22 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”
Mark chapter 8, verses 22-26; from the New Living Translation
This morning I was thinking–and those of you who know me, know this isn’t always a good thing. Nonetheless, fasten your seatbelts because we are about to take off. President Biden just signed a check for our government to spend another $737 BILLION. Purportedly this is going to get us out of inflation and help solve our economic problems. One would think, or at least I do, that after spending gazillions of dollars over the past several decades all the problems would have been solved. And then I was thinking about this mess in the United Methodist Institution. After saying gazillions of words our problems should have been solved by now. But in both cases, it ain’t happened and it ain’t gonna happen!
Yet, the dollars flow freely, and words flow even more freely! Politically, some are looking to Trump; and some are looking to Biden. They are looking for political salvation in parties that have neither the ability nor the skills to provide such a hope. And it appears at times that neither party wants to solve the problems; it seems that they just want to add fuel to the fire. Yet, people are tenaciously running down the path that leads us nowhere. And in our Tribe (the United Methodist Institution) it’s not any different. Some says it’s all about progressive theology and some say it’s all about orthodox theology. The view and perspective that both issues (in both the political and spiritual problems) have created is what I term perspective astigmatism!
Now, for those unfamiliar with astigmatism or do not live with this malady like I and so many others, here’s the medical definition: “a refractive error of the eye in which parallel rays of light from an external source do not converge on a single focal point on the retina.” And here’s the down-to-earth definition: “everything looks blurry!” And then I also started thinking (thank you, Holy Spirit) about this morning’s passage. A man was brought to Jesus for Him to heal. The villagers were just looking for a show; some entertainment and fodder for the dinner table conversations. But Jesus took this man outside the village and. . .well, you can read the rest of the story.
Here’s the point! After Jesus spit on this man’s eyes, he could see–but there was no clarity. He described people as, “They look like trees walking around.” I understand that, and so do you who have astigmatism. And be it in the political arena or the spiritual arena, the dominant views are creating and spreading perspective astigmatism. Neither side seems interested in getting to that focal point where everything comes clearly into focus. And as long as were are focusing on the wrong point–be it political or spiritual–everything remains hazy and blurry.
The problems–both politically and spiritually–are deep and complicated; complicated by years of living in perspective astigmatism. So what is one to do??? Live each day with nothing seen with clarity??? Give up and become a stoic??? Well, that is an option; but it ain’t a good one. May I suggest something different, using the analogy of visual astigmatism? We ALL need to do 2 things: first we need to admit that what we’ve been trying and looking towards just ain’t working to bring us the Clarity that we need. Second, allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit give us the lenses we need to see life with Clarity! The “eye chart” that Jesus and the Holy Spirit uses is the Bible. They will never contradict what The Word says. They may (and usually will) contradict what WE say about The Word. But They will never contradict That Word.
Normally The Familiar isn’t a good thing because it keeps us from experiencing the Adventures God has for us. It denies us the wide open spaces where we uncover and discover the greatness and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. It hides and denies us the truth that we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us. The wide open spaces teaches us how to hold on to God in every situation and throughout all seasons.
But. . .but sometimes we need to go back to The Familiar–the good Familiar. I’m talking about those times and places where are reassured of God’s faithfulness to us–even when–especially when–we have been unfaithful. Or maybe it’s a season of doubt where we struggle to embrace our future. Even David, the mighty King and Warrior, needed to go back from time to time to The Familiar. Psalm 23 places were essential for David. Before he became a mighty warrior and long before he became the Mighty King, David was a shepherd. And when life as a Warrior or as a King became difficult, I can easily imagine David singing this Psalm to himself–maybe even out loud.
As a shepherd in the wide open spaces, David experienced the faithfulness and provisions of His Heavenly Father. Imagines of green pastures and still streams helped him remember the Faithfulness of God. I have my places where I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me. Sometimes all I can do is go there in my mind. And sometimes I can literally visit those places. Each time I find myself renewed and refreshed, and enabled to go forward into “my” unknown future, but a future that is known to God–and a future where I know He is right there with me. What are The Familiar places for you? Places where God’s amazing love and grace overwhelmed you? The Familiar isn’t a place made to live in–but it is the place to visit where we find the reassurance we need when the Journey becomes difficult.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Who would deny that the current state of the church, politics and society as a whole is in a state of unabridged and unequivocal chaos. Even the most self-deluded would have to admit this is our current reality. And when it comes to placing the blame…its not any better. On any given day and all day long, the long finger of blame is pointing somewhere. It’s like the Wheel of Fortune or Price is Right–there are lots of options on where to place the blame.
