Archive for February, 2016


Who is My Family?

21518081430_963efccd1a_kFamily, what exactly is the definition of family? Webster’s defines it as “A group of people who are related to each other.”

I think we must also remember that Jesus Christ had the original redefinition of the word family in his words from the cross.

“Dear woman, here is your son…” and looking at John, “Here is your mother” Words that don’t make a lot of sense if we are viewing them through our current world’s viewpoint or lens. You see, John was not the son of Mary and Mary was not John’s mother. They were not related. But Jesus had a new definition of family, and he was making sure that it was known.

Jesus was in the process of being crucified and as we approach all of the last words of Jesus Christ on the cross, we have to remember just how difficult it was to even speak in those circumstances. So everything that Jesus spoke took immense strength and that is why we need to pay close attention to what was spoken from the cross that very day.

Another thing we have to take into consideration is that in those days, widows without sons were not usually going to make it. They would have no means for income and would therefore have no way of obtaining food and would inevitably starve. In this context, the statement that Jesus makes would make logical sense. It sounds rational to appoint someone to take care of his mother, but this is not where Jesus is leading us today.

Jesus is speaking of his redefinition of “family.” Mark 3:33-35 redefines who his family is, “anyone who does the will of God.” Anyone who takes someone into their homes and cares for them, feeds them, clothes them, and prays for them. That is family; that is a church family. The book of Acts tells us so many things about what it means to be a community of believers, a church family. We are to care for each other, hold each other up in prayer, even provide for each other. Acts 4:34-35 says, “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostle’s feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he has need.” True community, true family, is taking care of each other and making sure that everyone’s needs are accounted for.

When Jesus saw his mother there, he uttered these words, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and looking at the disciple John, said, “here is your mother.” He was not only making sure that his mother was taken care of for the rest of her life, but he was showing them once again what it meant to be “family.”

So as you look at your life today and reflect on these words of Jesus from the cross which are spoken to your life, who is your family? Who do you need to care for? Who do you need to show the love of Christ to?

I encourage you during this Lenten season to reach out to those who God is calling you to help, listen to, encourage, or just simply to care for. Even if your definition of family is narrowed to those related to you, Jesus has a new definition for you today. Jesus’ definition is anyone who does the will of the Father, not just relatives, but friends, strangers, and even enemies. This is your family now.

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Temptations

Lent-2014This past week in church we talked about temptations as we looked at the temptations of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry.

Now, temptations don’t necessarily make us doubt God’s call and plan for our lives, we know what we should be doing. We know what needs to happen, but temptations step in and they divert us away from how we should be living our lives. They divert us away from God’s path for us.

These temptations that Jesus faced were not horrible things, they were not inherently evil or harmful. It was not temptations of greed, lust, envy, or pride.

In fact, these temptation came with a seemingly legitimate end. Feed yourself, save yourself, or receive authority (which he would anyway) were things that were not all that bad, but it was getting them through illegitimate means.

Jesus shows us later, the correct path to the same results of the temptations. Jesus doesn’t turn the stones into bread, but he does feed 5000 with just a few loaves and fish.

Jesus doesn’t receive multiple kingdoms from the devil, but he continually tells everyone about the Kingdom in which he has already received power and authority.

Jesus doesn’t save himself, even though at the cross he is mocked by those around him to save himself again. He trusts in the power of the Triune God for this resurrected saving.

Jesus shows, throughout his life, that the power and authority to do all the devil was asking him to do, and infinitely more, belongs to God, and God alone.

By resisting all of these temptations, Jesus is proclaiming that he doesn’t want to trade his destiny for anything the devil is offering.

There is a southern gospel song by the Down East Boys entitled “I won’t trade my crown.” In this song we find this story from scripture, speaking of the devil tempting Jesus with all of these things, great things, but temporary things.

The devil, through these temptations, is asking Jesus to trade his crown, to deny his destiny. The response comes, I won’t trade my crown for that. But if we think that this crown is the heavenly crown in glory, we could be mistaken. For what if the crown Jesus is speaking of, is not the crown of a great and powerful king, a crown meant for the Son of God, but instead, is a crown of thorns.

What if the crown which Jesus does not want to give up is the one that will lead him to the cross, to the crucifixion, to his death? He still responds, I won’t trade my crown for that, I won’t lay my armor down, for I’ve counted the cost. I won’t change my decision, I will firmly stand my ground, I will gladly bear my cross. I won’t trade my crown.

What about us? Will we trade our crown? Will we give up our place in glory by sacrificing our integrity, by taking shortcuts, by not offering God our best? Or are we going to stand firm against all temptations, knowing that we have Jesus, who has been where we’ve been, who has been tempted just as we are being tempted, as Hebrews states in chapter 4:15; “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Mountaintop Experiences!

Mountain SceneThis past Sunday was Transfiguration Sunday. This is the day we recognize that Jesus goes up the mountain to pray and while he was there, his face changed and his clothes became “dazzling white.” He was also joined by two others at that moment. This comes from Luke chapter 9:28-36.

Well then scene is set, Jesus and the three disciples, Peter, John and James are on the mountaintop and like clockwork the disciples begin to fall asleep. The change happens, Jesus’ face was changed and his clothes became dazzling white. Notice that neither Peter, John, or James witnessed the change, they were sleeping!

However, when they woke up, they saw that Jesus had been changed and that there were two other men standing there with Jesus. Quickly, they realized it was Moses, who we talked about earlier, and Elijah the great prophet. What an incredible sight this must have been for them. I guess you could see it as God’s all-star team, with a few missing or course.

