The woman at the well had that life-changing conversation with Jesus and had returned to the town of Sychar and told everybody about Jesus and many of the citizens had turned out to see him and had believed in him.  But now it was different. This particular village knew that Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi. They knew that he was on his way to Jerusalem to the people they strongly resented. Rather than allowing Jesus to come into their village and rather than listening to his message, they simply rejected him. Here Jesus was, on his way to Jerusalem where he knew his was to be crucified, determined to pay the ultimate price in order to make it possible for these very Samaritans to get to heaven, only to be forbidden to come to their village. They didn’t know why he was going to Jerusalem and they didn’t care. They only knew that he was going to Jerusalem and they hated him for that.

c. I can tell you it hurts to be rejected by people who refuse to hear your true motives and instead insist on believing you are against them. Have you ever had anyone jump to conclusions about your intentions and then refuse to listen to your explanation? I can tell you that it is extremely frustrating.

d. In fact, it was so frustrating to the disciples that James and John who were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” because of their explosive personalities wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the whole village. But Jesus stopped them and rebuked them. And then He and they went on to another village.  This tells me that sometimes the only thing to do when people have made up their minds about you is to just let it go and leave it behind, and just walk away.

e. But Jesus was determined to move on. He was on his way to Jerusalem.

III. JESUS WAS DETERMINED TO GO TO JERUSALEM EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE GOING TO DO TO HIM.

a. Prior to this verse stating he was determined to go to Jerusalem he had told the disciples at least twice what was going to happen.  In Luke 9: 32 Jesus had said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then, in Luke 10: 44 he had said, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you. The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” Knowing full well what was going to happen to him, he still set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem. The Salvation of humanity was counting on Him.

b. I have come to realize that oftentimes when I know I have to do something, the anticipation is worse than the event. For example, recently I had to go to the dentist to get a tooth filled. In my mind I thought of the shrill sound of that drill as the dentist cleaned out the decay. I remembered one time when that drill had hit a nerve that wasn’t completely deadened and how I nearly climbed out of the chair. I’m sure as I sat down in that dentist chair my blood pressure was elevated. I was tense. I had a preconceived idea of what was about to happen. As it turned out, it wasn’t that big a deal. I never felt any pain. I really didn’t notice that much the sound from the drill. The anticipation had been much worse that the reality of the event.

c. I wonder what Jesus thought. He knew he would be tortured. He knew he would be hit and slapped and spit upon. He knew he would be beaten nearly to death by the Roman whips. He knew he would be nailed to the Cross and would hang there for hours until his strength finally gave way and he would die. The anticipation must have been beyond my imagination.  But in his case, the reality was every bit as bad and even worse that one could anticipate.

d. But Jesus never wavered. He set his face “like flint,” resolutely, steadfastly, determined to go into the city that was noted for killing the Prophets.

Conclusion:

“…Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”  There were so many reasons not to go. There were so many obstacles that had to be overcome. There was the knowledge that the Cross was at the end of the road. But He determined to go.

Why?

Because He loved us so much that He wanted to rescue us from the clutches of evil and from the eternal torment of hell.

He determined to purchase our salvation. 

He did it for you and for me.

And our response should be to accept Him and the gift of Salvation and to model His determination to persuade as many people as we can to believe in Him. Their eternity is counting on us.

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03/10/2019

GETTING READY—BE PREPARED!

Luke 14: 25-35

Introduction:


>Did you ever find yourself in a situation for which you were unprepared?  

> This morning Jesus reminds us that we need to be prepared for what lies ahead. We need to “Get Ready!”

I. THE CHALLENGE OF C_____-B_______ (Verses 25-27 ) 

II. THE CHALLENGE OF C________ THE C____ (Verses 28-30)

III. THE CHALLENGE OF A_________ THE B_______ R______ (Verses 31—33)

Conclusion:

Ø The future is before us—Get Ready!

GETTING READY—BE PREPARED!

Luke 14: 25-35

Introduction:

Did you ever find yourself in a situation for which you were unprepared?  I read this week of a preacher who was called to do a graveside service. He rode with the funeral director to the cemetery and noticed as they arrived that there were two different grave sites with tents set up and people gathered. He wasn’t sure which one was the one he was to officiate, but the Funeral Director took him to the correct place. When he had conducted the committal service and pronounced the benediction, the funeral director came up to him and said, “Could you conduct another service for us?” 

