Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

surrender

Sent: Preaching & Anointing

Sent: Preaching & Anointing
Series—
Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 6:6-29

Series Big Idea:
The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

Big Idea: Following Jesus is radical and dangerous…but worth it!

Introduction

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. According to the Declaration of Independence, these are our unalienable Rights endowed to us by our Creator. Despite its countless flaws, I love the United States, but Thomas Jefferson’s words are not taken from the Bible. In fact, following Jesus may result in the loss of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…but it will be worth it.

Today we continue our look at Jesus from Mark’s biography of him. Last week we saw Jesus’ amazement at the lack of faith among those in his hometown of Nazareth. The text continues…

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. (Mark 6:6)

I want to pause and analyze Jesus’ leadership. Contrary to popular belief, leadership is more than a title or position. At its core, leadership is influence. We all have some influence on others. The best leaders do not merely have followers, but rather they develop leaders. Perhaps my favorite verse describing this comes to Timothy from his mentor Paul:

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Four generations are found in one verse: Paul, Timothy, reliable people who teach others.

Here’s Jesus’ model as outlined by Dave Ferguson in his book
Exponential:

1. I do. You watch. Jesus was teaching and healing and the disciples observed.

2. I do. You help. At some point Jesus told them he had a purpose for them beyond companionship. He wanted them involved, helping.

3. You do. I help. We talk.
This is the point of action. The baton is being passed; not thrown, but passed. Debriefing is important, too. Feedback can be so valuable, especially when we are doing something new.

4. You do. I watch. We talk.
Not the leader does not assist except to coach afterward.

5. You do. Someone else watched.
Now the student becomes the teacher, the apprentice is the leader. Things have come full circle.

This process works if you are teaching your kids how to load the dishwasher, training your apprentice small group leader, or equipping a new employee at the office.

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus who is preparing his twelve disciples to transform the world…without cable tv, Twitter, or even the newspaper.

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. (Mark 6:7)

It sounds like Noah’s ark, doesn’t it, two by two? It’s not good for man to be alone, God said after creating Adam. There’s strength in numbers. A partner helps protect against the dangers of temptation and attack. Who does two by two well? The Mormans and JW’s! They have it mastered, undoubtedly drawing their inspiration for this verse. If only the entire Bible was followed as carefully by them. Notice Jesus gave them authority. He equipped them. He didn’t shove them out the door and say, “Good luck!”

These were his instructions:
“Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. (Mark 6:8-9)

They are to travel light. They can’t even run to the ATM and get some cash! He wants them focused on the mission and dependent upon God for daily bread. Personal comforts are not a priority for Jesus. Now this is not meant to be a universal plan for missions work. Today we raise money to provide for ministries around the world, but this particular mission was dependent upon the hospitality of others.

Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.
(Mark 6:10)

I want to suggest perhaps Jesus is saying, “Get to know the people. Build relationships. Don’t rush off. Preach repentance. Drive out demons. Heal the sick. You’ve seen me do it. Now it’s your turn.”

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
(Mark 6:11)

This is an odd instruction in our culture, but he’s saying if they ignore you, let them know the consequences. Let them know judgment would eventually fall on them…they’ve been warned. The disciples were commissioned to preach repentance, to urge people to turn from their selfish desires and follow God. Repent means to turn, to do a 180. Not everyone is eager stop what they’re doing and surrender to Jesus. This is obviously just as true today. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but to make dead people come alive…but first they must die…to themselves. This is where I struggle with Thomas Jefferson. I’m not against life, liberty or happiness—nor is God—but those are not God’s highest values for us. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, submit to Jesus as LORD, and pick up our cross and follow him. It is not always easy, fun, or comfortable.

I get worried when I see Christianity sold to USAmericans as just another self-help alternative. Pray this prayer and God will make you happy. Have enough faith and you’ll be rich. The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will. UGH! What garbage!

Jesus gave up everything—including his own life—and he asks us to do the same…because it will be worth it in the end. He doesn’t promise is safety and comfort and pleasure now. We have work to do. We are in the middle of a war…between good and evil. So many so-called Christians are lounging by the pool unaware there’s a battle on the other side of the gate. Look around, friends.

Heroin. Sex trafficking. Racism. Hunger. Homelessness. Violence. Hatred. Injustice.

Jesus didn’t come and die so we could sit in comfy seats for an hour a week with our nice leather-bound Bibles and fancy clothes…and I’m not against any of those things. But following Jesus must take precedent over life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Kingdoms collide.

One final thought on this verse: we are not to coerce, threaten, entice, or pressure people to follow Jesus. The command for the twelve was to preach repentance, to invite people to turn from their pleasure to seek God’s kingdom. And if they don’t listen, move on.

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (Mark 6:12-13)

They did it. They obeyed Jesus. The miracles authenticated their message. I wish I had a recording of their conversation with Jesus afterward. The stories must’ve been amazing! God obviously provided despite their lack of provisions. Ministry was accomplished. Lives were changed. The twelve began to get a glimpse of what it truly meant to proclaim truth and follow God.

And then Mark inserts a bizarre flashback, a story that reminds us the risks of obeying God.

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” (Mark 6:14)

Herod hears rumors about Jesus and begins to think perhaps John the Baptist was back, resurrected.

Others said, “He is Elijah.” 

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” (Mark 6:15-16)

Remember, the central question in our series is, “Who is Jesus?” Herod thinks the only one who can preach with authority and heal is John, whom he beheaded! He killed John but has enough faith to believe in the resurrection, even though John was still dead! Yet he does nothing to pursue Jesus.

For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. (Mark 6:17-20)

Herod liked John the Baptist even though John spoke out against the king’s marriage. He married Herodias, his niece, who is already the wife of his half brother, according to scholars. It’s rather confusing because Herod was a family name, not one man’s name. This was not Herod the Great. This was his son, Herod Antipas. He was banished to southern France by AD 39 and his kingdom was given to Herodias’ brother Agrippa. Mark calling him “King” Herod was ironic and sly.

Let me be radical and politically incorrect and say despite what some say, our culture does not believe any two people in love should be able to marry. What if one is a minor? What if one is a relative (eww!)? What about polygamy? Then again, it may just be a matter of time.

Herodias hates John because he criticized her marriage, likely a plot of hers to gain power by marrying Herod.

Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. (Mark 6:21-22a)

This was not some Chuck E. Cheese birthday party. Jews saw birthdays as pagan celebrations, and this occasion was filled with paganism: dancing girls at a stag party, a drunken king, …you get the idea. Most likely the amoral Herodias sent her teen daughter to perform erotically for her uncle and these other powerful men.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” (Mark 6:22b-23)

This must’ve been quite a dance! Herod actually can’t give half of the kingdom away because he’s merely a puppet of Rome. Jesus, however, gives his disciples the power of the kingdom of God which brings healing and salvation.

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” 

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered. (Mark 6:24)

At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” (Mark 6:25)

I’ve played that genie game many times, the one where you ask, “If you could have three wishes, what would they be?” I’ve never heard someone mention a person’s head on a platter!

The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:26-29)

What an incredible story.

So What?

What do we do with it? Be careful what you ask for!

It might seem odd, but look what Mark says next.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. (Mark 6:30)

This is the only time Mark calls the twelve “apostles.” They are sent ones who have completed a commission. It seems like Mark is connecting the dots between John, Jesus, and the disciples. Their mission to preach repentance is the same. Their fate as martyrs is the same. They are hated like the prophets of old. David Garland notes that “what happened to John the Baptizer presages what will also happen to any who preach the same message of repentance in a hostile world. They too will be handed over. They too will have to stand before kings. While Jesus’ ministry began after John’s imprisonment, the disciples’ preaching begins after John’s death.”

Paradoxically, this is how the kingdom of God has grown for thousands of years. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Kierkegaard stated, “The tyrant dies and his rule ends, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” Mark shows us a cowardly man, Herod, with wealth and no character. He also shows us brave men with character and no wealth. One enjoys life now, the others for eternity.

A choice must be made. Following Jesus is risky business. Sure, we’re blessed with tremendous freedoms in this nation today, but tomorrow offers us no such guarantees. One report I read this past week said a Christian was killed every six minutes last year for their faith. Over 90,000 of our brothers and sisters, slaughtered for following Jesus. That doesn’t include those arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.

It’s a radical thought, but might God be preparing you for a life of suffering, of radical living, of dangerous adventure for the sake of eternity? Jesus never promised us a successful career, good health, or a stocked 401k. He never said obedience would result in popularity, comfort and pleasure. Jesus taught and modeled the denial of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the glory of God, for the kingdom of God.

Credits: some ideas from Stephen Leston, Mark Strauss, Ian Fair, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Scott Pinzon, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Invitation: Repent & Believe, 14 May 2017

Invitation: Repent & Believe
Series—
Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 1:14-20

Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

Big Idea: Jesus invites us to repent, believe, and follow Him.

Invitation

What’s the greatest invitation you’ve ever received?


    It’s usually nice to receive an invitation, though some are better than others. My Facebook account is often filled with invitations from people I barely know for events I know next to nothing about. Contrast that with an elegant, “snail-mail” wedding invitation. Yes, some people still use paper!

    Often we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into when we accept an invitation. Agreeing to stand up in that wedding means I have to shell out a hundred bucks for a tuxedo rental? Joining that board requires ten hours a week of volunteer team outside of the monthly meetings? Taking the job involves several weeks a year of travel? Marrying that person means…?!?!?!

    We’re in the middle of a series from the gospel or “good news” of Mark in our pursuit of knowing “The Real Jesus.” In the first verse of the book we see Jesus introduced as the Messiah and Son of God. Then we examined John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin who prepared the way for His arrival. Last week we discussed Jesus’ preparation for public ministry through baptism and temptation. Today we look at an invitation from Jesus, an invitation He is still making to us thousands of years later.

    After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. (Mark 1:14)

    Mark is our “headline” gospel. He gets right to the point. John’s in prison. Jesus is in Galilee.

