Tag Archives: Jesus

A Fool’s Wisdom

14 Feb

foolYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week, talked about budgeting – don’t spend what you don’t have. The foolish man doesn’t think about tomorrow and what might be needed, he simply spends all he has. Righteous people pursue God and find life. Wisdom is the conqueror over strength. Be careful what you say and sometimes not saying anything is the best. Don’t be foolish enough to think that it doesn’t matter how you approach a holy and perfect God. He will not accept sacrifices offered with evil intent. This morning, we’ll get some clues in identifying wickedness as well as seeing how foolish it is to go against God.

I hope you’ll take the time to read Pro. 21:29-22:4 so you know where we are.

We begin with a question. How can you spot a wicked man? Solomon says, “A wicked man displays a bold face, but as for the upright, he makes his way sure.” Bold face is not a likely description that people would use these days. It literally means makes firm with his face. It gives us the idea that the wicked man does not show anything on his face. He doesn’t blush, his face doesn’t get red when he’s angry. You can’t read this guy and he uses that to get his way.  But the upright or righteous man seeks God and determines to follow Him. Other versions translate that last phrase as, “gives thought to his ways.” That’s consistent with what we have seen in Proverbs, It’s not about following your own path, but about following the path God has set before you. When you truly seek God, that’s one and the same direction.

How smart is God? Solomon says, “There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the Lord.” I searched Google for the smartest people in the world and found a list of really smart people. I learned that the average IQ in America is between 90 and 100. Individuals with IQ scores between 160 and 165 are considered extraordinary geniuses, and those with scores of 145 to 179 are considered geniuses. The person with the highest IQ is Australian born Chinese American Terence Tao with a verified IQ of 230. If you stack up Terence’s smarts against God, you will come up dreadfully short. It is foolish and unwise to go against God. Even though there seems to be progress made in things that are anti-Christ, don’t let that fool you into thinking there is victory against God. There is no success when you go against God. People think they’re so smart and yet Solomon says, “There is no wisdom, no understanding and no counsel against the Lord.” Ps. 2:1-6 speaks to this pretty clearly. It’s no use to battle against the Lord.

Solomon goes on to say, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.” This is connected to the previous verse. The horse was used in battle, but before you go fighting, you have to make sure the horse is ready. The same holds true for foot soldiers and holds true in modern warfare. Remember the context in which this was written. We’re talking about Israel here. God was very involved with guiding Israel to battle. God can win without armies, but armies cannot win without God.

What’s in a name? I don’t know if this applies today, but back in the day, your reputation meant a lot. There is power in names. When I was in high school, if you heard that someone had a bad reputation, you would immediately draw some conclusions. It doesn’t matter when in history you are, you hear names that will evoke certain emotions. Most recently, you hear names like Trump or Clinton and it immediately brings out the worst in people. The name Jesus Christ has evoked much emotion over the course of history as well. People use the Lord’s name in jokes, in cursing others, or in ritualistic incantations. There is definitely power in a name and there is one name that is above all other names. Phil. 2:9-11 says, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That’s some real power!

“A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.” Solomon uses his favorite writing style of contrasting two things. In this case, it’s the reputation of a good name and wealth. You’ve heard of name dropping? That goes off the principle Solomon is sharing. People drop names in hopes of getting out of trouble or gaining favor or impressing someone else. Just because you know someone, doesn’t really mean anything. The difference as we have already seen, is when you personally know Jesus Christ. How do you get that good name?        Follow wisdom. No matter what tax bracket you’re in, “The rich and poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.” Solomon has gone to great lengths to draw parallels to wisdom and riches and poverty and foolishness. The bottom line is that God is still the Maker of them all. Job 34:19 referring to God says, “Who shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they all are the work of His hands?” Rich or poor, good or bad, wicked or righteous, the Lord is maker of everyone. This is really a blessing too. You don’t have to do anything to gain favor from God. 1 Tim. 2:5 reminds us, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Solomon continues by saying, “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it.” This is similar to what Solomon said back in Pro. 14:16: “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.” Prudent means acting with or showing care and thought for the future. The person that thinks ahead can see the potential evil. It might not be wickedness or evil, it might be temptation. If you know you’re prone to spend money you don’t have, when you go shopping, make a list of things that you need to have and only buy those items. If you know you have a tendency to watch YouTube video after YouTube video, then you might want to set a time limit or avoid YouTube all together. If you find yourself getting sucked into Facebook and the time gets away from you, the prudent person establishes boundaries. That’s all that Solomon’s saying. Prudent people recognize the potential problems and take action to minimize the impact. “The naive go on, and are punished for it.” These are the people that want to go to the beach during a hurricane. These are the people that when the tornado siren goes off, they go outside to look at it. Don’t be that guy.

Here’s some generalities. The next verse cannot be applied to a specific individual, but is a generally applicable principle. “The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.” We definitely see exceptions when we think of our brothers and sisters suffering for their faith all around the world. The guiding principle is humility. You’ve probably heard it said, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” (Muhammad Ali) So, let’s put humility in perspective. According to Google dictionary, humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness. Humility is a part of God’s character and is a quality to emulate. Ja. 4:6 says, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  What is curious in Scripture is that we get to see both sides of God. Let me highlight a few examples.

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.” (1 Chron. 29:11)

“For the Lord Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth.” (Ps. 47:2)

“There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is Your name in might.” (Jer. 10:6)

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God.” (Is. 45:5)

God is greater than everything else and we have already seen that at the very mention of His name, people will bow down yet there is another side to Him. Paul spoke of Christ’s meekness and gentleness. (2 Cor. 10:1) In Matt. 11:29, Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Speaking of Christ in Phil. 2:8, Paul said, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Muhammad Ali would later say, “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” There are great people in the world, but they don’t tell people how great they are; it’s is recognizable. The reward for true humility, “Are riches, honor and life.” These riches may not be financial riches. There lots of truly humble people that love Jesus and live in poverty. These riches are seen in the immeasurable grace and mercy we receive in this world. Followers of Christ are rewarded with eternal life through the covenant of grace.

Solomon gave us some clues on identifying a wicked man. He also told us there is no one with the intelligence or smarts to go against God. It’s no use to battle against God either. Names can evoke a lot of emotion and God says there is power in the name of Jesus. Having a good name in the community is better than riches. Rich or poor, everyone belongs to God in the sense that He is the Creator. Prudent people pay attention, but fools do not. It’s good to be humble and recognize that whatever greatness you may have on this earth is because God has given it to you. The riches may or may not be material, but the reward is assuredly eternal life in the presence of God.

The Fascination of the Shepherds

19 Dec

angel-and-shepherdsCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we focused on the shepherds and the angels for good reason that we will see this morning. The familiarity of this Christmas story shouldn’t prevent us from learning something new each time we look at it. The shepherds were scared out of their minds when the angel of the Lord appeared, but the angel told them something incredible: a Savior had been born. The angel even gave them a sign on how to find the One. That’s the good news of Jesus Christ. This morning, we’ll see how the shepherds went from frightened to fascinated.

Read Luke 2:11-20 to get a feel for the context as we take a final look this year at the Christmas story.

