Archive for April, 2014

He is Risen

April 24, 2014

One’s perspective can make all the difference.

Matthew 28:1-10

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

I.  The Angel

Can you even imagine what an honor it was to be the one to give the news of the resurrection?  He begins with the words,”Do not be afraid”.  Most accounts of angels include similar words, apparently there is something about their appearance that can cause fear.  As believers, we do not need to be afraid.  God is with us.

See… and tell… The women are invited to see for themselves and to tell the disciples.  We too, are encouraged to see and tell.  The traditional Easter greeting of Christianity is for one person to say “He is risen.”  and for the other person to respond “He is risen indeed!”  We may not be able to look at an empty tomb, but we are able to see the evidence of lives changed by the power of the Risen Lord.

II.  The Guards

The guards were present when the stone was rolled away.  They also responded with fear but they “became like dead men”.  When they were able to move, they went and told the priest what had happened.  The religious leaders paid them money to tell a lie about what had happened.  Even though they had been eyewitnesses of the resurrection, they did not bear witness to the truth.  They truly were spiritually dead.  They were witnesses, but they did not truly believe.

There are people today who see the power of the gospel to change lives, but they do not believe for themselves.  Their spiritual eyes remain closed and they do not comprehend the truth.

III.  The Women

The women were initially afraid, and then filled with a great joy.  They ran to share the news of the resurrection.

Initially, people may approach the risen Lord with a certain amount of fear and apprehension.  It is new.  It may be frightening.  However, to those who believe, it is a message of great joy.  As Christians we can believe in the power of God, not only to help us in this life, but to give us hope of a life to come.  We, like the women, should run to share the news.

Someone has brought the message of the risen savior to us.  We can be like the guards and not truly believe, and help to spread a lie: or we can be like the women and be filled with the great joy that comes from knowing that our savior lives!

These are the sermon notes from 4/20/14.  Any advertisement that may follow this blog is placed there by WordPress. I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them.

 

Palm Sunday

April 14, 2014

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week.  On Palm Sunday we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Next Sunday will be Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  In between these two Sundays of celebration are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  These two days are tremendously important.  On Maundy Thursday, among other things, are the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus, the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, and Judas’ betrayal of Christ.  On Good Friday we have the crucifixion.  The primary reason that Jesus came to earth.  He was after all, “the lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world”.   If Jesus had not died for us, we would still be left in our sins.  There is no other way for us to be forgiven than through the sacrifice of Jesus.

I.  Rejoice:  Luke 19:28-40

 When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. 31 And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’”

32 So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. 33 But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?”

34 And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” 35 Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. 36 And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.

37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying:

‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”

40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

The disciples rejoiced over the mighty works they had seen.  After all, they had seen a multitude fed from a few loaves and fish, they had seen the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the blind see.  They had even seen the dead brought back to life.  There was much about which to rejoice.

Do we rejoice about what Christ has done for us?  We may not have had quite the same spectacular stories as the early disciples, but do we not have stories of the faithfulness of God?

II.  Weeping:  Luke 19:41-44

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Luke immediately follows the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with this recital of Jesus weeping for the coming destruction of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was to be destroyed because “they did not know the time of your visitation”.  They had not accepted, truly, that Jesus was the Messiah.  This prophecy came true when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army in 70AD.

The close proximity to the story of the triumphal entry reminds us of the mixture of emotions that Jesus must have felt.  Sure, He enjoyed the celebration of Palm Sunday, but He fully understood the events of the coming week.  He also knew that not all would receive the gift of salvation that would be offered.  There is a curious mixture of joy and sadness.

We too, should have a burden for the lost.  We should pray that God would touch their hearts, that they would respond to the gospel and be restored like prodigal children coming home to the Father.  Yes, we can celebrate, but we should also, at times, weep for the lost, and pray that God would work through us to reach them with the gospel.

On a related note, this mixture of emotions goes both ways.  During times of testing or trials, when life is painful and difficult; we can rejoice in the knowledge that, in Christ, we are victorious.  That in the end we win.  That Christ is with us always, even in the days of darkness.