    Why was John put in prison? See John 1:19-4:54.

    What is the good news of God? It’s the gospel. What’s the gospel? In a word, Jesus. In three words, Jesus is LORD.

    The gospel is not you’re bad, Jesus is good, He died, pray a prayer, and go to heaven when you die. That might be a part of the gospel, but the gospel is so much more than life after death.

    It’s about life before death.
    It’s about faith, hope and love.
    It’s about loving God and neighbor.
    It’s about knowing and being known by your Creator.
    It’s about being a part of an eternal family.
    It’s about coming home.

    Can I preach for just a moment?

    There are too many people loved by God that don’t know it because they aren’t being loved by us.

    “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

    This verse summarizes the teaching of Jesus. God’s kingdom is near. What is the kingdom of God? This was the focus of Jesus’ proclamation. It wasn’t about dying and going to heaven, it was about heaven coming down to earth, heaven kissing earth, God’s kingdom coming near. First-century Jews would have understood the kingdom of God to mean “the day of the Lord.”

    To enter the kingdom, we must repent and believe. This is easier said than done. It means laying down our lives and picking up the cross.

    Repent is from the Greek metanoia. Like metamorphisis, it means to change…one’s mind. Repent is not about condemnation or shame, just a change of mind and heart that results in a change of behavior and lifestyle. All of our actions begin in our mind. Repent means to change, to do a 180. It’s not optional for followers of Jesus. We are to turn from our selfish, sinful ways and turn to God’s generous, perfect ways.

    Repentance does not mean we change. It simply means to change one’s mind. Then the fun begins!

    Jesus said repent and believe.

    The most famous verse in the Bible is…John 3:16. It says

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

    The Greek word for believe is “pisteuo.” The English translation, believe, frustrates me because many “believe” if they agree with the historical notion Jesus died and rose again they are, therefore, going to heaven when they die and can continue in their sinful, God-dishonoring ways. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Believe is a verb. The noun form means faith. Believe means to commit or to trust. That’s action. In this context it means to trust in Jesus, to commit to the charge of Jesus. It means to surrender and follow Jesus. Here’s how one writer put it:

    It is the act whereby a person lays hold of God's resources, becomes obedient to what He has prescribed and putting aside all self interest and self-reliance, trusts Him completely. It is an unqualified surrender of the whole of one's being in dependence upon Him. It is wholly trusting and relying upon Him for all things. It is not just mental assent to the facts and realities of truth, it must come from a deep inner conviction.

    Believing that there is a God is no big deal. Even the demons believe that, we’re told in James 2:19!

    This kind of belief is trust. Surrender. Dying to yourself and becoming a new creation, resurrected with Jesus. This is the image of baptism we’ll all witness shortly.

    “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

    Repent and believe.
    Turn and follow.

    This is how we change to become like Jesus.
    This is how we grow in our faith.
    This is discipleship.

    People have wrongly said repentance is about changing your outer behavior and belief is something that is inward and private. Jesus says to transform the inside first and then the outside follows.

    I want to introduce you to the Learning Circle, one of the most valuable tools I’ve encountered in following Jesus.

    LifeShape: circle video, https://vimeo.com/101761387

    “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

    The Learning Circle is based upon this verse. We can’t change alone. We need others to help us observe, reflect, and act as we repent. We need others to help us plan, account, and act in order to truly become like Jesus.

    The Learning Circle shows us:

    •what it means to live a lifestyle of learning as a disciple of Christ;
    •how to recognize important events as opportunities for growth; and
    •how to process these events.

    The Learning Circle—which is just a tool you can use with others—is based on two questions:

    What is God saying to me?
    (This will help change the inner parts of me)
    What am I going to do about it? (The inner change has to produce an action)

    Now we turn to two sets of brothers who chose to repent and believe.

    As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 
    “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18)

    The gospel of John tells us this is not their first encounter with Jesus. Notice He didn’t say join a cult or help Him start a religion. He offered an invitation of relationship. They responded. He didn’t say, “Follow God.” He said, “Follow me,” which was the same thing.

    These brothers are fishermen. They were not religious scholars, gifted speakers, or special leaders. They were ordinary people like you and me. They may have been to poor to afford a boat, casting their nets from shore. Jesus does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called. His invitation is simple: follow Me.

    When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.  (Mark 1:19-20)

    Simon and Andrew were fishing brothers. James and John were, too.

    They left their nets. They left their boat. They even left their father to follow Jesus.

    What do you need to leave behind to follow Jesus? What will it cost you?

    Following Jesus…

    It’s more than a prayer you pray.
    It’s more than knowledge you believe.
    It’s more than sin you avoid.
    It requires trust and action.

    What is God saying to you?
    What are you going to do about it?

    Credits: some ideas from Mike Breen, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, and David Garland.

    • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Innkeeper, 11 December 2016

    Innkeeper
    Series: First Christmas
    Matthew 1:18-25

    Series Big Idea:
    Most know the Christmas story, but what did the individual characters experience?

    Big Idea: Advent is about making room for Jesus.

    Introduction

    You always make room…especially when it comes to God. Or do you? Do you?

    Today we’re talking about space. I don’t mean Mars and Jupiter. I mean room, capacity. It’s been said no matter how much space you have, you always fill it.

    This is true of memory on your cell phone or computer.
    It’s true of your closet.
    It’s true of your garage.
    It’s true of your calendar.
    It’s true of your heart.

    My name is Kirk and during this season of Advent—this season of waiting—we are looking at the First Christmas through the eyes of various characters in the story. We’ve looked at the Wise Men and Elizabeth. Today we turn to the Innkeeper.

    Before we discuss the innkeeper, we need to set a few things straight. Our understanding of Christmas has been plagued by many myths.

    For example, we noted two weeks ago how we don’t know how many magi visited Jesus. Maybe three. Maybe twelve. We have no idea. The Bible never says anything about them being kings. Even though they came with our nativity scene, they likely arrived on the scene a year or two after Jesus was born.

    Now about the inn. As a kid watching Christmas pageants I was led to believe Mary and Joseph journeyed on a donkey to an ancient version of a Holiday Inn, all of the rooms were booked, and they hung out in a nearby barn filled with hay, animals, and a wooden manger where Jesus laid comfortably…no crying he made (“Away in a Manger”).

    Actually, there was no space (room) in the "upper room" of a private house because other family members had arrived there first. This was not a motel or public dwelling. Look at the text of Luke chapter two:

    So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. (Luke 2:4)

    You may recall Caesar Augustus called for a census. In our nation, we have a census every ten years, a form every citizen is required to complete in order to know about the people in our country.

    Two thousand years ago they didn’t have the Internet, FedEx, or even the Post Office to deliver mail, so people had to travel to their own register. Joseph’s ancestral home was Bethlehem. He was a descendant of King David, and David was born in Bethlehem.

    He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.  (Luke 2:5-7)

    In case you were wondering, the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 70 miles as the crow flies. Of course Mary and Joseph were not crows, so they probably walked more than 90 miles—likely four or five days on foot. Maybe they had a donkey…maybe not. There’s no donkey mentioned in the biblical account.

    What’s the longest you’ve ever walked in a day? How many steps, FitBit owners?!

    Moms, can you imagine walking to The Palace of Auburn Hills, north of Detroit…nine months pregnant?

    One of the challenges with the Christmas story is it’s too familiar. We’ve sanitized its harsh realities into cute figurines we put near the fireplace or kids dressed in bathrobes performing Christmas pageants.

    The “holy night when Christ was born” was not the only night of the journey. It simply represented what was likely their first night in Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthday. What did they do the other days?

    Good Jews were expected to offer hospitality to travelers. It was common for people to have a guest room in their home for such occasions. Animals would live on the ground level and people would live upstairs. Perhaps Joseph and Mary camped during their journey. They may have traveled with others in a group for safety from lions, bears, or bandits. This was not an uncommon journey. In fact, later in Luke chapter two we are told


    Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. (Luke 2:41)

    But let’s return to our text.

    While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.  (Luke 2:6-7)

    She gave birth to her firstborn. There would be other children.

    There was no guest room available for them. Most ancient Jewish homes had a common area on the main level, including a manger where animals ate and slept at night, and an upper room where everyone slept. The upstairs was full. It’s possible there was a separate barn, but this would often be attached to the house directly. They were unable to find private quarters for the birth since no guest room was available in a home. Tradition says Jesus was actually born not in a barn, but rather in a cave nearby.

    Here’s a photo of the traditional place in Bethlehem where Jesus may have been born. Heather took this last month when she was in Israel. It hardly looks like our nativity set!

    We assume there was an innkeeper…more accurately a homeowner—likely a relative— who had no room in his guest room for Joseph and Mary. At least they found shelter in a cave.

    Sometimes the innkeeper gets a bad rap, but imagine you have a packed house and a friend calls last-minute and asks to crash on your couch. What do you do? If there’s no room, maybe you tell them they can set up your camping tent in the backyard!

    Then again, if you knew how significant these travelers were, you would’ve done anything for them! Hindsight is 20/20, right?

    If I had known the iPhone would change the world, I would’ve bought Apple stocks when everyone was saying they were headed toward bankruptcy.

    If I had known he was really that drunk I would have taken his keys.

    If I had known those jalapenos were that hot, I wouldn’t have ordered that burrito!

    If I had known she was carrying the Christ child, I would have given them my own bed.

    Instead, Joseph and Mary slept on the ground floor with the animals, under the sleeping quarters of their relatives, under the upper room. The Greek word here (
    kataluma) is the same as the place where Jesus celebrated Passover and had his Last Supper with his disciples before he was crucified.

