Sunday, August 26, 2012

Persevering In Prayer

It has once again been too long since I last posted, and for that I apologize.  I must admit that I 'made' time for this post...simply because after what happened at church today, I THINK it may be a little necessary.  I would definitely have to say that this is one of my more favorite passages from Luke.  (Okay, that's not necessarily true).  Luke definitely has to be my favorite recording of the Gospel (yeah, kinda wrong, I know), and I am very familiar with the passages.  Anyway, it comes from Chapter 18 verses 1 through 8.  Here I will post it for you:

 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to whis elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

We had a good time of prayer after the sermon.  I watched as a bunch of people came forward and fell upon their knees.  I will say this:  There is nothing better then that feeling, seeing people humble themselves before God.  I can definitely say that when you're in that position of heart, sure, doubts will come...but IN that position, there's very little the devil can accomplish against you.  (I know I'm crossing all sorts of lines there, but that's how I feel).  Anyway, let's hop right into this!

The first point we see:

I.  At All Times, We Ought To Pray.

First off and foremost, note that this 'ought' in verse 1 is really not only a suggestion.  It really has an idea of necessity.  As humans, we are completely prone to lose heart and wander.  To me, this definitely brought a portion of a song:  "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love, here's my heart o take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.".  Very much so, we are prone to wander and lose heart.  I sure am.

You may also be able to connect them in this way:  If you lead a life that's characterized by prayer, you probably won't be prone to lose heart as much.  (Now, I know that's not ALWAYS the case.).  Now my pastor brought up some serious thoughts on the matter:  To give up on prayer, in essence, is giving up on God.  When you use the 'excuse' of "Well, it's good and all, I just don't have time.  My schedule doesn't work to pray a lot.".  Waaiiiiiiit....You only say that to things that are of no importance to you.  Is communication with God, asking Him for help in things, of no importance to us?  I oughta think about what I just said there before I'm tempted to use that excuse.

Before we get a bit deeper, I must clarify something.  ALWAYS.  Uhm, what am I saying there exactly?  That I shouldn't hang out with any friends because I need to always be praying?  No, no, I'm not saying that. I love what my pastor said on this matter:  It's more of, don't cease to pray.  Whhhaat?  Doesn't that mean the same thing?  Well, that's what I'm tempted to think.  But the moment my pastor said 'military tactic' not 'ceasing'...what that means is they charge, pull back and regroup, and then charge again.  Now, repeat.  Then repeat again.  And again.  And onto infinity.  That's what 'don't cease to pray' means.  We take a break, sometimes regroup with friends or (and, definitely no matter what) the Holy Spirit.  The other thing is that prayer isn't necessarily limited to just speaking words with closed eyes and an open heart to our Heavenly's a lifestyle.  It's praising Him for who He is and what He does for us.

Before we actually move on to the 'parable', I would also say this:  From what I've said, do NOT BY ANY MEANS think that I'm saying, "Hey, you, pray more!  Pray, pray, pray!".  I mean, sure, we all need to pray more.  But prayer is one of those things that you can always theoretically 'do better' in.  We can always be better, therefore we can't be satisfied.  But that' just the thing:  It's no performance!  It's nothing that'll get you from Hell to Heaven (or vice versa).  Here's the point though:  Does leading a prayer-less life characterize our lives?  The answer is to not say, "Oh, I need to change that.".  You need to ask WHY that is, not how to change it.

II.  A Main Reason We Lose Heart In Prayer is the Delays in God's Answers.

Yeaaah, that's a big one, certainly.  Here is where we start to answer that 'why' question.  It often seems that God doesn't answer our prayers as rapidly as we want Him to.  But remember:  What is rapidly to Him isn't rapid to us.  We're but a moment, He's always been.  We don't really understand His Eternal Perspective on things.

We go on to the parable.  The main thing to note here are the characters.

1 Character:  A selfish, unrighteous, wicked Judge.  You get the idea that he doesn't really care about justice, he doesn't care about anyone, just himself.

2 Character:  A needy widow, who relentlessly comes to the wicked judge for justice.  (Note:  In that time, it was much harder for widows then it is today [Not that it's NOT difficult for them today] in the sense that women weren't really allowed to own anything, and when their husband passed away, they received anything that was left and had to live off of it.  [which is usually little].  Here, Jesus seems to make it apparent that someone has removed this widow's source of livelihood.  That's why she's desperate, and relentless in approaching the judge.).