How did the shepherds respond? They heard the message from the angel of the Lord. “Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” It was a message of hope, a message of peace, a message of salvation, a message of deliverance. Maybe you’ve shared the same message except you change it around and say 2000 years ago, a Savior was born. The shepherds could have responded in a number of ways. We’ve heard the message before. We’re too busy with our jobs to listen. Apathy, indifference, disdain. All the same things you hear today. Maybe there’s something lacking in our lives that was present with the angels that had them convincing the shepherds to find out more. Maybe we lack the glory of the Lord in our lives. Maybe we use words to speak about His power, but it seems to be lacking in our own lives. Maybe we don’t confidently share what God has done in our lives because we fail to see what He has done. Maybe the message of the manger is ignored because we’ve lost or never had God’s glory. The glory of God should be evident in our lives. It’s an acknowledgement of who He is, of His power, of His compassion, of His mercy, and His grace. It doesn’t mean everything is going great, will be great, or that we’ve figured it all out; it’s just that we recognize that God is God. When presented with the incredible message of the good news of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds responded in an incredible way. They went to Bethlehem. An angel appears and tells them a Savior has been born, the multitudes break out in shouts of praise and the shepherds move from fright to fascination. “When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” The angels left and they immediately began to talk among themselves. The talking wasn’t a debate. They said let’s check it out. Let’s, “See this thing that has happened.”

What did the shepherds do? I love how Luke portrays what happens next. “So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph.” We have no idea how they found Mary and Joseph. Maybe they asked around about a pregnant girl, maybe they knew all the inns that were in Bethlehem, maybe they knew all the places where a traveling couple could stay; who knows? One thing is for sure – they were in a hurry. Hurry means move or act quickly. They were obedient and they were quick about it. I could spend a whole lot of time here. We don’t see the shepherds praying about what to do. We don’t see them getting advice from their friends. We don’t see them making excuses about why they can’t go check it out. We don’t see them saying I’ve seen a fresh born baby before. They left the fields and went to Bethlehem to see this thing that had happened. They wanted to be a part of something that had never happened before. If I could take a side trip here. God is doing incredible things all around us if we’ll just take the time to recognize it. The shepherds were told to go and they wanted to check it out themselves so they went.

There is an indication that they were told to go because the angel tells them, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.” They found Mary and Joseph, “And the baby as He lay in the manger.” Not only did they find Mary, and Joseph, and the baby . . . they found Him exactly as they were told. It was specific. I’m laying odds that there weren’t any other babies born that night in Bethlehem. Don’t underestimate the significance of this. The shepherds found the baby exactly as they were told. Since they found the baby exactly as they were told, it stands to reason that the identity of the baby would be exactly as they were told. A Savior has been born and there will not be another one. Messiah is here! Col. 1:19 says, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” This is the way God designed it. Full access, full grace, full mercy, full redemption, full restoration, and full peace. Can you imagine being there? Did the shepherds fully understand what they were seeing? Did they understand they were seeing the face of God? Could they possibly comprehend that they were looking at the salvation of mankind?

The shepherds visited with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus and, “They made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” This is fantastically brilliant. The shepherds met the Savior and what did they do? They became evangelists telling anyone and everyone who would listen. They shared the message from the angels, they shared about meeting with Mary and Joseph, and they shared about the baby that God had given for mankind’s redemption. It was a story that was absolutely incredible. They heard the announcement of the angel and they responded. I can imagine them seeing someone in Bethlehem and beginning a conversation, “You are not going to believe this, but let me tell you what has just happened.” “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” There is one word that really gets to me. It’s the pronoun all. Everyone that heard the message about Jesus from the shepherds wondered. Wondered is also translated amazed. Without exception, people were amazed at the story of Jesus’ birth. Do we find that today? Today, even in the church, we have lost the incredibleness of the birth of our Savior. We’ve heard it so often, that it’s just another Bible story. Believers get caught up in the same things that draw other people away from Jesus. We’re inundated with events that fill up our December. We think about presents that need to be bought and the bills that are going to come in. We have believers that make a jolly old fella with a white beard the center of a season that must be reserved for the Savior of the world.

How did Mary respond after the shepherds left? “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The things she treasured is everything concerning Jesus. How He was conceived, His birth, and His life. Was she thinking of Gen. 3:15 when Jesus birth was first prophesied? Since you’re already in Luke, take a quick look at Lu. 2:25-35. At this point, there’s no indication that Mary understood the implication of being the Savior. She pondered these things. She wondered, she thought, she tried to wrap her brain around the things she was told and the things she saw with her own eyes, but it is really hard to understand and remember, she was likely a teenager. When we consider Is. 9:6-7, she was probably asking herself what it meant to have the government rest upon His shoulders. She probably didn’t understand that there, “Will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.” You think about what you know and how hard it is to understand this precious gift that God has given to us. Mary pondered these things, she thought about it and I’m sure it perplexed her.

What did the shepherds do? “The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” Matthew doesn’t mention the shepherds, Mark and John start off their gospels with John the baptizer. We don’t see the shepherds again. They drift off into scriptural oblivion not to be mentioned again. I find it curious because the shepherds played such an important role in this event. No matter the incredible and great things the Lord calls us to do and we accomplish through Him, it’s still all about Jesus. The shepherds told Bethlehem about Jesus and they went back into the fields praising God – present tense. When we see and hear things about God, do we praise Him? This is what I’m talking about. We are so underwhelmed with the things of God. The shepherds had a personal encounter with God and they responded by telling anyone who would listen about the Messiah. As a professing believer, you’ve said you’ve had a personal encounter with God and how do you respond? Do you immediately tell others about what has happened? You cannot acknowledge the gift that was given by God without acknowledging the reason the gift was given.

After Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day, He continued according to Lu. 2:40, “to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” We don’t see or hear anything about Jesus until he’s 12 years old when His parents make their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. After the Passover, Mary and Joseph leave to head home and don’t realize Jesus isn’t with them until they had traveled a day’s journey. One final passage I’d like you to read for yourself. Look at Lu. 2:45-51. We find the same phrase when Mary is treasuring these things in her heart. Jesus must be about His father’s business. You cannot have Christmas without recognizing the reason it had to happen. Jesus was born of a virgin to enable Him to be our Passover lamb. He lived a sinless life so that He could affect the redemption of mankind. He is a gift. Maybe you have never received and accepted the gift of God. Maybe this year is the year you will.

The Fright of the Shepherds

12 Dec

shepherdCheck out the audio version here.

Last week we reviewed the journey that Mary and Joseph took to get from Galilee to Bethlehem and why they had to make the trip. We saw what must have been a difficult birth process with only Joseph attending to Mary and what did he know? This was his first child too. We left Jesus in the manger all wrapped up in the swaddling cloths. Let’s keep going and see how the other characters responded to the birth of Christ.

Read over Luke 2:6-20 to get an idea of the context of the birth of Christ.

Luke tells us that there were, “Some shepherd staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.” The shepherds are always part of the story. I want you to put yourself in the place of the shepherds. How would you respond if, “The angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them?” Have you ever suddenly appeared to your spouse? Your kids? They screamed. Do you think the shepherds would have done anything different? Of course not because the text tells us, “They were terribly frightened.” They were scared out of their wits. Frightened is the Greek word phobeo. What’s really interesting is the shepherds of that day were generally not the most well respected, wonderful folks in town. Why the shepherds? Why not merchants? Why not the elders of the city? The shepherds were generally dishonest, dirty, and smelly people. The shepherds were out in the fields watching their flocks. It was dark and likely very quiet when all of a sudden, the angel appears.

The angel says, “Do not be afraid.” It’s a little late for that! They’ve just had the fright of their life and they’re already scared, but don’t you do this with your kids? They’re in their dark bedroom and they tell you they’re afraid and you tell them, “Don’t be afraid” and they’re supposed to respond by saying okay. The appearance of the angel is different. Your kids are afraid of what might be in the dark. The shepherds were afraid of what suddenly appeared out of the dark. You’d be scared too. The angel told the shepherds something very specific. “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The angel speaks directly to the shepherds so make this personal. The angel told the shepherds that the good news was for all people. That phrase good news is from the Greek word euangelizo where we get our English word evangelize. The good news is not only of Christ’s birth, but that there has been born a Savior and He is named. Don’t miss the fact that the Savior has been born for all people. All is an interesting word that means all, not a select number, not a few chosen ones, but all. A Savior has been born. In Matt. 1:21 an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, “She will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus is the Savior, the long awaited Messiah, our Deliverer, our Redeemer, He is Lord.

