Things Jesus Never Said: Part 5
“I can’t handle your situation.”
I love to hear people quote the words of Jesus! However, sometimes they may quote it wrong or conveniently live their lives ignoring some important teaching Christ laid out for us. Today we present Part 5 of our Sermon Series “Things Jesus Never Said: “I can’t handle your situation.”
Let me ask you a question - What does it mean for a “situation” to be handled? Does it mean this situation has to improve? Go away? Be solved? Be resolved? Or… does it mean you can not just survive the situation, but thrive even if it continues or even worsens?
When asked, “how are you doing?” and the response being; “well, under the circumstances…” - I once heard someone say; “well, what are you doing under there?”
Just what is your situation today? Are you “under” it? Are you muddling through it? Does it have you pinned down? Does it have you devastated? Does it have you wounded? Does it seem insurmountable? Do you feel that God can’t handle your situation and that things will never improve?
If you’re human, you have or have had feelings of despair – even hopelessness. I want to assure you, based on the Word of God, that He can handle your situation and you can flourish - thrive in spite of anything this world can dish out.
How is this possible? It involves perspective, understanding and divine involvement.
John 9:1-7: As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” 3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. 4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.[a] The night is coming, and then no one can work. 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7 He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!
It was a commonly held belief during that time period that people had sickness or birth defects, etc. because of sin. Some people believe that even today. But as this story unfolded, we see Jesus’ explanation of this man’s “situation.”
Watch THIS VIDEO!
Why can God handle our situations? Let’s check with Paul.
Romans 8:16-28 - 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[j] including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) 26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Let me emphasize a few things from this passage. In this last verse, Paul gives us the most important perspective to trust God to handle our situation.
God works in everything… for our good! Obviously not all that happens to us is “good!” This promise enables us to not only let God handle every situation, but to be able to know and quite possibly see the long-range good these difficult situation will bring us.
It is not God’s purpose to make us happy, but rather to fulfill His purpose in us!
That my friends, is called “handling” the situation.
Think about a situation past or present in your life for a moment. Do you believe Jesus has the power to see you through it? Let’s put ourselves in the blind man’s place for just a moment. This Jewish carpenter’s son, referred by the guys hanging out with him as “Rabbi” or “Teacher,” SPITS. His spittle lands in the dirt. Consider the thought process that immediately forms inside the brain of the man. Spitting is normally an act of repulsion. To add to it, this ordinary looking man reaches down mixes the spit with the dust and scoops up the mud and promptly smears it on the blind man’s eyes! Wow – self-esteem issues anyone? As if the blind man hadn’t been ridiculed because his condition, passed over – given to a life of being abnormal – and now your eyes are covered in spit/dust-made mud!
So, Jesus then tells you to go wash it off – of course you’re going to wash it off. But then what? You’ve already heard that you’re blind so God can get glory… did He get glory from the embarrassing mud incident? But wait – as the caked on spit-dust mud begins to dissolve – light begins to flicker and images take shape – something you’ve never ever experienced before – and you can see!
Can Jesus handle your situation? If you believe He can, will you let Him? Will you trust Him even if your situation isn’t resolved the way you would like it to be? Jesus has a constant supply of “mud” waiting to use – to bring glory to God – in your situation. What if the blind man, repulsed by the spit/dirt mud would have failed to obey Christ’s instructions, scraped the mud away or asked for some water from another source to wash away what he viewed as “smelly, gag-producing” mud?
God supplies a mud-pack for every situation in our life. How many of us struggle in our situations, the mud-pack immediately accessible – or even more, having had the mud-pack applied and we just don’t follow through with complete trust and obedience and go wash it off?
Let’s take this trust in God to handle our situations to the deepest level! Your exponential growth in your ability to do this will mark your progress as a follower of Jesus Christ!
There is an old song by Lizz Wright that goes like this:
Have you any rivers that seem uncrossable?
And have you any mountain that you cannot tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible
And He will do what no other no other power but holy power can do
When your body is full of disease - And your medicines - don't give you no ease
God specializes, Yeah, God specializes
Are you friendless and in despair? And nobody, nobody, nobody - Nobody seems to care - God specializes - Oh, He'll be right there – God specializes, Yeah, God specializes!
1 Corinthians 3 - Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? 5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. 10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. 12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” 20 And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.” 21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter,[f] or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
You belong to Christ & Christ belongs to God. Still think He can’t handle your situation? Let’s encourage one another to remember whose child we actually are – then act like it – every situation!
Things Jesus Never Said Part 4
“You’ll get what you want if you pray hard enough.”
I love to hear people quote the words of Jesus! However, sometimes they may quote it wrong or conveniently live their lives ignoring some important teaching Christ laid out for us. Today we present Part 43 of our Sermon Series “Things Jesus Never Said: “You’ll get what you want if you pray hard enough.”
John 14:12-14 -12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!
John 15:7 - 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
Jesus said if you will ask, he will do it. However, we must look at the context of His statements.
Let’s break it down.
The key to asking for anything in Jesus’ name is really about alignment. Because of our humanness and our innate selfish desires, we often are out of alignment with God.
We tend to make our requests for our own benefit according to our definition of what that is. That thought process, then, is flawed from the beginning – Thereby making our requests out of alignment from the beginning of our dialogue with God. God will not answer any prayer with a “yes” that is contrary to His character, His nature or His will.
God always hears and answers every prayer. Just because the answer isn’t always yes, but instead “wait” or “no” doesn’t man your prayers are not heard of the God doesn’t care about your plans. If your requests are asked and a yes would be contrary to God’s will, He may say; “no, let’s wait until you can remain in Me and I am remaining in you. Then if I deem this is the best for you, My answer will be yes.”