As you follow the story, Jesus shows that eventually the wicked judge gives her justice just because he didn't want her to bug him.  Now don't misunderstand here.  Yes, the widow represents us.  And no, the wicked judge doesn't represent God, we know that.  Here's the thing though:  If a wicked person can give justice by being annoyed into it, won't a perfect, loving and caring judge give justice to those whom He loves and gave His life for?  Exactly!  He does!  But again, it's difficult for us to see that at times.  It's really hard at times, I know.  But He is faithful, His timing is always perfect.  We are promised that He WILL give us justice, and help us in our time of need.  Even rapidly, He says.  But we have to go by God's 'rapidly'...not our own definition of rapidly.  (I'll continue this train of thought in a moment).

III.  In Order To Pray Unceasingly, We Need To Understand Ourselves, and We Need To Understand God.

I've already given you a lot to 'understand' about God, and there's much more, and much more no one understands at all!  But we're revealed some things.  According to other Scriptures, we know of God's Faithfulness, Omnipotence and Omniscience.  He's powerful, and can do anything He wants.  So when He doesn't answer our prayers, it's NOT that He's unable to do it.  We know that He's able.  We also know that He works all for our good, even if we can't see it as good.  Don't freak out about an issue that He's not answering:  If He's not answering, then you don't need it solved quite yet, and God knows that.

What about us?  Well, we know that we're not at all powerful in any minuscule way...otherwise, you know, we wouldn't really need Him, now would we?  As humans, we're frail, we lose heart and give up easily.  We often are grieved by mistreatment (from other humans, because God never mistreats us.  He treats us so oppositely from that, when you realize what we really deserve) and difficult trials.  (Or seemingly mistreatment from difficult trials).  God's Will is Sovereign, and He works all for these things are necessary.  Our position in life is necessary, otherwise, it completely disproves everything about the Gospel and the Bible.  Also, we must never cease to bring to Him our troubles and heartfelt needs.  He listens.  He knows.  There's a song by Fireflight that's called He Weeps...and He Weeps for you, and loves you.  Know that!  Just remember the importance on His timing.  (I know I'm repeating myself...but I wouldn't repeat it if it wasn't serious).  Also, we should NEVER question God's Faithfulness.  The Bible in so many different places has shown us that various people have asked the question:  "God, where are you?  Why have you abandoned me?".  We must be concerned with OUR faithfulness.  The issue is that we have a lack of it, and we must acknowledge it.  Perhaps in prayer, you may also express that.  We ought to be sad and distressed at our lack of faithfulness, and realize that any attempt of ours to be more faithful won't really do much.  Perhaps in addition to asking Him for help in our time of need, we could say, "Hey, God...I don't feel like I'm trusting you.  I mean, I know you can be trusted.  I know that.  But I feel my faith lacking.  Give me the strength to believe that this is all according to your plan."  <---and it really does.  Always.  If a problem isn't solved, then God will solve it...when He solves it.  But He loves to hear you ask anyway.  Amen?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Increase The Master

I apologize, it has been again too long of a time since I've had a post.  Perhaps maybe, I can post a few this week!!! :)  We shall see.  Anyway, I really enjoyed this sermon.  Here's what the sermon kind of wraps around:

Only those who honor the master are able and humble servants.

Here is the scripture:  Luke 17:1-10:   And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”  5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.  7 Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly,4 and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants;5 we have only done what was our duty.’”

Let's jump right into this.  To me, this is a very strong passage.  It throws a burden onto my soul, and I'm sure that's the case with you as well.  The thing that Jesus talks about first deals with this:

I.  The Reality Of The World.

How is the world?  The world throws temptations at us.  It is sure to come.  In our use of words today, we don't use the word 'sure' as a certainty, but that's what Jesus is meaning.  It is impossible for temptations to not come after us.  (Yeah, I know, there's a saying that says, "Even the word itself says, 'I'm Possible!" but leave that for now).  The other thing is that it is better for us to be dead then to lead others in to sin.

A little further down (And really His whole point of the dialogue) is that as humans, we don't like to 'serve' others.  We would rather be served.  We like to rest.  We like to sleep.  We don't like to work.  And we certainly don't like to work on the 'beyond' point that our Lord calls us to.  There are certain things that most of us will lay a line and not cross into.  That leads us really to the next point.

II.  The Role Of The Kingdom Subjects.

What is our role?  I touched on it above.  Jesus went through a description of how it would be better for us to die then to lead others in to sin.  But because we all sin, He calls us to be brothers and sisters to one another.  We must pay attention to ourselves and others.  When we see one of our brothers or sisters sin, we must rebuke them.  But this is rebuking, not condemning.  When you rebuke one another, you do it comfortingly.  Although it is true that they'll be in for a lot of trouble if they don't repent, they aren't destined for Hell just because of it.  We must keep each other accountable to God's commands in love, not in hate.  And after rebuking, we must forgive.  We must forgive and forgive, no matter how many times we're hurt or sinned against.