In case the shepherds doubted the message, the angel of the Lord told them there was a sign. Really get this in your mind. An angel appears out of thin air and tells the shepherds that the Savior, the One that had been prophesied from the beginning of humanity, the Savior that has been talked about for thousands of years has been born and then the angel tells them how they can find Jesus. He’s in the City of David – Bethlehem, and He’s wrapped up tightly in swaddling cloths, laying in a manger. This is a very specific description to eliminate any confusion in case there was another new born baby in the town. They were given specific instructions on how to find the One. It’s no mistake that the angel appears to these lowly shepherds. Isn’t that the message of hope that we all need? Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous. After Jesus grew up, He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Lu. 5:32) The angel delivers the life changing news that had been prophesied about from the beginning of time and they get to be a part of it.

What is the collective response to this incredible announcement? “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” Here’s the same “suddenly” that we saw earlier. Without warning, the angel of the Lord is joined by his heavenly colleagues. Multitude comes from the same word as plethora. It was the hallelujah chorus. Hallelujah means praise Ye Yahweh. Many people think of Handel’s Messiah. Handel was actually inspired by Rev. 19, but it still works here. Imagine for a moment that you are a heavenly being and you’ve also been waiting for the Messiah, not for yourself, but to see the plan they knew of in Gen. 3:15 come to fruition. There was a boat load of heavenly beings and they were, “Saying, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” I think it’s important to define the words we so casually say and sing this time of year. Glory comes from the word doxa which means splendor which means magnificence. When the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest” they were expressing God’s incredibleness, His awesomeness, His uniqueness, His majesticness, His greatness, and every other accolade you can attribute to a perfect, holy, righteous, all powerful being. In all of eternity there is none like Him and no one will ever be like Him.

“And on earth peace among men.” The only way to have true peace is to embrace Jesus as Savior. With Him, we can know true peace and it passes all understanding. That word peace means completeness or wholeness. Don’t overlook the significance of this message! If you don’t know Jesus, you cannot have peace. What the world defines as peace is not peace. Jesus provides the opportunity to be complete, to be restored to the relationship God designed for humanity, but it can only come through the gift that was found in the manger. Later in 19:38, Luke says, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And in Acts 10:36, “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).” When confronted with the reality of who God is and what He has done there is only one response and that is worship!

In this message, we focused on the shepherds and the angels and there’s a reason for that. The familiarity of this Christmas story shouldn’t prevent us from learning something new each time. The shepherds were scared out of their minds when the angel of the Lord appeared, but the angel told them something incredible: a Savior had been born. The angel even gave them a sign on how to find the One. That’s the good news of Jesus Christ. Stay tuned for the next installment as we’ll see how the shepherds went from frightened to fascinated.

The Kiss of Death

28 Mar

KissYou can listen to the podcast here.

Today marks one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar. This day along with Christmas are the most attended church services across our nation. The story of Easter is filled with all the makings of a modern day movie blockbuster. It’s filled with intrigue, action, adventure, love, and betrayal. The story is of Jesus and He will always have our focus, but there is another man who plays a significant part in one of the greatest stories ever recorded. We know Jesus had 12 disciples and the names Peter, James, and John are widely recognized. There is another man whose name will be recognized and it is his kiss of death that we will look at today. The name Judas is synonymous with hatred, betrayal, personal gain and a host of other less than ideal adjectives that could be used to describe someone. I’d like to dig into what we know about this man that will help us understand the real miracle of Easter.

Matt. 26:1-5 tells us, “When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”

Betrayal is something only a friend or loved one can do. A stranger or even an acquaintance can’t betray you. Betrayal can only come after you trust someone. Trust is developed after time. No one trusts strangers. Others can plot your destruction, but betrayal is something that can only come from one that has pledged you support – someone close to you. Rejection may cause hurt, but betrayal rubs salt in a wound that makes it sting. Failure may knock you down, but betrayal kicks you and stomps on you while you’re down. No one likes to be criticized or insulted, but betrayal breaks your heart like nothing else and affects you deep in your soul. We look at Judas as the picture of betrayal. He used a kiss, something that we hold precious, as a symbol of betrayal. “But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lu. 22:48) Jesus’ favorite term for Himself is Son of Man and that’s the title He used here. I always find it strange when people refer to themselves in the third person. Why didn’t He say, “Betray Me?” Mark records the same title. This wasn’t a disagreement or misunderstanding between two friends. This was a demonstration of Judas’ total opposition to Jesus’ purpose. This gives us the scope of Judas’ betrayal – it wasn’t just against Jesus, but against humanity.

Are there people like Judas among us? I think there will always be questions about Judas’ life. Why him? Was he just an unwitting pawn in God’s plot for humanity to make the story more exciting? Judas is part of the story and I think we often give him a pass. Following this betrayal, Judas doesn’t get much space in Scripture and after all, it is all about Jesus. In simplistic terms, I think it’s easy to hurry past Judas in order to get to Jesus’ glorious resurrection. I think there’s a deeper, more meaningful purpose we need to explore. It’s a theme Jesus brought to the forefront in His earthly ministry. When you consider who felt most threatened by Jesus’ teachings, you begin to understand who’s behind the proverbial curtain. I encourage you to read Mark 11:27-33 to get an understanding of what Jesus was up against. It was the religious leaders of the day that were on the offensive against Jesus. It was the religious status quo – they made the rules, they enforced the rules, they changed the rules when necessary to ensure they stayed as the religious elite. These were the visible enemies of Christ and they knew what they were doing. Jesus goes on to tell a parable of a man that planted a vineyard. The conclusion of the parable is quite startling when Jesus asks them, “Have you not read this Scripture?” (Mark 12:10) For all of life’s challenges and problems we face, I often find myself asking the same question. Have you not read the Scripture?

And then Mark 12:12 says, “They were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.” Judas represents something that has always been a source of confusion and danger throughout history. It is the illusion that religion provides someone a place in eternity. Judas provides us with something we are seeing all too often today. Judas shows us that you can walk with God and talk with God and yet not be a part of God. It is possible to know who Jesus is and yet not know Him as Savior. It’s possible to have the knowledge and not the relationship. This revelation was not shocking to Jesus. Throughout His ministry, He warned about the deception that eventually destroyed Judas. Jesus declared there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing. He warned of false teachers. He explained that the enemy planted tares among the wheat. A tare is a weed that resembles wheat until it matures. It may look like wheat on the outside, but it’s not. At the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:22-23) We need to remember the story of Judas and remind ourselves that an authentic relationship with Christ is not just knowing about Jesus or believing that God exists. It’s about embracing Him as our Redeemer, our Mediator, our Atonement, our payment and penalty for sin. It is about the transformational power of Christ. You cannot make a credible claim that you have a relationship with God when you do not embrace Jesus as Messiah. In Christian circles we often associate asking Jesus into your heart for salvation. In our study through Proverbs, we’ve seen numerous times that the heart is the seat of emotion, the center of who you are. When Jesus resides there, transformation must result.  Jesus didn’t just lecture about doctrine and theology. He used stories to tell the wonderful story of redemption and freedom. He wove doctrine and theology into the fabric of everything He said. He illustrated the truths of God in a manner that the people would understand. Judas’ place in history ends with the harsh reality that there really are eternal consequences for our decisions. Judas walked and talked a good game, but in the end, no transformation was evident in his life.