Are you in alignment with God? Do you know what it means to ask for your requests in His name? Do you how to “remain in Him” and allow Him to “remain in you?”
Let’s talk about motives behind your requests.
James 4:1-3 – What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
Okay- let’s say your requests aren’t for “things” that would be “nice” – in fact you might be asking yourself, why would it be wrong to ask for healing or for financial help or for other urgent requests that make sense – for either yourself or someone else… and of course, expect God to say yes.
Think with me for a moment about this. If someone asked and expected you to do something and you didn’t do it, or did it half-heartedly, what would you expect them to do if you asked them to do something for you? Or what about if someone asked you for something and you always said no, what would you expect them to say if you asked them for something? Is that the situation you have with Jesus? He has asked you to allow Himself to take the punishment for your sins. You’ve said yes. He has rewarded your decision with eternal life. From the beginning, He has asked you for a close relationship. You’ve neglected Him though – you’ve not always loved God with all your heart – or loved your neighbor - or talked with Him on a regular basis - or obeyed His instructions for keeping your relationship in good standing, healthy and vital. And now you’re asking Him for significant answers to your prayers?
When you want something from another human being, who is easiest to ask? It will typically be someone you have a relationship with – and more than likely a good relationship with. For some, it might be a parent or grandparent, brother or sister, or another close relative. For others it might be a close friend. God wants a relationship with you that is close – a relationship that is tight, one that will last, one where you value Him all the time, in every-day life – not just when you need something.
For many people, they only get serious with prayer when they want or need something and often in times of trouble or urgency.
Question: Does God have to interrupt you in order for you to hear from Him? Is your communication with Him a dialogue or a monologue (you doing the talking)?
You may not be living an ungodly life or a particularly sinful life – in fact, you may be serving God and your fellow man, but if you don’t have a close relationship with God, how will you even know if you’re in alignment with Him? If your prayer life only activates on a serious level when you’re wanting something, you’re at a loss before you start your communication with God. Remember, God gives you what you want when you ask in His name, understanding His character and nature. In addition, we have what we ask for when He is in us – and we are in Him.
More than likely, things will not go according to your plans! It’s true – so, will you trust God’s timing and will? Will you trust his answers to your prayers? This is what is called living by faith. Then you can rest assured, everything will go according to His plans.
Jesus never said, “You’ll get what you want if you pray hard enough.” He however encourage us to pray hard.
Luke 18:1-8 - One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” 6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man[a] returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
This parable does not mean we should endlessly repeat our requests or even beg God like spoiled children. We simply present our requests to God, keeping them before Him while we wait for His answer. In fact, the blessing of prayer is in prayer itself. Communication and dialogue between our heavenly father and us is more fulfilling than anything else we can ask for. Jesus isn’t like a vending machine where we put in our money (requests) and out pops our selection.
Here are some great questions to ask as you consider that nature of your requests. Where is your foundation of faith built? Is it based on God providing all you want? Or is it based on a two-way dialogue where you talk and listen or simply don’t talk, but listen?
Philippians 4:6 (NIV) - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Matthew 26:36-40 - Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Wow, what an example we have in Jesus – God – said “no” to His only Son.
How do we know He will hear and answer? If we are truly His followers.
John 10:27-29 (NLT) - My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
The Great Shepherd will take care of and protect you, but you must follow Him. You go out wandering around and straying from His care. Watch out, not only will your prayers be hindered, you may find yourself in serious danger – and not even know you’ve wandered, worse yet, not care.
Max Lucado in his book “Glory Days” tells this story.
Nadin Khoury was thirteen years old, five foot two, and weighed, soaking wet, probably a hundred pounds. His attackers were teenagers, larger than Nadin, and outnumbered him seven to one. For thirty minutes they hit, kicked, and beat him. He never stood a chance.
Khoury’s mom had recently moved the family to Philadelphia from Minnesota. She had lost her job as a hotel maid and was looking for work. In 2000 she’d escaped war-torn Liberia. Nadin Khoury, then, was the new kid in a rough neighborhood with a mom who was an unemployed immigrant—everything a wolf pack of bullies needed to justify an attack.
The hazing began weeks earlier. They picked on him. They called his mother names. They routinely pushed, shoved, and ambushed him. Then came the all-out assault on a January day. They dragged him through the snow, stuffed him into a tree, and suspended him on a seven-foot wrought-iron fence.
Khoury survived the attack and would have likely faced a few more except for the folly of one of the bullies. He filmed the pile-on and posted it on YouTube. A passerby saw the violence and chased away the bullies. Police saw it and got involved. The troublemakers landed in jail, and the story reached the papers.
A staffer at the nationwide morning show The View read the account and invited Khoury to appear on the broadcast. He did. As the video of the assault played on the screen behind him, he tried to appear brave, but his lower lip quivered. “Next time maybe it could be somebody smaller than me,” he said.
Unbeknownst to him, the producer had invited some other Philadelphians to appear on the show as well. As the YouTube video ended, the curtain opened, and three huge men walked out, members of the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
Khoury, a rabid fan, turned and smiled. One was All-Pro receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson took a seat on the couch as close to the boy as possible and promised him, “Anytime you need us, I got two linemen right here.” Khoury’s eyes widened saucer-like as Jackson signed a football jersey and handed it to him. Then, in full view of every bully in America, he gave the boy his cell phone number.
From that day forward Khoury has been only a call away from his personal bodyguards. Thugs think twice before they harass the kid who has an NFL football player’s number on speed dial.
Pretty good offer. Who wouldn’t want that type of protection?
You can have it. You have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, with the Savior of the World and the presence of the Holy Spirit who can be everywhere at once.
Crave that relationship,
Cultivate that relationship,
Cling to that relationship.
Create trust in that relationship.