This all ties together in one knot.  The reality of the world, is that also, as humans...we don't want to forgive.  When someone hurts or sins against us, our first response is to get angry.  We don't want to be friendly with them.  We want to attack them back, but such ways are sinful and Jesus calls us to do the opposite.  We must forgive, which is a very hard thing to do.

Remember that a church cannot grow without rebuke.  It can't mature spiritually.  It cannot, and it will not.  He doesn't call us to just say, "I forgive you." to that person that sinned against us.  The tongue can utter words, but the heart may not grasp or believe the words we send out.  We must say it, and we must mean it.

Forgiveness is hard to do, right?  Well, That's certainly the Disciples' response.  But I want to leave you with something before we move on.  In order to 'be able to forgive', think of Jesus' forgiveness.  He forgave you and I to the point of giving His life for us.  The debt He had to pay for us all was a great sum.  If we can truly understand what that means, we should be easily able to forgive and move on.  After all, our situations against each other are different then the ones we have with our Creator, but the same model applies.  We may not have to go to what Jesus did to forgive us, but there will be sacrifices.  There's always sacrifices.

III.  The Disciple's Response

Their response is truly interesting.  "Increase our Faith!", they cry.  Why?  Because they realize that alone in themselves, they can't do it.  They want Jesus to increase their faith more so that they can handle forgiving and caring for others.  They stayed with Him even when others left.  Perhaps we will stay with Him when others leave and give up, but no matter what, we're all weak.  We all need more strength.  There's no way to do things without Him.

IV.  Jesus' Response

The Lord's response is very stunning.  A mustard seed is a really small thing, and yet, if we had that amount of faith, we could tell a tree to uproot itself and throw itself into the ocean.  Ouch.  If it only required that amount of faith, I'm pretty sure all of us (or at least me, definitely) have no faith whatsoever.  And yet, look at how much God has done for us?  And yet we're unfaithful, and sometimes have doubts.  There are certain thoughts of mine though, that think it's not just a physical thing.  I'm reminded of other things, like the story of when Jesus walked on water.  When they're in the boat in a storm, and they have a lack of faith.  Mountains, storms, trees.  I think that they represent different kinds of 'troubles' or 'trials' that we go through.  If we have enough faith, we can put them aside.  Or we can put them aside into God's ocean, which He controls.  Do I make sense in that frame of reference?

It is sometimes fascinating in how Jesus seems to not answer their questions on things.  Or our questions, for that matter.  And then something odd as well:  He answers our questions.  At least, what we should be asking.  Sometimes we have a habit of not asking the right questions.  We ask for more faith, instead of Him to show Himself more to us.  In order to become 'more able and humble', we have to do just that.

For one moment, Jesus pulls us out of our real position, and gives us the view of the Master.  We are the servants, but He gives us that look.  Should the Master bless the servant who has only done what he's been commanded to do?  Not really, because that's what he's supposed to do.  Not only does the servant have to get everything that he's supposed to do done, but he needs to 'wait' on the Master before he can even think of feeding himself.

So first off, Jesus saves us from doom.  Second, He makes His servants (us) cease causing others to sin and start pointing them to life.  Thirdly, Jesus authorizes them (us, His servants) to do the impossible.  Spiritual troubles won't be too difficult, He gives us the power to overcome them.  Even if we can't do what someone would call 'impossible', the nature of what we are able to do in His power is extraordinary, and all in itself seemingly impossible.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

God's Lost and Found

I apologize, I have once again become very lazy in coming out with posts.  I've been a little busy, but most definitely not busy as I say I've been, that much is for certain.  The post on this sermon comes from almost three weeks ago.  Of course, I did lose my notes and my Bible for a time, but they were found on Sunday.  :)

Anyway, this sermon focuses in on the beginning of Luke chapter 15.  Primarily the two parables:  The Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin.  Unfortunately, I feel like it's a bit too long to put up here, so I would ask of you to look up Luke 15: 1-10.  If you do not have a Bible, just Google it, and that should take care of it. :)

Really, so many sermons of different types can be preached from Chapter 15.  SO many.  Lots.  But we see several things in just the first little verses of the selection.  The focus that we'll take is looking at how God goes to great effort to seek and find the lost...and that He really REJOICES when the Lost have been Found.

I.  Sinners Are Lost Until God Finds Them.

Pay attention the seemingly Biblical description of Sinners here:  They are Lost, not unsaved.  It's not that everyone is just 'unsaved'.  We are all God's, and we were before.  But our society has rebelled against and forgotten.