Conservatives are to blame. Progressives are to blame. The Democrats are to blame. The Republicans are to blame. Guns are to blame. Wussy-minded folks are to blame. Millenials are to blame. Baby Boomers are to blame. Professors are to blame. Parents to blame. Spin the wheel and find who to blame. Oy, oy, oy! It’s giving me a headache and makes me want to puke. It’s all Mishigas and Shmegegge. (I love Yiddish!)
But what would happen if we would do what David tells us to do? What would happen if we stopped spinning the Wheel Of Blame and took a long, hard and serious look at our own life?
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
Are you willing to allow God to Search, Know, Test, Point Out what’s wrong in your own life? The Wheel Of Blame isn’t helping; so why not give this a full-on try. If we want things to change, then remember President Harry Truman’s personal mantra–THE BUCK STOPS HERE! Start and end each day with this Psalm. Allow God to Search, Know, Test, Point Out what’s going on with you. Don’t just do it to fill your heart and mind with guilt–but do it so that the last line in this Psalm becomes true in you: And Lead Me Along The Paths Of Everlasting Life. Just in case you’re so dense you haven’t figured out the Monday Musing Theme, allow me to put it succinctly–Focus on what God wants for your life, then allow HIM to lead you along The Path!
This is the second and last of the series Getting The Word In Our Feet. We need, more than anything else in these times of chaos and fear is Direction. Not just any direction; but a New And Different Direction. Choosing a direction is not enough. Choices without action are worthless.
Last week we learned that Any Choice That Doesn’t Come With Action Is Just Wishing And Useless. That’s what the Old Testament illustration of the Hebrews at the edge of the Promised Land teaches us. All those over 20, except Caleb and Joshua, never got to live within God’s promise. Their direction was cemeteries scattered throughout the wilderness. Now we look at a New Testament story about a single cemetery that illustrates the need for Both Direction And Action. Turn to John 20:1-9 (N.L.T.)
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside.He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
Decades ago, before radar and computer flying, an airplane was somewhere over the Rockies in a fog that went from the ground to way above the clouds. The pilot came over P.A. and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good new and some bad news. First, the bad news: we’re lost! But the good news is, we’re 2 hours ahead of schedule.” This describes the culture we live it; it describes people all around us—2 hours ahead of schedule but lost.
When times seem to be the darkest, people struggle to find the right direction and the subsequent actions that will bring them out of the darkness. And here is the One Thing you need to remember today and it’s a principle that will always work: Actions, Not Intentions, Produce The Right Outcomes. The Good News Of God’s Kingdom isn’t about changing our intentions—it is about changing our actions. It’s not all that complicated. Intentions cannot produce faith. Cannot manufacture hope nor deliver us from our fear and despair.
I can intend to do something all day long and will accomplish nothing. If you don’t believe this, just trust me on this because I’ve done it enough to be an expert. Just suppose Debbie asks me to do something before the day is done, I’ll say, “OK, dear, I’ll do it.” Well, I intend to get that done. But come the evening, if I haven’t done that, she’s going to get upset at me.
But why? I mean I intended to do what she asked. I intended to do it better than she thought I could do it. Why is she so upset? I intended to do it. It’s just unbelievable that she would get upset that I didn’t do that—even when I intended to do it. Are you starting to get the picture here?
Let’s bring this down to this principle and the passage behind it. Easter Morning. I don’t know what went through your minds then I read the text. Maybe you thought that Easter’s not here yet. Lent doesn’t even start until Wednesday. I still have a couple of days of indulgence left.
When I read this, I focused on what was happening to the people. Mary Magdalene RAN to tell the disciples. The disciples RAN to the tomb. These folks were RUNNING! There was motion and movement by these people. The Resurrection got the disciples involved with direction, motion and movement. They no longer stood still! Christians are people who Run! The question for us here and every church is this: How Can We Get The Word In Our Feet So That We Can Get Motion And Movement On Our Part Into God’s Promises?
Well you have to understand that there are Sitters and there are Runners. One of the ways you can sort out people in church is to say they come in 2 types: Sitters and Runners. OK, let’s look at each.
1. First, Let’s Look At The Sitters.
The best way to describe sitters is to image them in a rocking chair, rocking and watching the world go by. Sitters Are Those Who Are Content With Motion Without Movement And Momentum. They Have Been Deceived Into Thinking Motion Is Movement When It’s Clearly Not Producing Momentum.
Well, here, let me show you with this rocking chair. There’s motion, but nothing is really changing. If you’re not prone to motion sickness, rocking really is relaxing—if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s activity and motion, but look—this rocking chair is still here. Am I right? I’m moving; I’m just not going anywhere. If I turn the rocking chair around, nothing’s really changed—I’m just looking in a different direction. OK, I’ve changed direction, but I still in the same place. The only thing that has changed is my view. I’m not in a different place—I’m in the same place, just a different view. And nothing has really changed.