“Sure, just tell me when,” the preacher replied. 

“Right now. The preacher who was to conduct the service at the other grave site has called to inform the family that he had gotten lost. He had made a wrong turn and gone east instead of west and it would be at least another hour before he could get there. The family had been waiting for quite a while and they just wanted to get on with it.” 

The preacher agreed and asked the funeral director to give him a copy of the obituary and the basic information about the person being buried. Then he went over to the grave site only to discover that there was some tension among the family members and they had separated into 3 groups and were not speaking to each other—a rather awkward situation. But someone told the preacher to go ahead and conduct the service. The preacher read some scripture, all the time realizing that the funeral director had not yet given him the obituary and information he requested. He realized he didn’t know the name of the person being buried, and didn’t even know whether it was a man or a woman. He carefully chose his words to avoid revealing his ignorance. And quickly he moved to the final prayer. As they closed their eyes to pray, the preacher felt a paper being slipped into his hand that contained the obituary, so in his prayer he was able to use the person’s name. 

The preacher said he had never felt so unprepared and that it was one of the shortest services he ever conducted.

There’s nothing like being caught unprepared. On at least two occasions in my 46 years of pastoring I have attended memorial services and found out after arriving that I was the one officiating. I’ve learned to be prepared for anything!

Our scripture today is about making preparations for what lies ahead. This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday—the beginning of the Season of Lent that leads up to Good Friday and Easter. During Lent Christians are to take inventory of their own spiritual condition and prepare for the Celebration of the Resurrection by fasting and praying. It is a time of Preparation—a time of “Getting Ready” for the Celebration of God’s provision for our Salvation.

This morning in this scripture passage Jesus reminds us that we need to be prepared for what lies ahead. 

We need to “Get Ready for…

I. THE CHALLENGE OF CROSS-BEARING.

i. Verses 25-27 reminds us that the most important relationship we can have—the one relationship that trumps parents and children—is the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. The admonition to “hate” our close relatives is meant as a hyperbole to illustrate a comparison. Our love for our relatives should be strong, but our love for God is so much stronger that it makes any other love look like hate in comparison.   Look at the supreme example: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16a).   Also, “God demonstrates his love this way: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Did God hate His Son? Of course not. But He loved us so much that He did not even spare His Son when it came down to our salvation. The words of Jesus here are to emphasize how strong our love for God must be!

b. And it is in that context that Jesus said, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). The cross, as you know, was the instrument of execution in Jesus’ day. It was the most cruel form of execution ever. For us to carry our Cross implies that we must be willing to suffer whatever persecution comes our way. We are called to put our lives on the line for Jesus.

c. I’ve always been fascinated by this account as told by William Barclay In his commentary on the Seven Churches of Revelation. In his description of the Church at Smyrna he tells about the animosity the Jews in Smyrna had towards the Christians. He writes, “Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna, and he was martyred on Saturday, February 23,155 A.D. It was the time of the public games; the city was crowded; and the crowds were excited. Suddenly the shout went up: ‘Away with the atheists; let Polycarp be searched for.’ No doubt, Polycarp could have escaped; but already he had had a dream vision in which he saw the pillow under his head burning with fire, and he had awakened to tell his disciples “I must be burnt alive.’  “His whereabouts were betrayed to the persecutors by a little slave who collapsed under torture. They came to arrest him. He ordered that those who had come for him be given a meal, and provided with all they wished, while he asked for himself the privilege of one last hour in prayer. Not even the police captain wished to see Polycarp die. On the brief journey to the city, he pled with the old man. ‘What harm is it to say, ‘Caesar is Lord’ and to offer sacrifice and to be saved.’ But Polycarp was adamant that for him only Jesus Christ was Lord. “When he entered the arena there came a voice from heaven saying: ‘Be Strong, Polycarp, and play the man.’ The proconsul gave him the choice of cursing the name of Christ and making sacrifice to Caesar or death. “’Eighty and six years have I served Him,’ said Polycarp,’and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme our King who saved me?’  The proconsul threatened him with burning, and Polycarp replied: ‘You threaten me with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.’ In spite of the appeals of even the persecutors Polycarp remained immovable.” And so the old Bishop was burned at the stake—the cost for choosing to be a follower of Christ. No relationship—not even our relationships to our own life—can compare to the love and devotion we are to have for Christ! The free gift of Salvation costs each of us everything!

