Archive for March, 2016


A Tale of Two Lives

Empty Tomb Worship StillThis Easter Sunday I spoke about two people from scripture; Peter and Paul.

Peter was a disciple of Christ and was with Jesus from almost the beginning of his ministry. He was one of the first Disciples whom Jesus called.

This might be like some of us today, born and raised in a Christian home. This kind of sounds like me, raised by the church and my family to believe in God. My life, like many others, followed a gradual path of learning and accepting Jesus Christ as my savior.

But I, like Peter, have denied Christ in my life. But here is where I find hope in the life of Peter. The women at the empty tomb are told to tell the disciples what they have seen, but also tell Peter. Some translations even say, “Especially Peter.”

This emphasis on singling out Peter, I believe, comes from Peter’s denial of Jesus. I mean, what could Peter have been feeling? What have I done? Can Jesus ever love me again now that he is gone? Jesus wants Peter to know that he has not forgotten about him, he has not left him alone, and has not deserted him. I believe Peter is mentioned here because Jesus wanted Peter to know that he is loved, he is needed, that Jesus desires him.

This is for you and me too. No matter how many times we have denied Jesus in our lives, he still wants us to know that he will never leave us and will never forget about us. Jesus Christ loves us and desires us. He desires us to testify and witness to the world around us about what Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection really means in our lives.

Maybe you say that “I’m not like Peter, I came to know Christ later in life and had a point when I really knew that I wasn’t a Christian, or maybe I haven’t made that decision yet.” Have you heard of Paul?

Unlike Peter, who began following Christ at the beginning of his ministry, we first hear of Paul in scriptures during a time of persecution. Paul is persecuting Christians.

Peter pledged his allegiance to Jesus Christ, while Paul’s allegiance lied with the Roman government. Paul was “of the world.” He didn’t believe in Jesus Christ, although after his dramatic conversion, he could not deny Christ, even unto his death.

Now some of you may relate more with Paul, you had a moment in your life when you realized that you were not living the way you should have been. It is here that Jesus calls out to us, like he did to Paul, to tell us that he needs us, that he wants us, that he desires us, and that he does not want to do this without us.

And in 1st Corinthians 15, we find Paul speaking about the resurrection of Christ and that it was for our sins that he died, was buried, and that on the third day he rose from the grave. For my sins, for your sins, Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price, death on a Roman cross, so that we may have eternal life.

Like Paul, we don’t deserve to be called an apostle, we don’t deserve to be called a disciple, we don’t deserve to be called a child of God, but guess what? God does it anyway!

So on that day, our final day, when we finally see Jesus Christ in all of his glory. I wonder if the question will be: “Did you believe? Not just did you believe in me, but did you believe that I loved you? Did you believe that I desired you? That I waited for you day after day, that I longed to hear the sound of your voice?”

In our lives, our broken, sinful, desperate lives, Jesus Christ comes to us this morning, just like he showed up to Peter after the resurrection, asking if Peter loved him, three times. Just like he appeared to Paul on that road to Damascus, Jesus now comes to us here, right now. He has a word for all of us and it is this:

I dare you to trust that I love you, just as you are, not as you should be, because none of us are as we should be.

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Extravagant Love

Extravagant-LoveMy meditation today comes from John 12, verses 1-8. It is the story of Mary washing Jesus’ feet with expensive oil, raising the awareness of Judas and so many others around her.

It is here that we find a few examples of how we can show extravagant love to the world around us. It’s not the love that we are used to seeing. Mary demonstrates love through three attributes, extravagance, humility, and unselfconsciousness.

Extravagance. Judas points this out as he explains how much this pound of ointment would have cost. 300 denarii! But what would 300 denarii translate into? For Mary, it would have been about a year’s worth of wages. That’s an expensive jar of ointment, and using it for the anointed of someone’s feet certainly could be called extravagant. But that’s the love she had for Jesus Christ.

Think about it this way. When someone goes out to buy an engagement ring for his fiancé, what is the standard, or “rule of thumb” measurement to gauge how much one spends on a ring? I know it’s been a while for me, but I think it is somewhere between 3-6 months wages, not that you have to either spend that much or limit it to that much. But that’s what I have heard. Normally, that would buy a very nice ring, and it would be something your fiancé would wear every day. This ointment cost a full year’s wages, and after it was applied during the anointing, it was gone. No residual value, no selling it back, it’s gone.

This is love’s extravagance. Mary took the most valuable and precious thing that she owned and spent it all, all of it, on Jesus. Love does not count the cost, it sacrifices. Love gives all it has for the sake of others. In fact, someone once said, “Loves only regret, is that it has nothing more to give.”

But Mary didn’t just show extravagant love, she also showed humble love. She used this extravagant gift of oil, not to anoint the head of Jesus, but to anoint his feet. This was the sign of a servant. When people arrived as a guest for dinner in those days, a servant would offer to wash the feet of the guest. We find this in Luke’s account of this story.

In Luke 7 we find Jesus telling Simon, the owner of the house that his servants did not wash his feet with water, but Mary is washing them with her tears. Jesus said that he was not greeted with the customary kiss, but Mary has not stopped kissing his feet. Jesus also said that Simon did not anoint his head with oil, as was the custom, but Mary has anointed his feet with this expensive oil.

Mary has taken the role of a servant, she has truly taken what Jesus has taught and put it into practice. She is loving humbly.