Sitters Are Those Who Are Deceived Into Believing That Because They Are Rocking—There’s Motion—That This Motion Is Enough. While rocking in a chair may be relaxing and enjoyable it is not accomplishing anything—other than make us feel better about ourselves.
2. Now, Let’s Look At Runners.
Runners are different! They don’t stay in the same place. And their view is always changing. Runners have direction and motion—just like the sitters—but runners add the all important element of forward movement. It Is Movement Not Motion That Always Creates Momentum. Movement and momentum described what was happening in that cemetery just outside of Jerusalem. Transformation began when they started running. Running Produced Movement And That Movement Starting Producing Momentum.
Churches Are Dying Today. It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Direction. Everyone is pointed in some direction. It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Motion. Ever heard the phrase “Going through the motions”? It’s Because They Have Lost Movement And Without Movement There Is No Momentum. Remember the rocking chair. There is always motion—but no real movement or momentum.
There was a runner by the name of Saul of Tarsus, running as hard as anyone against Jesus. But God grabbed him on the Damascus Road, turned him around, and he kept right on running, this time as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles! Give me a church full of runners every time; even if like Saul, they are running in the wrong direction.
Because when you get runners going in the right direction, things happen! Communities change for the better. Families become stronger. People quit complaining and whining so much. People meet and follow the real Jesus. And The Very Foundations Of Hell Tremble And Shake In Fear! God Wants Runners!
We need to get the Word in our feet and start running! How? Well, the Nike commercial says it best: Just Do It! Don’t talk about it, plunge in with both feet. The problem with a lot of congregations is that they want a pastor to be successful for them—to do the praying, serving, witnessing and get more members. But this is not what God has called the pastor to do.
The pastor is one called out of the life of the church, trained and approved to help you, the lay people do your ministry. The pastor is not to be a busy body, his job is to get the body busy! Now, I can back this up with scripture, Eph. 4:11-12—“These were his gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the building up of the body of Christ!”
Who is the body of Christ? Those outside waiting to be saved? NO! You are! How do we become Runners rather than Sitters? Allow me to give you a few principles:
Begin By Being Still. We can’t be running in just any and every direction. We need focus. Being still before God gives us the direction to begin running. Think about Elijah in that cave at Mt. Horeb. He was running in the wrong direction. But when he stood still before God, and listened, he found that new direction—and that new direction created Movement And Momentum.
Don’t Question Or Think About The Direction, Just Run. Try to do a cost or risk analysis on the direction—and Satan will convince you it won’t work. Think about that day Jesus told the disciples to find something to feed that crowd. They found a boy’s small sack lunch. They should have been ready to run—but they did the cost/risk analysis and concluded it wasn’t enough. If Jesus sends you to do something, then He knows what’s out there and He knows it will be more than enough.
Build Upon Even Small Successes. Your running doesn’t have to produce things worthy of a page in Guide Posts. Think about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. After discussing buckets and wells, Jesus led her to thinking about the Messiah. In the world’s economy it was a small success. When He had her thinking about the Messiah He was able to get her thinking about herself. And when He got her thinking about herself and The Messiah, she went and told her whole village about Jesus.
Sustain Momentum. Keep on praying. Keep on studying The Word. Keep up the pace. Keep on living this Life In Grace. Don’t ever settle in one place of success. Think about those Disciples after Pentecost. About 3,000 people were saved. Hey, that’s a lot. Time to rest, right? Wrong! They kept it up—sharing life together in meals, Holy Communion, praying and growing in maturity.
And since you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:
Decide Right Now If You Are Going To Be A Sitter Or A Runner!
Years ago, someone gave me this poem, called “Sitting By The Fire” and it’s on the back of your sermon notes page:
Sitting By The Fire
He wasn’t much for moving about, it wasn’t his desire, No matter how hard the others work, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE! This went on from day to day, he never seemed to tire, when others were working so hard in the church, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE! He died one day as all must do, and some say he went up higher, but if he’s doing what he’s always done, HE IS SITTING BY THE FIRE
New Year’s offers for many the opportunity for more than a different life, but stirs in us the longing for a better life. The human heart is made for something that is better—and that something better is Contentment. So we make resolutions that we hope will make life better by improving the quality of our experiences. I thought it would be interesting to see what the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 are. I surfed the web and here is what I found:
Learn a new skill or hobby
Live life to the fullest
Save more money / spend less money
Spend more time with family and friends
Here’s what else I found: It was pretty much the same for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and you get the point. Now we can download apps that promise ways to help you keep your resolutions. And we would all agree that it’s easier to make resolutions than to keep them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could slip on a pair of shoes, take a supplement, join a gym and at the end of the year discover that we kept all our resolutions? I believe that New Year Resolutions are The Cry Of The Heart For Deep, Abiding Contentment. When it comes to the issue of contentment, there are 3 things about people and our culture that are true:
Most People are not content with their lives. In spite of all the promises of hope from the latest trends, advertisements and self-help gurus, most people realize that something is still missing in their life.