II. THE CHALLENGE OF COUNTING THE COST.

a. In verses 28-30 Jesus talked about the importance of counting the costs before starting a building program. From experience I can tell you that when you figure the projected costs, go ahead and add 20% to the total, because it always costs more that you think it will!    But from the context you know that Jesus is just using this building metaphor to illustrate a spiritual truth—the Cost of being a Follower of Christ. When you truly become a Christian, your life will change.   I was a senior in High School when I accepted Christ. I had been dating a certain girl from my hometown for a couple years. Shortly after becoming a Christian, I realized God had plans for me that were not compatible with continuing my relationship with Patty. We cared about each other, but it was obvious that our lives were taking different paths, so we broke up. And there were other friends that were going a different direction than I. While we didn’t have a falling out or anything, we soon began to drift apart. There were things they were doing in which I could no long participate. And the possible choices for my future vocation had included everything from being a CPA, an English Teacher, or even possibly a Medical Doctor, but as a follower of Christ, I knew I had to seek His Will. And He quickly made it clear I was to be a preacher. And that meant I needed to go to our Church College in order to prepare for the ministry. What I am saying is, my decision to become a Christian meant a change in my lifestyle, a change in my friendships, a change in my life goals. It meant leaving home and going to another state and working hard to pay my way through college. My decision came with costs. If I had not understood some of those costs, I probably would have given up.

b. If you think you can become a Christian without accepting the costs that accompany that decision, you are in for a powerful awakening.

c. Jesus does not ask for people to follow him who are not aware of the implication of that decision. Right up front He tells us that we must be willing to “Carry our cross!”  We are told we cannot serve two masters—we will love the one and hate the other. He doesn’t want us to blindly and without consideration say, “I accept Christ as Savior” without realizing that there will be some changes necessary.  Yes, He wants you to be His disciple. But you need to count the costs when you make your decision. Otherwise, you will not make it.

III. THE CHALLENGE OF ASSESSING THE BATTLE RISKS

a. In verses 31—33 Jesus uses the metaphor of an advancing army. When a king considers the odds of victory and realizes he is outgunned, the smart thing to do is to negotiate to avoid the battle.  The point Jesus is making is just to reinforce the point he made with the building illustration. Pay attention to what is happening. Consider the risks and the costs that are involved. Use good judgment. 

b. In this battle illustration, I am thankful for the scripture in 1 John 4:4 that tells us, “…The One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world.”     And there is the scripture in Matthew 17: 18 where Jesus says, “…I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” Someone has said, “When Jesus is with me, we are always a majority.” And Paul wrote in Romans 8:37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

c. So, in life, when we are faced with decisions, remember the words in the song, “Jesus Loves Me”—“I am weak but He is strong!” And make sure you make Jesus your Captain, Your Savior, Your Lord!

d. Can I face the enemy alone? Yes, but if I do, defeat is inevitable. Consider the odds and come to Jesus for wisdom, guidance, and protection. “He is our Refuge and Strength, our very Present Help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Conclusion:

Verses 34 & 35 are words to which we should consider carefully: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

 In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5: 13).

We are to be influencers for Christ in our world. We are all called to be His witnesses, His ambassadors. When we think that we have done our time and now all we need to do is sit back and let someone else feed us, what good are we? God has called us to make a difference. Are you making a difference for His sake?

March is here. Today we have shifted to Daylight Savings Time. March 21st is the official beginning of spring. And this year we celebrate Easter on April 21st.   In 2 Samuel 11:1 we are told that it was, “In the spring, when Kings go off to war…” 

Get ready. The year is advancing. Be prepared to do battle for our King. Examine your hearts and minds to see that you are cleansed by His Blood and filled with His Spirit. Don’t advance unprepared. 