Call on God – he will hear and he will answer yes, wait or no and you will rest in Him.
“You don’t have to tithe.” ~not Jesus
I love to hear people quote the words of Jesus! However, sometimes they may quote it wrong or conveniently live their lives ignoring some important teaching Christ laid out for us. Today we present Part 3 of our Sermon Series “Things Jesus Never Said!” - “You Don’t Have to Tithe.”
Pastor Bruce Howell of Lighthouse Community Church in Kalamazoo, MI, tells this funny story: IT WAS PENTECOST SUNDAY. As the congregation filed into church, the ushers handed each person a bright red carnation to symbolize the festive spirit of the day. The people listened attentively to the reading of the Pentecost story from the Book of Acts about how the disciples had heard “what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven”; about how the Holy Spirit had appeared “like tongues of fire.” Then came the sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us,” the preacher began. “Like the powerful wind from heaven!” shouted a woman sitting in the first pew. Then she threw one of the red carnations toward the altar. The preacher began again: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us.” The same woman’s voce rang out again, “Like the tongues of fire, the tongues of fire!” Again, she threw a red carnation toward the altar. The preacher looked straight at her and said, “Now throw your pocketbook.” To which the woman replied, “Preacher, you have just calmed the wind and put out the fire.” We can laugh at this, but the whole issue of giving in church is so convoluted today, we want to get our truth straight from God’s Word.
Let’s consider the following words of Christ.
Matthew 23:23 (NLT) - “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[g] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
Luke also remembers Christ’s words and relates it like this:
Luke 11:42 (NLT) - “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
Malachi 3:8-12 (NLT) - “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.[a] Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”
What is “Tithe” anyway?
According to The Greek Word Study Dictionary with Derivatives and Exegetical Commentary edited by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates (a well-known Greek-American Scholar), the word “tithe” comes from the Greek word “dekate” which literally means tenth of anything. Another descriptive word is understood follow: “meris” – which literally means “a part” or “a portion.” It is interesting to note that “dekate – meris” literally implies that a tithe given was widespread among both God’s chosen and pagans alike. “Meris” implies that giving a tithe was assumed, expected or assigned. Real life accounts throughout the Bible enforce this fact. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek the High Priest, Jacob vowed to pay God a tenth of all God gave to him, the temple of God and the priests salaries were literally paid for by… you guessed it - tithe!
I must throw in a quick cow story… The cattle were tithed by letting them pass out of an enclosure, under a rod held by some person who touched every tenth beast. Upon that touch, that animal became the property of the Priests. I knew cows were important!!
It doesn’t appear that a tithe was demanded of herbs, however, but the Pharisees however tithes their mint, anise, cumin and rue. And our Savior didn’t condemn their actions, but rather called them out for neglecting the even more important issues, i.e. justice, mercy, faith, and love.
So why is “dekate – meris” not stressed in the N.T. like it was in the O.T. A simple explanation would be that in the O.T. tithe was compulsory, vital, and necessary to earn favor with God. It was a Command! It would make sense, then that Jews would focus on the external instead of the inner qualities of the Holy Spirit. The N.T. Christian, however, more easily understands how important developing the qualities given by the Holy Spirit but seem to balk at giving monetarily to the Lord’s work. This hesitance seems to be exacerbated by a lack of understanding regarding the stewardship of material possessions.
We tend to exact a formula based on our selfish nature versus our new nature in Christ. This formula, then, often includes the use of the total dollar amount of our income for our personal discretion regarding the disbursement of those monies. The innate struggle with that formula then, is the tendency to run out of resources before giving to the Lord is considered. It’s a fact that most followers of Christ want to give to God, but their process is flawed from the beginning.
In the O.T., the Lord’s tithe (Lev. 27:30), the festival tithe (Deut. 12:10, 11) and the tithe for the poor (Deut. 14:28,29) were all compulsory. In addition to these, however, there was voluntary giving which included the “first fruits” giving and “freewill” offerings. An Israelite who loved God voluntarily gave the first fruits of his crop to Him. He did this even before he had harvested his entire crop and didn’t know how much he would reap. In other words, first fruits giving was giving the best to God and trusting Him to provide the harvest. It simply was giving by faith.
In Exodus 25:1-2 (NLT) we find these awesome words: “The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them.”
It was from those offerings Moses built the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle where the presence of God dwelt! Offerings from the heart!
There were some promises given resulting from that kind of giving!
Proverbs 3:9-10 – “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. 10 Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.”
Remember what we read earlier from Pastor Malachi?
Malachi 3:10-13 -” Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”
So, assuming you want to give, just how do we pull this off? How can we “budget” to give when our expenses are so vast and there are so many places for our limited resources?
Do we really trust Jesus and what He says? Here are His words.
Luke 6:38 (NLT)
“Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
So, does that mean that the more we give, the more we get? It is so important that we use God’s formula for blessings and not ours. Last week we talked about how God’s gifts – His “nice” things are ours for simply being His followers. Things such as: The promise of Eternal Life, Freedom from worry about material necessities, Peace of Mind, and Constant access to the very mind of God! I can always use more of all of that! In fact, I need those in great measure whether I’m poor or having vast amounts of troubles! These are incredible blessings no amount of money can buy.
What’s Paul got to say about giving?
2 Corinthians 8:1-7 – “Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. 2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. 3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. 4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. 5 They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do. 6 So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving.7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.”
Wow! Poor people, begging to give??? Generously??? When they couldn’t afford to by all human deductions (or budget plan)???
Here’s an idea for you to experience that incredible blessing of giving.
You might be asking, but Pastor – how can I realistically pull this off? I can hardly make ends meet now? This is where trust and obedience come in. Again, let’s go to Brother Paul’s insight to the Corinthian Church.
