09

Jump Start # 1742

Jump Start # 1742

Matthew 16:13 “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’”

  This week I have been doing an unannounced series about Jesus. We have looked at several different ways that people saw Jesus. Not everyone saw Him as God on earth.

 

  • On Monday, Cornelius knew of the Jesus who went about doing good (Acts 10:38)
  • On Tuesday, the Jews said that Jesus was a Samaritan (John 8:48)
  • On Wednesday, the centurion at the cross declared, “truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54)
  • On Thursday, His family came to take Him away because they thought He had lost His senses (Mark 3:21)

 

Just who is Jesus? Different impressions. Different reasons for their answers. The Jews, who claimed that Jesus was a Samaritan, already had their minds made up. There is no way that this Jesus would be the Messiah. Our verse today, adds even more suggestions and ideas. Who do people say? Jesus knew. He wanted His disciples to understand. He wanted them to make a claim on their own faith.

 

 

The answers that the disciples give to Jesus’ question is interesting. Some claimed He was Elijah. Others, John. Some thought He was Jeremiah. Some thought other prophets. Several suggestions. Several names.

 

First, other than Elijah, all the names given were of people who had died. John the Baptist was dead by this time. Jeremiah, dead. Other prophets, dead. All of them dead, except Elijah who was taken to Heaven in a fiery chariot. What were people thinking? Did they think these prophets had come back? From the dead? Did they think that somehow Jesus had the spirit of these people in Him?

 

Second, all the names submitted were prophets of God. No one repeated the “Samaritan” claim. Others had said that Jesus had a demon. That didn’t make this list either. I don’t know if the apostles “cleaned up” the list to make Jesus feel good or if this was the totality of what people said.

 

Third, all the names submitted were wrong. Jesus wasn’t Elijah, John, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Jesus was the Son of God. These guesses were all human. Jesus is God. No one saw Him as He really was.

 

Fourth, Jesus then asked the apostles. “But who do YOU say that I am?” Now the question becomes personal and relevant. Now, it doesn’t matter what others say. What do you say. Who were they going to stand with? Were they going to speak from faith, or hide behind a safe answer?

 

The question that Jesus asks the apostles, is the question that each of us must answer. Who is Jesus? This is not an academic question, but a question of the heart and of faith. What do you believe? That is what Jesus is asking.

 

For some, Jesus is the go to person when there is trouble. Mamas’ in the hospital, go to Jesus. Bills stretching you thin, go to Jesus. Some only see Jesus as the instant help in times of trouble.

 

Others see Jesus as the divine friend. He’s a friend you can talk to. He’s a friend that is not going to get on you about stuff. He’s there for you. Your buddy from Heaven.

 

Others find Jesus only in the church building. They believe He belongs there and needs to stay there. Go to worship on Sunday and find Jesus, but keep Him there until next week. Out there in the dog eat dog world of today, there is no room for Jesus. It’s mean and nasty out there and to survive you must run with the big boys. This Jesus stuff of kindness, forgiveness, putting others first, is great for church times, but not out there where things are tough. Jesus in the church building is how some see Jesus.

 

Others see Jesus as good in theory but out of touch when it comes to practical living. What Jesus says about divorce, many think, just doesn’t work today. Modesty, sex only in marriage, no lying, pure in heart, just doesn’t work today. Love Jesus, but He is hopelessly out of touch and behind the times. Jesus just doesn’t fit in today’s world of evolution, same-sex marriages and legal pot. Jesus is important, but don’t take it too seriously all the stuff He says. Consider the source.

 

Some want Jesus to be a good ole’ boy, who winks at mischief, looks the other way when folks are doing wrong and grades on the curve. Any other way and Jesus seems too stuffy and stiff.

 

Some want Jesus to be ever evolving. Contemporary. Hip. Into new ideas and new thinking. Global. Environmental. Social awareness. The causes are many. Women’s right to abort. One world government. Equality among the social and economic classes. A bridge builder between the different faiths and different religions. Some don’t want to pin a definition on Jesus. He’s changing as the times change.