Most people feel powerless when it comes to developing lasting and significant change in their lives. According to a couple of surveys, only 40-45% of Americans even take the effort to make one or more New Year’s Resolutions. This is down from last century’s high mark of 80%.
Every human heart longs for contentment. Even among that 55-60% who make no Resolutions, and among those who say they have given up hope, The Longing Of The Heart For Contentment Never Goes Away.
But what if there was a way to bring that Deep, Abiding Contentment to your life? And what if there was a way that you could model contentment in a way that would inspire those closest to you to experience that same Sense Of Contentment in their life? Does that sound good to you? But wait! There’s more.
What if I could show you that to achieve this life that is more than different, more than better, but fills anyone with Contentment, can be achieved with One Resolution, would you be interested? Not 10, not 5, no, not 3 resolutions, there is only One Resolution that all of us need to make. Want to know what it is? Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-30
27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
According to Paul, the 1 Resolution is this: Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel! “Oh, is that all it is preacher? Why didn’t you tell me to paint the Golden Gate Bridge; or—Find the cure for cancer; or—Get every nation to sign a peace accord and end all wars; or—Put an end to world hunger; or—Get Democrats and Republicans to put the American citizen first and forget party politics? I could do that long before my life is worthy of the Gospel! Thanks for nothing!”
And if the Gospel was about what we could do and accomplish, then that’s the way we all ought to feel. We try to do our very best, but then we lose our temper, we lust, we envy, feel jealousy, say a dirty word, become greedy, act harshly, become resentful and are unforgiving. And we realize that is just not worthy of the Gospel. But The Gospel Is Not About What We Can Do.
The Gospel is all about what God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us because of His heart for us. It’s Not The “Gospel Of Our Best Efforts” But The Gospel Of God’s Best Effort For Us. It’s all about God’s Grace; it’s not left up to our best efforts to honor Christ. We Are To Honor Christ By Allowing Him To Live In And Through Us With The Power Of Resurrection! We often lock in on that word found in the KJV Conduct. But remember Paul didn’t write in English. He wrote in Greek and in Greek, the NLT gives us the best understanding of that word: Live As Citizens of Heaven.
This means we live according to God’s ways, plans and purposes that are rooted in His Grace. And at the heart of Grace is that we allow Him into our hearts and We Rely On His Strength Rather Than Our Own Strength. And Paul’s letter to the Philippians doesn’t end with that verse. For the rest of this letter, Paul shows us how to live a life worthy of the gospel by allowing Christ to live in us and through us! Contentment Is Found By Surrendering Moment By Moment To The Process Of Grace, And Not Giving Up On That Process, Especially When We Mess Up.
And this process is found in ONE: One Spirit, One Mind, One Purpose, One Goal, One Hope And One Secret. And this process is what we will begin looking at in this New Year. So, how can we live this Life Worthy Of The Gospel By Allowing Christ To Live In And Thru Us?
It comes by making 6 Conscious Choices every day. The Process Begins By Living In One Spirit. And here’s The1 Thing you need to remember from today’s message: Contentment Begins When We Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions Based On One Spirit.
Paul is not talking about the Holy Spirit here, but our spirit. What Is Your Spirit? The first response is to say, “That’s the part of me that lives on after death.” And it is, but I want you to go deeper. Think Of Your Spirit As That Part Of You That Makes You Think, Speak, Act, React And Helps In Your Decision Making Process. And this is the real problem. Without a deep and committed relationship to Christ, we live with A Divided Spirit. Living life with One Spirit does not happen automatically nor is it easily attained. Allow me to define for you what I mean by One Spirit: One Spirit means living each day with an Undivided Heart! So think of One Spirit as that heart that gives its loyalty to God.
And to help us live with One Spirit, God offers us transformation—A New Spirit—A New Way To Think, Speak, Act, React And Make Decisions. He offers to help us live with One Spirit that is worthy of the Gospel Of Grace through The Desire To Have That Undivided Spirit. Here is how to develop this One Spirit.
1. Have That Unbridled Desire For God’s Grace
Remember that this Process of One, this resolution to Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel does not depend on your abilities; just God’s grace! And is there anything better or more reliable that God’s Grace? Jesus uses 2 powerful human experiences to describe what it means to desire God’s grace: hungering and thirsting. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6—Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness, For They Will Be Filled.