So what’s this all mean for us today? I think it’s a great question that many people in the church dismiss. I think the rationale is that answering this question would mean coming to a very personal conclusion about themselves, their families, and their friends. When people talk about Judas, the question is often asked, “Was Judas a Christian? Was he saved? Was he a follower?” Some would say, he lost his salvation. Others answer the question with a question, “If he wasn’t a believer, why would Jesus pick him as a disciple?” Still others might be inclined to think that the money was too great a temptation for him. Still others conclude the devil made him do it. When we examine the Scriptures, we’ll see the real answer. “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.” (John 6:64) Later in Bethany, we see Mary anoint the feet of Jesus with some very expensive perfume. Judas protested saying that the perfume should be, “sold for 300 denarii and given to poor people.” (John 12:5) That equated to about eleven months’ wages. The Bible tells us that Judas wasn’t concerned with the poor. He was concerned because he was a thief and that meant there would be less to pilfer from the money box. In Matt. 26:14-16 we learn, “Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.” Judas conspires against Jesus and looks for the right opportunity for the betrayal to take place. Judas knows the place where Jesus will be because he had often been there with Jesus and the other disciples and according to Jo. 18:2, he passes on that information to the chief priests. The plot against Jesus is complete and following the last supper, Jesus and His disciples minus one retreat to the place they had gone so many times before. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that the disciples were told to sit. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John a little further and asks them to keep watch while He prays. Shortly thereafter, Judas comes along with a large crowd armed with swords and clubs and Jesus is taken into custody. The verdict against Jesus was in before a real trial, without any real evidence presented because there was no real crime. Matt. 26:59-63a says, “Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent.” All because Judas betrayed Jesus.

Here’s what we know about Judas. He refused to believe the claims of Christ although he spent a significant amount of time with Jesus and His followers. He chastised the humble and heartfelt worship of Christ by others. He stole money that was given to support the ministry of Christ. He used his inside knowledge of Jesus and the disciples for personal gain. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Finally, Judas, “saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” (Matt. 27:3-5) He dies a broken man unwilling to call upon Christ for forgiveness. After looking at the Bible, one can only conclude that Judas was lost. The words of Jesus spoken at the Sermon on the Mount ring loudly in our ears, “‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:23) Many people today will hear these same words when they stand before Christ.

How does that affect us? The story of Judas is not meant for our entertainment and it’s not supposed to be taken as some metaphorical tragedy. This is a real life story meant to show us the consequences of denying Jesus the Messiah who offers us eternal life through His death, burial, and resurrection. We need to understand what this means for us today and we can see these things or lack thereof in Judas’ life. Salvation creates positive change in a person’s life. The Bible is filled with examples of people who had a life-altering encounter with Christ. Judas never changed because he was never saved. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) God is not against the rich. The Bible reveals that Judas’ greed enslaved him and was a big factor in controlling his actions. Here’s a big one. You can deceive people into thinking you are something you are not. I picture the surprised looks on the faces of the disciples during that last supper when Jesus tells them, “Truly I say to you, one of you will betray me . . . They each began to say, “Surely not I, Lord.?” (Matt. 26:22-23) This was a man that was at every meeting, was involved in everything the disciples were involved in yet did not know Jesus as Savior. He went through the motions of being a follower. It’s possible to fool others, it’s possible to fool me, but you cannot fool God.

One final question asked in Heb. 2:3, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” The answer is we cannot escape in ourselves. Jesus Christ is the only way of escaping the judgment for our sins. What do we do? Make the decision to become a follower of Christ today. Not like Judas where he just went with Christ and played the part. The longer you put the decision off, the harder it will be to respond. Your heart grows harder without Christ. Don’t confuse knowing about Christ with knowing Christ. Getting smarter is not the same thing as saving faith. If Christ is not your Savior, then call upon Him to save you today. Judas saw Jesus give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, heal the sick. He was there serving alongside the other disciples that fed 5000 people from just five loaves and two fishes. Judas saw Jesus walk on the water. He heard Jesus say, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.” (John 6:35-36) Judas knew that Jesus claimed to be the Savior of the world, but Jesus was not his Savior. Don’t make the same mistake. Make that decision today.

A Savior is Born

21 Dec

shepherds-11You can listen to the podcast here.

God is amazing. Two weeks ago I preached about there being no room at the inn. I wanted to remind you of the incredibleness of one verse about the birth of Christ. Nothing happened by accident. It was all part of God’s plan even though it’s hard for us to understand. If Joseph and Mary had waited a month or if Caesar made that decree just a few weeks later or earlier, things would have been different. God is the God in all circumstances and His timing is always best.

Luke 2:11 says, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

This was a huge announcement. Notice the first phrase of the verse, “For today in the city of David.”       There can be some confusion about the city of David. In the Old Testament this phrase is used about 45 times and refers to Jerusalem. In 2 Sam. 5, David leads his men to Jerusalem which was under the control of the Jebusites. David defeated the Jebusites and 2 Sam. 5:9-10 says, “So David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward. David became greater and greater, for the Lord God of hosts was with him.” In the New Testament the City of David is only referred to twice and it means Bethlehem. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Bethlehem is controlled by the Palestinians – Arabs. Tourism is the main industry of Bethlehem and all the holy sites are very commercialized. At the center of Bethlehem sits the Church of the Holy Nativity. Inside this church you walk a long corridor that lead to a room where there is a very tight stairway leading down to the bowels of the church where it opens up into a larger room. In that room you find a silver star with a hole in the middle that leads down to the earth marking the place where Jesus is believed to have been born. During a trip to Bethlehem in 1865, Boston pastor Phillips Brooks looked over the hills of the little town and penned the now famous words, “O little of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.” Back in 1865, all was still quiet in Bethlehem. Remember King David and his family lived there and David most likely tended his sheep on the hills just outside the little town.

This announcement was no surprise to anyone familiar with the prophecy. Micah the prophet told everyone this would happen in 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” That prophecy happened about 700 years before Christ was born. Bethlehem was, “too little to be among the clans of Judah.” Back when Bethlehem was no more than a little, inconsequential place, the Lord decided it would be this way. It wasn’t even big enough to have a flashing yellow light. The Jews of the day would certainly have known this, but listen to this exchange found in Matt. 2:1-6. Jews should have been well versed in this prophecy. It kind of reminds me about things that as believers, we ought to know, but don’t. Something else to think about is the magi came from the east and show up in Jerusalem and ask about the King of the Jews that had been born. The magi knew and went looking for the King. The chief priests and scribes certainly should have been looking for this. Bethlehem is such a short distance away so wouldn’t you think they’d have been watching and waiting for years? Even though they should have had the knowledge and the wherewithal to investigate, they didn’t. It’s not enough just to know, knowing should lead to action.

Here’s the reality of His coming. In Lu. 2:11 the angel says, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you.” “Born for you.” Focus on those three words. The Son of God has been born for you. Oddly enough, for something so miraculous, the pregnancy and birth of Christ really was ordinary. The miracle occurred nine months earlier. Joseph had nothing to do with Mary becoming pregnant. When she asked how, the angel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Lu. 1:35) In Matt. 1:20 an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “The child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” That’s when the miracle took place. I’m sure Mary battled all the things pregnant women face. Morning sickness, fatigue, swollen feet, intense hunger that occurs without warning. The virgin birth is incredibly significant because it comes after the virgin conception. He was born of Mary so He was human. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit so He was deity. God enters humanity just like us taking on all the issues we face and yet with one distinct difference. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” He was fully God and fully man. Somehow this overshadowing by the Holy Spirit created life in Mary that was totally divine and totally human. How can it be? I have no idea. He was and remains totally unique. The totally unique became completely common for the following nine months.