    So why do we think there was a stable, a barn, or even a cave? The only hint of such a thing is that Jesus was born in a
    manger, a food trough for animals. We often depict mangers as wooden beds with hay, but ancient mangers were probably made with something like concrete. In my research, I discovered,

    “Guest rooms were typically in the front of houses and the animal shelters were in the back of the house or the lower level (in a cave). In the family shelter, the family animals were fed and protected at night from the cold, thieves, and predators. So Joseph and Mary were lodged on the lower level or in the back of the house—the animal shelter. Most likely, the animals were removed while the couple lodged there. (There is no mention of animals in Luke’s or Matthew’s account. St. Francis is credited with building the first manger scene complete with live animals.)”

    So What?

    Advent is about making room for Jesus.

    Did Joseph’s relative make room in his house for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. No. Space was made below in the area animals would typically spend the night. They received the leftovers rather than the finest hospitality.

    What about you? Are you making room for Jesus?
    Some people ignore God 167 hours a week and think an hour on Sunday will be sufficient.

    Some people spend all of their money—and then some—on stuff for themselves and feel good if they drop a ten or twenty in the offering plate.

    Some people like the parts of the Bible which talk about blessings and rewards but make no room for the challenging teachings of surrender and sacrifice.

    Some people are fans of Jesus, but they’re not truly followers.

    Let me get very practical. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We often call church buildings “houses of God,” but really we are the houses, the places where God dwells. Have you allowed God into all of your house?

    What about the study or library of your house? That’s where you think. Do your thoughts bring glory to God?

    The living room is where we hang out with friends. Is there room in your relationships for God, or do you keep Him out of your friendships?

    The dining room is where we feed our desires. Is there room for God in the things you consume?

    The bedroom is where intimacy is experienced. Have you surrendered your sexuality to God or is he locked out?

    The rec room is where we watch movies, listen to music, read books, and play games. Have you made room for God in your hobbies and entertainment?

    The attic is where we hide things, things we don’t want others to see, things we hoard and can’t get rid of like bitterness and envy. God would love for you to let Him there.

    The workroom is where…we work! God wants you to make room for Him on your commute, in the cubicle, at school, at the job site.

    Conclusion

    I’m glad you made room for Jesus this morning. I really am. There are many things you could be doing now besides listening to God’s Word. The innkeeper—if there was such a person—Joseph’s relative made a little room for Jesus’ family, but it certainly wasn’t his best. They got the scraps, the leftovers.

    God’s glad you gave Him this hour, but He wants all of you. It’s only fair. He gave His very best for us—His only Son, Jesus. Jesus made room in his life for us. He stepped away from heaven and came down to live with us, to be God with us, Emmanuel.

    You always make room…especially when it comes to God. Where do you need to make room? Where do you need to surrender?

    I Surrender All

    • Credits
    Some ideas from SkitGuys.com.

    • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Jesus our Sanctifier, The Gospel Truth, 15 March 2015

    Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

    Big Idea: Jesus is our Sanctifier, making us increasingly holy like Himself.

    Introduction

    This week we continue our series
    The Gospel Truth. We began last week looking at Jesus as Savior. Today we continue our look at the Fourfold Gospel examining Jesus as Sanctifier.

    It’s not uncommon for song lyrics and passages of scripture to contain unusual words. Sanctifier is one of those Christianese words that few outside of the faith understand…and few inside the faith understand! When we say Jesus is our Sanctifier we are expressing that He makes us like Himself. A year ago we said that followers of Jesus are “in Christ.” What can be said of Jesus can be said of us in the eyes of our heavenly Father, not because we are God or perfect like Christ, but because we essentially wear Jesus’ uniform. His blood purifies our sins and we can stand before a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, not because of what we’ve done but because Jesus is our Savior which we studied last week.

    Sanctification then is that God wants to make us in reality what we’ve already been declared to be in Christ. In other words, following Jesus is more than praying a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart so you’ll go to heaven when you die. Following Jesus is just that—following Him. Jesus is perfect. We are to be perfect. Jesus is holy. We are to be holy. Jesus has power and authority. We are to have power and authority.

    To be sanctified is to be holy, set apart. In one sense it occurs when we surrender our lives to God, yet it is a progressive process in which we become increasingly like Him—separated from sin and evil.

    Right about now you may be asking, “Why don’t I look like Jesus?” or “How is it possible for me to be like Christ?” That’s our topic today: sanctification, becoming holy and set apart like Jesus.

    Fruit

    What is your favorite food? Although my favorite dessert is ice cream, my favorite food is fruit. I love fruit! I’m not sure if it’s because most fruits are sweet or colorful or uniquely shaped or the texture but I love fruit. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a fruit I didn’t enjoy…unless it was bad fruit!

    Where does fruit come from? Meijer! Believe it or not, it does not just appear in the produce section!

    The Bible is filled with organic metaphors. God created our world, so it should come as no surprise He would use physical things to help us understand spiritual realities.

    Gardening is a powerful way to understand life. I’m an expert gardener…in growing weeds! I admire people who understand soil and plants and who can grow things
    other than weeds!

    Last week I listened to a brilliant podcast interview with Christine Sine in which she described the numerous parallels between the cultivation of her garden and the cultivation of her soul. Producing beautiful fruit requires preparation of the soil, generous fertilizer and water, enough sunlight, protection from hungry creatures, and the eradication of weeds that can choke the plants.

    Likewise if we want our lives to bear fruit we must confess our sins, flee temptation, fill our minds with the Word of God, feed upon Jesus, the Bread of Life, receive support from godly brothers and sisters, and pursue a deeper relationship with God and others. Jesus said it plainly in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John.

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4)

    How do we become like Jesus? We know Him.
    How do we know Jesus? We spend time with Him.
    How do we spend time with Jesus? We pray. We study the Bible. We spend time with people who know Jesus.

    They say many old couples look alike after years of marriage. They can finish each other’s sentences. They know what the other is thinking. That’s what happens when two people do life together, spend time with one another, know each other, and grow together. That’s what happens when we do life with Jesus—we begin to resemble Him!

    It takes time. It requires intentionality. It involves effort.

    When I placed a wedding ring on my bride’s finger nearly 25 years ago that wasn’t the end of our relationship. It was a tremendously significant moment, yet it was just the beginning. More than two decades later we’ve both invested in our relationship, and it has produced fruit (including three amazing children!). I didn’t just say vows and then tell her, “Have a nice life!” Over the years I have grown to be like her, and she has grown to be like me. We are both works in process, becoming like one another, but most of all both seeking to be like Jesus.

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

    It’s great to ask What Would Jesus Do? It’s far better to know Jesus so intimately and be so filled with the Holy Spirit that you don’t stop and ask—you instinctively do it! It’s natural. That’s sanctification. Jesus is our Sanctifier means He wants us to become like Him. He wants us to become Christians—little Christs. He wants us to love Him and love others, re-presenting Him to our desperate world.

    Are you connected to the vine? Do know know what God is saying to you? Are you obediently following Him?

    If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:6-8)

    If you know anything at all about plants, you know every branch must be connected to the trunk which must be connected to the roots. Any disconnect will result in poor or no fruit.

    When I was a kid I remember enjoying a pretty substantial tree in our front yard. One day I had the brilliant idea of taking a hatchet and carving my name into the tree. When my parents realized what I had done, they weren’t very pleased! Fortunately I did no permanent damage to the tree, but I could’ve killed it!

    Like many of you, I witnessed first-hand the destruction of trees by a very small bug known as the emerald ash borer. The nasty beetle from Asia was first formally identified in Canton, Michigan in 2002, believed to be introduced by overseas shipping materials. They attack ash trees through larval feeding that disrupts the flow of nutrients and water. This small bug is responsible for the destruction of literally tens of millions of ash trees and threatens to kill most of the 8.7 billion ash trees throughout North America.

    What a perfect metaphor for sin! Small, unsuspected sins invade our life, slowly disconnecting us from our source of life, Jesus. Sure, robbing a bank or killing your neighbor will damage your relationship with God—and keep you away from others as you sit in prison—but most often it’s small temptations that cause us to drift from our nourishment. We get too busy to pray, too busy to study the Bible, too busy to attend worship and Life Groups, too busy to share Jesus with others. We get greedy, buying things we don’t need until we can no longer be generous and serve those in desperate need. We compromise in small things like taxes, speed limits, truth-telling, and pride until we are able to rationalize the most blatant of sins.

    A Healthy Tree

    The first words of the Psalms paint an entirely different picture.

    Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

    That’s what I want my life to depict!

    What kind of fruit are you bearing? It could be no fruit, the result of disconnect from Jesus. It could be bad fruit such as

    sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:21-22)

    Or it could be the fruit of the Spirit:

    love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

    If we abide in Jesus, if we devote ourselves to Him, we will bear much, good fruit.

    The Alliance website says it like this:

    Many Christians understand God’s promise of salvation but do not experience the ongoing sanctifying work of Jesus Christ in their lives. For those who neither understand nor allow the Holy Spirit's control in their lives, the results have a profound effect.

    Unsuccessful struggle against sin and a lack of power in life and ministry frustrate those who have asked Jesus to be their Savior but not their Sanctifier, resulting in a lack of joy in their walk with Christ. At the point when we are born again, we become members of God’s family. We believe He paid the price for our sin and that his followers are—set apart from those are not born again—and are seen as holy because of what Christ has done.

    The Bible is filled with biological metaphors. We are a family—brothers and sisters. We are dead in our sins and resurrected with Christ as beautifully illustrated through baptism. In the book of Romans we read these powerful words:

    In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

    Some mistakenly think Christianity is a morality-based religion in which we are supposed to do good and be good. They see Jesus as someone who makes bad people good. Friends, the reality is Jesus came to make dead people come alive! Following Jesus is not merely an exercise in doing the right things. It is a vibrant, joy-filled journey in which possess—and are possessed by—the Holy Spirit. How?

    1. We thirst. We desire God, or at least want to want God.
    2. We ask. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you. Daily. Maybe hourly!
    3. We surrender. In essence, let go and let God. This means letting go of your time, talents and treasures. It means placing everything on the altar. Open your hands!
    4. Abide. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. There are no shortcuts.

