Think About It…

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17 NIV)

Today’s Scripture makes it crystal clear that there have always been folks trying to make a buck off of God. Whether it’s pious peddlers of religious trinkets, smooth talking wolves in sheep’s clothing making promises to those who will send in a “love gift,” or merchants and money-changers in the temple in Jerusalem–there has always been less-than-sanctified snake oil salesman in the flock.

Those throughout the ages who have stooped to such unthinkable practices have been a distraction that has kept many people from seeing God for who He really is. They watch an expose on 20/20 about some preacher who is preying on others instead of praying for others and they can’t see Jesus because of the hypocrisy and ungodliness of the one being exposed. They read an article about another preacher or priest who has abused kids and their disgust with God’s people keeps them from God. They hear about a “Christian” investment group that turns out to be nothing more than a micro Madoff ponzi scheme and they’re alienated even further from God.

It’s easy for me and others who follow Jesus to say, “It’s not fair that we get lumped in with the criminal element who use God for their own gain.” Whether it is “fair” or not doesn’t really matter. That’s the way it is. Reading about and hearing about these types of incidents has caused me to examine my own life. I may not sin in such a far-reaching or public way, but are there attitudes or actions that are a part of my life that keep others from seeing God, from desiring to know God? I believe there are and God is not pleased with anything in me that fails to reflect His grace, mercy, and love to a hurting world.

Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, but if I will allow God to examine my life and expose the ungodliness of my heart then my need for Him should drive me to His throne of grace. I want others to see Jesus in me, but for that to happen I must die to myself so that Christ can live through me.

My prayer today, Lord, is that You will give me the courage to allow You to examine my life, every aspect of my life, and expose the thoughts and actions that might cause others to stumble.

Darkness and Light
John 3:16-21

johnWe’re rebels. Each and every one of us seated in this sanctuary are rebels at heart. A rebel is someone who resists authority and that definition accurately describes each of us. Most of us wouldn’t describe ourselves as rebels, we wouldn’t use that word in describing some of our friends who we would describe as conformists instead of rebels, but let me assure you that all of us are rebels at heart. We don’t want others telling us what to do—we want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it, and how we choose to do it. The Bible describes us this way…“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NIV)

Sin, all sin, my sin, your sin, our sin brings about alienation. Because we are all sinners we experience alienation—alienation from God and alienation from one another. Paul wrote to the folks in Colosse about the distance our sin has created between us and God when he wrote, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” (Colossians 1:21 NIV) Paul was also very much aware of the alienation we suffer between ourselves and other people because of our sin. In his letter to Titus, he writes,

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. (Titus 3:3 NIV)

Foolishness, disobedience, deception, addiction to passions and pleasures, malice, envy, and hatred for our fellow human beings are merely symptoms of our sickness—the root cause of all of these symptoms is sin. We don’t sin because we make bad choices—we sin because we are sinners. Just as an apple tree brings forth apples, a grapevine produces grapes, and a cow produces milk—sinners sin. A sinner who doesn’t sin is an impossibility.

Hebrews 11 tells us that there is pleasure in sin for a season, but all of us know that seasons change. The springtime pleasures and fun of sin change into the cold, wintry, icy, frigid months of isolation and shame. What are we to do? Is there any possibility of change, of escape from this life of sin, shame, and guilt? Continue reading “Darkness and Light
John 3:16-21”

Think About It…

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). 43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. (John 1:40-46 NIV)

When people began to follow Jesus they were compelled to tell somebody. Jesus didn’t tell Andrew to find Simon and tell him what he had seen. Jesus told Philip, “Follow me.” He didn’t tell him to go and find Nathanael, but he did. They weren’t forced to tell anyone, but they couldn’t help but to tell somebody. There were times when Jesus told His followers to tell others about what God was doing, but for those early followers they didn’t need to be reminded.

What was it about Jesus that stirred them to the point where they had to tell somebody about Who they had met and what He was doing? Was it the way that He was “different” than the other religious leaders? You better believe it. Was it the way He taught? Yep. Was it the way He befriended those that others avoided? You bet. Was it His humility, His love, His mercy, His uncompromising ways, His unwavering commitment to God, His willingness to stand up to those who were abusing their authority? Yes. Yes. Absolutely Yes. All of these characteristics of Jesus and more caused others to tell others who told still others. And the word eventually spread by mouth down through history until it came to you and me.