Well, this is just too much for Peter to handle, it is such a great experience that he tells Jesus; “Master, it is good for us to be here!” You better believe it, this is what we like to call “mountaintop experiences!” Those times when everything seems to be perfect, nothing can go wrong. But then you start to think, wait, maybe we can stay up here. Maybe our lives would be better if we could live here forever.

Peter wants to freeze this moment in time and commemorate this place, but true faithfulness will require following Jesus to the cross.

In 2010 I went on a walk to Emmaus. This three day retreat exposed me to the agape love of Jesus Christ and that same love which he provides his followers to share with the world. I was surrounded by love, grace, and prayer all weekend as I heard about the means of grace, the ways in which we live our Christian lives and how we are all interconnected and loved by one another.

It was an incredible experience, one that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. In fact, that weekend was the culmination of what God had been doing in my life to lead me into the ministry. It was also the beginning of the rest of my life with God’s call made clear to me.

When I came home on Sunday night, after this incredible experience, I couldn’t go to sleep. I had to talk to people about it. I wanted to talk to my wife about it, but since she was going of the women’s version the next weekend, I couldn’t say anything. Not that anything is a secret, but there are parts that speak to our heart more if you are not anticipating them.

Needless to say, I was glowing! I had an aura about me that I “could” explain. I knew what had caused this change. It was an encounter with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay right there. I know how Peter felt when he said “It is good that we are here!” He wanted to build tents so they could stay, and I wanted to do anything I could to stay at the retreat. I was on my mountaintop experience and did not want to come down.

But here’s the problem. Who is up on the mountain with Jesus? Peter, John, and James. When we are on the mountaintop, who is up on the mountaintop with us? With me, it was all of those who helped plan and organize the event and all the pilgrims, the people who experienced this retreat with me. Do you see the problem?

Jesus was changed, but his road was still ahead of him. Immediately before our passage today and immediately following our passage, still in Luke chapter 9, we find Jesus foretelling of his death, his rejection and crucifixion. There was still work to be done. Jesus couldn’t stay on the mountaintop any more than we can stay on our mountaintop. There is still work to be done!

There are people to witness to, there are hungry people to feed, there are broken people who need healing and forgiveness, there are lonely people who need the presence of others, and there are people in this world we are called to serve. We can’t stay on our mountaintop, we can’t stay here in this building. We are called to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, out in the world.

Faithfulness to God’s call on our lives does not come from freezing a moment in time, but by following on in confidence that God is leading and that what lies ahead is even greater than what we have experienced.

It is good to be on the mountaintop, but it is also good to be in the valley. We need to spend time in both places in order to fulfill our calling. This calling comes from Jesus Christ and is our passage today we hear, loud and clear, what God is saying to us; “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”

The Kingdom of God; Part 2

kingdom_concept1Last week we began talking about the Kingdom of God, what it is and where it is. You remember that it was talked about throughout scripture, not just in this passage in Luke, but also many passages in Matthew. You remember the list I gave last week of all the places we find “The kingdom of God is like…”

I finished last week by saying the Kingdom of God is here as well as there, it is now and in the future, it is already and not yet.

In Luke 4:21-30 we find Jesus teaching, and in the matter of only a few verses, we find the crowd amazed and overjoyed at Jesus’ teaching, to driving him out of the synagogue to the cliff on the edge of town, trying to throw him over that cliff! Why? What could be so dramatic to cause this kind of change of heart? What could bring them to such hatred that they would want to kill Jesus?

We find the reason in two case studies. Within three verses of scripture, we find the reason why they became so angry with Jesus. Now the bigger question for us, is would we find this message just as enraging.

In these three verses, Jesus talks about Elijah and Elisha, two prophets from Israel who were told to go and heal and offer comfort to a widow in Zarephath and Naaman, a commander in the army of Syria. This healing and comfort went to people outside of the
nation of Israel, outside of the chosen people. This meant that the message of the gospel was designed for all people, not just the chosen nation of Israel.

God’s good news reached out beyond the Israelites into Gentile territory. God’s good news healed people that were not the “chosen” ones. God’s good news includes more than just the Jewish people of Israel. God’s good news was for all people.

This is what made the people angry with Jesus. They thought they were the chosen ones and that God was only on their side. They thought God only had plans for them, that God would save only them, that God cared and loved only them. Jesus just gave them a message they didn’t want to hear.

The Kingdom of God is for all people, regardless of where they lived or what country they belonged to. Jesus Christ was about to begin his ministry, the ministry of bringing the Kingdom of God near, of bringing the Kingdom of God close, of bringing the Kingdom of God right here.
So I ask you this morning, are you ready for the Kingdom of God to come near, to come close, to come right here? If you are, do you know what that will require?

It will require us to be the church Jesus Christ calls us to be, open, welcoming, caring, nurturing, supporting, inviting, and to be the body of Christ, helping to restore relationships with Christ. Helping to bring the Kingdom of God near.

This message is not for just those of us inside this building. This message is for all people, regardless of what they look like, how they act, where they were born, how much money they have or don’t have, what color skin they have, if they have an accent, all people.

Maybe this catches us off guard a bit today, I hope and pray that it doesn’t. But if it does, be aware that this is what Jesus Christ is calling us to be. We are to be in mission, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, the world.

This requires us to be outside of these walls, reaching those who need to hear the gospel
message, those who need to know they are loved, those who need to know they are wanted. Those who are the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed.

Those who are the lonely, the lost, the hurting, the hungry, the ones in pain, the ones who are giving up, the ones who feel left behind or abandoned, the ones who’ve never met Jesus Christ, the ones who’ve rejected him over and over again, the ones Jesus has not forgotten but just needs us to go, into the world and seek them out, speaking truth into their lives, showing them that we care and we love, as Jesus loves.

The Kingdom of God…