III.  Cleansing:  Luke 19:4-46

Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is  a house of prayer’, but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

The triumphal entry, weeping over the city, and now the cleansing of the temple.  The account in Luke is filled with powerful emotions.  In this section Jesus is distraught over the way that they house of God was being treated.  Some have used this portion of scripture to condemn bake sales in the foyer, or any kind of fundraising sale in the church building.  I think that they have missed the point.  The various fundraisers that go on in a church are not for personal gain.  They are for worth while causes. However there are some issues that we should face regarding our attitude towards the house of God.  Are we attending merely for the sake of appearance?   Perhaps, we are concerned about status?  Maybe we are simply trying to network to further our business.  Certainly, it is possible to have the wrong attitude towards church attendance.  We should be gathering together to pray, to worship, to learn, and to both encourage, and be encouraged by our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Palm Sunday is a wonderful day of celebration, but as we celebrate, let us remember to pray for the lost, and to maintain a right attitude in our own hearts towards the house of God.

These are the sermon notes from 4/13/14.  Any advertisements that may follow this blog are placed there by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any payment from them.

Justice and Forgiveness

April 10, 2014

Last night in our Bible study at church, we were discussing the Lord’s Prayer and the emphasis on forgiveness.

And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  (Luke 11:4)

We were in agreement that it is necessary for us to forgive those who have wronged us.

Then someone asked about justice.  Just the day before, a family had observed the one year anniversary of a tragic event.  A baby had been shaken by his father, causing severe damage.  The child went through months of seizures, and has lasting damage that, unless miraculously healed by God, will likely be permanent.  While the baby fought for his life, and while the mother and family dealt with the multiple treatments, seizures, and ongoing effects, the father moved out, and was free to go about his business while the justice system went through the various steps leading eventually to conviction and confinement.  The family was, and is, concerned about justice.  A wrong had been done, a penalty should be paid.

How do we reconcile forgiveness and justice?  This blog does not claim to present the final solution to that problem, but rather, a starting point for thought, and perhaps discussion.

I would suggest that forgiveness is an act of an individual, while justice is a function of society.  Forgiveness is an attitude that allows us to let go of the anger, resentment and hatred that poisons our hearts.  Justice is a necessary component of society that punishes wrongdoers, thus preventing us from taking matters into our own hands.

It would be wrong to think that God only supports forgiveness.  The Mosaic Law set forth laws, and punishments for those that broke the law.  These penalties were considered to be just.  It would be wrong to think that the God of the New Testament, with the emphasis on forgiveness; and the God of the Old Testament, with an emphasis on judgement, are incompatible, or different Gods.  God is both just and forgiving.

There are consequences to wrongdoing.  These consequences can be both temporal and eternal.  God is both merciful and just.  We can be forgiven the eternal consequences of our sins, and still face the temporal consequences of our actions.

For the believer who has been wronged, it is important for us to forgive the wrongdoers and leave the consequences for their actions in the hand of God.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Clearly there is a tension between justice and forgiveness.  As individuals we must forgive those who have wronged us.  As a society we must pursue justice for those who have been wronged.  The Holy Spirit can help us have the ability to forgive in our hearts,  and the wisdom to pursue justice in our land.

Any ads that accompany this article are placed there by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them.

 

A Bruised Reed

April 7, 2014

Life can be difficult.  God can help.

I.  A Bruised Reed:  Isaiah 42:3

A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.

I remember reading this verse as a teenager when it is quoted and applied to Jesus in the New Testament, and wondering why that was worth mentioning.  Why do we care about reeds or smoking flax?  Eventually I realized that they were symbols for our spiritual life.  I have a plant in my office that is slowly dieing.  There are times when I am ready to toss it in the dumpster and be done with it.  God never gives up on us.  We may be bruised by the things of this life, but God is able to restore life.  He does not toss us in the dumpster because we have been damaged.  One time, while on guard duty on a rainy night, my fellow sentry became frustrated with the fire and kicked the coals, scattering them everywhere.  I yelled at him, not because I was worried about a mess, or him starting a fire ( did I mention it was raining?)  but because I am very good with fires and I could have more easily restored the fire if he hadn’t scattered the coals.  God is way better with people, than I am with fires.  If our faith is down to just a glowing ember, He is able to restore the flames of faith and commitment.