2 Corinthians 9:6-10 – “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need, and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” 10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.”
There is one more Greek word I want to leave with you today! It’s the word “eneimi.” It means “to be in,” or “what is within,” i.e. “the soul.”
Let’s look at a very cool illustration of the very essence of “eneimi.”
Mark 12:41-44 - 41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. 43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
This is what the Pharisees lacked! They lacked the spiritual qualities of a soul that had been liberated by Jesus Christ! Therefore, they could not understand the significance of the widow’s small offering. Her love, trust and obedience quotients were such that giving came from her “eneimi!”
Former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, W.A. Criswell tells of an ambitious young man who told his pastor he’d promised God a tithe of his income. They prayed for God to bless his career. At that time, he was making $40.00 per week and tithing $4.00. God did just that and in a few years his income increased, and he was tithing $500.00 per week. He called the pastor to see if he could be released from his tithing promise, it was too costly now. The pastor replied, “I don’t see how you can be released from your promise, but we can ask God to reduce your income to $40.00 a week, then you’d have no problem tithing $4.00.”
You see, it is vital that as a Christ follower, we must come to grips with not only does He now control our soul’s destination, he also wants to direct our “eneimi” or our “what’s really inside our soul.” Until we embrace that truth, we’ll always struggle with our Original Sin Nature and we’ll want to control how much love, how much mercy, how much justice, how much faith, and yes, even how much of our resources we are willing to give.
Are you willing to trust Him to direct you in all areas of your life? Including your money?
Things Jesus Never Said
Part 2: “Follow Me and You Will Have Nice Things”
I made a statement last week, I love to hear people quote the words of Jesus! However, sometimes they may quote it wrong or conveniently live their lives ignoring some important teaching Christ laid out for us. Today we present Part 2 of our Sermon Series “Things Jesus Never Said!” “Follow Me and You Will Have Nice Things”
Have you ever had a time when you could truly say; “I don’t need anything else, I have everything I need” or “If I never went anywhere else than where I am, or felt any different than I do right now, I’d be okay with that?”
There are times in my life, when I’ve needed to go without food – either because of a planned spiritual fast, stomach disorder, a medical test requiring a fast, etc. or maybe just a time when work and situations did not afford eating for an extended period. When I was finally able to eat, a simple item such as a Saltine cracker or a plain piece of toast made my taste buds dance for joy! There was just nothing better I’ve ever tasted than that simple food item. Or perhaps being so parched and in need of water, that a lukewarm cup of water tasted so good, you couldn’t ever imagine wanting anything else to drink or needing your drinks to be chilled or on ice.
In both instances, the simplest item had an incredibly positive affect on your thought process. Those items sure were “nice!”
How about being stranded with a flat tire, in the middle of nowhere with no one around? You get out your spare tire, your jack and realize you have no lug wrench to allow you to change your tire. There you sit. A car goes by, you flag them down, yes, they are willing to lend you their lug wrench, but lo and behold, it’s one size too small, there’s just no way it’s going to fit. They go on and you wait for the next vehicle. You wait a couple more hours, you’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re thirsty, frustrated and you are going to be late for an appointment if something doesn’t happen quickly. Finally, you hear an approaching vehicle! A rusty, dilapidated old truck with a toothless old man at the wheel, slows down and comes to a stop beside you. You ask him if he has a lug wrench. He smiles a toothless smile, hops out of his old truck, rummages through the junk piled up in the bed and he pulls out a rusty 4-way tire lug wrench! Sure enough, you try the first one – too big, the next one, too small, try number three and it fits perfectly! Right then, you look at that old rusty lug wrench and it is the nicest thing you have ever seen. Why is it so nice? Because it’s what you so desperately needed! The old man helps you break loose your lug nuts, jack up your car and before you know it, you’re on your way!
What things are actually nice? Nice: pleasing, agreeable, delightful
So… In the context of your situation, the Saltine cracker, the cup of lukewarm water, a rusty lug wrench were all, by definition, “nice!” Certainly, in the context of what was going on in your life, they were all “pleasing, agreeable, and delightful!” However, if we had our druthers, we would rather be afforded our favorite snack, in abundance, plus our favorite iced beverage served to us and “self-inflatable” tires that re-inflated once punctured allowing you to drive up to 50 miles to the next service station where someone else would change your tire, allowing for minimum inconvenience. Now that – would be nice, right?
Jesus never said if you follow Him, become a disciple of His, you would have nice things, at least not by your definition anyway. He didn’t say you wouldn’t have nice things, nor did he say it was categorically wrong to have nice things, but He did say that your view of nice things would need a different perspective of “nice” when compared with the world’s definition.
What does Jesus offer us that’s nice, i.e. “pleasing, agreeable, and delightful?” Let’s find out!
Luke 14:25-33 - 25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. 28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ 31 “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32 And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. 33 So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
Okay, it’s obvious by Christ’s words here, there is no guarantee your list of “niceties” are yours for the asking. So, let’s get a little more perspective on what you do get from Jesus as His devoted follower.
John 10:9-14 - 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.[b] They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.
Matthew 6:25-34 - 25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
John 14:1-2, 23-27 - “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. 27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
Let’s start a list of “nice” things you get for being a follower of Christ!
In Closing, let’s look at another story about nice things found in the Gospel of Luke
Luke 18:18-30 - 18 Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good.20 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’[c]” 21 The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 22 When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 23 But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich. 24 When Jesus saw this,[d] he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 26 Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” 27 He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” 28 Peter said, “We’ve left our homes to follow you.” 29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, 30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”
You want nice things? Give everything up to follow Christ and be repaid by the Almighty God who was, and is, and is to come. And get nice things? “pleasing, agreeable, and delightful?” – Can you think of anything you’d want more important than what Christ can give to you? How about it?