It’s About An Unquenchable Appetite For God. It’s not about a Sam’s Club sample taste, or a small Hors d’oeuvre tray. It is about all that God offers. And trust that God will provide His grace. When you get up in the morning have that unquenchable appetite for God. When you go to bed at night have that unquenchable appetite for God. And every moment between getting up and going to sleep, have that unquenchable appetite for God.
2. Give Him Your Unrestrained Devotion
Use the word “Devotion” and many think about The Upper Room, Guideposts, Daily Bread or some other devotional material. Reading these devotional materials are great acts that we need to engage in daily. But that’s not Devotion. The Dictionary Defines Devotion As: Profound Dedication. It is moving your life in the direction of God. This movement in the direction of God is best described in Philippians 3:13-14—I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Whatever it is that you talk the most about, that is your greatest passion, and that is what you are giving your devotion to. Your Greatest Passion Reveals Your Devotion. If your greatest passion is football, then your devotion is to football. If your greatest passion is to be recognized and praised by others, then your devotion is to self. Devotion to God is choosing to focus on God’s presence. It means we look for and find God’s presence every day and everywhere. Make God your greatest passion.
3. Live With Total Determination
It’s easy to give up on dreams when life gets tight. It’s easy to turn around when life gets tough. Our world, your culture, is filled with those who would rather quit than fight on—surrender rather than overcome. To Live In One Spirit Requires Resolve And Determination Because It Is On The Other Side Of The Struggle And Conflict That We Understand What The Life In Grace Is All About.
It is by going through the tight, tough and difficult places that we really discover just how much God does for us. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10—We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Without Grace, without the Christ of the Cross, our own spirit becomes divided and it’s all because of the problem of sin. But Jesus has defeated the sin-problem for us by carrying our sins to the Cross. Contentment begins when we take our relationship with God seriously—By Making This Relationship The MOST Important Priority In Our Life. Jesus lived with One Spirit—to honor God by allowing God’s heart, the Father’s Presence to live in Him and through Him.
Remember: You Can’t Follow Jesus And Stay Where You Are. So here’s your Next Steps:
Do something to show your hunger for God’s Grace
Join a Bible study group, maybe 2 groups
Begin to read the Bible, just the Bible. Begin with Philippians
Get directly involved helping people know that God loves them
The Eternal Name—The Name for all generations to remember—The Name that God has chosen to reveal to us all is YAHWEH—I Am! His Name says that He exists as Himself. He isn’t shaped or twisted by our own ideas and conceptions. Whatever it is that we may think about HIM, doesn’t change who He really is. Whatever you say about God doesn’t change Him. Whatever you may believe about God, does not change the identity and nature of our God.
He is who HE says He is; not
necessarily who we think He is and not necessarily who others say He is. He exists as He truly is—
In Indescribable Glory,
Pure, Uncontaminated Beauty
And All This In Awesome And Breathtaking Majesty.
He has never been weaker nor stronger than He is right now in eternity, nor will He ever be. Think about the changes that have happened in the history of humanity. We have gone from walking everywhere to riding a horse to an automobile, to flying across the skies, even made the journey to the moon and back.
about all the changes that have happened just in your lifetime. Yet, God has never ever changed—not even a
fraction. He Is Constant And
Consistent To The Point We Really Cannot Describe All That He Is. This Is The Eternal Name For All Generations
As we have been looking through John’s Gospel, Jesus has been publicly using His Eternal Name. And it has caused a lot of discomfort and anger with the Pharisees because we are not supposed to say that name—even though God wants His Eternal Name remembered by all generations.
They felt like, “We can’t have this guy going around calling himself God. We’ve got to put a stop to it. We’ve tried to be reasonable. We’ve tried to show that He’s a phony, but many don’t believe us. We must put an end to Jesus!” So they begin to formulate their plans, but what they don’t understand is that God already has a plan. They want to wait until AFTER Passover, but God has ordained that this Passover is THE time for THE perfect sacrifice that will end all sacrifices. And now, it is time for THE Passover. Jesus has gathered His inner circle in that upper room. Everything is in place and they think it’s just another Passover. They know the ritual; after all, they grew up with it. But Jesus now changes everything. In public He had been using the Eternal Name, and now in a very private moment, He uses it once more. Let’s turn to John 14:1-7 (NLT)
let your hearts be troubled. Trust in
God, and trust also in me. There
is more than enough room in my Father’s home.
If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a
place for you? When
everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with
me where I am. And you know
the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am The Way, The Truth, And The Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
that Jesus said He is–The Great I Am—The Living Bread, The Light Of
The World, The Door, The Good Shepherd—is so true—truer than you may
even realize. But here, in a private and
intimate moment, Jesus reveals the Deepest Part Of The Heart Of God. He Doesn’t Say This In Public,
But Rather To Those Hearts That Are Longing For God’s Heart.
