Monthly Archives: March 2015

HOW MANY WATCHED JESUS DIE?

How many people watched Jesus die on the cross?

Dozens, hundreds, thousands?

If we include angels and demons – was it millions, billions?

What did they feel?

Revulsion, excitement, numbness, heartache, victory, confusion, despair?

Do you look at the cross?

I know you were not there.

But each of us can turn our eyes to the cross

We look to be reminded of what took place

We look to be impacted but what was accomplished

The gospel declares that if we ignore the cross – we are without hope. And love for Christ calls us to gaze long and full

We can live before the cross.

The plan of God was victorious, and the war for our soul was won!

Judgment fell, wrath was poured out, and guilt was removed

Sin was paid for and Heaven was satisfied

The god of this world was defeated and death received its own sentence

Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “for the joy that was set before him, (Jesus) endured the cross”.

Christian, if Jesus endured the cross for the joy of saving us, what reason can we give not to keep our attention on that cross?

Oh, let us gaze upon the cross, meditate on the cross and live always before the cross.

If you have never practiced thinking about the cross, here are some ideas

1.  Start by reading the gospel accounts of the crucifixion

Read slowly, imagine yourself there, and ask why each part of the story is included

2.  Praise God for as much about the cross as you can bring to your mind

Don’t be rushed to think of things; allow God to fill your thoughts. Then ask Him to penetrate your heart with the implications.

3.  Read some good books about the cross

The Cross-Centered Life   by CJ Mahaney

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die   by John Piper

In My Place Condemned He Stood   by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever

The Truth of the Cross   by R.C. Sproul

The Cross of Christ   by John R.W. Stott

 4.  Try listening to some of the great songs about the cross

Sovereign Grace Music consistently publishes meaty cross-centered music. Put YouTube to good use.

The hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts, is one of my favorite songs about the cross:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

We all think about many things each day, let’s put the cross at the front of the line – and keep it there.

WHAT A SACRIFICE!

In the days leading up to Jesus crucifixion, Mary, the sister of Martha, anoints Jesus with a very expensive ointment. 

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1-8)

It was a lavish display and in financial terms, a significant sacrifice. The ointment was worth approximately 10 months’ salary.

Pause to do the math – that is $30,000 for the average American worker!

There was nothing casual or half-hearted in what Mary did for Jesus.

We don’t know if the decision to make this sacrifice, and to offer this public display involved inner struggle for Mary. The fact that the Bible is silent on the matter tells us it really isn’t important.

What is important is what Mary actually did:

We know she publically demonstrated that she loved Jesus.

We know Mary was thankful to Jesus who had given forgiveness to her and life to her brother.

We know she humbled herself, wiping Jesus feet with her hair.

We know she sacrificed what could have been used in countless other ways.

What Mary did not know:

She did not know that her actions held meaning far beyond what she could then understand.

She did not know that Jesus would soon be on a cross and in a tomb.

She did not know how deeply Jesus would appreciate her actions.

She did not know that her actions had just become part of the most astonishing of all God’s works – the atoning death of His Son!

She did not know that we would be impacted by her actions 2000 years later.

Every believer has as much reason to be thankful to Jesus as Mary did.

We have been raised from spiritual death and we have the promise that even our bodies will one day be raised to eternal glory.

Every believer also has choices and opportunities to show Jesus our love and gratitude.

We all cannot give something worth 10 months’ salary, but we all can be sacrificial with our possessions, and we all can demonstrate thankfulness with our actions.

Every believer who has the heart of Mary will also find that God uses our actions in ways that go far beyond what we anticipated and can currently see.

This is not because we are wise, gifted or wealthy. It is because God is loving, gracious and wonderful.

Every believer can bring the “fragrance” of devotion to Christ into the places that we live, work and worship.

This week, we remember what Jesus did for us.

It is an appropriate time to consider what we are doing for him.

SMALL GROUP DOESN’T NOTICE EACH OTHER

LarkNews is a tongue in cheek website that gently pokes fun of the American culture of church life.

I enjoyed an earlier article about a pastor who sold his congregation on eBay.

This article describes a small group that doesn’t notice that no one spoke to each other. I hope you enjoy the humor and catch the lesson in it.

ANAHEIM HILLS — A small group from Life Baptist church met during the week, but the members have no memory of seeing each other because they were staring at their smartphones the entire time.

“I thought everyone else was keeping up the discussion,” says one woman who successfully ‘Liked’ fifty-five posts and finished two games of Words With Friends during the 90-minute gathering. “I guess no one was.”