II.  Through the Trials:  Isaiah 43:1-3

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

My parents owned a grocery store in a town that was prone to flooding.  The floods would affect the town but my parents’ store was never affected.  It was well up on a hill.  Sometimes our lives as Christians can be like that.  There is trouble around us, but it doesn’t seem to touch us.  Other times however, we may be called to go through the fire.  My parents’ store never flooded, but it did experience a fire.  The store was on the first floor, and there was an apartment on the second and third floors.  One night a fire started in the apartment.  The second and third floors were badly damaged.  Somehow, the first floor did not sustain much damage.  As I remember, the store was only closed one day.  Some product was lost to water damage, but not nearly as much as one would have thought.  Even though there was a fire, and the apartment was lost, my parents’ business came through just fine.  I believe that God is able to bring us through the tests and trials of this life if we maintain our trust in Him.

III.  Renewed Strength:  Isaiah 40:28-31

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,

This year I am planning on competing in my fourth 24 hour run.  That does not mean that I will run for 24 hours, it means that I have 24 hours to complete as many laps around a track as possible by a combination of running and walking.  I enjoy this event, because you don’t have to be fast, and it is a great test of physical and mental endurance.  It is also a great metaphor for the Christian life.  Our commitment to Christ is not a fifty yard dash, over in a few seconds.  It is a lifelong commitment, that will have its share of ups and downs, running, walking, and even some breaks for a rest.  God is the one who enables us to finish the race that He has set before us.  We do not live for Christ on our own strength, but in the strength that God gives us.

Thank you God for not giving up on us, for bringing us through the tests and trials, and for providing strength for the journey.

These are the sermon notes from 4/6/14.  Any advertisement that might appear is placed there by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them.

Learn to Do Good

April 3, 2014

God is not pleased with the appearance of righteousness, an outward religious facade that has no effect on our lives.  God calls us to follow Him with our whole heart, and all of our lives.

Isaiah 1:16-20

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

I.  Call to Repentance:  (verses 16-17)

I very much appreciate the simplicity of the call “Cease to do evil, learn to do good.”.  We must first learn to identify what is good and what is evil.  God uses His Word and His Spirit to lead us to that truth.  Once we are able to identify good and evil, we must make the choice to cease doing evil, and do what it good.  This is not always easy, and it is a lifelong process.

We are to seek justice.  Sometimes, some in the evangelical church have had a critical attitude towards social justice.  The concern comes from what they perceive to be an abandonment of the “true” gospel by the churches that focus on the “social” gospel.  It does not have to be one or the other.  We can preach for the salvation of the  souls of humanity, while also working to make our physical life here on earth more just.

We are to rebuke the oppressor and defend the weak.  This requires wisdom, courage and strength.  God is able to help us with all of those attributes, if we will allow Him to work through us.

II.  Forgiveness:  (verse 18)

We recognize that we all have sinned.  We have fallen short of what God would have us to be.  We need His forgiveness.  The good news is that God is willing to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We do not have to earn forgiveness, it is offered to us freely through Jesus Christ.

III.  Consequences (verses 19-20)

Our actions have consequences.  If we are rebellious and choose to remain in our sinful ways, then we can expect destruction.  Bad things will continue to happen to us.  It is one of the ways that God uses to try to correct us.  If we are willing to repent, and learn to be obedient, we can expect God to bless us.

This does not mean that the life of the sinner will be only destruction, and the life of the obedient will be only blessings.  Our lives are a mixed bag of blessings and tests.  It does mean that believer should be able to have a sense of the blessing of God on their life, while the unbeliever should have a sense of coming judgement.

God continues to call out to us.  Repent!  Believe the gospel!  Cease to do evil!  Learn to do good!

These are the sermon notes from 3/30/14.  Any advertisement that may appear is placed there by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any financial support from them.