And so, this morning, we celebrate Communion, remembering that Jesus had made provision for our Salvation. Let’s receive His Atoning Grace this morning…

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02/24/2019

HEART TREASURES

1ST CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE…BRANSON, MISSOURI

Pastor Jim Cariker…Sermon Notes…February 24, 2019

HEART TREASURES

Matthew 6: 19-34

Text: Matthew 6: 21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Introduction:

>10 tips for a healthy heart…

>Our hearts are found in those treasures we most value…

I. YOUR HEART REVEALS YOUR TRUE A__________.

II. OUR ACTIONS R_______ THOSE AFFECTIONS OF THE HEART.

III. WE MUST CONSTANTLY GUARD OUR HEARTS LEST WE LOSE THE T____ T________.

Conclusion:

 What is your treasure? Where is your heart today?

HEART TREASURES

Matthew 6: 19-34

Text: Matthew 6: 21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Introduction:

February is “Heart Month.”  The American Heart Association does its best to make everyone aware of how to take care of our physical hearts and to know the warning signs of heart problems. bioIQ.com gives these 10 tips for a healthy heart:

1. Stop smokingQuitting smoking is the best thing that can be done for the heart and for overall health. Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States, and smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries. 

2. Know your numbersMaintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure and total cholesterol play a significant role in maintaining a healthy heart….

3. Screen for diabetes Untreated diabetes can lead to heart disease, among many other complications…

4. Get activeHeart pumping physical activity not only helps to prevent cardiovascular disease but can also improve overall mental and physical health. The American Heart Association recommends five 30 minute moderate exercise sessions each week…

5. Build some muscle…Strength training compliments cardiovascular exercise by toning muscles and burning fat. In addition, proper strength training can improve daily functional movements, decreasing the chance of injury. The American Heart Association recommends getting in two days of moderate to high-intensity strength training each week.

6. Eat smart...A healthy diet full of heart-smart foods is essential to a healthy heart and lifestyle. Salmon, nuts, berries, and oats are just a few of the heart “super foods” that may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Dark chocolate is also on the list and is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth (in moderation).

7. Limit junk...To reap the full benefits of a heart-healthy diet, it’s important to limit intake of nutrient-poor junk foods.,,

8. Stress less ... Stress increases cortisol, which leads to weight gain, a key risk factor for heart disease. In addition, stress can lead to other unhealthy habits, making it harder to stick to a heart-healthy program. Stress can also decrease overall happiness and increase the risk for anxiety and depression. 

9. Sleep more...Sleeping restores the body, helps decrease stress and increases overall happiness. To reap the full benefits, clocking seven hours each night is key…

10. Smile...A happy heart is a healthy heart. Making time for enjoyable activities and hobbies helps relieve stress and improves the overall mood, providing a great foundation for a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Last week we were reminded that in order to trust our hearts, we must make sure we have pure hearts—hearts purified by the Blood of Jesus and the Sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Un-regenerated hearts are unreliable because they are contaminated and controlled by sin and selfish pride. The Peace of God that comes from having a heart fully surrendered to and controlled by the Holy Spirits “Guards our hearts and minds.” (See Philippians 4: 6-8).

Our Scripture in Matthew 6 today is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Usually I have focused on verses 19-24 separately from verses 25-34. But this week as I was reading this passage it dawned on me that they are not separate topics. These verses all are pointing to that which is most important in our lives—the things we value more than anything else. Verse 21 and verse 33 are both focusing on that which is the most important need in our lives. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

I see some powerful truths underlying these verses. Let’s consider:

I. YOUR HEART REVEALS YOUR TRUE AFFECTION.

a. If you see the words “I and You” with the symbol of heart in between those two words, how do you read it? (“I love you.”) The heart signifies our affection, our love. 

b. In this passage Jesus speaks of our desires to save up money for our future, of protecting our wealth from those who would steal or destroy it, of obtaining food and clothing and shelter. All those things are legitimate concerns. We are taught in the scripture to work, and save, and to provide for our families. These are God-given responsibilities. Consider these verses: 

i. >1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

ii. >2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10—“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying of it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help. But in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ’The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’”

iii. >1 Timothy 5: 8 says, “”Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, had denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

c.  It is obvious that the Bible teaches planning and working and paying our own way and providing for our family and being generous to those in need.  These are all important virtues for Christians.   But Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in the verses we read today, reminds us that while these things are important they are secondary to that which is most important. And if our heart is totally focused on these physical needs and we neglect that which is most important, our “treasures” will only be the physical and the temporary. But if our heart is set on the heavenly, on loving God and honoring Him, all these other concerns which are secondary to eternity will be taken care of.

d. In the deep recesses of your heart, the emotional organ that radiates our true value and desire, what is the thing that you value the most?   Is it money?  Is it possessions?  Is it relationships?   Is it pleasure? 