In a book published in 1954, by Ivor Paul called “Bible Windows” we find a remarkable story:
The tale began with the death of the rich man and the auction of his household goods. The only person to bid on a photograph of the dead man’s son was an elderly woman dressed in shabby clothes, who was later revealed to have been the dead child’s nurse. Her charge, we are told, died at an early age, yet she had loved the boy dearly and so wanted his likeness as a keepsake. In that telling of the legend, when the poor woman examined at home the photograph she had just bought, she noticed a bulge in the heavy paper on the back of its frame. She made a small cut into the backing paper and pulled from the opening an envelope containing the wealthy man’s missing will. Said document clearly stated that his estate was to go the one who still held dear the memory of his beloved son.
This is what we know about following Jesus: Take the Son and the Father’s entire estate is yours. How “Nice” is that?
“No shirt, no shoes, no service.”
As a pastor, I love to hear people quote the words of Jesus! However, sometimes they may quote it wrong or conveniently live their lives ignoring some important teaching Christ laid out for us. With that in mind, we present our new sermon series “Things Jesus Never Said!” Part 1: “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”
“No shirt, no shoes, no service.” – This saying seems to have gotten it’s start during the 1960’s when the Hippies came into being – discrimination and pre-determined judgements of such individuals especially from store and restaurant owners as to the suitability of those in various stages of dress or “undress” as it were, explode in the early 70’s with signs popping up everywhere. Reasoning included the hygiene issue as well as what type of attire was “suitable” or social acceptable for dining experiences and certain shopping venues. Even signs saying “No Long Hairs” became quite popular as men’s’ hair length dropped to the shoulder. Certain behaviors and life-styles were soon associated with individuals not conforming to the standards indicated on these signs. Discrimination and judgement became the order of the day.
Jesus never said: “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” or “You’re too far gone to be saved.” or “Only hang out with those who are like you or those you like.” or “Church is for those who have their act together.” or “It wouldn’t be appropriate for ‘some’ people to show up at church.”
Why are we so quick to evaluate people? Our tendency is to judge people by what we initially observe. Many of us can formulate an entire personal portfolio simply by seeing where someone lives or, what someone drives – even before we see them. But oh, how the judgement breaks wide open when we see them and talk to them!
We as human beings seem to have the innate characteristic to judge – it’s simply ingrained in us. We have personal parameters as to our definition of acceptability and we have, as a default mechanism to determine whether or not an individual measures up.
In the 1950’s in Maryland, young people had the tendency to quickly put people into one of two categories: the “squares” and the “drapes.” Basically, the squares were those who followed societal rules, especially with their dress code. They didn’t approve of those who rebelled against the socially established norm. Conversely, the Drapes challenged the norm by either adopted the “biker” look, i.e. boots, leather jackets, slicked back hair and t-shirts with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve or the tough-guy but pretty-boy image, i.e. tight pants and shirts with fancy stitching at the collar and sleeves, the wearing of pink and black – pink shirt with vivid black stitching, black pants with pink stitching up the sides, black boots, hair slicked back into a duck-tail – well, you get the idea.
So vivid were these stereo-types that a movie called “Cry-Baby” was made in 1990 centering around this theme. According to Wikipedia, the basic synopsis centers on a group of delinquents who refer to themselves as "drapes" and their interaction with the rest of the town and its other subculture, the "squares", in 1950’s Baltimore, MD. "Cry-Baby" Walker, a drape, and Allison, a square, create upheaval and turmoil in their little town of Baltimore by breaking the subculture taboos and falling in love. The film shows what the young couple must overcome to be together and how their actions affect the rest of the town.
We all have the flaw of bias in our sin nature. In fact, I wonder what our first impressions would have been when seeing Jesus for the first time?
Isaiah 53:2-6 (The Message) - ”The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.”
How did Jesus view people anyway? What pre-requisites were required to get His attention and subsequently into His Kingdom?
Luke 5:29-32 (NLT) – “Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” 31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
Luke 5:29-32 (The Message) - Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. “What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?” 31-32 Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.”
In John 4, Jesus meets a woman while resting near a well. The encounter is unique for many reasons. This woman was of loose morals and was of a people group (Samaritans) that the Jews despised. These facts were noted, then simply ignored. Instead of looking the other way, Jesus captivates her with conversation unlike anything she’d ever known.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus encountered a man with leprosy. As this man kneels before Jesus, he is not repulsed, nor does he recoil at the closeness of the man – instead – Jesus reaches out and touches the man and heals him.
In Luke 21 Jesus views a poor widow as she gives her offering and validates her offering as superior to the rest.
In John Chapter 8, the teachers of the religious law and other spiritual leaders came to Jesus with a woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus saves her life and teaches the accusers a valuable lesson.
In Luke 19, Jesus goes home with a notorious wealthy tax collector – despised by all the people – and they when they saw him go to his house, the couldn’t help but muttering to themselves; He is going to the house of a sinner.”
But perhaps the crowning touch of how Jesus views people is illustrated by this incredible story found in Luke 7:36-50 (The Message) - 36-39 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.” 40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Oh? Tell me.” 41-42 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?” 43-47 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.” “That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” 48 Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.” 49 That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!” 50 He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Do you understand the truth about God’s heart for every human being regardless of who they are or what they’ve done?
Jesus never put any restrictions on His love and subsequently on His offer to forgive and make it possible for anyone to have eternal life with him.
No one is too far gone – no one is unacceptable, no one. That is the beauty of our Savior. The criminals, the insane, the beautiful, the ugly, the diseased, the immoral, the poor, the rich, the educated and the un-educated all gather at the foot of the cross and are rewarded the result of why He came – forgiveness, hope and peace.