    Semi-circle

    Most of us live busy lives. God created us to work, but also to rest. Most people work hard during the week and crash on the weekend. We are designed to work from a place of rest, not rest from work.

    Semi-circle copy

    The semi-circle depicts a pendulum moving from rest to work and back. There are daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms of rest and work. When Jesus speaks in John 15 of remaining or abiding, He’s speaking of resting in Him. We need times of rest and recreation with Jesus and our our families. If we ignore Sabbath and rest with God, we will eventually crash. If we allow Him to prune us and renew us as we abide with Him during times of rest, we will bear much fruit when we work.

    Are you abiding in Christ? Are you resting with Him? Are you spending quality time with Jesus, letting Him invite you into a deeper life of intimacy and faith while challenging you to greater levels of obedience and trust?

    When we talk about Jesus as fully God yet fully man, it’s easy to think since Jesus was God He was never really tempted. Sure, Hebrews 4:15 says He was tempted in every way like us, but didn’t He brush it away like a mosquito and then do all of His magic tricks, healing the sick and opening the eyes of the blind and raising the dead?

    Jesus said no to temptation and did supernatural works because He was filled with the Holy Spirit…the same Holy Spirit available to you and me. If we abide with Jesus, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will change. We will grow. We will bear fruit. We will look increasingly like Jesus.

    Paul wrote these words to the Church in Corinth:

    Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

    That’s remarkable!

    Conclusion

    Dallas Willard famously referred to those seeking salvation apart from sanctification and lordship as “vampire Christians” who only want a little blood but have no interest in following Jesus now. It’s one thing for Jesus to be our Savior and another to be truly LORD.

    A few weeks ago we said one of our family rules is the Make Disciples. Disciples are students or imitators of their discipler. We are to be students and followers and imitators of Jesus.

    It’s a life-long process, but if we hunger after God, if we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, if we confess our sins and surrender our will, and if we abide, He will make us new. He will transform us into new creations like Jesus. He is able to take whatever mess we offer Him and make it beautiful. That’s our Sanctifier!

    Credits

    Some material taken from
    The Fourfold Gospel, a C&MA/DNA publication.

    Semi-circle LifeShape from Mike Breen and 3DMovements.com.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Kingdom: Joseph, 14 September 2014

    Big Idea: God challenges us to represent Him in His Kingdom as we make Him LORD and King.

    Introduction

    Last week we said the Bible is a big book. It’s actually a library of 66 books. We usually study it verse-by-verse, like looking through a microscope. This series will look at it through a telescope, examining the big idea of the Bible.

    Our new series this fall is called Covenant & Kingdom. It is based upon ideas from Mike Breen and 3DMovements, a ministry that has been quite influential in the life of Scio in recent days. The book, Covenant & Kingdom, is available through Amazon or from 3DMovements.com. I encourage you to get a copy and read ahead as we look at the big picture of the Bible.

    Covenant and Kingdom are woven throughout the Scriptures like a double helix is woven in DNA.

    Covenant is a sacred treaty in which two parties become one. In ancient times, this always involved the shedding of blood by an animal to to imply consequences for failure to fulfill the agreement.

    God made a covenant with Abram, promising blessings to him and his offspring in order for them to bless the world.

    Covenant is about relationship. Being.

    Kingdom is about responsibility. Doing.

    Life is filled with tension between being and doing, relationship and responsibility, being invited into relationship with God while also being challenged to represent Him and bless the world.

    Invitation and challenge.

    As we look at this idea of challenge, of kingdom, of doing God’s work in the world we are going to look at one of the most important characters in the Bible—Joseph.

    Pray

    Abraham has a son named Isaac who has a son named Jacob who has twelve sons, the eleventh being his favorite son, Joseph.

    The story of Joseph begins in
    Genesis 37

    Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. (Genesis 37:2b)

    Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. (Genesis 37:3-4)

    Do you have siblings? Do you have sibling rivalry? Imagine your younger sibling was given three desserts at dinner, triple allowance, and the new iPhone the day it is released? To your parents you would probable say, “It’s not…fair!” You would likely become envious of your sib and despise them.

    Joseph had eleven brothers who were sick of him. He was a gifted, handsome, arrogant teenager who believed he was the center of the universe. That alone is recipe for disaster! Then his dad gives him a special coat with long sleeves, a sign of the supervisor’s role!

    Next Joseph has two dreams (37:5-10), one in which the grain of his brothers bowed to his, the other in which the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed to him. Joseph is not only the center of his universe, his dreams confirm it!

    Jacob sends Joseph to his brothers who are grazing the flocks. They plot to kill him, but Reuben insists they throw him into a cistern instead. The brothers strip him of his robe, throw him into the empty well, and sold him to Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt where he was sold to “Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard” (37:36).

    The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. (39:2)

    His life had gone from wonderful to dreadful and now things are looking up. It says two things: the LORD was with Joseph and he prospered. What changed? Perhaps Joseph was broken by his rejection by his brothers. He almost certainly cried out to God for help. I’m sure he was a bit confused by his fortunes when he goes from elaborate dreams to being thrown into an empty well. Instead of his brothers bowing down to him, they almost kill him!

    Joseph is no longer the center of the universe. God moves to Joseph’s center.

    My favorite passage in the Bible says

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

    I believe during those difficult moments of rejection by his brothers Joseph began to trust God. He had nowhere else to turn.

    Sometimes that’s God’s plan—to get our attention in order to become LORD.

    Rarely does someone on top of the world—or the center of their own universe—turn to God. What’s the point?! They have everything they need and want. It’s usually during a crisis that we surrender to God.

    Perhaps you were told Jesus died for you so you could pray a prayer, be forgiven, and go to heaven when you die. That’s not the gospel. That’s a plan of salvation, but it’s not the gospel, the good news. It’s merely a part of it.

    The gospel is Jesus is LORD. That’s good news because it is more than personal and individualistic. Jesus is LORD of all.

    The late Dallas Willard used to talk about how the “Gospels of Sin Management” presume a Christ with no serious work other than redeeming humankind. This fosters “vampire Christians,” who only want a little blood for their sins but nothing more to do with Jesus until heaven.

    Jesus wants to be your Savior, but He also wants to be your LORD. It’s not about ego, but wisdom. He knows best. The sooner we can make Him the center of our universe, the sooner He will make our paths straight. He doesn’t promise it will be an easy path, but it will be filled with peace, joy, contentment, and hope because He knows best.

    Back to Joseph!

    Potiphar loves Joseph and puts him in charge of his household (39:4). Everything is great…until Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph. When he chooses to honor God rather than give in to her temptation, she accuses Joseph of sexual harassment.

    When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

    But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. (Genesis 39:19-21)

    Remember, Joseph is in prison because he followed the LORD. Is it any surprise that the LORD was with him? It’s terrific to read how Joseph received kindness and favor from the prison warden…but he’s still in prison! An innocent man has been punished! How can Joseph be used by God? He’s stuck in prison!

    Have you ever felt that way? How can God use you since you’re stuck…in this job, this marriage, with this family, with these weaknesses, with these limitations?

    I heard a great story last week about an actress who moved to Los Angeles. She was certain God led her there to be salt and light in a dark industry. After multiple auditions without a job, she questioned her pastor about what God was doing. She obeyed God and moved to L.A. but was finding no success. Her pastor said perhaps she was sent to California to minister to the struggling actors and actresses that are not finding success. Her own failures would be more connective to starving artists than her own successes.

    I can only imagine the conversations Joseph had with God in prison, asking why, questioning his own calling, and feeling even further from the fulfillment of his dreams. Joseph may not have even realized it but he was moving God closer and closer to the center of his universe. Mike Breen says, “Godʼs Kingdom needs the “door” of a humble heart. God wants to work in Josephʼs submitted heart—and ours.

    Dreams, Genesis 40

    In the next chapter we see the butler, the baker,…but not the candlestick maker! The butler and baker had offended the king of Egypt, their master, and joined Joseph in prison. They have dreams, Joseph interprets them, the dreams come true, the baker is hung, and the cupbearer (or butler) is set free.

    The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. (Genesis 40:23)

    I wonder if Joseph was fully surrounded to God or just grateful to be given gifts to interpret dreams. Genesis 41 begins by telling us Joseph was in prison for two more years after the butler is released.

    Pharaoh has two dreams, no one could interpret them, and the cupbearer remembers Joseph.

    So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

    Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

    “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Genesis 41:14-16)

    “I cannot do it.” Joseph has finally moved from the center of his universe to the edge, and God has taken residence on the throne of Josephʼs heart. Joseph is fully surrendered, allowing God to express His Kingdom rule in his life and to fulfill his earliest calling, to rule and to govern.

    The rest of the story is quite remarkable as Joseph becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man and eventually Joseph’s brothers literally bow down to him as they are desperate for food years later. The dreams God gave Joseph are eventually fulfilled.

    So What?

    Because of God’s covenant, we have a relationship with Him. Our identity is children of the King.

    As children of the King, we have a responsibility to represent the King to our world. We are HIs ambassadors, His agents on planet earth.

    God’s doesn’t just pick everyone to do His bidding, to be a Kingdom operative. God is looking for humble hearts that seek Him, that put Him at the center of their lives. The Bible says, “Youʼre the child of God and He wants to fashion your heart, so that you
    can be His representative. But that means a journey into humility and submission to Me.” Like Joseph, we must move from being the center of our world to inviting Jesus to be the center.

    Jesus’ first words to His disciples were, “Follow Me.” His final words were, “Go and make disciples.” Invitation and challenge. Covenant and Kingdom. Relationship and responsibility.

    It all begins with making our Savior our LORD.

    Credits

    Ideas for this series taken from book of the same title by Mike Breen and 3DMovements.com.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Praise (God!) John 12:37-50, 28 April 2013

    Big Idea: Do you seek the praise of God or the praise of people?

    Introduction

    We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John.

    Before we begin, I want to remind you of the context. We are going back to before the crucifixion where Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead.

    Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (37-38)

    Centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah said the Messiah’s signs would not lead everyone to faith. Contrary to what some people say, experiencing a miracle or even Jesus in the flesh does not guarantee faith.

    Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)

    For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn — and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. (39-40)

    It’s possible for a man to wake up and say he won’t see by keeping their eyes closed.

    Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:10)

    Faith is a gift from God, yet not all believe. Moses did multiple miracles in front of Pharaoh, a man who refused to believe. John told us in his first chapter (1:11) that Jesus’ own people would not receive Him. How is this possible? God’s sovereignty (in control) and human responsibility are held together consistently throughout John’s Gospel.

    Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. (42-43)

    This is one of the most sobering passages in the Bible. People believed in Jesus. In fact, there were leaders that believed in Jesus. They knew He was the real deal. Whether it was His teaching or miracles or lifestyle, they believed in Him.

    But!

    “But” must be one of the most tragic words in the English language.

    “I like you and all but…”
    “They were going to, but…”
    “I’d love to come…but…”
    “They were winning the game, but…”

    What kept these leaders from following Jesus?
    Fear!

    They were afraid of the Pharisees. They feared expulsion from the Synagogue (see 9:22). They were afraid of offending others, though they didn’t fear offending Jesus.

    How do we offend Jesus? It all goes back to the first two commandments, you know, God’s top ten list.

    You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)

    What is your god? For these leaders, it was the praise of men rather than the praise of God. Your god is what you seek.

    I doubt you worship a statue. You probably don’t say prayers to the stars. It’s very tempting to please men—or even please yourself.

    In David Platt’s book
    Radical, he notes

    I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.

    Whether it is approval addiction or self-absorption, the essence of faith is total surrender. As we said last week, we need to empty ourselves before the Holy Spirit can fill us. We need to die to ourselves in order for Christ to live in us.

    “…they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” The Greek word here for “praise” could also mean “glory” or “reputation” or honor.” Doesn’t that describe us? I know that describes me. I don’t want to look like a fool. I want to keep my reputation intact. I don’t want to offend anyone or be controversial so I blend in. I make those around me comfortable…in order for me to be comfortable.

    Jesus does not want secret followers. In fact, secret follower is likely an oxymoron! Jesus says choose: light or darkness, Jesus or the world/yourself, open-handed surrender or control

    Don’t forget this promise from last week:

    Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:26)

    That’s how we get the praise of God…by serving and following Jesus.

    Personal faith does not mean it is to remain private. We must go public and let our words and actions show others Jesus…and the Father.

    Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (44-46)

    Jesus cried out. There’s great emotion there. He is passionate about His relationship to the Father. He is the light.

    “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (47-50)

    It’s not enough to hear the Word. We must do what it says (Matthew 7:24-27; James 2:14-26)

    The passage ends with a note about Jesus’ teaching, something we’ll pick up on next week in chapter thirteen.

    Conclusion

    My prayer for Scio is that we would be radical. We would glorify God on Sunday…and the rest of the week. We would b.l.e.s.s. those around us, getting beyond the safe, comfortable and convenient to really caring about the lost, the broken, the abandoned, the bullied, the outcast. We would not consider our time together as the end of our spiritual formation but rather the beginning of a week pursuing Jesus in order to become His beautiful Bride.

    It begins with me. It begins with you.

    We are blessed to know the Truth and be able to share it with others. Some will accept while others will reject it. It was true 2000 years ago and it’s true today. If we refuse to believe, the light disappears, and our nation seems to get darker as an increasing number of people reject faith in Christ.

    Those who refuse to believe will experience judgment. Faith has eternal consequences.

    Fear…or faith? The praise of people…or the praise of people?

    You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    It's Time! John 12:20-36, 21 April 2013

    Big Idea: Do people see Jesus in you?

    Introduction

    We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John.

    Before we begin, I want to remind you of the context. We are going back to before the crucifixion where Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead.

    Like a movie that has flashbacks, the next few weeks will seem like a step back in time, but keep in mind these events occur prior to Good Friday.

    Palm Sunday has passed, the crowds have welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, and now we begin at John 12:17...

    Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (12:17-19)

    John 12:20-36

    Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. (12:20-22)

    Why would Greeks worship at the Passover feast? They may have been what we would call attendees rather than members. Most likely they were God-fearers repelled by the nationalism and requirements of Judaism, such as circumcision (can you blame them?!). They were Gentiles that had obviously heard about Jesus. Everyone in the region had heard about Jesus!

    Notice their request:
    we would like to see Jesus.

    I believe this is the cry of the human heart today. People struggle with identity. They struggle with anthropology—what it means to be human. Jesus is the ultimate example for us. He is the perfect human. He is the wisest man to ever walk the planet, the smartest man in human history, and the fullest expression of what we were created to become.

    Jesus’ mission was not only to die and resurrect; it also included a demonstration of abundant life lived out for thirty three years.

    It’s easy to call Jesus our
    Savior. Anyone faintly aware of their sin is quick to receive grace and salvation, salvation only He offers (Acts 4:12). But Jesus is more than our Savior.

    He is also our
    Healer. We all like that, too. Who doesn’t like free health care?

    Jesus is our
    coming King. That means He is LORD. When you serve a lord, you give up all of your rights and freedoms to become essentially a slave to your master. This quickly gets uncomfortable, doesn’t it? The good news is that He is a benevolent King, a LORD who loves us and wants our very best. He’s not out to get us and use and abuse us, but He is still King and bids us to come and die…but we’ll get there in a moment.

    Jesus is also our
    sanctifier, meaning He wants us to be transformed and become more human—more like the ultimate Human, Jesus Himself. He wants us to be free from sin and be set apart for His purposes.

    Most USAmerican Christians show little evidence in their lives that they have been separated from sin.
    Most USAmerican Christians behave in ways that make it difficult to believe that they have been “set apart” for the service of God.

    The people want to see Jesus. Today, people want to see Jesus. They may not say it that way. They may say they want to experience meaning and purpose, they long for a better world, they know this world is broken, and they wonder whether anyone really cares.

    This past week in Boston we were reminded just how broken our world really is, and each day there are countless people searching ever more fervently for the Truth.

    They struggle with issues of value, identity, and worth. They need to see a life well-lived, and no one has lived a better life than Jesus.

    How can people see Jesus today? It has been said that you are the only Bible many will ever read. Jesus entrusted the Kingdom of God to us. We’re it!
    When people get connected to you, do they see Jesus?

    If people were looking for you, what would you say? Here I am?!

    Notice Jesus’ response...

    Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (12:23-26)

    These people are looking for Jesus and He talks about seeds, plants, life, death, servants, and masters. Huh? Verse 32 will help us understand, but notice these stories.

    These four verses are so powerful. Jesus says die…so you can live. What a paradox!

    Remember, we know what follows, but His disciples are largely clueless about His talk of death.

    The people are looking for Jesus, and He says if they want to see Him, they must know Him, and they know Him by dying, being planted, risking everything. In Romans 6, this picture of being planted is presented as dying with Christ in baptism and faith. Baptism is such a great image—we enter the water to die in a water grave and then we are resurrected to new life in Christ. Jesus wants everything. He wants you to die—not to harm you, but so that you may truly live.

    Many times previously Jesus has said that it was not yet time.
    Now is the time. These are the final days before His death. It’s no wonder He continues...

    “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (12:27-28a)

    Jesus’ time has finally arrived and He is…troubled! The Word that became flesh is troubled. Does that surprise you? His soul is horrified by what He is about to face.

    Notice it’s not about Him, though. It’s about glorifying the Father. Jesus sets the example for us yet again, seeking to glorify God the Father. He was willing to do whatever necessary to ensure God was glorified.

    Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. (12:28b-29)

    Can you imagine hearing an audible voice from heaven? This wasn’t the first time (e.g. Luke 3:22; 9:35).

    It’s fascinating how some thought it was thunder or an angel. What does the Word of God sound like to you?

    Jesus said, “Father, glorify Your Name” and the Father said He would be glorified by the Son.

    Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (12:30-33)

    The prince of this world, satan, looked like the victor on Good Friday, but it was actually his greatest defeat. Over the next few weeks as we look at the days before the cross, we’ll see satan repeatedly. If you’ve seen the film
    The Passion of the Christ, you surely remember the multiple times satan appears.

    Jesus was lifted up on the cross and also later during His ascension into heaven.

    Jesus will draw all men, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, young and old. For God so loved the whole world that He gave His Son, Jesus.

    The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” (12:34)

    They were expecting Messiah to overthrow the government. They never imagined the government would overthrow and crucify Him.

    Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (12:35-36)

    Throughout His ministry, Jesus was in complete control, not because He was belligerent, but rather because He was following the Father’s will and timing.

    His message to the twelve is the same message to us: follow Me. Trust Me. Surrender to Me. Die so you may live.
    It’s time!

    You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Away In A Manger, Carols, 16 December 2012

    Away In A Manger

    Big Idea: Jesus is more than a little baby. He is LORD.

    Welcome to the third Sunday of Advent. Advent is about expectant waiting and preparation. For generations, the Israelites awaited the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We are awaiting His return. We are in between His first and second visits to our planet. We look back
    and forward.

    During these four weeks of preparation for Jesus’ birthday celebration, we’re looking at four classic Christmas Carols, their lyrics, and their biblical message. It is my hope and prayer that as you hear these songs, you’ll not only hum the melody, you’ll think about the timeless message. This week’s carol is
    Away In A Manger.

    History:

    It was first published in 1885 in Philadelphia. The texts was credited for many years to Martin Luther, but that seems to be only a fable. It is one of the most popular carols in Britain.

    Lyrics

    Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head. The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
    The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
    The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.
    I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
    Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, And fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.

    Intro

    Before we get started, I want to dispel two myths.

    First, the manger probably did not look most of our wood and straw mangers found in nativity sets. It most likely was a hard, stone trough.

    Second, it says “But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” He cried! Babies cry! Jesus cried! We know He even cried as an adult, but that’s another story.