Now the baton is in our hands. What will we do? What will I do? We live in a society that is growing increasingly intolerant of Jesus and His message, but which is desperately in need of Jesus and His message. Will I, will we, be so bold as to go against the flow and tell somebody about the love of God that has come to us in Jesus? I’m going to begin praying that God will lead someone across my path each day that needs to hear the message of the Gospel and I’m going to pray that God will give me the boldness to speak up. Will you join me?

My prayer today, Lord, is that You will stir my heart like the stirred the hearts of Andrew and Philip.

Think About It…

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:32-33 NIV)

Sometimes when I read God’s Word some off-the-wall, out-of-the-blue thoughts and questions pop into my head. For example: As I started the first chapter of John’s Gospel I got to the part where John was baptizing folks in the Jordan River. When he saw Jesus, John said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NIV) The question that immediately came to mind was, “How did John know that it was Jesus?” What set Jesus apart from the rest of the crowd that came to be by baptized by John?

In our day, folks do all kinds of crazy things to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. We have entourages. We wear expensive clothes, clothes that represent our “group,” or, like some of my young friends, we may wear our pants down around our thighs and “sag.” (I’ve yet to figure that last one out.) We drive expensive cars that make us stand out from the rest of the morning drive scene. We may accentuate our good looks or our chiseled body so that we stand out and make sure we get noticed. There are any number of ways that we work to get noticed, to “brand” ourselves among a sea of humanity.

John didn’t take note of Jesus because of His entourage, His fine Italian tailored tunic, or His good looks. Long before Jesus ever arrived on the scene, Isaiah prophesied about the One who would come. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2 NIV) What was it that caused John to recognize Jesus, what caused Jesus to stand out from the crowd–it was the Spirit of God at work. God had told John, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” John tells us, “I wouldn’t have known Him if it hadn’t been for the work of God on His life.”

Jesus was God-in-the-flesh and yet He didn’t try to impress others with the stuff that I’ve given time and energy to in trying to get noticed. Jesus’ life was a reflection of God’s Work. Wouldn’t it be a blessing if others knew us because they saw the work of God going on “in” and “through” our lives? Wouldn’t life be more meaningful if I stopped trying to make a name for myself and simply let God use me to do His work? I think it’s about time that I give myself…fully…wholeheartedly…without reservation or compromise to make this my one aim in life. I’m going to give myself to this today.

My prayer today, Lord, is that I will stand out from the crowd only because of what You are doing “in” and “through” me. Don’t let me be deceived and give my life to anything less than serving You.

The Contrast
Romans 5:6-8

romansYou are all familiar with “contrasts.” A contrast is a tool used to compare, to highlight differences. Dictionary.com defines contrast as:

1. to compare in order to show unlikeness or differences; note the opposite natures, purposes, etc. 2. a person or thing that is strikingly unlike in comparison: “The weather down here is a welcome contrast to what we’re having back home.” 3. opposition or juxtaposition of different forms, lines, or colors in a work of art to intensify each element’s properties and produce a more dynamic expressiveness.

Contrast is a very useful tool that we run into all the time. You may have seen contrast used in the field of photography and art. I’ve seen pictures that demonstrate contrast by having the tallest man in the world standing next to the shortest man in the world. Or maybe you’ve heard one of our weather people talk about the hottest and coldest temperatures that we’ve experienced on any given day. Preachers have used contrast to demonstrate the wide gulf between goodness and depravity or love and hate. Continue reading “The Contrast
Romans 5:6-8”

Think About It…

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!(John 1:29 NIV)

What went through John’s mind when he saw Jesus coming towards him? He didn’t know Jesus. John was just doing what God had called him to do–he was letting everyone know that the Messiah was on his way. When John finally saw Jesus for the first time, the words that came out of his mouth are really amazing when I stop to think about it. Of all of the things John could have said, he chose to say,“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

“The Lamb of God.” All of Israel was familiar with the significance of the lamb. From the time the Hebrew slaves covered the door frames of their houses with the blood of a spotless lamb right through their Passover celebrations with the sacrifice of lambs at the Temple–the Jews were constantly reminded that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV) None of the lambs that had ever been slain were truly “spotless,” not in the way that this Lamb was “spotless.” He was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

God in His grace had provided forgiveness for His people throughout history and the lambs slain were reminders of the high cost of their forgiveness. Now, with the arrival of Jesus and the announcement that THE LAMB of God had come, all of the people immediately knew what John was talking about.

We live in a different day. We no longer witness the sacrifice of lambs because there is no longer any need. The Lamb has come! He died on the Cross for my sins and for yours. Let us never forget the high price that God paid for you and me to have the opportunity to be cleansed, to be forgiven, to be restored to the Holy and Righteous God of Glory.