Look at the Pharisees' comment when they see Him receiving 'sinners' and 'tax collectors'.  They GRUMBLE and COMPLAIN.  I believe you see several different things in Jesus' response.  Oh how I wish Luke could have gone into more detail about HOW Jesus responded.  When I read over his response in the parable, I just feel as if He seems to be laughing at their complaints.  I also think that verse four holds some interesting stuff.

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?"

I believe that in saying this, Jesus gets a little bit more into their hearts.  They don't really care for anyone...they don't care about the sinners and tax collectors around them.  In their eyes, they are just 'filth'.  But that's not how Jesus sees them.  It almost seems as if Jesus is asking a sarcastic question...saying that this OUGHT to be the way they go about things...but yet they don't.  And if they don't...what does that say of them to everyone else?  They're heartless, and cold.  So many times, we act like this:  Heartless and cold, not really caring.  We say we do, but we don't really...and we become self righteous.  (Which we'll get into more with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which will be the next blog post. :)).

Another thing that the Pharisees may be thinking:  It's just one sheep, you have ninety-nine others.  Why is the absence of one such a big deal?  But Jesus says it is.  He cares more for the one that is lost then the ninety-nine that are found and safe.  The other thing is that sheep are 'dumb'.  They can't find their way back to their master, the master must go and find the sheep.  In the same way, we are represented as sheep, my friends.  We are unable to find our way back to Him...but that doesn't stop Him from coming after us.

Which leads us to our second point:

II.  God Goes To GREAT Effort To Seek Lost Sinners.

It even went to the point where He gave His very LIFE for us to be found.  What Love is this?  What Grace is this?  Too much for my weak-willed mind to understand or fully define.  Let's take a look at both of the Parables at the same time.

What does the Shepherd and the woman do similarly?

Well, they both search UNTIL they have found what they're looking for.  They don't ever give up, or rest.  They constantly work at pursuing and seeking...until they have found it.  In the same way, my friends...That's how Jesus comes after us.  He won't give up, and He will keep after us, even if we try to get further away from Him.  Aye, you could even say that Jesus used these two examples to try and describe how He cares for us:  But I tell you, although it's a GREAT really doesn't even completely cover it, it just gives us an idea.  How great my friends, is this idea?

He takes the initiative in seeking us, and as I've already pointed out, it doesn't matter to Him the personal cost of this search.  This then gets us to our third point:

III.  God Rejoices Greatly When Lost Sinners Come To Repentance.

We will see more of this in the following post on the Prodigal Son.  But we still see it here as well:  The Pharisees care nothing about those being found.  They think that they're found and they're in the right, but that's just the point:  They've deceived themselves into thinking that they are one of the elect, when really, they're just as lost as anyone else is.

The real call for those of us who are already Christians is this:  Jesus rejoices greatly when the Lost are Found.  He invites us to take part in that joy.  He also invites us to take part in the search for Lost souls.

How joyful were we when we were found?  I've grown up a Christian myself...but I never really understood how sinful I was until last year.  I experienced a joy that one can't really even fathom...and when others are found by Christ, that'll be their reaction.  Don't we want to be a part of that search?  Don't we want to come alongside them and rejoice with them?

Here's something else:  Even our great joy at being saved and found cannot even come close to the joy that God has in finding us!  He is in rejoicing of an amount that no word or picture can accurately describe.  He wants us to taste that joy by sharing His heart for the Lost.  When we see His heart for the Lost accurately, it's really powerful.  Desiring to follow and be like our Lord...we can't get such a heart as His, but we can imitate it to the best of our abilities.

We are represented by the sheep:  We aren't of really true value.  But then we're also represented by a coin: Not that WE are precious, but God DEEMS us as precious.  To Him, we're all precious.  No matter who you are and what you have done...You're precious to Him.  Us sinners of evil and filth, (and I deem myself really high on the list of the worst) are precious to Him.  Mind blown.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship

Yesterday's sermon was really strong.  We're talking REALLY strong.  At least it was for my case.  It comes from Luke 14:  25-35.  That's a lot of verses, but I'm going to put it on here anyway.

"25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

My pastor came up with a first point that at first confused me.

I.  It Is Possible To Follow Christ Superficially.

Let me describe this meaning.  (At first, I did not get it at all).  This comes in verse 25.  'Now Great Crowds accompanied Him, and he turned and said to them.'  If you think about it for a minute, you notice that there's a lot following Him.  But Jesus turns and says some shocking things.  So you kind of get the sense by 'superficially' that it's not 'truthfully'.  There were lots in that group that just wanted to see signs.

From the past teaching, we learned that His Gospel was Free.  Yes, Salvation is free, all you have to do is Believe (and follow) Jesus.  As you follow Christ, you sacrifice all else.  He bought you with His own precious Blood, and since He gave it all for you, wouldn't it make sense to give all to Him?