Are you willing to reach your hand to every human, period? As a follower of Christ, we must, and we will.
There are two parts to today’s sermon: Understanding Christ’s position with all mankind as Lord and Savior and our standard as His followers.
Do you feel unacceptable in the sight of God? You’re not – come to Him today.
Do you judge people based on your own evaluation? Don’t! It does not mark you as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Will you reach out your hand to anyone, regardless of how they look or act or what they’ve done? Reach out today – you will fulfill what God desires of you and your rewards will be incredible.
“This Is A Big Deal!”
What is the big deal about Easter? When asked, people will give a wide array of answers.
Resurrection - rezəˈrekSH(ə)n - the rising of Christ from the dead
The Big Deal? What’s the Big Deal about Easter? It’s the Resurrection!
The Resurrection – The rising of Christ from the Dead!
Jesus Died on the Cross – crucified between two criminals – and then what?
Lets pick up the story….
Matthew 27:57-66 - 57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. 62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
A skeptic or a deep questioner might ask, “just how likely is the resurrection?”
Mark Tapscott is Executive Editor of the Washington Examiner. He oversees the daily work of the newspaper's special reporting team. He was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in 2006.
In a recent article in the Washington Examiner “So What’s The Big Deal About Easter”, Mark Tapscott sets the context for answering this very question: “… the evidence for the resurrection as a historical event is overwhelming, so much so that, as Josh McDowell never tires of saying, "there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus than for just about any other event in history." McDowell is a Christian apologist who has devoted most of his life to investigating the evidence for and against the resurrection.
Mr. Tapscott goes on to explain more about this evidence as researched and recorded by Josh McDowell.
One of the most fascinating parts of this story are the facts regarding the guard unit placed at the tomb where Christ was buried. Josh Mc Dowell tells us about it. It involves the Koustodia (koos-to-dee'-ah), the Roman Legion unit that most likely guarded Jesus' tomb to prevent his disciples from stealing his body.
Mr. Tapscott cites the research of Josh McDowell in this article. There were 16 members of a Koustodia unit and they were the Special Forces of the legion, with each trained to protect six square feet of ground. They worked in rotating teams of four to ensure constant surveillance by fresh sets of eyes. Death was the usual penalty for a Koustodia that failed to do its duty.
Knowing this, how reasonable is it then to claim, as some skeptics, that Jesus' disciples somehow overcame the Koustodia and stole Jesus' body, then spread a resurrection lie? None of the disciples came from military backgrounds, and all of them were in hiding in the immediate aftermath of the crucifixion, terrified that they would be crucified next.
And remember, for decades afterward, the disciples all insisted that Jesus had been resurrected. They did so despite intense persecution, constant threats of being jailed or killed, and, except for John, ultimately died for their faith (Peter, for example, is said to have been crucified upside down).
If these men were all parties to a resurrection lie, surely sooner or later at least one of them would have confessed in the hope of being spared execution.
Put simply, it matters because of what Jesus claimed about himself. Where other great religious figures like Muhammad gave the world codes of rules and regulations said to be from God, Jesus claimed to be God and said faith in him was the only way to heaven.
Simply put, the Big Deal about Easter is the Factual Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Why is the resurrection a big deal to us today?
Let’s talk a minute about death.
When we are born, we are “dead to Christ.” We have sinned, so therefore our access to God is blocked.
Romans 3:23 – “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So what, exactly did Christ do for us?
Sin has always required a blood sacrifice for atonement – a sacrifice so that the one committing the sin could be forgiven.
Hebrews 9:22 – “In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
I Peter 3:18 – The Message: It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.
Romans 6:5-11 - “Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”
This Easter Sunday – as we proclaim “He Is Risen!” He is risen indeed!” – will you contemplate what that means to you?
Do you fear death? Have you any room for Jesus? Let Him live in you. Then fear not! Have you lost hope? The Resurrected Christ is God’s Ultimate Gift of Hope!
Do you worry about what you can or cannot do? Stop focusing on your performance and just let God be in you.
Philippians 2:13 – “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
When God is in you, you can live life with hope. There is life beyond the grave. Jesus said: I am the Way, Truth and the Life!
Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26).
Believing in Jesus Christ to pay for your sins and then trusting in Him for everything. Jesus conquered sin, death and the grave – for you… That’s what His Resurrection means, that’s what His Resurrection did for you… so yes, Easter… the Resurrection of Jesus Christ… His offer to forgive your sins and offer you Eternal Life – “This Is A Big Deal!”
Pastor Ted Sutherland tells this true story: In 1957, Lieutenant David Steeves walked out of the California Sierras 54 days after his Air Force trainer jet had disappeared. He related an unbelievable tale of how he had lived in a snowy wilderness after parachuting from his disabled plane. By the time he showed up alive, he had already been declared officially dead. When further search failed to turn up the wreckage, a hoax was suspected and Steeves was forced to resign under a cloud of doubt. His story was confirmed, however, more than 20 years later when a troop of Boy Scouts discovered the wreckage of his plane.
Today we celebrate another survival story. 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus Christ walked out of a tomb outside of Jerusalem after being brutally murdered on a Cross. He appeared several times from appearances to just a few to over 500 at one time. Then He ascended on a cloud and remains alive today, seated at the right hand of God in heaven.
Will you believe in the Resurrected Christ?
Will you accept Him as Savior & Lord?
He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!
Today marks number twelve and final message of our twelve-part sermon series entitled “Small Matters.” During this series we have studied and learned about “little known” or “obscure” characters in the Bible who give us an opportunity to realize that God doesn’t waste any detail. These characters provide an incredible opportunity to learn from God’s wisdom in exacting His plan for us. Today’s character is not named but their words speak volumes. Our “Small Matters” character is The Centurion!