This is a story of faith. Some people read Luke 2 and call it theological fiction. It’s a great story, but it’s simply a fairy tale with religious significance. It’s like Lord of the Rings or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Luke said, “for today” in his writing. It’s widely recognized that Luke’s purpose for writing was to provide a detailed account unlike any other biblical writers. That’s what he says in Luke 1:1-4. When you read the words of Luke, you need to read it like you are reading history. It is truth, not fiction and we believe it by faith. Look at the result of the coming of Jesus. Luke says, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Those three titles should jump out at you. Savior, Christ, Lord. Each word is significant. Savior is actually an Old Testament word that means one who delivers his people. Christ is the Greek version of the Hebrew word Messiah which means the anointed One. Lord is a term for Deity. It’s a synonym for God. When the angel appeared in Joseph’s dream, he said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21). No sin is too great; no one is too far gone. No one is beyond His grace and His mercy. That’s the message of Christ’s birth. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” This is the essence of Christmas. God loved you so much that He was willing to give up His one and only Son so you could have life.

So what you ask, you’ve heard it all before. What’s the purpose of His coming? Look at our verse one more time. “For today in the city of David there has been born for you.” Don’t gloss over those two little words, “For you.” Remember what’s going on here. There were unnamed and unnumbered shepherds in the fields. The angel is speaking to them collectively, but gives an individual declaration. Being a shepherd took little skill and was often fulfilled by young people. Remember David was just a boy when he tended sheep. Did you ever ask yourself, why did the angel appear to a bunch of shepherds. Why didn’t the angel appear to those Jewish scholars that were hanging out in the temple less than ten miles away? Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Ma. 2:17) Jesus came for you. It is the simplicity of the Gospel that gets so many people wrapped up. Why would He do that? It doesn’t make sense. Many people believe in the birth of Christ, but it’s not enough to believe that it happened. We must come to the conclusion that Christ came for me. The gift of God is available when you receive it as your own.

In five short days, Christmas will be here. Across the globe, people will celebrate in much the same way. They’ll gather around the tree that has presents piled high and often all around it. There are kids that wake up their parents literally in the middle of the night because they are so excited to open the presents. There are kids that know that Christmas is exactly 108 hours away. Do you ever leave presents under the tree that remain unopened? Of course not, yet we have been given a gift that came with incredible cost. As I reflected on this principle, I am more convinced than ever that we profess that we have received the incredible gift of God’s Son, but like that ugly Christmas sweater or tie, we simply don’t use it after it’s been opened. We put it in a closet and we’ll only wear it, or bring it out when the gift giver is present. Isn’t that like our relationship with Christ? Do we just wear it when the pastor or our church friends come over? Do we keep it in the closet until we need it. Over the years, Kari has given me some really great gifts. A shotgun. Reloading equipment. A basketball goal. I still have the shotgun, but haven’t used it in a number of years. Same for the reloading equipment. The basketball goal was sold on a yard sale.

As I get older, I need less and less things and want even less. As believers, the biggest, most incredible gift we’ve ever received is the gift of Christ. It’s a gift that is useful regardless of the season. It doesn’t wear out and it never gets old. It ever goes out of style. The gift of Christ is a gift that should keep on giving. It’s a gift that has immeasurable value. It’s a gift we should be grateful to use and show others how to use it too. What have you done and what are you doing with the most incredible gift ever given?

The Miracle of Easter

6 Apr

CrossYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we checked out Solomon’s words regarding wisdom and learned that no matter the path you’re on, there’s always opportunity to get back on the right path. Maybe you’re here and you’re thinking, I don’t know the right path to take. I didn’t even know there was a path. Today is your lucky day! Today, Easter is celebrated all over the world, but do we really understand this day that many people celebrate? Is it just another consumer holiday where we look forward to seeing everyone’s new outfits and enjoy chocolate and jelly beans? Maybe you enjoy Easter because it generally marks the beginning of Spring. I don’t want you to miss the miraculous and eternal significance of Easter. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back in time from the first Easter to a week or so earlier.

Take the time to read our passage for this morning found in Luke 19:28-40.

So who is this Jesus? The name Jesus brings many thoughts to people’s minds. Names are like that; they mean a lot. Sometimes nicknames are commonly associated with people and are instantaneously recognized. Old Blue Eyes – Frank Sinatra. The King of Pop – Michael Jackson. The King – Elvis. Michael Jordan is known as Air Jordan. There are the not so great people like Ivan the terrible , Jack the Ripper, Bloody Mary, and Vlad the Impaler. Biblically we have John – the Baptizer. Lydia – the seller of purple. Few people call him just Thomas without preceding it with doubting. These descriptive names are no different for Jesus.

In Matt. 1:21 an angel appeared to Joseph and told him, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, f He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus means Jehovah is salvation. Jesus most often referred to Himself as the Son of Man. He is known as the Messiah. The Light of the world. The Prince of Peace. The bright and morning star. He is the alpha and the omega. He is the redeemer, the advocate, the bread of life. He is the power of God. He is the Lamb of God, the good shepherd, the high priest. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the resurrection and the life. That’s who Jesus is. This Jesus was loved by people of all walks of life. This is the Jesus that the prophet Micah said would come to rule Israel, One whose, “Goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” While loved and adored by the common people, this Jesus was despised by the religious groups of the day – the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus upset the apple cart; He rocked the boat; He went against the flow, He said things that were different than what those religious people had been taught and what they believed. They called Jesus a blasphemer, they judged Jesus because He hung out with the less desirables; the tax collectors and sinners. They accused Him of violating the Sabbath because He encouraged His disciples to pick grain when they were hungry. They didn’t like this, in fact, “The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.” (Luke 6:7) Jesus taught on the Sabbath, Jesus healed on the Sabbath.

So now we know who Jesus is, but why do we need Jesus? The religious crowd of the day despised Jesus because He threatened their power, their control, their desire to be elevated above others, their desire to be better than anyone else, their desire to control their own destiny, their desire and requirement for everyone to follow the Law. The Law was an interesting thing. Various religions and even denominations attempt to control people by requiring the strict following of a set of rules and regulations. Rom. 3:19-20 tells us, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Even though the Pharisees wanted everyone to keep the Law, they were powerless to keep it – all the Law did was show people they were law breakers. We need Jesus because no matter how good we think we are, the Bible says there is not a single person that is good. The Bible is very clear about our need for redemption. We need redemption because according to Rom. 6:6 we are slaves to sin. Sin owns us, it is our master. Rom. 3:23 says, “All have sinned.” 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Rom. 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.”