Another thing is that some were following just to have better lives.  But Jesus denounces that theory.  We don't follow just for our own good or the sake of following, we must follow Him as one would follow his master and do all that his Master has commanded of him.  You cannot see Him as just the Savior, without seeing Him as the Lord of your very life.  He is the Master, and calls you how to live.  That brings us to the second point.

II.  To Follow, We MUST 'Sit Down' and Consider the Cost.

We need to consider the phrases:  "Sit down and count the cost" and "sit down first and deliberate".

We must consider and count the cost of every single activity we do.  (Not literally, necessarily, but pretty closely).  Sure, the Holy Spirit does move in you on a quick moment, but for the most part, we need to stop and consider things.  It's not that we consider the cost of following Him as what we lose, but how He asks us to follow Him.

And then Jesus starts to say some 'shocking' things, and these things that He says have been vastly misunderstood by some people.  What He says in verse 26 needs some careful, and special attention.  It seems like a contradiction to the rest of the Bible, but it's not.  He's saying that you must hate your family in comparison with your love for Jesus.  At the moment, that doesn't hold very much credibility with us.

But maybe I can help you understand that with this description:  Think of the Twelve.  They left their families to follow Him.  That makes me think that this means, if you want to follow Jesus, and your family doesn''s better for you to choose to follow Him rather then stay with your family.

The next one is something that I struggle with.  We must hate our own life.  Now, see, in that literal sense, I'm completely fine with it.  Of course, I don't really hate my life anymore...but back in 2011, I did.  But here's the point:  He means that if you're under persecution, you must not renounce Him on account of your life.  In other words, be willing to get killed for your views on Christianity.  In America, at the moment, that's not really something we have to worry about.  But, what if you wish to be a Missionary to China or a similar country that is very violent towards Christian thoughts?  That will definitely come into play.  So the issue with me, is that I do think I would be able to hand my life over to another, since I almost took it myself on more then one occasion.

We must carry our own Cross.  This one has been viewed differently at nearly every turn.  My mom pointed out that it meant something different in older Baptist teaching.  It seemed to lean more towards a 'works' thing.  As if somehow, we try to make our own way after Christ has already done it.  'Carrying Our Cross' is a very interesting picture.  Back in those days, criminals were forced to pick up their cross and carry it to their execution site.  Don't misunderstand me:  Not all of us will be martyred for our faith, as I've already said.  But this is what it represents:  Finality.  When we pick up our cross, there's no turning back.  It's a really hard thing to grasp.

We are also to give up all our possessions for Him.  I'm not saying we go and sell everything we have and give the money to a charity.  What I AM saying, is this:  If an item in our possession becomes too central in our aim that it blocks Christ, we need to toss it away.  Or, He may call us at some point to give it away for a cause that He's moving.  It's hard to discern what that may be, but it's probably more of a 'feeling' thing.  Going along this command, He is to be higher then anything else in life.

For me personally, there are some things that greatly affected me.  It went along the lines of hating your life, as I went through above.  Along those lines, I got to thinking about how low I hold myself.  As I said, I don't really actually 'hate' my life anymore.  But I hold myself in low places.  In practicality, I don't hold myself as being a better person then anyone else, however, I hold that I'm in a better spot because of what God has done for me.

On Saturday night, I went to a dance party after a Graduation ceremony.  I got really sick...but even still, I really wanted not to dance, because it's 'not my thing.'.  But...WHY is it not my thing?  Everyone seems to enjoy it.  I take joy in other ways, but it's not really 'joyful' circumstances.  I never really liked dancing or parties because it was too close to what the world enjoys.  But in reality, it's not quite so.  Man took partying to another level that in Heaven, isn't intended.  However, God does call us to 'sing and dance'.  And I realize that in my low spot, I don't want anything to do with something that to me feels almost worldly (even if it's not quite).  And I look down on those who do it with a judging eye.

What I have failed to realize as well, is that...Low and Broken is its own source of arrogance and pride.  I take too much pride in the fact of what God has done for me, and feel that He has placed me higher then others.  But it's really odd, see, because I'm not wrong in what I'm looking at.  I'm half-wrong in how I look at it, and half-right.  I have the right intentions and thoughts, but yet end up at the wrong way of how it is.  So odd, is everything.  The main point, however, is I'm prideful and arrogant, and desperately need to change.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jesus' Heart & The Hard-Hearted

The sermon today really affected me.  Actually, the whole service affected me.  Good 'old' worship songs (for the most part, 'older' at least) to start with, bringing up the spirit, and then diving into a great teaching.  Maybe you'll be as affected as I was.  The passage is from Luke 14: 1-6:

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.