Members were so engrossed in texting, posting and Tweeting that it did not occur to them that nobody was talking, let alone leading the meeting. Silence descended on the room as members sat tapping screens, occasionally giggling and typing messages.

“I went into the kitchen at one point to get snacks, and it did seem awfully quiet,” says one man. “Everyone had their heads down. I thought we were praying.”

One man had just bought a new app and was eager to try it out.

“I was tearing it up on Tiny Wings and thought everyone would understand,” he says. “I remember walking into a door, but I’m not sure what building it was — maybe small group or Bed, Bath and Beyond. I don’t have a visual for it anymore.”

Some people even texted and messaged each other while in the same room.

“I was having a great conversation with Karen on Facebook and didn’t notice that she was sitting three feet away from me,” says one woman. “She messaged me, ‘Oh, I’m in small group,’ and I messaged her back, ‘Really? Me too!’”

Only later did members confirm that a meeting had taken place by piecing together tweets, texts and Facebook posts.

“It says on Facebook that I checked in at their house, so I must have been there,” says one woman. “Facebook doesn’t lie.”

Others looked at their timelines and Twitter feeds and saw posts like “Heading to small group” and “Picking up chips and salsa” at around the same time. But none have any memory of what happened after that.

“I think I ate a plate of something, but I was pretty engrossed in Fruit Ninja, so I didn’t really notice,” says one man. “It may have been brownie bites.”

One woman and her husband arrived home afterward, sat in their garage, looked at each other and said, “Did we just go to small group?”

“It was a little eerie,” says the wife. “The only thing I can recall is seeing my iPhone screen. Which, by the way, have you checked out this app?”

Members group-texted each other afterward and pledged to actually look at each other next time they meet.

“We felt kind of bad,” says one man. “I told them if I forget to pay attention next time, just Facetime me.”

WHY DO WE REMAIN IN DISCOURAGEMENT? (Part 4)

Today we finish our four-part series on reasons why Christians remain in discouragement:

#4.  We remain in discouragement by remaining in the shadows

When we come to Christ, we leave the darkness of sin and unbelief, and enter the light of God’s presence and truth. We are no longer in darkness, because the light of the gospel shines in our lives

If you are in the darkness of unbelief, the only encouragement I can give you is the good news (gospel) that Christ will give you light if you repent of your sin against God, and place your trust in Christ as the payment for your sin.

Every believer has this light, but some Christians keep to the edges of the things of God.

Their lives may not be in the dark, but they are in the shadows. Our perspective is easily distorted when we are in the shadows.

The shadows breed sin

In the shadows, sin doesn’t look so serious.

But the shame of sin and its hardening effect will keep us vulnerable to discouragement, because we are walking in compromises that keep us from seeing or embracing the fullness of God and his grace.

The shadows breed fear

Difficulties are distorted and more frightening in the shadows.

When my daughters were young, they didn’t like their closet doors open at night. In the darkness, the contents of the closet created shapes which frightened them. Living in the shadows of compromise will do the same to us

When we live in the brilliant light of God’s presence, we see the wonderful reasons for casting discouragement aside.

When we live in the warm light of God’s presence, we are reminded that the One who cares for us is greater than anything that is against us

We may have reasons to be discouraged, but in Christ we should not stay in discouragement

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.23.15

        ‘We are Servants of Christ’       Jude 1       

The Apostles introduced themselves as “servants of Christ”

Jude presents his identity in his servant role over his blood role

This Jude was one of Jesus’ brothers by birth (Mark 6:3)

What did being a servant mean in that cultural context?

The Apostles actually didn’t use the word “servant”; they used the word “slave”

Servants had some choice and freedom, but slaves were owned

So why did Bible translators use the word servant instead of slave?

The answer is found in the change in what slavery looked like when English translations began

In the New Testament world, a large percentage of the population were slaves

Most of these were conquered nations and their descendants

Slaves could hold virtually any position in society (teachers, doctors, artisans etc)

When you saw a slave, they typically dressed and looked like everyone else

The New Testament context of slave, was someone owned, but also usually valued and respected

By the time English translations began, slavery looked quite different

It was the slavery we think of in the British world and United States

This slavery was based on race, prejudice, brutality and chains

Translators felt these changes in slavery would distort the readers perceptions of what the New Testament intended

When we read that we are “servants” of Christ, it is a mix of what we now think of concerning a slave and a servant

Being a servant (slave) is our identity, but it’s not the whole story

We are also adopted as children of God and we are the bride of Christ

We should hold to the worth of those images, and at the same time, recognize in this world we labor as servant of our Master

What are the characteristics of being a servant/slave of Christ?