This leads me to The one thing you need to remember: You Do Not Follow Jesus In Order To Love Him. You Love Him In Order To Follow Him.
comes first—before the following. But—If
you follow Jesus in order to love Him, it becomes a list of rules and things to
do. This way becomes legalistic. And
after a while, you either love the rules more than you love Him; or you will
But…if you love Jesus first—it gives you the desire to follow Him. Here is how it works: You see His beauty and that Beauty pulls you in deeper. Then You Begin Seeking His Beauty, And His Heart So That You May Be Transformed BY His Beauty INTO His Beauty. In Other Words, You Follow Him!
In this very sacred moment, Jesus says something to every heart. For inside every heart is that deep, deep longing to be near to and close to God’s very heart. The heart knows what the heart needs but the problem is we don’t always listen to it. Many try to ignore it, but the longing is still there. Others try to fill it with everything else, but the heart is still empty. Jesus Knows What Their Hearts Long For, Thirst For, Hunger For—So He Reveals What Every Heart Around That Table Longs To Know. And it is true in your heart. Listen with your heart what Jesus is saying to it.
1. He Is The Way!
When Jesus said He is The Way He means He is the ONLY way to find release from the guilt and shame of our sin. And we have to get rid of all that sin because it’s standing in the way of us entering God’s heart and God entering our heart. He Is That Entrance Into Freedom From All That Holds Us Back, All That Puts Us In Bondage, And All That Chains Us To Fear And Condemnation. Jesus is the only entrance to God’s heart. Contrary to the view of many, there are not many ways to discover God.
There is only ONE way and that way is Jesus. And The Way is a Journey, and The Journey is first to fall in love with God. Not what He does. And not by falling in love with His ways. Falling in love with God—with HIM! Being captivated by His Glory—which is His love for you. Until you see HIS Glory—you cannot love Him the way He deserves to be love Once we are in love with HIM, then He is The Way that leads us into that Holy Journey with God. The Way means that God invites us into this Journey with Him.
It Is A Journey Filled With Adventure And Excitement Where God Uses Us To Reveal Jesus To Our World.
A Journey That Can Be Difficult At Times, Especially When Things Don’t Work Out
Like We Hoped, And Even When We Can’t See Where This Journey Will Lead Us.
It’s The Journey That Requires We Surrender Control To Him. It’s The Journey Where We Will Be Stretched
That Journey Where At Times The Only Thing We Can Hold On To Is God Himself. It May Even Be Frightening To Some.
But It’s Not A Journey We Make Alone. Jesus Is Right Here With Us Every Step Of The Way.
didn’t say “I am the pew.” But many
treat Jesus that way; confident and comfortable in the pew. But Jesus didn’t say that, He said, “I Am The
Way!” He invites us to travel this road
called Grace, and it’s a road that is meant to be a life time journey. Along the journey we will see, do and
experience so many things. The journey
at the end will be different than at the beginning. But one thing will remain throughout this
lifetime journey: Jesus walks every step
with us. It’s the journey with Jesus
where He leads us to wherever and whatever He wants for us.
2. He Is The Truth
Since it is The Journey that Jesus invites us into, we need some guideposts, road signs that help us keep us on the right path for The Journey. And here is what it looks like to call Jesus The Truth.
The Truth Is He Has Saved Us And Forgiven Us Completely And Not A Single Sin Brought Under His Blood Exists In His Heart Or Memory.
The Truth Is He Lives In Us To Empower Us.
The Truth Is He Gives Us A Holy Calling And Task That He Wants And Expects Us To Do.
The Truth Is He Holds Us Accountable To Share The Grace He Has So Extravagantly Given To Each Of Us.
Truth Is We Live Each Moment Of Each Day By And IN The Truth.
The Truth Is That People Are More Important Than Things—Jesus Did Things For People Even If It Violated The Way Things Had Always Been Because People Are More Important Than Things.
The Truth That We Must Grow In This Grace—Grow More Confident—Grow Wiser About The Truth—Applying The Truth In Real Life Situations.“What Would Jesus Do?” is more than a cute saying for shirts, bracelets and bumper stickers, it’s the way we live and respond to every situation life throws at us.
The Truth Is Persistent And Consistent For All Times, Places And People. It Doesn’t Change Or Fluctuate With The Times, Nor The Culture.
The Truth Is That Service And Sacrifice Are Part Of The Way. Service And Sacrifice Are What Truly Marks Us As Disciples Of Jesus And Members Of The Body Of Christ.