You can really tell that Luke tries to paint a picture that shows the difference between the state of Jesus' heart and the state of the Pharisees' hearts.  So really, the first thing that we shall look at is....

I.  The Pharisees' Heart

Luke lets us know something in the first verse.  Where are the Pharisees' eyes?  On Jesus.  But you get the sense that they're not watching Him with reverence as His Disciples did.  They are watching Him 'carefully'<--They're trying to trap Him.  They're completely ignoring the man who's obviously sick.  The word 'Dropsy' probably doesn't mean much to us, but it's really a serious disease.  Somewhat of like a human being 'swelling' all over.

Although Luke never actually tells us what the Pharisees did, he did say that Jesus responded--with a question in verse 3.  Verse 4 shows the Pharisees silent, and unresponsive.  The Pharisees didn't really answer Jesus' question for several reasons.  The first one is probably that there aren't actually any verses in the Law Of Moses that says you can't heal people on the Sabbath Day.  No idea ever exists.  If they were to answer 'yes, it is against the Law to heal on the Sabbath', they knew that that would give Jesus ground, even though He says it anyway in verse 5.  If they answered, it would really show how inconsistent their values were.  Jesus' values went against what they held to be true, even though it was false, according to Jesus.

So the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus, and 'ignored' the sick man.  But if this whole situation was designed to 'trap' Jesus, they not only IGNORED the poor fellow, but USED him.  That is a very sad picture.  The Values held by the Pharisees breaks down their followers by rules and traditions.  Jesus heaps Grace on His followers.  Luke really 'unveils' the warped scale of Values that the Pharisees held on to.

But Wait...There's Something Else......

Too quickly, will we desire to 'bonk' the heads of the Pharisees and say, "Do you not see this?!  How do you still NOT understand?!".  Too LATE, we seem to realize that this is a warning for us today.  We want to say, "Yeah, we're like Jesus in this type of situation".  Well...that may be all well and true...but then it may not be.  It's too easy to feel like you have it together, and you don't really want to or think that you need to change some things.  Hold onto this last point as we look through on the next point, and that will kind of build a few bridges.

II.  Jesus' Heart

Really, every action that Jesus takes in this sequence of events reveals things about His Character.  The Pharisees invited Jesus to dine with them.  Jesus, along with others, obviously know that the Pharisees have it out for Him.  If you knew that someone was plotting to kill you, would you without question accept an invitation?  I probably wouldn't, but, Jesus did.  This reveals Him to be Bold.  He's also very ACCEPTING of people...All KINDS!  He showed compassion on the sick man, but always see Him pursuing the Pharisees.  On first look, it might look like He's rebuking them out of slight anger and judgment.  But, if you look a little'll see that as He talks with them, He's always saying, "Repent, repent!".  Is the point being driven home a little bit more?

Here's the point:  We MUST be in a state of Heart & Mind that allows the Holy Spirit to Teach and Guide us.  Jesus had heart for both the Down-Hearted and the Hard-Hearted, and so should we.  I believe I have a heart for the people that are hurting and desperate.  My problem is that I have no heart for the people who stand on the nonexistent 'middle ground'.  They're not necessarily lost, but they may be immature or silly, and I just don't like dealing with those kinds of people.

After the sermon and before we left, we had a time of prayer.  This is when the people that feel convicted come up to the front and kneel to pray.  Then their friends come up and pray with them.  I was talking with a friend, and we came to the conclusion that, although we all may not be perfect in getting the job done...It's in our heart to change our actions toward others.  When we desire to have a soft, warm heart for His people and the Lost, no matter in what manner they are Lost...God will give us that Heart, and we'll be able to act on it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

He Cares For You

I unfortunately have been too busy to be able to post on the latter sermons, however; I'm posting about the one today.

First off, Happy Mother's Day!  :)

Second, the sermon was really great.  It was from 1st Peter 5:6-11 (For the most part).

"6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Things can definitely be said about the first verse, but that's not where the focus was.  The main idea was around 'casting all your anxieties on Him' in verse 7.  The thing is that we can be plagued and attacked by many kinds of 'anxieties': burdens, trials, fears, etc.  But they all come in several different categories:

1.  Ongoing...these kinds of troubles center around the same thing over a period of time, such as several months to years to even all of life.  (Physical Illness, Depression, and more).  It is definitely true that trials and burdens DO go on all throughout our lives.

2.  The next category was defined as 'Acute'.  These sorts of trials happen in an instant...such as a car accident or the event of a life passing away into Heaven's arms.  They're here, and then they're gone.  In the case of the latter, you could say that it's an ongoing thing for awhile, but that's really the Depression involving it, not necessarily 'it' itself.