1.  As servants, we live in submission to Christ our Lord

Servants hold a subservient role; that is the most fundamental reality about them

We live to serve God; He doesn’t exist to please us (Luke 17:7-10)

2.  As servants, we practice obedience to Christ’s will

Servants don’t stop to consider which commands to obey, or how fully they will obey

If you are knowingly withholding obedience to God, you are being unfaithful!

3.  As servants, we have an exclusive devotion to Christ our Lord

The life of a servant is focused on service to their Master

Christ is not to be one of many features in life – He is to be the center of all our life

4.  As servants, we are accountable to Christ our Lord (Matt 24:45-51)

We cannot be serious about discipleship, church life or about Christ without it

5.  As servants, we are fully dependent upon Christ our Master

A difference between servants and slaves, is that slaves must totally depend on their Master

Are you trying to be self-sufficient about making life work?

Servant is a subservient title, but it is also an honorable one

1.  Servant is the title God used for his mighty leaders

Abraham, Moses and David are all called “My servant” by God

God uses this title in the context of being pleased with them

2.  Being a servant is the mindset of great understanding (Matt 8:8-10)

This centurion applied his understanding of the roles of master and servant to how he approached Jesus

Jesus’ response was that this demonstrated great faith!

The Marines should not expect more of their recruits than God does of his people

3.  Being a servant is the path to accomplishing great things (Matt 20:25-28)

Having a servant attitude is not a minor teaching of Christianity

This is what it means to live as Christian; it is what God looks for and uses

4.  Being a servant was Jesus identity (Matt 12:18) 

Like us, this is far from the whole picture of Jesus identity

Yet, Jesus joyfully embraced being a servant

We cannot follow Jesus unless we embrace our role as his servant

Do you embrace your role as a slave of Christ – or do you resent it? 

How we respond to this aspect of our identity reveals much about our heart and love for Christ

EDDIE’S LEGACY

Eddie Kleva

by Debbie Huber

Two weeks ago a young man named Eddie Kleva left us here on earth and entered into the presence of His Lord and Savior. His funeral was a celebration of a life greatly used by God, proclaiming the Gospel that saved him and his family. 

God gifted Eddie uniquely to impact others for His Savior, including using him to bring his father, Ed, mother, Ruth, and sister, Katrina to salvation. Eddie loved worshiping God through singing songs to Jesus and demonstrated the joy of the Lord to those around him. 

Watching him worship encouraged others to appreciate worship more. Eddie was a part of the children’s ministry worship team at Greentree Church.  The children all loved Eddie and many earnestly prayed for him because he was their friend.

But Eddie did not necessarily fit the “cookie cutter” image of what some think it takes to do great things for God.  Eddie was born with developmental delays and serious physical disabilities. But this did not negate that Eddie was created in the image of God, and equipped for His good purposes. 

He could not communicate with others using words, but his love for Jesus was communicated loudly and clearly through his life.  God used that delightful young man with the engaging smile and excitement for Him in ways that most of us desire to be used. 

A short while before Eddie passed away; I asked Ed and Ruth if there were spiritual struggles in their lives or struggles in church because of having a child with a disability.  Although I knew of their family’s great love for the Lord,  I expected to hear about burdens such as not being accepted in church, limitations in being able to worship, or limitations in being able to serve God and minister to others.

My expectations could not have been further off.  It never entered their minds to view the life that God gave them as being burdened. Ed and Ruth told me that Eddie is a big part of their ministry!  They sought and still seek to share God’s love through Eddie’s life wherever they go.  He impacted Believers and unbelievers, children and adults for the glory of God.  Eddie, Ed, Ruth and Katrina were willing vessels – willing to be used by God in His perfect plan.

Many of us doubt that we have worthy gifts, abilities, or sufficient words to communicate Jesus’ love to others.  Eddie sat in a wheelchair without saying words but by God’s grace and His power, Eddie’s life communicated God’s love through His son Jesus. 

Many of us look at our lives and do not see anything of value to be used for God, but Eddie’s example should help us remember that it is not our abilities and efforts or lack thereof, but is God working in us.  He uses our strengths and weaknesses for His good purposes.  Let us trust God and be willing to be used by Him in every area of our lives.