Just who or what is a “Centurion?”
Matthew 27:54 – “The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
Luke 23:47 – “When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.”
What was the reaction of the Centurion during and after the crucifixion?
Why did the Centurion have these reactions? Why did the Centurion identify that one particular man as the Son of God?
How about you today? Who do you say He is? Have you listened to God’s voice inside of you telling you exactly who Christ is?
Our whole belief system, our whole understanding of a Savior, our whole concept of the Church hinges completely on our understanding of who Jesus is… it’s all about His identity.
Matthew 16:13-18 - When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Peter knew it…
The Centurion Knew It…
Do you know the true identity of Christ?
Who is Jesus to you? He did something for you no one else could have done. You must know what it was Jesus actually did for you! He did it with simultaneous humility and supremacy! I love how Paul described Him in Philippians & Colossians!
Philippians 2:5-11 - You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Colossians 1:15-23 - 15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. 18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. 21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. 23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.
As you travel along I-10 in Louisiana there is a large billboard which catches your eye. It stands high above the city just as you start up the Mississippi river bridge. On it is a picture of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross of Calvary, head bowed. The caption underneath says in bold letters, “IT’S YOUR MOVE!” What a powerful thought. God has already taken the initiative in salvation. Christ died for you.
Who is Christ to you? Will you worship God and fall down and make this exclamation: “Truly this is the Son of God?”
Small Matters: “The Servant Girls”
Today marks number eleven of our twelve-part sermon series entitled “Small Matters.” During this series we have studied and learned about “little known” or “obscure” characters in the Bible who give us an opportunity to realize that God doesn’t waste any detail. These characters provide an incredible opportunity to learn from God’s wisdom in exacting His plan for us. Today’s characters are not named but challenge our thinking in a significant way. Our “Small Matters” characters are the Servant Girls who questioned the identity of Peter the disciple as he stood nearby the proceedings of Jesus’ trials that led to his crucifixion.
Matthew 26:69-72 69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter’s response to the first servant girl and then repeated again to the second is especially notable in the light of what he had said earlier in this same chapter.
Matthew 26:32-35 - 31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
Why did he react the way he did when the servant girl identified him?
Peter, simultaneously shocked and horrified, was also afraid of his own seemingly perilous situation. Surely, he was afraid that association with the one on trial would make him culpable and subject to whatever charges they were levering again his master.
So the logical reaction? Peter acts like he doesn’t know anything The servant girl correctly identifies Peter but does Peter identify Jesus? He missed a prime opportunity to do what he said he would do. And I quote Peter: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will! Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
The Servant Girls:
1. What can we learn from very specific and pointed words by the first servant girl that actually looks like a statement but spoken like a question? – “you also were with Jesus of Galilee.”
2. The second servant girl’s statement isn’t even a question, in fact, it was a very succinct incriminating question! – ““This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
Peter is following Jesus – he’s just doing it from afar. Do we do that?
Let’s begin to unpack how this might impact our lives as we contemplate this situation.
When Peter heard the rooster crow – he remembered with vivid shock the words of Christ spoken to Him just hours earlier –
Matthew 26:34 - “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
Also, more than likely Peter recalled what Jesus had spoken a few months before that.
Matthew 10:32-33 - “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”
Peter’s reaction was swift – Matthew 26:35 - 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Legacy Church’s Mission Statement Reads: “To Develop Fully-Devoted Followers of Jesus Christ.”
Luke 9:22-26 22 “The Son of Man[e] must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.
How do you do it?
How do you un-ashamedly stand for Christ in every situation, 24/7?
Small Matters Part 9: “Pilate’s Wife”
Today marks number nine of our twelve-part sermon series entitled “Small Matters.” During this series we have studied and learned about “little known” or “obscure” characters in the Bible who give us an opportunity to realize that God doesn’t waste any detail. These characters provide an incredible opportunity to learn from God’s wisdom in exacting His plan for us.
This week, our character is introduced and quoted in only verse in the Bible. And her words echo throughout eternity. Throughout time and history, in various writings, this lady has been referred to as Claudia Procula or Claudia Procles. She – was Pontius Pilate’s wife. Pontius Pilate often referred to as just “Pilate,” was the man responsible for the official sentencing of Jesus to death on the cross.
Matthew 27:19 - Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”
How incredible is this one verse? Let’s set the stage by reading the context…
Matthew 27:11-26 - 11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. 15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted.16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” 20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” 24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”[b] 26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
Pilate was a powerful man – but he was a coward.
Pilate had worked the system, worked long and hard to get to where he was – and he hadn’t necessarily gotten to where he was by honesty and integrity – and he was certainly an expert at passing the buck. Washing his hands of the whole issue certainly shows his true fear of the consequences of doing his job.
Pilate had the power to pardon Jesus, or, condemn him to death. The loudest voices in his ear were those convincing him to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion.
There are many lessons to be learned from this very fascination situation. However, I want to zero in on one of them this morning. It concerns the subject of “listening.”
God can speak to us through His Word, through others, in our minds, in our thoughts and yes, even in our dreams.
In this instance, God spoke very clearly to Claudia Procula. It happened to be in a dream, but the message from God was so strong that Procula put her life on the line to get this message to her husband while he was in the middle of one of the most crucial times in his rule. She disregarded her own safety and possibility of rejection and mistreatment by her husband or his guards.
Claudia Procula could have ignored the message of the dream – it would have been easier. But she stepped up courageously because she cared about her husband.
Question #1: “When God speaks to you, do you listen and act accordingly?”
John 8:47 - “Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
Proverbs 2:1-5 – “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. 2 Tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding. 3 Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. 4 Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. 5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.”