3.  Another one may be things that are imagined, or in future scenarios about the next day or upcoming years:  The pursuit of marriage for a teen growing into the adult stage (such as me [not that I'm actually headed for 'marriage' this moment]), or the bearing of kids for a couple, or even fears such as the future collapse of our country and world.  There's a verse in Matthew that I absolutely love, and it's in chapter six, verse thirty-four.

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is it's own trouble."

In itself, that verse may seem a little bit confusing.  What Jesus is really getting at though, is that God will take care of your needs, which then leads in to the next category.

4.  This one is certainly not the most danger filled one, but it's very sad:  When we are Doubting His Care.  Verse 34 from chapter six of Matthew also sort of brings some things into this one as well.  Read on through verse 8 and 9 of chapter five in 1 Peter again.  Peter gives us a warning.

And then this is where some people start asking these questions:  Why?  Why do we have these Trials?  Why are some of them so devastating as to almost rob you of your life?

The answers to these questions are not always easily understood, until you look back on something and realize that God was there all along.  There are several reasons why we have these Trials:

  • They produce tested, Genuine Faith.  James says it well in the first chapter of his letter:  "Count it All Joy, my Brothers, when you meet Trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let Steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
  • Following the 'Genuine Faith' idea, it also grows you to be more dependent upon Him.  Beside your growing 'Genuine Faith', your Trust will grow as well.  You may be tempted to blame Him for what you're going through, but when you're at the end, you can almost see all that He did for you in that time.  He leads you through the Storm, the emphasis being on 'leads'.  He has his arm around you, and you're in the shelter of His wings.  Don't fret, my brothers and sisters.  When it all comes to pass, you shall Praise God for His enduring Faithfulness toward you.
  • There are more things that could be said, such as our own Sin (and again God teaching us to be more like Him through it) and many more that you could list off.
Pure and simple though, behind everything, the answer is:  He CARES for you! :)  Well, that's all good and known, you may say.  A typical conversation would've just asked the question that I already answered.  Then the proceeding question would go like this:  Well, since you say He CARES for me, HOW does He care about it?

Well, front and center, He knows your suffering.  As Jesus, God walked through the human life of trials, and ended up taking on the Greatest Sacrifice of All...His own life.  My dear brothers and sisters, He knows pain.

Psalm 56:8: "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your book?"

You should read through to the end of the section at verse 11.  It ends with something encouraging:  "In God I trust, what can man do to me?"

It's almost a boast:  Hey, yeah, sure, men can hurt me bodily, make me depressed, make me flee...but I don't really have to be scared, because I know what's coming and where I'm going, and man can't change that.

Beyond that, every moment you've been down, every tear you've cried, every event of your earthly pain He has counted, and every other event besides.

Even beyond that, He WILL NEVER forget you.  Luke puts it this way:  "6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows."

If God forgets not the sparrows, or the grass upon we tread, shall He forget us?  By no means, my friends:  We are 'of more value than many sparrows'.

He Protects you and Provides for you.  The Father sent His One and Only Son to us.  Jesus gave to us to the point of giving His Very LIFE...if He gave us His Eternal Life, why would He not give us all our very needs?

Now, of course some aspects of our trials will remain with us until we see Him face to face.  But we have a hope in this text that never fails.  His love never fails.  When the storms rage, we don't have to be afraid.  We have a friend that the wind and storms obey...and He's interceding for us at the Right Hand Of God.  Because HE cares for YOU, cast all of your ANXIETIES on Him, and He'll take care of you. :)  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Personal Encounter With Jesus Vs. Religion Without Him

This was the sermon from today.  I'm going to quickly go through what my Pastor said, but I also saw a lot of different connections that he didn't have time to make or take a look at.

The text comes from Luke 13:10-17: 10 Now vhe was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had hadwa disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he xlaid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she yglorified God. 14 But zthe ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus ahad healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, b“There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! cDoes not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, da daughter of Abraham whom eSatan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, fall his adversaries were put to shame, and gall the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

Basically, I'm going to quickly go through the points, and then go through them again with the connections that I saw.

I.  Crippled By Satan

Found in verses 10-11.  Re-read those.  You'll notice how the woman's faith may be indicated by her presence there.  She was 'crippled' for 18 years.  She probably went to the synagogue regularly, despite the fact that people probably were horrified by her.  She wanted to be straight again, so she never missed the opportunity to be healed.  It just so happens that Jesus was there, so He did it for her.  You'll also notice that Jesus knows that there was a disabling spirit tormenting her and keeping her body from being straightened.

II.  The Compassion of Jesus

Found in verse 12, you'll see that Jesus was full of compassion.  He was always full of compassion for those who were hurt.  If you feel hurt, He has compassion for you.  And nothing will beat His compassion for you.  Nothing.