What is sin? If we redefine what sin is, it’s easier to deal with. In our culture, we conform to the idea that personal feelings are the barometer of right and wrong, of morality and truth. We seek comfort and the least resistant path. We seek to please ourselves. We listen to so called “Christian teachers” or influential people who make us feel better about following our own path, about living in sin. Instead of calling people to repentance and authentic Christian living, these people refuse to call sin what God calls sin. We have a whole new generation of people that have succumbed to cultural pressure that it’s intolerant, judgmental, and unloving to declare God’s truth as absolute. I love Paul’s description of this found in Gal. 5:19-21 that says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Evident is from the word that mean plainly recognized. These are the things of the flesh – they are incompatible with a life that follows God. Left to our own devices, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

We know who Jesus is, and we know why we need Jesus, now finally, what should we do with Jesus? In answering this very question to the Jews that gathered in the treasury at the temple in Jo. 8:34-36: “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. ‘The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’” There is freedom in Christ. It’s freedom from the penalty of sin, not from the consequences. God will not and cannot allow us to get away with sin, but don’t expect to see someone’s nose grow if they tell a lie. We live in such a hectic, no time for anything world; a world where we seek instant gratification. Our cure then, comes not by redefining sin or by avoiding it. Our cure comes by admitting our sin, turning from it and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Easter          is about hope, it’s about life; it’s about fulfilled promises; it’s about Jesus. Maybe you’re thinking, “I want to be free, how do I get this freedom?” To answer that question, we need to go again to the standard of truth. Remember that each of us is a sinner, we have all done wrong. Rom. 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As with any gift, you must accept it; just because it has your name on it does not make it yours until you receive it. Maybe if we just try harder to be good and righteous. No, the answer to sin is not to try harder to avoid it or change who you are. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, it’s not enough. Eph. 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Rom. 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Confess is a great word. It means the same thing as agree. In other words, when you confess to God your failure to meet His standard or admit your wrongdoings, you are agreeing with Him.

Maybe you’re thinking God won’t accept you like you are. Pastor Ian if you only knew about me. Maybe you’re thinking, when I give up ___________, I will be good enough and I’ll trust in Christ. Here’s the good news: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) We don’t have to try harder because God knows that apart from Christ, we can do nothing. (Jo. 15:5) Rom. 10:13 says, “For ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’” You are that whoever. It is a guarantee. Becoming a Christian is a choice; it is a decision only you can make for yourself. Being a Christian really means being a follower of Christ. God changes your heart, changes your attitude, and you joyfully want to follow Jesus. It’s not something you do begrudgingly. Being a follower of Christ gives you freedom! You are not a Christian because you live in America or because you attend church, or because you pray or read the Bible, or go to a Bible study. You are a Christian because you have made a decision to trust in what Christ did to pay the penalty for sin; you choose to follow Christ. Paul gives us this hope in Rom. 6:10-11, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (Jo. 1:12) So how did we get to the point of death? What began just five or so days earlier as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt with people waving palm branches and expressing their adoration for this man from Galilee, was overwhelmed by the crowds in Jerusalem that demanded His death by crucifixion. They got what they asked for and Jesus was sentenced to die on a cross for being found guilty of nothing. Jesus dies a horrible death on the cross and was buried in a tomb.

The rest of the story is found in Luke 24:1-9. Easter is all about the penalty Jesus Christ paid to cover our sin debt. He shed His blood for you, because of His incredible, unending, unconditional love. He is not here because He is risen. Easter is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life that He can give you.

You have heard about who Jesus is and why we need Jesus. You have heard about what you should do with Jesus now there remains just one question. What will you do about what you know?Risen

Creative Genius

9 Mar

CreateYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned some leadership lessons from wisdom herself. We learned of the wisdom triad that includes prudence, knowledge, and discretion. Since we have incredible reverence for the Lord, we hate evil because He does. We saw the value wisdom plays in effective leadership whether you’re a king, ruler, prince, or noble. It applies to leaders today as well. We learned that wisdom provides tangible and intangible results. She is still better than gold and silver. This morning, not only is wisdom essential in our walk of faith, wisdom played an instrumental part in the creation of the world.

Take a moment and read Pro. 8:22-31.

When was the birth of wisdom? We come to the focus of the chapter and learn that wisdom has been around for years. The first verse in this section points out the fact that the Lord possessed wisdom, “at the beginning of His way, before His works of old.” This points to creation. A real work that God accomplished. It will probably come as no surprise to you that I believe in a literal six day creation account. I have come to this realization by faith through my study of the Scriptures. It is totally implausible that all that we know in this physical world simply happened by chance. The earth and solar system being created through an explosion is like throwing all the individual parts for a space ship in a room and expecting it to manufacturer itself into that complex piece of machinery. Maybe you’re in the camp that says, I just can’t believe it the way the Bible describes, I need to understand it. I submit to you that you may not understand the inner workings of the internal combustion engine yet that does not prevent you from putting the key in the ignition, cranking it up and driving down the road.

There are numerous passages throughout Scripture that refer directly or indirectly to God’s hands on approach to creation. The idea of a big bang came about in the first to the middle part of the 20th century. The short version of the theory states that all space, time, and energy came into being from a minuscule particle of something that appeared somewhere for reasons no one can explain and then for some reason exploded causing the creation of all the universes, galaxies, stars and so on that we have now including earth and animals which led somehow, to the evolving of humanity. That is quite the leap of faith. Gen. 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That seems to be a very clear statement. One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is found in John’s gospel, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1) The culmination of that passage is found in v. 14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  When we line that up with what Solomon is telling us, it stating the same thing. Wisdom was there from everlasting. “From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.”

Before you jump to conclusions, I do not believe Solomon is telling us that wisdom and Jesus Christ are one in the same. It is true that Paul said in Col. 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Jesus wasn’t just there as a bystander, He was an active participant. I have gone through all of this to establish that wisdom is an inherent characteristic of God that was essential in creation and is essential to our walk of faith. When you look at vs. 22-26, you’ll see wisdom was present before those things happened. In v. 26 we learn that wisdom is literally older than dirt. Solomon tells us that wisdom never had a birth, wisdom is. As long as there was God, there was wisdom. You cannot separate the two.

Wisdom’s involvement with creation is seen in vs. 27-29 where we see that wisdom played an important role in creation. Could God have created all that we know apart from wisdom? That is an incomprehensible question because we’ve already established that you cannot separate one from the other. Wisdom is as much an attribute of God as His presence in eternity. There is incredible complexity in our universe, in our animal world, and in us. That couldn’t have happened by chance and it could not have happened without wisdom’s influence.

I want you to think of the things we take for granted. Maybe you’re thinking what do I take for granted? Exactly my point. The necessary things in our life that if allowed by God to stop, we would cease to exist. From the rotation of the earth on its axis that gives us night and day to the rotation of earth around the sun that gives us seasons, and the marking of time. From the blinking of the eye to the beating of your heart, God is involved. Our bodies are designed to respond in ways few people think about. If it’s bright out, the pupil closes to prevent the retina from being blinded with light. The opposite happens when it’s dark allowing more light in so you can see. When you get cold, the hair on your body stands on end trapping air to provide a layer of air for insulation. No one ever thinks of blinking or breathing and you certainly don’t think to send platelets to a repair a cut on your finger. Wisdom was essential in creating our bodies to function properly and efficiently.

These last two verses indicate the joy that wisdom demonstrates at the creation. Wisdom was with God the entire time of creation and now stands beside Him as an artisan. Wisdom is a master craftsman in God’s design. There is an intimacy between God and wisdom, but wisdom did not design all that we know; God is the designer. Let’s bring it all home. If God felt it needful to include wisdom in what He did, don’t you think it is reasonable for us to make wisdom a part of our lives? As God the Father and His one and only Son Jesus Christ looked at what they had created, there was rejoicing. Following the work of His creation each day God said, “It is good.” (Gen. 1) Imagine the joy. You think about when you make something and you look at it with joy. That’s the feeling God had. “Rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of men” Delight means great pleasure. Even though God knew that we would sin, that we would choose ourselves over Him, He still has great pleasure in us. That great pleasure was manifested in the redemption plan that was in place before the foundations of the earth were laid out.