 

WHY REMAIN IN DISCOURAGEMENT? (Part 3)

We continue in a four part series on Tuesdays that examines reasons why Christians remain in discouragement:

#3. We remain in discouragement by not having a solid biblical foundation

Doctrines are like the tools in a workman’s truck. The more tools he has, the more work situations he can successfully handle. In a similar way, we are called to be “a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed and correctly handles word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

The more we understand biblical truths, the more prepared we are for whatever comes our way.

This is particularly important because life usually does not provide us with warnings about what discouraging situation it is about to throw at us

~ Is your biblical framework a grab bag of religious sayings and ideas?

~ Do you get information from a myriad of sources that often contradict one another?

There is nothing wrong with learning from many sources, it can actually be helpful. However (and this is a big “however”), we need to learn from good sources that are doctrinally sound.

Sadly, there are Christians who think they don’t need to give a lot of attention to biblical “doctrines”. Some say they just need a relationship with God. While this statement has truth in it, biblical doctrines tell us about God. Every biblical doctrine is a truth God has shared so we will know the real him.

How can you have a close relationship with someone when you choose to ignore what they say about themselves?!

A doctrine is a truth about God typically presented in a clear and organized manner.

To be blunt, it is not very wise to say we don’t need truths about God presented in a clear and organized manner.

And what is the alternative, to ignore truths about God or to learn them without organized clarity?

Without a strong biblical foundation, we do not have the discernment to stay away from deceptive principles which will collapse on us (Ephesians 4:14-15). Nothing will discourage a Christian more than to have what we thought was true of God collapse on us.

Imagine a contractor who pours dirt and debris into his cement mix because he is lazy or it saves him money. The eventual homeowner will eventually pay a high price for that hidden failure. 

The Bible repeatedly warns us against bad teaching. So we need to discern who is throwing debris into their teaching.

This debris includes teaching that is man-centered, earthly-minded, or temporally focused.

Why do Christians fail to have a solid foundation of biblical knowledge?

  • We don’t take it seriously
  • We lack a consistent pursuit of it
  • We make poor choices is where we get ‘biblical’ teaching
  • We neglect the spiritual oversight of pastors who God has given to protect us

Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us that the church and its leadership are “given” to equip us so we will mature and be discerning of bad theology.

Deceptive teaching is carefully prepared to look good on the surface, but it will fail us, because God doesn’t stand behind it

Growing in biblical understanding makes it harder for discouragement to take root.

Paul prays in Ephesians 1:18, that “the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened”. If biblical truths are not understood, much of their benefit cannot be used

In Acts 20:27 Paul said he had not neglected to teach “the whole counsel of God”.

~ Make sure you are reading the whole counsel of God’s Word.

~ Be engaged in a church that highly values biblical teaching (shown by how seriously it pursues the discipleship of its members)

When your foundation is secure, you will know how to withstand the discouraging situations that come your way.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.16.15

 “We are Ambassadors of Christ”

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Ambassadors represent something greater than themselves

Our identity as an Ambassador reminds us we no longer live for ourselves

One of the most foundational realities of life in Christ is that we are no longer king

It seems hard to give up self-rule, which is a major stumbling block to our fulfilling the Great Commandment

We need to recognize that no longer living for ourselves is the most fruitful and freeing step we can take

It is fruitful – because we exchange our meager kingdom for Christ’s glorious kingdom

It is freeing – because we are no longer bound by our own flawed goals and expectations

As Ambassadors, we represent Christ to a world that desperately needs him

This role is not limited to pastors, the outgoing or those gifted in evangelism (Matthew 5:13-16)

This is our identity; Jesus said we “are” the world’s salt and light

Everyone who can observe you, can be influenced by you

You have impressions about the people you meet; what impression do you leave?

This is more than not cursing etc., we are to live in contrast to the world and in the power of the gospel

We show Christ in what we value

We show Christ in how we respond differently to pressures

We show Christ in how we care for and serve those the world neglects

Each person you can influence is worth influencing

We would never admit otherwise, we interact with people, without even attempting to influence them for Christ

How many people do we know, who have no one that even prays for them?

Small things can have an effective influence

The effectiveness is in how God will use us in these small things

Make as many small influences as you can and trust God to use them

As Ambassadors of Christ, we are to conduct ourselves to bring honor to him

Our standards are not to be How close can I get to sin and still be a Christian?

Our perspective is to be How can I honor Christ more fully?

This is carried out in what our speech emphasizes, how we respond to offenses, and what we pursue

This is not asking too much of us, Christ is worth our all!

