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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Big But.

Today I think of the book of Revelation. And I think of chapter 2. John the apostle is speaking to the church of Ephesus. And John goes through a lot of good things about this church. They must have been feeling pretty good about themselves. Listen to this Revelation 2:1-3.

1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Right so this is like when a guy is asking out a girl, and she says well Jehtro you’re a nice guy and your very sweet, my parents love you…. And he holds his breath because he knows what’s coming next. BUT…. Well quite frankly I am in love with a biker named Spike. And this is what the church of Ephesus was bracing for. I know you do some great things and you hate evil… but… and then here comes the “but” in verse 4.

4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

They lost their first love. What a sad commentary on the church. So how did this happen and how long did it take? Well luckily we have some history on that as well. Ephesus was one of the first churches established after Jesus’ ascension. It was a booming town right on the Mediterranean Sea. And you don’t have to go very far back in your Bibles to find that they didn’t always use to be this way. Listen to what is said about them in Eph 1:15-16.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

This certainly doesn’t sound like the same church does it? Most smart people have these two texts dated about 30 years apart from one another. So in 30 years this church went from being described as having faith in the Lord to losing their first love? I think there are a lot of churches like this. They have lost their first loves. Do you know why this is? Because WE have lost our first love. Take some time today to reunite with your your Savior.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What would you do for twenty dollars?

Let me ask you this question, what would you do for $20? I have done some really stupid things when offered $20 and I am certain that some of you may have as well. I believe also that if I asked people in this room to attempt something for $20 that they would do it.

So people are willing to do a whole lot for $20, but let me ask you this… what would you do for a penny? Twenty bucks is a lot, but in our culture, a penny is almost seen as worthless. You can’t even buy a gumball with a penny!

I think we often look at people in that same way. We see some people as twenty-dollar bills—the ones who have it all together—and we would do anything to be accepted by them. Then we see other people as ten-dollar bills, fives, ones, quarters, dimes, nickels, and even some as pennies. Let me ask you, have you ever looked at people that way? You might not admit it out loud, but I bet there are some people you treat like pennies—like they are not worth your time.

It’s crazy, but Jesus came into a world full of twenties, tens, fives, ones, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. In Jesus’ time, there were people called the Pharisees, and they were the very definition of twenty-dollar bills. The Pharisees had it all together, and everybody went out of their way to impress them. There were also pennies back then, too. They were the outcasts of society, the people everybody went out of their way to avoid. If there was ever someone who could come down to this earth as a crisp hundred-dollar bill, it would have to be the Son of God. Now, listen to the crazy thing—check out Philippians 2.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8

Do you get this? Jesus came to Earth not as a hundred-dollar bill but as a penny, and a scuffed-up penny at that! When He did this, He completely changed all the rules. Now there are really only two kinds of people: Those who know they are pennies, and those who are pennies but think that they are twenty-dollar bills. I know you are thinking, “You're calling all of us 'pennies'—that isn't very encouraging.” Well, the fact is we are pennies. We all mess up, we’re limited, we’re stubborn, we get sick, we die. Set us up beside the Eternal Creator of the universe, the Holy of Holies, the Almighty, the One who holds the stars in His hand, and you have to agree—we’re pretty much pennies! But think about this for a second: The God of the universe says you are worth His only Son dying on the cross for you! Wow! So here’s the deal: If a perfect God is willing to go out of His way to love us and reach out to us, even though we’re pennies, how can we ever look at another person and think we are too good for them, or they are not worth our time?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Father Knows Best

Mark 12:28-30

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29 "The most important one," answer
ed Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'

The man who asked this question, “What is the greatest commandment” I bet had a lot of possible answers in mind. I bet he was thinking “Do not murder” would be the greatest commandment. Or maybe “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain” would be the greatest commandment. However Jesus went a completely different direction. He said to Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.

I think that there is a problem with some people… a misconception maybe. The misconception is this, I think there are a lot of people who view God as a dictator, as a mean, vindictive Zeus-like character up in the clouds throwing lightning bolts down at all of the puny humans who do wrong. That is an unfortunate way to view God.