It’s hard for us to comprehend the complexity of God and how He could create all things knowing that we would quickly turn what God defined as very good into what we know. His delight in you and me means that in His wisdom, He would need to send Jesus to die for us. Just when we begin to think we’ve got it figured out, the enormity that is God pushes us to realize that without Him, there is nothing. How does that impact how you live? Do you live with wisdom to guide you, or do you choose to go it alone? Solomon closes this section out by saying, Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.” (Pro. 8:32-36.)

The Savior’s Mission

15 Dec

MissionYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at God’s character and learned that Isaiah called Jesus the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace. As we prepare for Christmas this year, we celebrate something that is as old as eternity. On one hand, we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the Son of God, and the One that is able to redeem us from the penalty of sin that was prophesied in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned.

On the other hand, even those that are farthest from God hear the sounds of the Savior through radio, TV, in our shopping malls, and family dinners. Even amid all the commercialism in our culture, the Christmas spirit is alive and well for most people you come into contact with. The influence of the Savior is so powerful because He came with a mission.

Take the time to read Isaiah 61:1-11.

So what’s the work of Christ? The prophets of the O.T. and the Apostles of the N.T. clearly state that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the One that came into this world for a reason. Even before the world was formed, God had a job for Him to do. His objectives are stated throughout the Bible.

Christ came here to do at least three things. First, He came to do the will of God and qualify Himself as our substitute.  Heb. 10:5-7 says, “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’” V. 10 goes on to say, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Second, He came to save His people from their sins. In Matt. 1:21the angel told Joseph in a dream that, [Mary] will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Tit. 2:14 says Jesus, “Gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Finally, He came to gather all that have believed in Him. In John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” In v. 16, He goes on to say, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”  So there will be one flock, one shepherd. Salvation through Christ is complete and 100% effective. There is no new and improved method, the biblical method is tried and true. Christ came to do these things.           Isaiah called Him the mighty God in 9:6 and He cannot fail. Do you think that anything can dissuade Christ from carrying out His mission? Is. 42:4 says, “He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth.” The night Jesus was betrayed; He confidently said to God, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”   (John 17:4) While dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, Jesus declared, “It is finished!”  (John 19:30)

Isaiah offers some encouragement. When we try and describe Jesus, we often paint him as this very serious man with long brown hair, a beard, and a flowing robe. Isaiah paints a different picture. He sees a smiling face with joy that overflows to those around Him. Isaiah 61 describes the good news of Jesus the Messiah using words you can almost feel. Look at vs. 1-3. Remember, at the time of this writing, Jesus won’t be born for another 700 years, but Isaiah speaks with such confidence as if he was watching a movie about the future.

Isaiah speaks the words of the Messiah as if these are the very words Jesus will speak. Take a look at the incredible passage in Luke 4:14-22. The words recorded in Isaiah’s prophecy are in fact, the words of Messiah. Put yourself in the synagogue. Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 – what we read earlier, and sits down. There must have been stunned silence in that place. You would think that the people, the religious people in the synagogue would recognize Who was in their midst and rejoice at the arrival of the long awaited Messiah – the One that would save them from their sins. It couldn’t have been clearer than if Jesus had said, “Hey, the Messiah that Isaiah wrote about? That’s me.” Jesus knew who He was. He knew He was sent to deliver mankind from the bondage of sin. He knew He came to set captives free. You’d think the people would fall down and worship the One, but vs. 28-29 tell us that, “All the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city.”

As we look at the mission of the Savior, I want you to see something back in Isaiah 61. V. 1 says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted.” That is His overarching purpose.  Everything else is included in that statement. It’s also interesting to note the use of the words, Spirit, Lord, and God in this verse – a clear depiction of the Trinity. Christ has good news for those who are poor. The word means humble, lowly, the needy, the afflicted. Luke 19:10 tells us that, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” It’s very difficult for Jesus to save someone that doesn’t think they need saving. Christ comes for those who know they are sick, not for those who think they are well. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus says. There is good news for those who realize just how desperately they need a Savior. Look at how Isaiah says the Messiah would do this. He binds the brokenhearted. Remember the context of this prophecy. The people’s nation is about to come crashing down along with the temple of God. Everything that they hold near and dear is going to be destroyed. You might find yourself in the same situation, everything that you hold near and dear is crashing down around you. Jesus says, “I can help you, I understand, I can fix that.” Ps. 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Jesus came, “To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” The reality of the situation is that Assyria would capture them which meant life as slaves to a Godless, pagan power. In Rom. 6:6, Paul tells us that in Christ we are no longer slaves to sin. You may be physically chained, but it is Christ that breaks the spiritual chains of slavery. Christ has been sent to, “proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” He will restore what has been taken away. According to the Law, every 50th year was the Year of Jubilee. It was during that year that all debts would be erased, all land that had been sold would be returned to the original owner, and all slaves would be set free. For us, it would be like all our mortgages paid off, all our car notes cancelled, all our consumer debt erased. This Year of Jubilee is a picture of what Christ does for us. Our sin debt is paid in full. Our transgressions forgotten and we are set free. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Christ sets us free from the power sin has over us.

Christmas is about the mission of Christ. He came to make a way for everyone to enjoy the freedom found at the foot of the cross. In your current circumstances, you may find it difficult to believe that anything good can come your way, but I’ve got good news for you – Christ came to die just for you. For any of you that are sick and tired of this life Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

The Savior’s Sign

1 Dec

Virgin BirthYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

He is considered one of the greatest men of God from the olden days. He was a counselor to kings and a writer whose O.T. book is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other except the book of Psalms. When Jesus preached His first sermon, He preached out of a passage from this man’s writings. His calling from God is one of the most beautiful pictures in Scripture. “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” (Is. 6:1-4) This man would be inspired to say things about the Lord so incredible that it boggles our mind. is name is Isaiah and he is a prophet.

Isaiah 7:10-17 is a familiar passage to people in and out of the church and I encourage you to get your Bible and read this incredible passage for yourself.

You’ve heard the saying, desperate times call for desperate measures? This passage comes just after Isaiah answers the call of God in 6:1-4. Isaiah finds himself right in the middle of some pretty intense political action. Isaiah 7:1-2 sets the stage for us. At some point in our lives, every one of us will face desperate times. Circumstances present themselves that may bring us to the edge of despair where there seem to be few options and time is running out. In this passage I want you so see some things that put Judah’s king Ahaz on the edge of despair. Ahaz was an unstable man. He had a godly father and grandfather, but he did not follow in their footsteps. Having godly relatives is no guarantee of godly children. Unless a child personally chooses to enter into a biblical relationship with God through Christ, he will leave that home one day without the tools necessary to face the world.

I don’t know everything about Ahaz, but this much is clear. His life can be summed up as recorded in 2 Kings 16:2, “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done.” He is not in a wilderness period and he is not sowing his wild oats. He did not do what is right in God’s eyes. Ahaz is probably in his early twenties and he is confronted with a very serious national crisis, but he doesn’t possess the life experience or spiritual resources necessary to effectively handle it. To make a really long story short, Assyria and the northern kingdom of Israel joined forces to invade the southern kingdom of Judah. Against the guidance of God’s prophets, Israel formed an alliance with Assyria in an effort to defend against what they knew was coming from Assyria. It was a, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em scenario. It was Assyria’s practice to invade and conquer neighboring countries and take the people prisoner. Assyria’s  goal was to invade Judah and get rid of king Ahaz. Verse 2 tells us “His heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” So what’s a king to do? Godly kings seek wise counsel from God and then there is Ahaz. Ahaz was foolish. 2 Kings 17 indicate that Ahaz is going to try and form his own alliance independent of Assyria and Israel only his alliance won’t be against Assyria, it would be with Assyria. Ahaz is planning to buy off Assyria to save himself. You can feel the desperation in Ahaz’s reasoning. So it is with this information that we find the prophet Isaiah called to go talk to king Ahaz in 7:3. Let’s see how this is set up in 7:3-9.