Question #2: “When you are about to yield to a temptation to do the wrong thing, do you consider your relationship to Christ in your decision?”
Claudia Procula proclaimed the message from God (the truth) to her husband, Pilate. Her message reached Pilate just as he sat down on the judgement seat to make his decision. It was at that point that Pilate could have used further truth to make the right decision, albeit against strong “mob” opinion. Pilate had already made a judgement in his own mind that he found Jesus to be “not guilty.” Added to that now, came the words from a panic-stricken wife sent with a direct message from God.
What happens when you are tempted? Do you seek and listen for wisdom from God? It was promised it would come.
I Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) – “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
My friends – God’s timing is perfect. Just as He sent Christ “at just the right time (When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6) Just like He sent us a Savior, He stands ready to speak at the very moment of decision.
As part of history and based on the Biblical account, not only did Pilate ignore his own conscience and the words from God delivered through his wife, he passed the buck, issued a death sentence upon an innocent man AND pardoned a hardened criminal – a murderer named Barabbas.
What will you do when faced with a temptation or a direction from God? Will you follow his directives? Or will you find yourself making a decision that could have huge ramifications?
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV) – “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
Pilate took the easy way out in spite of Claudia Procula’s warning. Even though this all had to happen for God’s plan to be realized, Pilate still knuckled to public pressure and caved in.
Will you knuckle to public pressure, to pleasure, to popular opinion among your family or peers? Or… will you listen for the voice of God? He is there specifically for you.
Pilate’s wife heard from God and she acted!
What ever happened to Claudia Procula?
There are many stories and speculations. It is believed by some that she became a Christ-follower or maybe even was before (secretly) before the crucifixion. Many believe she was executed for her faith in Christ, as a martyr. In the Passion of the Christ, Claudia Procula gives Mary linens to wipe up the blood of Christ. Wow! What does Claudia Procula’s bold move to get the message of God to her husband say to you about listening to God?
Small Matters Part 8: “The Owner of the Donkey”
Luke 19:29-35 - 29 As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. 30 “Go into that village over there,”he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. 33 And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?” 34 And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.
A great question to consider is, why did the owners of the donkey let the disciples take the donkey?
J.P. Holding, a Biblical researcher gives a great perspective:
If someone walks up to your brand new bright red Corvette, takes the keys, gets in, and starts revving up, you will certainly ask (in a less than rational tone, naturally) "Why are you taking my car?" And I very much doubt that you would be satisfied with the answer, "God needs it." If you hadn't already punched the guy's lights out, your next step would be to call the men in the white coats and the police.
Obviously, that didn't happen here -- the owners made no effort to stop what was going on, and the disciples were allowed to leave with the colt unhindered. So there is obviously more to this story.
Today, we want to explore the incredible orchestration of the plan God had to redeem man – the plan, to provide the most incredible divine intervention for reconciliation to be as accessible for all. This entire plan for Holy Week was prophesied in the Old Testament. And, in Christ and God’s plan, all these prophesies were fulfilled – all 29 of them!
The situation of the mode of transportation of Christ on his “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem was indeed foretold and completely fulfilled down to the last detail.
In Zechariah 9:9 we find this prophecy spoken about Jesus Christ:
“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.”
Even though skeptics say that this mode of transportation was staged simply to say that Jesus fulfilled every prophecy including Zechariah’s, we believe there is much more to the story. Let’s unpack it a bit more:
Let’s look at the first question and explore some possible explanations:
The Owners of the Donkey – all part of God’s plan and God orchestrated His plan down to the most minute detail.
Whatever He needs to do His will, He will arrange.
Questions to ponder:
Will you let Him arrange your life?
Will you listen to the Holy Spirit for direction? Or will you ignore His voice?
Do you make plans and then ask God to bless them? or….
Do you ask God for His constant presence before you plan? as you plan?
It is important to remember one very important fact as we continue our journey to the cross during Lent. God doesn’t waste any opportunities to help us learn about Him.
Most donkey have a narrow strip of hair that runs down their backs and each of their shoulders have stripes that are of a darker shade. These strips of hair – are in the shape of a cross. Donkeys have been used by mankind to bear burdens for mankind for thousands of years. They are indeed “beasts of burdens.”
The cross of Jesus Christ signifies our burdens being carried by the Christ who was crucified on the cross.
Who would put a cross on an animal unless it were to bear burdens? Who would put a cross on the back of a perfect divine being to pay the price for someone who didn’t deserve it?
God – He planned the events of Holy Week, down to the minutest detail. Why? For you. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice guiding you today!
**Here is a listing of them in order of their fulfillment in the N.T. (Thanks to Pastor Jim Rickard of Grace Fellowship Ministries who provides loads of Biblical resources free of charge!)
Betrayed by a Friend
He Was to Enter the Temple
Sold For 30 Pieces of Silver
Accused By False Witnesses
Smitten and Spit Upon
Silent Before Accusers
Wounded and Bruised
Gall and Vinegar Offered to Him
Crucified with Thieves
People Shook Their Heads
Darkness Over the Land
His Forsaken Cry
Money to Be Thrown into God’s House
Price Given for Potter’s Field
Buried in a Rich Man’s Tomb
Forsaken by His Disciples
He Was to Enter Jerusalem on a Donkey
Hands and Feet Pierced
Made Intercession for His Persecutors
Committed Himself to God
Friends Stood Afar Off
Fell Under the Cross
Garments Parted and Lots Cast
To Suffer Thirst
Bones Not Broken
His Side Pierced
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Legacy Church & Ministerio Hispano are ministries of Town Center Community Church of God, a registered 501c3 in the state of Georgia
Legacy Church & Ministerio Hispano are ministries of Town Center Community Church of God, a registered 501c3 in the state of Georgia