    Two weeks ago we talked about “O Holy Night” and how because of Jesus the weary world rejoices.

    Last week we looked at “O Come All Ye Faithful” and said that although we are not always faithful, joyful, and triumphant, Jesus is and He allows us to experience faith, joy and victory.

    This message will be more challenging. It challenged me! The phrase is simply this…“The little Lord Jesus.” There’s more to Jesus than just a 8 lb. 6 oz sweet little baby Jesus Jesus is LORD. 740 times in the NT He is referred to as LORD.

    In Luke 2, the most detailed description of Jesus’ birthday, the shepherds were minding their own business in the fields and then an angel terrifies them!

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

    We don’t use that word “lord” much outside of church.

    What does it mean for Christ to be LORD?

    The Greek word, kyrios, means master or lord, as in a master of property or slaves. It means supreme in authority, controller.

    How does that sound? Jesus as master and you as slave?

    Controller is a challenging word because we all want to be in control.

    Jesus is LORD. How do we make Him LORD in our life? We don’t. God made Him LORD long ago. We surrender to what already is. We surrender to the One who is in control.

    I believe there are three types of people in this world.

    The first are what I call the
    unsurrendered. These are the people that have no illusions about Jesus as LORD. To them He’s a swear word, a myth, or a good teacher. They don’t pretend to follow Jesus. They live their lives for themselves or some other lord. While this group is apparently growing rapidly in the west, it creates exciting opportunities for us to share how and why Jesus has become LORD to so many, especially those in 2nd and 3rd world nations where the Gospel is spreading like wildfire.

    The second type of person is the partially-surrendered life. This is where the majority of USAmerican Christians live. Casual or cultural Christians. Christian atheists believe in God but act as if He does not exist. Jesus said to the partially-surrendered that surrounded Him

    “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

    Jesus is not an accessory that you add to your life. A LORD seizes control of everything!

    Jesus is not a part-time LORD and He doesn’t want part-time followers.

    We come under His Lordship.

    If there’s one question I want you to think about, it’s this...

    What have I not surrendered to the LORD?

    What area am I still trying to control?

    Kids? Future? A relationship? Money?

    For me, money has been one of my greatest struggles—not so much giving, but worrying about having enough. It’s a trust thing for me, which is silly because God has been faithful to our family so many times that
    Great Is Thy Faithfulness has been our family hymn.

    The more I follow Jesus, the more I have learned to trust Him.

    In a similar way, I daily need to surrender my family to the LORD. It’s easy for them to become idols in my life, obsessed with their health and well-being rather than trusting that God loves them even more than I love them.

    God can be trusted with our money, our children, our future, ...everything.

    That’s what lords do...they are in control of everything! That leads to the
    the fully-surrendered life. This is a person who is a slave to Jesus, an indentured servant.

    Slavery is obvious not a popular subject in our culture. Race-based slavery is one of the great embarrassments of our nation’s history. Tragically, there are more slaves today than at any time in human history, many of them children.

    Not all slavery is evil, however.
    Not all masters are cruel and self-serving.

    In the book of Exodus, God made a provision for a freed servant to stay with his master.

    “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

    “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. (Exodus 21:2-6)

    An indentured servant is one who chooses to serve their master.

    This is the image of a person fully-surrendered to Jesus. They have made Him Lord. They give up their rights and entrust their time, talent, treasures, comfort, convenience, hopes, dreams,...everything to their Master. Their lives are not their own but rather belong to the LORD.

    Paul’s letter to the people of Rome begins...

    Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — (Romans 1:1)

    The third word of his letter is servant, doulos in Greek. It means “servant, slave.”

    “In the NT a person owned as a possession for various lengths of times (Hebrew slaves no more than seven years, Gentile slaves without time limit), of lower social status than free persons or masters; slaves could earn or purchase their freedom.”

    Later in the letter Paul writes...

    For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7-8)

    Are you living? If we live, it is to honor…the LORD.

    On my wedding day I was given a ring. I keep my wedding ring on. I belong to my wife.

    I gave her a ring on our wedding day. How much did the ring cost her? Nothing. But when she received the gift, it cost her everything. She belongs to me. She’s mine. I belong to her. I’m hers. We belong to each other.

    When Jesus died for you, He offered a free gift to you. Salvation costs Jesus everything and you nothing, but when you say yes, you surrender the rights of your life. Your life is no longer your own.

    He is the supremely ruling, reigning King of the universe!!!

    We don’t surrender in the areas of life where we don’t know Him. He is all-powerful, holy, good, trustworthy, …

    If I truly believe God is my Provider and I am a steward, giving is how I surrender.

    We need some reverent fear of God. He’s not your co-pilot! Get in the trunk!

    Do you really know Him?

    Jesus warned His followers...

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

    These are sobering words.

    What will He say to you?

    We surrender to the lordship of Christ.

    Jesus is no longer a little baby. He is the King of kings and the LORD of lords. Is He your King? Is He your Lord...of everything in your life?

    Credits: Series theme and various ideas from Craig Groeschel, LifeChurch.tv

    You can listen to the podcast here.
    You can view a music video of
    Away In A Manger from LifeChurch.tv here.

    So Loved, John 3:1-21, 10 June 2012

    Big Idea: God gave. Seekers can find.

    John 3:1-21

    But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. (John 2:24-25)

    Jesus knew what was in each person. He knows what is in you and me. He is God.

    He also knew what was in the heart of a guy named Nicodemus.

    Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. (John 3:1)

    He was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, likely a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. He was an outstanding man. Today he would wear an Italian suit, drive a sports car, be a member at the country club, and command attention in every room he enters.

    He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (3:2)

    Nick at night! He could not “see” spiritually. He came with a mask. “We” know. They recognized the miracles.

    Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (3:3)

    Jesus interrupts him and starts talking about the kingdom of God. Born again or born from above.

    “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (3:4)

    This is a great question! Jesus wasn’t talking about a physical birth, though.

    Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.
    (3:5)

    Water could refer to baptism or the womb but likely the sanctifying, cleaning power of the Word of God (Ezek. 36:25-27) through the Holy Spirit taking the Scripture and using it. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God through the man of God.

    Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (3:6)

    Our old, sinful nature does not change. It will die with our body.

    The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:7)

    The spiritual birth is necessary. We are given a new nature because our old nature is put to death (baptism).

    You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (3:7-8)

    We still know little about the wind. We can’t stop tornados. We can barely predict them! We can recognize when it is blowing, though, despite the fact that we can’t see the wind. “You” must be born again is plural. The same Greek word for wind means Spirit. We can’t see or control the Holy Spirit, but we can experience His power and presence and observe His movement.

    “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. (3:9)

    Nick is no longer a Pharisee or a ruler but a spiritual seeker. The masks are gone. He gets real with Jesus, and that’s what we must do, too. I believe the greatest reason that people in the west reject God is they refuse to humble themselves and admit that they need God. We can’t impress God. We can’t put on a show for Him. We can only come on our knees in respectful reverence, awe, wonder, and desperation.

    “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? (3:10)

    Don’t miss Jesus’ sarcasm here!

    Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. (3:11-13)

    See Daniel 7:13-14

    I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:28)

    Jesus is the only One who can speak of heaven because He’s the only One who has been there. Prior to Jesus, the righteous dead went to Abraham’s bosom.

    Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (3:14-15)

    The serpent represented the sin of the people. Christ was made sin for us on the cross. See Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus repeats that message in the most famous verse in the Bible:

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (3:16)

    The son of man must be lifted up. We must be born again. The love of God cannot save a sinner. It is by grace that we are saved. He loved so He gave. To believe in Christ means to trust Him for your sins. Believe is more than just mental agreement. Demons “believe” in Jesus, but they don’t trust Him for their sins and soul. They have not surrendered their lives to follow Him.

    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (3:17)

    Jesus did not come to judge the first time. He came as the Savior. Next time He will come as the judge.

    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (3:18)

    The name of Jesus, the Savior of the world. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah would come as a Savior and judge. They were correct, but those two roles would occur during two different occasions.

    This week I heard a great quote from Billy Graham:

    God judges. The Holy Spirit convicts. We are to love.

    This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (3:19)

    Nothing that grows in the dark would be welcome in your home!

    Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (3:20-21)

    Credits: Some ideas taken from J. Vernon McGee.
    You can listen to the podcast here.

    The Radical Experiment, 6 November 2011

    Big Idea: the conclusion of our Radical series offers five next-steps for knowing Jesus more deeply.

    Opening Video

    We are concluding our series
    Radical based somewhat on the book of the same name by David Platt.

    • Last week I issued two cautions. One was that we would not take Jesus’ hard teaching seriously, rationalizing them away. The other is that we turn them into a legalistic to-do list that will get us to heaven or make God love us more.

    • Nothing you can do can make God love you more. Nothing you can do can make God love you less.

    • What I’m about to share with you has an additional caution—apathy. Jesus’ brother said simply...

    • Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – James 1:22

    • It’s easy to hear challenging teachings and nod our head or even compliment the preacher at the end, but what matters is not merely what we know but how we respond. Jesus was not merely a good teacher, He came to be LORD. Action is a natural response to love.

    • We have celebrated communion together, remembering all that Jesus has done for us. Anything that we do in obedience to Him is nothing more than a response, a privilege! The amazing thing is that when we obey Jesus, we are blessed. We experience what it means to be fully human. We encounter a depth in our relationship with our Creator that we can discover no other way. We are filled with joy and peace and satisfaction found nowhere else.

    • Today I want to invite you to The Radical Experiment. There are five parts to the Radical Experiment and they are just that, an experiment. These are five things that I believe will draw you closer to Jesus. They reflect His heart, His passion, and His commands. These five things are not magic, but I believe they can change your life, our church, and ultimately our world.

    • Pray for the entire world

    • This week the 7 billionth person entered our world. Billions have never even heard of Jesus. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, Jesus said in Luke 10:2. “Ask the LORD of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.”


    • Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. (Philippians 4:6-7)

    • OperationWorld.org will be our main tool for praying for the entire world. They have a book, a website, and other resources where you can learn about a different nation each day and pray for them.

    • We want God to bless America, but also all of the nations of the world. John 3:16 says that God so loved the...world! The first step in being a blessing to the nations is to pray for them.

    • Read through the entire Word

    • This relates to another value of the Christian & Missionary Alliance:

    • Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success. (Joshua 1:8)

    • We can’t know it if we haven’t read it. Spiritual warfare is real. We need to know the Truth of God’s Word. The purpose, again, is not to perform a task but to know our Father.

    • Steve Jobs asked Walter Isaacson to write a biography of his life so that his children could know their dad. That makes me so sad, yet it would be even more tragic if his kids had no interest in reading it!

    • Our Father has given us not only information about Himself, but also wisdom for living, exciting stories, history, poetry, prophecy, and so much more. I want to challenge you to read through the Bible in 2012.

    • You may be saying, “2012? It’s not even December 2011!” You can use the next several weeks to practice or get a head start. We have a tool for this, too.


    This plan takes the material of the Bible and organizes it to flow in chronological order. Since exact dating of some materials or events is not possible, the chronology simply represents an attempt to give you the reader the general flow and development of the Bible's grand story. Some passages are placed according to topic (e.g., John 1:1–3 in Week 1, Day 2; and many of the psalms). There are six readings for each week to give you space for catching up when needed.

    In addition to the website and book, free apps are available for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch and it is fully compatible with the
    YouVersion website and apps. You can listen to the audio, read the book, visit online, or view the app. However you do it, we want to read through the entire Bible...together.

    Imagine what it would be like if you told a friend about what you read that morning and they said, “Hey, I read that, too!” As a church family, we will all be able to read the same chapters each day and grow together. We’ll even build some of our Sunday morning texts from the reading plan.

    In addition to the verses, ReadTheBibleForLife.com offers podcasts and videos with Michael Card and others that will help you read, understand, and apply God’s Word.

    Sacrifice our money for a specific purpose

    Everything that we have belongs to God—not 10%, not 50%, but 100%. As we have noted, every person in this room is financially rich compared to the other 7 billion people on the planet. What would happen if we committed to free up resources for urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world? Do you think God would honor our generosity if we take what is from Him and sacrificially use it for His purposes?

    Instead of asking how much we can spare, what if we asked, “What will it take?”

    The needs of our world are so overwhelming. Bob Pierce, the former president of World Vision said,

    "Don't fail to do something just because you can't do everything."

    Each of us can do
    something, whether it is to skip a meal, cancel cable, increase the percentage of our giving, sponsor a child with Compassion International, or even make a micro-finance loan through Kiva.org.

    It has been said that Christians spend more money on dog food than missions! Seriously?

    Everything we have belongs to God; we are His stewards. (1 Chronicles 29:14)

    The world is not our home. Let’s stop living like it is.

    Give our time in another context

    I challenge you—and myself—to spend 2% of your time—or one week—in another context. This could be a missions trip to Africa or a week next summer in Detroit. We’ll be presenting opportunities in the coming days for youth, individuals, and families or you can create your own.

    Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. (Luke 19:10)

    Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. (Matthew 28:19)

    That means you!

    Commit our lives to a multiplying community

    Be a committed member of a local church, here or elsewhere.

    Following Jesus is a team sport. We need each other. God created us to be interdependent. Just as the Father, Son and Spirit exist in community so we are to, also.

    In 2012 we are going to pray for the world together, read the Word together, give together, and serve together.

    The point is not to follow Christ but to follow Him together.

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
      - Acts 2:42-47

      Do you see it?

      They were radically committed to the Word of God and the apostle’s teaching.
      • They were radically committed to fellowship together, in public and in homes.
      • They were radically committed to prayer, experiencing miracles.
      • They were radically generous, giving to anyone as he had need.
      • They were radically committed to one another, meeting together daily.

      • This was not a perfect church, but it was a radical one. I cannot imagine a more compelling vision for Scio—a group of normal but radical people, passionately committed to loving Jesus, one another, and their neighbors.

      • It doesn’t just happen, though. We can’t wish it into reality. It requires total surrender, but it’s worth it.

      • You might ask why we’re talking about 2012 in November of 2011. As I said with the Bible reading, this will give you some time to experiment. I urge you to prayerfully consider the challenge, especially as we head into the crazy holidays.

      • Finally, let me say once more that we must avoid legalism, thinking we need to follow man-made rules or even God-given commands in order to earn salvation or approval before God. Nothing you can do can make God love your more/less. God’s favor in your life is not based on your performance but on Jesus Christ and what He did for you. That’s what we celebrated earlier with communion. That’s also why do serve Him. We love and serve Him because He first loved and served us. This is our response.

      Concluding Video

      • You can listen to the podcast here.

      Radical Abandonment, 30 October 2011

      • Big Idea: Jesus abandoned everything in heaven for you and for me. He invites us to radically abandon everything on earth for Him.

      • Mark 10:17-31

      • If there is one key verse for the series, it is Luke 14:33 where Jesus says,

      • …any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

      • For those of you looking for a loophole in the Greek, the word for everything—pas—means “all, everything, whole, always.”

      • Jesus demands radical abandonment—of everything: our time, talent, treasures, relationships, future, education, work, dreams, spouse, children, family…He wants it all!

      • Jesus’ teachings are filled with paradox. They defy conventional wisdom and political correctness. They are the polar opposite of the American Dream that says our highest aim in life should be the pursuit of happiness.

      • Look what Jesus said a few chapters earlier in Luke 9:24

      • For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

      • A few chapters later, He repeats a similar thought

      • Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

      • He wants all or nothing.

      • Today’s text is found in Mark’s biography of Jesus.

      • As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

      • “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good — except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

      • “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” (10:17-20)
      • Maybe you could say this. You’ve been a good boy or girl. You have lived a good life, never killed anyone, played by the rules, avoided speeding tickets, been a devoted Michigan football fan…!

      • Where did Jesus get this list of commandments? From the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. Let’s review them together:

      • 1. No other Gods (Exodus 20:3)
      • 2. No idols (4-6)
      • 3. Do not misuse the name of the LORD (7)
      • 4. Remember the Sabbath (8-11)
      • 5. Honor your father and mother (12)
      • 6. Do not murder (13)
      • 7. Do not commit adultery (14)
      • 8. Do not steal (15)
      • 9. Do not lie (16)
      • 10. Do not covet (17)

      • How did you do? Most people that I’ve met would say they are pretty good—after all, they haven’t killed anyone! To be honest, I struggle daily with the first two. I find myself putting my desires above God’s, longing for health and wealth and happiness and doing just about anything to be safe and comfortable despite the needs around me. I look at my favorite idol every time I stand in front of a mirror. But that’s just me!

      • This man was a good man. He obeyed all of the commandments. He probably could’ve been a pastor or elder himself. He had arrived…almost.

      • Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (10:21)

      • Was that in God’s top ten list? I missed that!

      • At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (10:22)

      • Wait! Let’s go back to those first two commandments.

      • 1. No other Gods (Exodus 20:3)
      • 2. No idols (4-6)

      • Do you see what happened?

      • Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (10:23)

      • You are rich. Across the country at this very moment there are people occupying Wall Street and other public venues with one slogan. What is it? We are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.

      • Here’s the truth, though: I’m in the 1%. Many of you are, too. No, we’re not among the richest 1% of USAmericans, but we are among the richest 1% on the planet. If you earn $48,000 or more, you are in the top 1% of the richest people in the world. $32,000 places you in the top 6 %, and if you only earned $12,000 you’re still in the top 13%!

      • The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (10:24-25)

      • Why? It’s all about need. It’s about dependence upon God.

      • The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

      • Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (10:26-27)

      • Many of us know this famous verse—all things are possible with God. Look at the context, though. It’s about salvation. Jesus is saying that we can be saved despite our wealth and idols.

      • I recently heard an interview with a highly educated Muslim man talking about his Islamic faith. When asked if he had any certainty about his eternal destination, he replied that God only knows. He is spending his entire life trying to be good enough to earn God’s favor in hopes that he will pass the test on judgment day and go to heaven rather than hell.

      • Maybe some of you are like that. You’ve been trying hard to be good so God will love you. You have more in common, perhaps, than Muslims. The religion of Christianity has said we must behave a certain way in order to believe and ultimately belong, but Jesus came to abolish religion. He came to offer grace, allow the unworthy to know God, invite sinners to heaven, and provide joy and peace and love to the unlovable.

      • The amazing thing about Jesus is grace, unmerited favor.

      • This past week I had a dear friend call me. We hadn’t talked in many months—maybe even years—but he was concerned that because he had turned away from God in the past, he was destined to hell despite his desire to follow Jesus again. I had him read the end of Romans 8 to remind him that nothing can separate us from the love of God—not even the terrible things we do.

      • That’s grace! If we want God, He will always welcome us with open arms as did the Father in the prodigal son. That’s the good news! That’s the Gospel! It’s not about what we do, but what was done on the cross for us. None of us can be saved—not rich or poor—apart from Jesus and the cross.

      • “Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning.” - Dallas Willard

      • Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”

      • “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. (10:28-30)

      • What does this say about those who radically follow Jesus? It will be worth it.

      • Jesus then concludes with one of His most famous paradoxical statements:

      • But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (10:31)

      • Play now and pay later or pay now and play later. The choice is yours. You can cling to this world, or invest in the world to come.

      • We use a lot of words to describe God. Jesus. Teacher. Savior. King. Son. Prince of Peace. Father. Perhaps the most challenging is LORD. He gives us commands, not considerations or suggestions. He’s not out to get us, though. He knows that if we lose ourselves, we will find. If we give, we will receive. If we surrender, we will discover freedom. If we die, we will truly live.