The actual reality is that God always comes through. How many times has God used seemingly incidental things to remind us that He is right there? He is involved in our lives even if we can’t see exactly what He is doing. Here is Ahaz looking over the water supply lines of Judah. Isaiah and his son Shear-jashub walk up to Ahaz. Hebrew names carried a lot of significance. Isaiah means Jehovah has saved. Shear-jashub means a remnant shall return. Standing right in front of Ahaz are reminders of who God is and that He will preserve His people. Remember that Ahaz’s father and grandfather were godly men. God is always bigger than your problems and your fears. In the face of certain defeat, look at what God says through Isaiah in v. 4, “Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted.” God is saying don’t look for a way out, but look for a way through your difficult situation. 1 Cor. 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Do you believe that no situation is too hard for God? For Ahaz, God was trying to show him that his trust must be placed in the One that can handle the problem. V. 9 says, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” Faith, that strong conviction in what you cannot see often stands in the way of God accomplishing what He wants to accomplish. If you do not stand firm, you will fall. God was trying to get Ahaz to believe. To walk by faith, not by sight. To be a follower of God first, then a king.

This is a good time for a miracle. It is at this moment that something incredible takes place. Vs. 10-11 says, “Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz saying, ‘Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.’” Isaiah was there to speak to the king on behalf of God and Ahaz doesn’t want to listen; all he can think about is the Assyrian army. Ask whatever you want – no limit. “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD.” Now Ahaz gets all spiritual on Isaiah. He is conveniently forgetting what is going on in Judah: idolatry, human sacrifices, asheroth pole worship, Baal worship. The reality is that Ahaz had already made up his mind and nothing Isaiah said or did would convince him to trust God. Are we like that? Do we seek guidance and counsel from the Scriptures, or do we avoid it because we’ve already made up our minds as to what we will do.

Here is the moment set apart for Isaiah. He turns from the king and begins to speak to the crowd that had gathered. The story continues in vs. 13-14, “Then he said, “Listen now O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” It is God that gives the sign. He doesn’t send an angel or a prophet – God Himself sees to it.

What is the meaning of the sign? This sign is meant to get our attention. V. 13 starts with “Listen now.” Pay attention to what is coming. This sign proves that God can do whatever He wants to do. Sign means a signal or a distinguishing mark. It is something that is obvious, something that will stand out. This sign involves the birth of a son after an impossible pregnancy. A virgin will conceive. Isaiah tells everyone that at some point a woman will conceive a child that simply cannot be explained.  When you see that, that is God’s handiwork. This sign means that God is coming in the flesh. His name is Immanuel meaning God with us. God will be with us in the flesh. He will dwell among us. We will see and experience His glory. 700 hundred years later, that sign was realized. A young woman named Mary was engaged to a guy named Joseph. An angel appeared and told her what to expect. Luke 1:31 records the words of the prophet, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.”

If God can cause a woman to conceive in a miraculous manner, why do you doubt that He can take care of you? The birth of Immanuel, God with us, served as a sign for people desperate to see God working. When all seems hopeless to us, God already has a plan in place, has already set the process in motion. Before you even realized you need Him, He is already there. Sometimes it takes being in the pit of despair to see the hope of a Savior. Immanuel means God with us, not God might be here one day if you’re really good.

Religion versus Relationship

28 Apr

Religion

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were in stewardship, we looked at the results of true repentance. We saw that repentance really should affect our values and our stewardship. This morning we’re going to look at a story that is told in each of the synoptic gospels. It is a story of a young man that has become known as the rich young ruler.

Mark 10:17-23 says,

 “As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

Here’s the setting. Mark begins in v. 17 by reminding us that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. Some Pharisees just questioned Jesus about divorce in vs. 2-9. The disciples had follow up questions about divorce in vs. 10-12. And in vs. 13-16 we see Jesus scolding the disciples because they tried to keep the little children from coming to Him. All this to set up a somewhat strange encounter.

We see three unusual things in v. 17. “A man ran up to Him.”  Matt. 19:20 calls him young. Matt. 19:22 says he owned a lot of property so he was likely rich. Luke 18:18 calls him a ruler. That’s where we get the rich young ruler. In that culture, men did not run so it is very unusual that a man of his stature would run to Jesus. The rich young ruler, “Knelt before Him.” Again, something unusual for a ruler to kneel before someone else. Here we have a ruler of people, someone considered important; someone who owns a lot of stuff, kneeling before Jesus. The rich young ruler addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher.” In the Jewish way of thinking, only God is good and it would be quite unusual to attribute this quality to someone other than God.

1 Chr. 16:34, “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
2 Chr. 5:13, “He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Ezra 3:11, “They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.”
Ps. 118:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;  For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Bible experts are divided on whether the rich young ruler was flattering Jesus or paying Him respect. So now the stage is set for the rich young ruler to ask Jesus a question. Here’s the question. The young man continues in his unusual fashion and asks in v. 17, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The question is unusual because the Jews would have said, “You follow the Law.” This has been the question that has been asked throughout the ages with a variety of answers. When you consider the context of the passage, it’s a fairly reasonable question for the young ruler to ask. Given what we know about this young man, it is likely he inherited his wealth rather than working for it. Perhaps this young man had heard Jesus’ teaching about the coming Kingdom. At the very least, he recognized who Jesus was. Before Jesus answers the question, He asks a question of His own: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Don’t think Jesus is denying who He is. He said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is simply establishing that God is the ultimate example of goodness.

Jesus points out some facts in v. 19. Jesus clearly has the upper hand being omniscient. Jesus says the ruler knows the commandments, but what exactly does that mean? The word know here means to understand or grasp. All Jesus is saying is that, yes indeed the rich young ruler knows the commandments. Remember for the Jews, they equated keeping the Law with salvation. It got really bad in Galatia and Paul told them in Gal. 3:21, “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.” The commandments Jesus mentioned are 6, 7, 8, 9 and 5. The 10th Commandment is do not covet.  The “do not defraud” is not part of the Ten Commandments. Fraud is a practical example of covetousness and a special temptation of the rich. You notice that the commandments Jesus mentioned deal with relationships of people to each other. Obedience to these provides evidence of obedience to the other commandments –  the ones dealing with the relationships of human beings to God.

Here’s the answer. The rich young ruler offers an astounding answer in v. 20. The parallel account in Matt. 19:20 is more revealing where the young man says, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” He recognized that eternal life wasn’t a matter of keeping the letter of the Law. Jesus didn’t dispute the answer and, “felt a love for him” in v. 21. Here again Christ’s unconditional love is revealed. No matter where you are, or what you are doing, Jesus loves you. Even if you think yourself righteous apart from Christ, He loves you. Matt.19:21, “Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The one thing the man lacked was poverty. Jesus offers a way out. Sell your stuff. Give it to the poor. Doing that would remove what was keeping the rich man from entering into a relationship with the One that could grant eternal life. Jesus was telling him to get rid of the distractions and be a follower. For this rich young man, riches were his god and that violates the 1st Commandment that says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3) The rich man silently responds in v. 22. We find Jesus’ conclusion to the story in v. 23.

A man is not saved by giving away his possessions. He becomes a Christian when he is willing to renounce anything that stands between himself and Christ. Riches make being a disciple difficult but the rewards of discipleship are worth more than material possessions. In the New American Commentary, James brooks writes, “The call is not to poverty but to discipleship, which takes many forms. Discipleship, however, is costly. It involves sacrifice. It involves obedience. It involves following the example of Jesus.”