Our influence is not lost due to weaknesses or past failure

John 4 describes a Samaritan woman who had 5 failed marriages, an immoral lifestyle and was ignorant of spiritual truth.

Yet after meeting Jesus, we read “many Samaritans . . believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony”

Our influence is based upon what God does in and through us (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

It is best to live our entire life in obedience, but God can use anyone who will be faithful now

Ambassadors are responsible to share the message that was given to them

Ambassadors have no right to give their own message, or a partial one

One famous pastor says, “My calling is a ministry of encouragement”. No that is the message he chose, God calls us to proclaim His word

v18 God “gave us” our “ministry”

v19 God “entrusted us” with his “message”

This ministry and message is the full truth of Christ:

He is the Lord God who became God-in-flesh

He came to this sinful and condemned world which cannot save itself

He died to pay the penalty for our sin and was raised in victory over sin and death

Anyone who will bow and trust in what Christ has done – will be saved

An Ambassador must be clear about their message

Focus on Christ and our need to respond to what he has done

As Ambassadors it’s important that we understand our audience

Everyone has the same need and our message is unchanging

Yet, each person we meet is a unique opportunity (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)

Listen to understand their heart

Show you care

Build their respect

Where and how are we Ambassadors?

1.  In our natural sphere of life

2.  Going beyond to people we can meet and impact

3.  How we receive people who come to our church

Be an ambassador of hospitality to those who come to your church

Exercise grace to those who are rough edged and may be an inconvenience to you

SUPERMARKET READING

When standing in the checkout line at a grocery store, we are forced to either look at the magazine rack or browse over the labels of what is in our cart. For the most part we are better off reading the labels.

The magazines generally fall into three categories:

(1)  Gossip magazines that are unbiblical in their very reason for existence

If it’s unbiblical to gossip, then it’s unbiblical to jump into the stream of the gossip industry. We may tell ourselves it is just innocent entertainment, but that is not God’s view of it (Romans 1:28-21, 2 Corinthians 12:20, and 1 Timothy 5:13). 

If we say we follow God then we must exchange our thoughts with his. Magazine selection is a small thing, but small things are the bread and butter of being faithful

(2)  Glamor Magazines that give us a distorted view of ourselves and life

These magazines create idols out of youth and external beauty. They seek to create discontentment within ourselves – and they are not even honest about it.

On the rare occasions when untouched photos are used, that itself becomes a news story.

Mike Cosper wrote this article on the Gospel Coalition entitled “The Satanic Ideology of Photoshop”.

(3)  Cooking and recipe magazines

        Go for it!

 6.22.12

WHY DO WE REMAIN IN DISCOURAGEMENT? (Part 2)

Last week, we began a series that looks at reasons why Christians remain in discouragement. Today we look at the second reason:

#2.  We remain in discouragement, when we are disconnected

When we are disconnected from God

We remain in discouragement when we think God has pulled away from us. Yet, God has promised that his covenant presence “will never leave or forsake us”.

Remember God is the One who came to us and initiated the relationship we have with Him. This was not something we prodded God into

When we are convinced of God’s commitment to be with us, we are encouraged to keep working at that relationship.

~ Whenever we open His Word, it contains His heart for us.

~ Whenever we come in prayer, He is listening to us.

~ Whenever we worship in Spirit and truth, He is pleased with us.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus showed us the importance of persisting in our connection with the Father. Matthew 26:44 tells us Jesus “went again and prayed the third time, saying same words”.

Jesus pursued the Father as long as his heart remained burdened. Do we expect that we will need to do less?!

Yet even in prayer discouragement tries to follow us

This happens when we make our problem the primary focus of our prayers. We talk to God, but we are looking at ourselves. Our prayers seem to reinforce the weight of our burden

This is because we are making God a servant to our desires. Then we are deflated when God doesn’t fulfill our expectations. Instead prayer should be about worshiping God’s greatness and his faithfulness which he has shown we can trust.

When we are disconnected from God’s people

The local church is a significant way in which God has chosen to minister to us. We see this vividly in the Body of Christ word picture found in I Corinthians 12

How can we expect to be encouraged in God, if we consistently remain in disconnect from God and His people?

These are not just matters of negligence, they are sins of omission. In fact, they are violations of what Jesus calls the two Greatest Commandments!

We were created to be involved with God in the context of the Church community. Leaving discouragement involves becoming more engaged in biblical community with God and with His people