      • The Apostle Paul, arguably the most important figure in the New Testament after Jesus, said

      • I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

      • Paul is either insane or he is saying that by dying, he can experience resurrection and new life. When we die to ourselves, God can begin to recreate us. As the prophet Ezekiel wrote,

      • I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26

      • You’ve got to let go, though.

      • Never Alone

      • This is a challenging message. This has been a challenging series. I’ve been reminded each week that I need to die, and just when I feel like every part of me has been surrendered, I discover another place where I’m holding on. Death can be scary, especially when everyone else around us is living their normal lives.

      • This is where the Church becomes so vital. We are a family. We are a community. We need one another. We need to encourage one another. We need to mentor and disciple one another. We need to spur one another on toward our own death and Christ’s life.

      • Perhaps the most graphic description of this is found in the second chapter of the book of Acts.

      • They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

      • Do you see it?

      • They were radically committed to the Word of God and the apostle’s teaching.
      • They were radically committed to fellowship together, in public and in homes.
      • They were radically committed to prayer, experiencing miracles.
      • They were radically generous, giving to anyone as he had need.
      • They were radically committed to one another, meeting together daily.

      • This was not a perfect church, but it was a radical one. I cannot imagine a more compelling vision for Scio—a group of normal but radical people, passionately committed to loving Jesus, one another, and their neighbors.

      • It doesn’t just happen, though. We can’t wish it into reality. It requires total surrender, but it’s worth it.

      • We are not alone. He is not only with us, He has given us one another to encourage each other. This world is not our home. We are just visiting this planet...together.

      • Radical abandonment is about giving up anything that gets between us and God’s leadership. Do you trust Him…with everything? 

      • Jesus abandoned everything in heaven for you and for me. He invites us to radically abandon everything on earth for Him.

      You can listen to the podcast here.

      A Radical Command, 18 September 2011

      • Big Idea: Jesus demands everything—and He can be trusted.

      • The Bible

      • When I was a young boy, we used to sing this song called The B-I-B-L-E. The lyrics were, “The B-I-B-L-E/Yes that’s the book for me/I stand alone on the Word of God/The B-I-B-L-E.”

      • One of the core values of our tribe, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, states

      • Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success. Joshua 1:8

      • Do you believe this book? It’s so much more than just pages of stories or wisdom. It is God’s precious Word. It is our guide for life. As some have said, it is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

      • For thousands of years people have been studying the Bible, seeking to know, understand and apply it. As Joshua was preparing to lead the people of Israel following Moses’ death, God told him

      • Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

      • Did you catch that? It is a command with a promise. I don’t know about you but I don’t like random rules. I want to know why! God promised Joshua prosperity and success if he read and obeyed the written Word.

      • So again I ask do you believe this book? Maybe you’re still not sure it’s trustworthy. After all, it’s thousands of years old and surely it’s been changed over time, right? The science of textual criticism evaluates manuscripts based upon their written date, the time span from the earliest copies, and the number of copies. No ancient book is even close to the Bible in terms of its preservation and authenticity.

      • The Bible is true. It can be trusted. There is nothing like it on the planet. Don’t take my word for it, though. Billions of people for generations have not only studied and obeyed it, many have given their lives to preserve and share it.

      • The All-Important Question is do we believe this Book?

      • If the answer is yes, the next several weeks will be challenging. See if you don’t believe it, you can ignore what it says and comfortably enjoy our weekly family reunions together. Belief, however, demands action.

      • A few weeks ago I told the story of the Great Blondin - the man who invented the high wire act. He crossed Niagara Falls again and again; blindfolded, carrying a stove, in chains, and on a bicycle. Just as he was about to begin yet another crossing— this time pushing a wheelbarrow—he turned to the crowd and shouted, "Who trusts that I can cross pushing this wheelbarrow?" Every hand in the crowd went up. Blondin pointed at one man:

      • "Do you trust that I can do it?" he asked.
      • "Yes, I trust you can." said the man.
      • "Are you certain that you trust me?" said Blondin.
      • "Yes" said the man.
      • "Absolute trust? Absolutely certain?"
      • "Yes, absolute trust, with absolute certainty."
      • "Thank you," said Blondin, "please get into the wheelbarrow."

      • True faith requires action.

      • Do we believe this book? Do we believe what it says about the church? The cross? Mission? Decisions? The lost? The poor?

      • Our passage for this morning is very short. Jesus said to His followers

      • In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33)

      • You can look at the original Greek, examine the context, and do whatever you want to twist it, but you can’t really change the message: following Jesus requires giving up everything. No buts. No excuses.

      • That’s radical! He demands total devotion.

      • My wife demands total devotion. An occasional affair is unacceptable! Should God demand any less?

      • David Platt notes

      • Even his simple call in Matthew 4 to his disciples—“Follow me”—contained radical implications for their lives. Jesus was calling them to abandon their comforts, all that was familiar to them and natural for them. He was calling them to abandon their careers. They were reorienting their entire life’s work around discipleship to Jesus. Their plans and dreams were now being swallowed up in his. Jesus was calling them to abandon their possessions. “Drop your nets and your trades as successful fishermen,” he was saying in effect. Jesus was calling them to abandon their family and their friends. When James and John left their father, we see Jesus’ words in Luke 14 coming alive. Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation.

      • When we gather in our comfortable church building to worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.


      • Is it all about you? When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die…so he can truly live.

      • Francis Chan illustrated this idea of comfortable Christianity like this. He said, If I ask my daughter to do something (“Rach, clean your room”), I am not satisfied if she come back later and says that she has memorized what I said, or that she got her friends together to discuss what my request means or what it would look like if she cleaned her room, or that she made a poster or needlepoint with my command on it.” Commands are to be obeyed.

      • John Stumbo of the Alliance writes,

      • Have you wondered why the Church in places like China and Vietnam has grown rapidly and vibrantly, even in the face of terrible persecution, while many churches in America struggle just to maintain the status quo? In China and Vietnam believers have few resources and even fewer trained pastors. Most congregations have no facilities, and members often are persecuted by hostile government officials. There are not even enough Bibles for every Christian. Yet the Church moves triumphantly forward.

      • In the West it is a different story. We do not lack resources. There are millions of dollars available to build spacious buildings and to fund evangelism and discipleship training. Bible colleges and seminaries train thousands of students every year, and many congregations have two or more well- trained pastors. There is no dearth of Christian literature, and every Christian home contains not one, but many, Bibles.

      • I am firmly convinced that the reason for our spiritual impotence in the midst of material affluence is simple. We have been discipled toward knowledge, believing that a mature Christian is one who knows a lot about Christ and the Bible. Christians in places like China and Vietnam have been discipled toward obedience. In their paradigm, a mature Christian is one who obeys all that he or she has learned of God’s Word and of Christ.

      • Are you pursuing the American Dream of Jesus’ dream for your life?

      • What do you have?
      • Do you really have it?
      • Does it have you?

      • Pearls

      • This is a very heavy message. Who wants to give up everything? It all begins with our understanding of God. He is not out to ruin your life, but instead He wants you to experience the most abundant, exciting, joy-filled life imaginable. Really.

      • The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?" Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl's upturned face.

      • "A dollar ninety-five. That's almost $2.00. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday's only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma."

      • As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. James if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

      • Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere - Sunday School, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

      • Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"

      • "Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you."

      • "Then give me your pearls." "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess - the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She's my favorite."

      • "That's okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night."

      • And he brushed her cheek with a kiss. About a week later, after the story time, Jenny's daddy asked again, "Do you love me?"

      • "Daddy, you know I love you."

      • "Then give me your pearls." "Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper."

      • "That's okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

      • A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. "What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?"

      • Jenny didn't say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy. It's for you."

      • With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

      • Jenny's father is like our heavenly Father. He also is waiting for us to give up our dime store stuff and seek Him first ... so He can fling open the windows of Heaven and pour us out such a blessing that we will not have room enough to hold it.

      • Next week we’ll look at the context of this radical verse and see that Jesus literally wants us to give up everything.

      • Treasures
      • Time
      • Talents
      • Future
      • Relationships

      • What do you most fear right now? What can’t you surrender? There’s a good chance that it is an idol in your life. God wants it, not because He wants to rob you of your joy, but so that He can BE your joy.

      • Take My Life

      • The word “consecrate” means to solemnly dedicate to God or sanctify.

      • Frances Havergal, at age 36, received a book called, "All for Jesus", which stresses the importance of making Christ Lord over every dimension of one's life. On Advent Sunday, Dec. 2, 1873, she saw the blessedness of consecration and made a full surrender of her all to Christ. Not long after she was visiting ten people in a house, of which she writes: "I went for a little visit of five days (to Areley House.) There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted, but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer, 'Lord, give me all in this house!' And He did just that. Before I left the house every one had got a blessing. The last night of my visit after I had retired, the governess asked me to go to the two daughters. They were crying; then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced; it was nearly midnight. I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration; and these little couplets formed themselves, and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished wit h'Ever, Only ALL for Thee!'" (Havergal Manuscripts)

      • Chris Tomlin said of the hymn “Take My Life,” “This hymn sums up what we all want to say to God: Take everything about me…take all I am and all I own—it’s yours Lord. Louie and I penned these simple four lines of refrain to amplify what we felt the writer was wanting to communicate, and to give us the chance to step back from the numerous lines of the song and voice our all to the Father.”

      • As we sing, I want to challenge you with two things. First, I invite you to lift your open hands in front of you, offering everything to God. Second, pour out your heart to God. Tell Him your hopes and dreams. He’s not out to get you. He’s out to bless you, but when we are clinging to what we have, there’s no way He can give us anything. When we surrender, we lose, but we also gain. Like baptism last week, we must die in order to be resurrected. He gives and takes away.

      • Conclusion

      • This week I challenge you to ask God to reveal to you whatever is holding you back from being completely surrendered to Jesus, a fully-devoted disciple.

      • I also challenge you this week to get into the Word. Read through the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

      • Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

      • We all want to prosper and be successful. Let’s get into the Word and discover all that He has for us.

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