Finally, Mary is giving unselfconsciously. There is a scene in a movie called “Hope Floats” where Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr’s characters are dancing. Part way through the dance, which happens to be on a crowded dance floor, the camera pans around them to reveal, they are the only couple on the floor. It shows how when they love so deeply, the world seems to fade away. They don’t care what anyone else thinks.

Well, in order to wash and anoint the feet of Jesus, Mary needs a cloth or towel of some kind. But she has none. What she does have is her hair. Now you need to understand something from this time.

If a woman was seen in public with her hair down, she was thought of as immoral, sinful, a temptress. This was scandalous! But Mary didn’t care. She didn’t care what others thought of her, Mary seized the moment, she didn’t let this opportunity pass her by, even as uncomfortable as it was, she took it and showed Jesus and the rest who were there how to love.

Mary expressed her love for Jesus Christ in a very extravagant, humble, and unselfconscious manner. I hope that we too, can show our love of Jesus Christ the same way. I hope that we can give all we have to him, serve him in every way, and not be worried about what others think of us. We love because he first loved us.

Prodigal

Prodigal Sermon SlideThere are so many different stories found in scripture, so many words about faith, hope, love, forgiveness, and sacrifice. But if we look for some of the most memorable, most well-known stories, this story, the prodigal son, would be one of them.

There have been movies made, books written, and so many songs written with this theme of returning home, welcomed with open arms and forgiveness. It’s a story that hits home for many of us. We’ve strayed from God and our relationship with Jesus Christ, off doing our own thing. Then, we hit the bottom, or what we think is the bottom, and we realize our need to have Jesus Christ in our life. We come home.

So too is the younger son in this story. Realizing that he has hit bottom, decides to go back home. He comes up with a plan, he will beg his father to take him in as one of his workers, that way he would at least get good meals and a place to stay. But something miraculous happens.

As he is walking the road home, a long way off, his father sees him. Instead of waiting for his son to get home and then scolding him for squandering all of his money, what does this father do, he runs TO him! Gives him a great big hug and kissed him.

The celebration has begun because the “lost” son has come home.

The parable of the prodigal son. But that’s only half the story. You see the name of this section of the bible should not be just the prodigal son, because there is so much more to the story. There is another son, the older son, but we don’t really focus on that too much.

So what is it about this older son, what is going on in his life? To him, everything probably seemed perfectly normal, other than the fact that his brother had moved out. Now he was an only child, after all, the younger brother already took his part of the inheritance, so there was nothing to keep him from getting everything upon his father’s death. He was satisfied, he was content, he was assured in his place within the family fortune.

But then comes this day. The older brother in out in the field working when his younger brother comes home and meets up with their father. It’s been a long day in the field and the day is coming to an end, so he heads back to the house, expecting to see what he normally would every day. Maybe dinner being prepared, his father reclined on the front porch waiting for him to come home, his mom waiting to give him a big kiss after a hard day’s work, but what does he see?

A party! What? What could be going on here? Why is there a celebration, was there a wedding that he didn’t know about, was there a guest, maybe someone important? No, it was that low life brother who took off and left him to do most of the work. The older brother refuses to go into the party. But look at the father’s reaction and what he does.

Regardless of the sons, younger or older, the father does not sit back and wait. The father searches out the lost, older or younger. The father goes out to meet them, wherever they are, and welcomes them to the feast…

You see, “prodigal” actually has two meanings;

  1. Spending money or resources recklessly
  2. Giving something lavishly

God forgives, lavishly…so as we look at this story with fresh eyes, maybe it should not be called the prodigal son, but the prodigal God!

Second Chances

second chancesOn New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, outdistanced him and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team.

That strange play came in the first half, and everyone who was watching the game was asking the same question: “What will Coach Price do with Roy in the second half?” The men filed off the field and went into the dressing room. They sat down on the benches and on the floor, all but Roy. He put his blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby.

If you have played football, you know that a coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half time. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Roy. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and said simply, “Men the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Roy. He did not budge. The coach looked back and called to him again; still he didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Roy sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.” Then Roy looked up. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined the University of California, I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd.” Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Roy’s shoulder and said to him: “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” Roy went back.

Roy was given a second chance.

Jonah is very well known for getting a second chance, but there were others that got second chances because of, or maybe even in spite of Jonah as he was running away from God.

Jonah hops aboard a ship headed to Tarshish and that’s when the real trouble begins. But God uses Jonah, even as he is rebelling and running away.

The men on the ship are not followers of God, they all worship their own gods and during the storm, cry out to them but not one of their gods answer them. They approach Jonah and ask him to plead with his God, and maybe he will spare them.

Jonah witnessed to them about his God and told them it was his running away that caused this storm. “Throw me into the sea and it will become calm” he told them. It happened, the sea became calm and the sailors who were worshipping their own gods, repented and made vows to the God of all. God used Jonah, even in his running away, even before he repented and asked for forgiveness. Only God could do this!

He gave those sailors a second chance.

Jonah eventually goes and preaches to the ninevites and they listen to him, repent from their wicked ways and God spares them.

Jonah got a second chance, the Ninevites got a second chance.

But what is required of us for this second chance? What are we asked to do in order to receive it? It’s so simple. All we are asked to do is to believe in Jesus Christ. That’s it, or is it? You see if we choose to believe in Jesus Christ, we must turn from our sinful ways in order to follow him.

What’s God speaking to you this morning? What is he asking you to do? One thing for sure, is that he wants to give you a second chance. God wants to let you start over. Are you ready to accept him again today? God’s love, mercy, and grace flows new everyday not just because that’s what God does, but because we need it, and God desires us to have it, every day.