This Truth—Lived By Jesus Every Day He Walked This Earth As One Of Us—Is The Anchor For Every Age, Every Generation, And Every Moment Of Every Day We Walk This Earth.
Jesus As The Truth Is More Than A Creed Or Belief. It is the convictions that hold us, hold us closely when we need assurance of God’s love—and that challenges us to follow Jesus in The Way! The Truth Is That Jesus Is The Alpha And Omega, The First And The Last, The Beginning And The End. And whatever it is we do as believers in Christ, makes each day all about him and not anything about us!
Truth isn’t a weapon we use
against others. It’s the discipline that
reminds us that we are in love with God—and that God is in love with us.
3. He Is The Life!
The Life gives the journey meaning. It is The Life that should be the force
that makes our feet hit the floor every morning. Jesus is The Life that brings us to life with
a passion and excitement to be a part of what God is doing in our world.
people are waiting to die. They have
given up on the excitement and adventure of life. If Jesus is really in your heart, you don’t
have to wait to die to experience life, but you can start living, really living
with that sense of joy, purpose and anticipation of all that God wants to show
you every day. Jesus didn’t suffer and die
on that Cross for you to be sad and miserable; cranky and whiney; to grumble
His Life Is About Life That
Has An Eternal Meaning In The Here And Now. Jesus wants you to live and breathe, not
exist. And The Life is offered to you through
The Gift—the Gift of Perfect Love when Jesus went to the Cross to die for
you. But He didn’t just die for you—He
conquered death for you, too.
And the Resurrection Life isn’t just for that day when
the body dies. The Resurrection Life Is For Here
And Now. It begins with the Journey.
And the Journey begins with falling love with God. God is in love with YOU. Not with what you can do or ought to do. He is in love with YOU right now! Jesus is The Way into that love. Truth reminds us of this—that God is in love
with us. Truth isn’t a set of creeds—it
is more—Truth is a Person—Jesus Christ—And this makes Truth a Love
Relationship. This Is The Life!
is knowing we are loved by God—being in love with God—in the way that causes us
to be His Agents, Agents of Redemption for the world.
Are you simply waiting to die? Do you feel
that life has become too hard to do anything significant? Do you think it was easy for Jesus to forgive
the crowd while hanging on that cross?
Stop waiting to die—decide today to begin living.
What are you doing that is life-giving to others? Have you heard
of that TV series The Walking Dead? It’s
about the Zombie Apocalypse. Some call
it science fiction. It’s truer than you
may realize. The Walking Dead are all
around us. The thing is they don’t look
like those zombies on TV—they look like us.
But they are dead on the inside.
(This is the last of the series about the Hard Sayings of Jesus. Thanks for all the comments and likes!)
We do not have the time to get into all the Hard Sayings Of Jesus, so this will be our last in this series. I hope by now you have the tools and the courage to tackle on your own the hard, even harsh things Jesus had to say. Simply because we don’t like them or do not want to deal with them doesn’t mean we have the luxury of simply ignoring them. Frankly, I do not want to face Him on the day of judgment and have Him ask me why I chose to ignore them. So let’s get to today’s passage found in Matthew 10:5-15 (NIV)
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting.
13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
What exactly is Jesus saying here? There is a principle and a Truth that is guiding all the other messages we see and hear. And it is in Verses 14-15—If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 2 things about this image:
It was a sign of an unclean place. It’s what devout Jews would do if they ever had to go into a Gentile city or home.
It was a sign that you were finished with that person or place, and you were not responsible for their decisions and actions. It was a sign of letting them know that God’s judgment was now upon them—no more excuses.
It seems that Jesus is saying that when people reject Him and His Kingdom, His disciples are to shake the dust off their shoes and move on, and that Sodom and Gomorrah will do better at judgment than them. But Where is the Grace and Mercy and patience of God? Well, let’s apply the process of the 2 questions:
Is It Possible?
Jesus was in His hometown of Nazareth and in Mark 3:6 we read—“He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.” Obviously Jesus moved on. Now look at the second question:
Is It Consistent With The Principles And Message Of The Kingdom?
In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas go to Pisidian where the people began listening to them. But the religious leaders stirred up trouble and expelled them. And we read in Verse 51—So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.
So the answer to both questions is clearly yes. If you can remember only 1 thing from this message, this is it: Nothing Is More Important Than The Mission Of God’s Kingdom. I am not more important than The Mission. You are not more important than The Mission. Our families are not more important than The Mission. This nation and its politics are not more important than The Mission. Your wants and wishes are not more important than The Mission. The church is not more important than The Mission. Nothing Is More Important Than The Mission Of God’s Kingdom.