My prayer today, Lord, is that I will never forget the love that You demonstrated for me, and for all the world, through the sacrificial death of Your perfect Son, Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Think About It…

6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:6-8 NIV)

I’ve spent too much time throughout my life trying to be someone I am not. I’ve tried to convince myself that some day I will arrive, some day I’m going to make it. One day I’m going to be somebody special. I’ve tried to convince others that I’m “the big man on campus.” I’ve tried to find my significance in the things that I do. None of those things has ever worked. From my experience in life I’ve learned that I am not alone. Most people are not comfortable in their own skin, just simply being who God made them to be. As a result we become jealous of other’s success, we make snide remarks to try and diminish the significance of other’s accomplishments, and we rob ourselves of a great opportunity–the opportunity to be the best that God has created us to be.

Reading about John encourages me to seek to be everything God has called me to be. Not somebody “special” as the world defines “special.” Not someone that others recognize or revere, just simply be me. John’s purpose in life was to point the way to Jesus. He wasn’t Jesus. He didn’t try to be Jesus. He didn’t let jealousy creep in and lead him to downplay Jesus’ greatness so that he would look better. He knew who he was…he was a messenger called to shine a bright light on Jesus. John was content to be in Jesus’ shadow. We read in Mark’s Gospel, 7 John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am– so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals.” (Mark 1:7 NLT)

If I set my sights on achieving the significance that the world holds before me I will end up empty and frustrated because I’m never going to achieve it. God hasn’t called me to be successful, but He has called me to be faithful–faithful to the call He has placed on my life. I am called to love my family. I am called to faithfully teach God’s Word. I am called to serve all of those that God has placed in my life. I’m called to live in such a way that others see Jesus as they watch me. That is a mission, a calling, that at this point in my life, is far more attractive than all the world has to offer.

My prayer today, Lord, is that You will help me to keep my eyes fixed on the purpose You have laid out for my life. Enable me to pursue it with passion and enthusiasm each and every day of my life.

Think About It…

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV)

Genesis and John tell me that God was there in the beginning. Before anything was–God was. John pulls back the veil a little further and tells me that “the Word” was there in the beginning. The Word was God. He was with God. Through Him all things were made and apart from Him nothing was made. The Word is more than the Creator–He was and is “Life” and “Light.” John doesn’t identify “the Word” as Jesus until he comes to verse 17. John says that he was sent to be a witness, he was sent to make the One who is the Light, the Life, and the Word known, yet the world didn’t recognize Him. John writes about himself,

7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:7-10 NIV)

Jesus is the Light and the Life of all people. It’s interesting to me that in Genesis 1, God creates “light” and He creates “life.” For many years I lived with the sun coming up every day, but was blind to the real meaning of life until the Light came into my life. The One whom John calls the Light that shines in the darkness has brought new meaning and purpose to my life.

I lived for 18 years fully alive. I had life. I breathed, thought, and exerted energy each and every day and yet it wasn’t until the One whom John says, “In Him was life…” came into my life that I truly began to live. He has taken my life and reoriented me, redefined my purpose and passions, and given me a new reason to live. I want to live this day for His glory so that others might come to know the Life and the Light who is Jesus.

My prayer today, Lord, is that You will continue to open my eyes to Your purpose and plan so that I might not get distracted or bogged down in meaningless pursuits. Thank You for giving me Your Son, the Life and Light of the world!

Tried, Tested, and Proven!
Romans 5:3-5

romansLet me briefly backtrack for us so that we can put into context the lesson that we will study today. In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul dealt with the predicament of humanity, our sin, and the gracious salvation of God for all who will believe in His Son, Jesus, our Savior. Paul drilled into our heads that salvation is by faith through grace and not by our works.

In Romans 4, Paul used Abraham as his prime example of God’s justification by faith. Abraham was justified, not by observing the Law; the Law was not given for another 430 years. He was not justified by circumcision, the sign of the Covenant was given by God after Abraham’s justification. Abraham was justified; he was made right with God, by God’s grace, through faith alone. “Abram believed the LORD and He credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6 NIV) Paul used Abraham as a model for all of us, Jews and Gentiles, who desire a right relationship with God. In Romans 5, Paul takes the letter in a brand new direction. The very first verse reads,

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Romans 5:1 NIV)

“Therefore” takes us in a new direction. Paul says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” What glorious news that is for you and me! We have peace with God! Continue reading “Tried, Tested, and Proven!
Romans 5:3-5”