People really dislike being unjustly classified and I think that sometimes we unjustly classify God in a negative way. That is really sad and really unfair. I don’t think that you will ever truly appreciate your relationship with God if you view Him in such a narrow way. The way that Jesus teaches us to view God is as a loving father who cares about our every concern. As you all should know sometimes a father has to discipline his son regardless of how much they love their child. That is how we should view God, not as a hateful, dictator but as a loving father.

Jesus gives you an example in His life of how we should relate to God. In the book of Mark 14:35-36 Jesus was going to be handed over to be crucified and He went to the garden of Gethsemene to pray. This was His prayer. 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 "Abba", Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Jesus cried out to God by saying “Abba Father” That doesn’t translate very well to English but basically it is a very personal way to refer to your father. It’s like calling Him “daddy” and that is the relationship with God that Jesus teaches us to have.

I believe that the word daddy however still doesn’t describe the word Abba very well. I want to take it a little bit deeper than just “daddy.” Can you remember when you were three or four and you were physically very small and couldn’t do a lot of things. Do you remember how big and strong your father looked those days. Your dad was like Superman and he was stronger than anyone or anything and so when you were in trouble you cried out to your daddy. Your father took care of what the problem was and then you crawled into his arms and it felt as though you were safe and secure because you were in your father’s arms. That is the word picture that goes along with the term “Abba” and that is how God wants you to view Him.

I hope that today if you are struggling, that you will run into the arms of your Heavenly Father and let "Abba" make everything right.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Who would steal baby Jesus?

An excerpt from my book, Can I Get Baptized in Fruit Punch?

My father-in-law told me a story once of someone who had a plastic nativity scene out in front of their house. One night someone stole the baby Jesus. Now I can understand stealing Santa Claus or maybe even a wise man, but this person had the gall to kidnap baby Jesus as He lay asleep in His manger.

Some time passed and the lady who had Jesus stolen from her gave up hope on finding Jesus. I mean, what do you do? You can’t put up posters around town as though your dog ran away. So this lady continued living her life business as usual.

Something happened with a children’s organization she was volunteering for and suddenly she was in need of a large sum of money really fast. She woke up one morning and found the baby Jesus had been returned. Soon thereafter she ran into more than the exact sum of money that she needed. Now she may have just thought that the two instances were coincidences except for the fact that the people that returned the baby Jesus left a note.

Apparently, the culprit’s car had broken down in front of this person’s house and they stole the baby Jesus. They then decided that the baby Jesus was lucky so they kept it in their house and worshipped it. In fact, the stolen baby Jesus had its own room in the house. Eventually though they started getting little baby Jesus guilty feelings and had to return the baby to its rightful owner. The note said that God told them that even though He was blessing them they wouldn't go to heaven as long as they didn't make the theft right.

As I think of this story I wonder how many people think of Jesus this way. How many people think that Jesus is just some superstitious good luck charm? Like Jesus is a troll doll during the Bingo game of life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I "hope" you read this post.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 "But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet"

You have heard it said in many sermons and by many Sunday School teachers to put on the helmet of salvation. But what does that really mean? I think this verse gives us a lot of insight as to what it means because it refers to our helmet of salvation as the "hope" of salvation.

Now what does “hope” mean. I hope the Rays win the World Series, I hope I don’t go completely bald before I am thirty, I hope a lot of things, but that does not have any sort of power in my life. So at first thought, if the helmet of salvation is also the hope of salvation does that mean that you stand in the middle of the battle field and “hope” that no one kills you… absolutely not!

The word hope here is the word “elpis” which means expectation and confidence. There is a difference between right now, in Spring Training, hoping that the Rays will win the World Series, but if they are in it and they have the closer in trying to get the last out with a twelve run lead, all of a sudden I have an “eplis” hope that is that at that point I expect them to win.

The helmet of salvation enables us to take the long (Eternal) view of the warfare. If we do not have it on, Satan can cause us to give up, quit, despair, and become discouraged by whispering words to us like, “You’re having to wait too long! This fight is lasting too long! This isn't working, you may as well quit.”

The helmet of salvation enables us to maintain total confidence in victory, no matter how long the battle may seem to last here on earth. We have a salvation that is certain and eternal! We cannot be ultimately defeated! There is absolutely no room for discouragement in light of the helmet of salvation!

I "hope" you understand that.