For another point, if we really become and grow to be more like our Savior, we will see people through His eyes of compassion.

III.  Criticism by Leaders.

In verse 14, we see a shocking contrast between Jesus and this ruler of the synagogue.  Where Jesus was filled with compassion, the leader of the synagogue was attached to his rules.  Thus, he valued rules and really didn't care about relationships.  Religion without Jesus is always more concerned with rules than with people.  And we see that again and again, Jesus put His adversaries to shame for the Glory of God.

Now I'll work back through the text again, this time really with what I see.

In my Pastor's sermon, I found the first point to really stand out.  The point, but actually the name of the point, because it got me going on a slightly different track.  This whole situation that Jesus deals with shows all sorts of things.  It even pictures what Jesus was going to do.

This girl of 18 years has certainly been through a lot.  She was despised by a lot of people for coming to the synagogues the way she was.  I really feel like Jesus is saying something more through this instance.  I see the fact that she's full of faith.  However, she's still human.  She's bound to Satan's power.  Although she desires to be straight and perfect by Jesus' side, she can't be.  Jesus calls out to her, and grabs her.  When He died on the cross, He reached out to our position and unbound the chains that the devil had so neatly wrapped around us.  It was too complicated for us to get through, but Jesus could see clearly and unwound it with His blood.

Then as my pastor moved on to the second point, I was reminded...of my past.  Of who I was.  Of how insane I was.  But Jesus was compassionate, picked me up and told me, "My child, release your hold of judgment on yourself...I have already paid the full price.  Learn by my example, and I will help you with all of my ways.".  Jesus is really compassionate.  Every other religion without's just a bunch of rules that leave you feeling hopeless, because you can't really 'attain' the high levels of what you should do and be.  Because of the rescue from my insanity, Jesus has lead me to feel that I can be of help to those people who have been in my same circumstance.  So this is how I know that I am becoming more like my Savior:  I can feel His compassion for people.  Granted, I show compassion only for the group that I feel compassionate about, but that's because I really want to love them the way that Jesus did for me.  I feel compassionate.  Not perfectly compassionate as my Savior was, but compassionate nevertheless.

The reaction of the leader was interesting.  Read again what he said.  Then, read Jesus' response.  Oh, how I wish I had Jesus' way with words!  He was really making SEVERAL different comparisons when he spoke of the donkey.

The first was that the leaders treated their animals better then human beings.  My pastor did make that connection.  I'm sure he knew this, but he didn't communicate the other things that I saw.  There was real importance in what Jesus was saying.  Think of it this way:  They untied the donkeys and led them to water so that they could drink.  My friends, if the donkeys were not untied to be able to get water, wouldn't they die?  Now you understand Jesus' reasoning and outcry in his reaction.  It wasn't literally this way, but you could say that the girl was the donkey in need of water...and she had to be moved in order to receive it.

It was that important.  The girl needed to be rescued, and she was.  She was healed.  In the same way, we may be bound in to something by Satan's doings.  We're bound in human flesh.  Jesus removed our chains by taking the wrath that was deserved for us.  We are crippled by the Devil's acts.  The Devil takes great pride in keeping us bound, by confusing us with lies.  Despite Satan's thinking of his chains, Jesus is stronger.  He's great enough to remove the chains.  And He humiliates the Devil by doing so.

When He beckoned the girl to come to Him, He beckons US.  He cries out to us, "Come to me!  I'll be glad to remove your chains!  I love you more then your sinful ways, so I'll change them."  And He does.  He gives us His word, He gives us His Holy Spirit to help guide us in the right place.  Everything He throws at us, there is a reason for.  God will use it down the road for His Glory.  I can tell you that right now through personal experience.

I love how Luke keeps building this up.  The leader of the synagogue...He was absolutely ridiculous.  His thoughts were wrong by God's Word, and illogical in every right.  Man's Pride in his rules and 'ability to abide by them' really makes him lose sight of the picture.  He seems not to care that this girl is hurting!  She's bent and tired of the years spent that way.  He doesn't even think, "Hey, that's cool for that girl to be...suddenly straight".  When we get truly involved with rules that make us lose compassion for people, we are HORRIDLY in the wrong.

The crowd was rejoicing, however.  They got it.  A girl was just healed from a serious problem.  The leaders didn't.  Jesus humiliated them.  He continues to humiliate His adversaries today through helping His church reach out and help the broken-hearted.  It happens the same way:  Every time a lost person is found and saved, rejoicing echoes around the Heavenly Host.  Sure, it ticks off the Devil to the point that he does everything damaging as possible, but it doesn't matter.  Our Savior is victorious, and will always be.