So, how do we apply this authoritative word? Does it mean that we go up to someone and ask them, “Do you want to be a Christian?” and if they say “No”, we forget about them and ask the next person and the next and the next? Absolutely not. Putting this hard saying of Jesus into the right context is the key to the application of His Truth. This is The Pattern for how The Kingdom works and moves: Jesus SENDS! Jesus sends the First 12 Disciples, and He continues to send His Disciples.
This isn’t an Apostolic Age thing. The word apostle means one who is sent. Everyone is sent somewhere for the sake of the Kingdom of God. It may not be to a pulpit or foreign country, but you are sent nonetheless. Jesus is sending Disciples. They aren’t apostles (lowercase a) until they are sent. And notice where He sends them: Not to the Gentiles, not to the Samaritans—but to those He calls “the lost sheep of Israel”. Why?
Because The Kingdom Of God Should Begin Here! Before we can take the Kingdom of God into the world, it must be firmly rooted in our hearts. God has a Mission for Real Disciples. Those who attended the Small Group Training learned that it’s wrong to say the church has a mission. Truth is that God’s Mission has a church. We call it Missio Dei—the sending of God. God’s mission needs a church that will embrace and follow His Mission. I see at least 3, let’s call them Kingdom Principles, that Jesus demands from us if we are going to be more than Christian in name, but in heart and life.
1] The Mission Needs To Be Focused.
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
God sends Disciples to the places that needs what only God provides. This passage, these words of Jesus, is where we need to focus. First focus on ourselves, then on others. Here’s where the focus needs to be rather than on all the external trimmings that we think give us our identity:
Heal the sick—the word “heal”, means to serve. The word “sick” means those who are weak, powerless, without the strength to change their life
Raise the dead—it means to wake up and cause people to stand in life, not the death that sin produces in us. The Walking Dead TV series isn’t original. There are the Walking Dead all around us. Not zombies, but broken and lifeless people.
Cleanse those with leprosy—that word leprosy includes the disease of leprosy but was also applied to a variety of skin diseases. Spiritually it’s about those who are carrying around external labels that crush and destroy the human heart.
Drive out demons—the devil is having a heyday and causing mayhem because the church has stopped fighting them and starting fighting people. The phrase here means with force and strength. This is the warfare that God calls us into.
Freely have you received, freely give—It’s about sharing the extravagant grace and mercy that God has shown you with others.
2] We Need To Give A Clear Message.
And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The church can be really good at sending mixed messages. For example: Jesus can set you free—but to be with us, there are certain ways you need to act and a certain way of doing things. Here’s another: God has an unlimited supply of grace for you—but don’t be surprised if my supply of grace is limited. Oh, this is a good one: Christ makes all things new—just like they were 40 years ago.
The Greek word for “at hand” is eggizō (en-gē’-zō). It means: to join one thing to another. The Message of the Kingdom is to connect people to the Kingdom of God! The gospel message is not difficult. The Message Is Clear:
Let’s be clear that brokenness persists in all of us. We are all broken somewhere. We are sinners in need of the Savior.
Let’s be clear that Only by faith in Jesus can we be forgiven and set free from sin’s dominion over us.
Let’s be clear that when we are forgiven we join in with what God is doing in the world.
Some people place the stained glass windows of tradition and liturgy in front of Christ and hide Him. Some are destroying the Good News of the Kingdom by replacing the authority of Scripture with the authority of how we feel and what WE want to believe. The apostles were to “go and preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ It’s about the Kingdom, not the local church. We are to keep the message of God clear—it’s all about Jesus and His Authority to rule us.
3] Do The Mission With Urgency.
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (vs. 14-15)
What I see missing in so many lives is The Passion for the Mission. Until we see and know how Urgent the Mission is, we will never have the Passion. Urgency Creates Passion. And that Passion motivates us to become apostles—people who are sent!
The Greek word for apostle is apostolos and it means a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders. It comes from the word apostellō—to order one to go to a place appointed. Real Christians Are Sent People.You Have Stopped Being A Sent People When You Become A Settled People. Me? I’m not going to be a settled person. I’m moving with God and with those moving with God and I’m shaking the dust off my shoes for those who have settled.
Without that sense of Urgency with Passion, then there is coming a time when those who are supposed to know—know the Truth and Live it in Urgency and with Passion—but have ignored and rejected The Kingdom—that God is going to shake the dust and judgement is going to be upon those people and churches. The judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah will not be as severe as those people and churches that reject God’s Kingdom for their own Kingdom.
Until you know how urgent the message and mission of the Kingdom is, you will never be a real Disciple of Jesus. People are hurting deeply all around us. Every day people are going into eternity without Jesus. Every day people are being deceived and believing the lies. Our work is urgent. Join in now before someone shakes the dust off the shoes towards you.