Is it the approval of others?   Whatever it is that you treasure the most, that is where your heart will be.

I’ve had men admit to me that while they were sitting in church and appeared to be listening to the music, the prayers, the testimonies, the sermon, in their minds they were really thinking about sports, or the project they were working on, or the people they were going to meet later in the day.    I remember one year when the summer Olympics were happening that I used the various events as illustrations in my Sunday sermons. I had one guy tell me that he really enjoyed those messages. But then he went on to say that he normally didn’t pay much attention to what I was saying during church but these Olympic illustrations were very interesting. This guy really was telling me that he didn’t usually focus on worship when he came to church, but he really enjoyed sports!  And too often, there are those whose attention—indeed, their hearts--are attuned to anything but the kingdom of God and His Righteousness. 

Dr. Jim Diehl was our speaker at our District Ministers Retreat this past week. In one of his messages he said we must not yield to the temptation to allow those things which are holy to be treated as common place. He used the example of Communion, saying that if we hurry through it and treat it as just another thing we do instead of recognizing it as a very sacred act acknowledging the provisions God has made for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are dis-respecting that which is holy.

I must admit there are times we get so caught up in the familiar that we seemingly cheapen the reality of the greatness of God. Our hearts must be trained and disciplined so that the things of God are the things we treasure!

II. OUR ACTIONS REFLECT THOSE AFFECTIONS OF THE HEART.

a. Jesus told us that the greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.   I have to ask: Do my actions demonstrate that supreme and ultimate love?  If I love Someone with my total being, I certainly would want to spend time with that Person. I would want to know what things He likes, what He is thinking, what things are important to Him.  Do my actions include reading His Word, meditating on it, studying it so that I can really understand the message He is trying to give me?  In John 12:26 Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  Can I honestly say that my ultimate desire is to follow Jesus?   Am I truly trying to show up in the places where I know He will be?  Do I love the things He loves?  Do I come to church because it is an obligation or because I really want to be in a place where God is being honored and worshiped? And what about the people God loves? Do I feed the poor because it seems like the right thing to do or because I really care about them? Do I want the lost to be saved because they are precious souls or because I want to be seen as a hard working Christian? What did Jesus mean when He said that the second greatest command is to “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Is my heart really more concerned about making myself look like a good Christian, or do I really care about people?

b. If my heart is really concerned for and in love with people then those people become my treasure.

c. I can tell you, if you are more concerned about appearances than about people, the people you are reaching out to will know.   One of the speakers at the M 19 Conference in Kansas City talked about being “transparent Christians who really live Christ-like lives.” And he pointed out that while we think someone might be rejecting our message, they are really might be rejecting the messenger.” 

d. Our actions reveal our true hearts and our hearts expose our personal treasures. 

III. WE MUST CONSTANTLY GUARD OUR HEARTS LEST WE LOSE THE TRUE TREASURE.

a. Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

b. In Hebrews 12: 1 & 2 we are told, “…run the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” That speaks of discipline.” 

c. 1 Corinthians 16: 13 says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” That speaks of discipline.

d. James 4: 7-8 says, “”Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you…” That speaks of discipline.

e. This means that we must train our hearts to seek and protect the treasure that is most dear to us—God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness. If we don’t discipline our hearts, the cares of this world will crowd in and rob us of the most precious treasure.

f. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul wrote, “But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lover of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

g. Those are the treasures possessed by hearts that do not have God. And those are the things that will creep in if we are not vigilant in our discipline to keep God’s love supreme in our lives.

Conclusion:

Money is a big deal. We have to have it in order to function in our society. We have to have it for food, clothing, shelter. We have to have it to maintain an acceptable standard of living. But truthfully, if money is the thing we desire more than anything else, then our hearts are not where they should be. 

Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6: 6-10: "But godliness with contentment is great gain.”For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

And the words of Jesus: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

What is your treasure? Where is your heart today?

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