 

The world still has a place for Jesus, but what have they done with Him? Is it any wonder that so many places do not take the Bible very seriously today. Why should they? Their Jesus is ok with what they are doing. Their Jesus happens to be a different Jesus than what we find in the Bible.

 

Who do you say that I am? Simply question. The answer that it demands is profound. The answer that we give shapes what we do and how we walk through this life. Some are so busy rewriting the rules of faith that they have forgotten what Jesus is really like. They have made Jesus answer to them.

 

Who do you say that I am? The answer to that question shapes how I view the Bible.

 

Who do you say that I am? Any answer can be given, but only one answer is correct. Peter found it. It was revealed to Him by Heaven. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. That answer calls me to bow before Him. That answer leads me to obeying Him. That answer humbles my heart and silences my lips. That answer puts the rightful crown upon the head of Jesus.

 

Who do you say that I am? What’s your answer?

 

Roger

 

08

Jump Start # 1741

Jump Start # 1741

Mark 3:21 “When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses.’

  Family—you just have to love them. The first people we ever know is our family. We don’t get a say about who are family is. For many of us, one of the greatest blessings has been our family. They have been there for us. They supported us, helped us and molded us into the responsible child of God that we are today. Had it not been for our family, many of us would not be Christians today. For others, family has been a nightmare. Neglectful or abandoned parents. Sibling rivalry. Divorce. An atmosphere of criticism, hatred and put downs. The influence of ungodliness. Dysfunctional adults surrounding you. Broken promises and broken homes. It’s been a struggle for some of us. We overcame thanks to a friend or a spouse that led us to Jesus. Had it been up to our family, we would have never darkened the church building.

 

Our verse today is about some of the family of Jesus. “His own people,” means His kinsmen. We know from other places in the Gospels that some of Jesus’ family did not initially believe who He was. Mary did. The setting of our verse is that Jesus came home. A massive crowd gathered. There were so many people that they could not eat. This is when His kinsmen came to take Him away. “He has lost His senses,” is a polite way of saying, “He’s nuts.” “He’s crazy.” “He’s loony.” “He doesn’t know what He is saying or doing.” So, family thought it was their responsibility to step in and take Jesus home. All of this “Messiah-talk” will end. Let Him rest. Get Him away from the people. Let things calm down.

 

Jesus’ kinsmen didn’t understand. They didn’t realize who Jesus was. Their plans to take Jesus home would not fit in with Heaven’s plans for Jesus. The family was wrong.

 

It is hard when one in the family becomes committed to Christ and wants to follow the Lord with all their heart, but the rest of the family doesn’t want any part of that. How awkward it becomes when the lifestyle of the parents is leading the family away from Christ. The language. The drinking. The lewd jokes. The immoral movies watched. The negative attitudes. The putting down of Christians. And in the midst of all of this misery, rises one who wants to follow the Lord. He may even want to preach. Instead of being encouraged and supported in this wonderful endeavor, he is mocked and ridiculed. He is pressured to pursue a career that will make more money. His family doesn’t get it. As this young man tries to preach the saving message of Jesus Christ to the world, he realizes his own family doesn’t believe in what he is doing.

 

The holiday season makes it difficult for many disciples. It means coming home and gathering with the family and surrounding yourself with some very toxic relationships. Nutty cousins. A grandma who can pass along the guilt with the best of them. Brothers who act like they are still eight years old. Jealous sisters who try to destroy everything good about you. Parents who are so absorbed in themselves that they don’t acknowledge you. As one grows in Christ, it becomes very clear that he has less and less in common with his family who are not Christians. There gets to be little that they can talk about. The atmosphere is uncomfortable. He is made to feel like he’s the one who is wrong, but he’s not. Home for the holidays can be hard on our faith when the atmosphere is unhealthy for a Christian.

 

It is easy to find an excuse not to go home, but this is your family. You are expected to be there and you realize that your may be the only one who can show Jesus among this strange group of people that are called your family. What do you do?

 

  • First, you need to go and be there. Not showing up is perceived as you are too good for them. Not showing up will do more harm in the long run.

 

  • Second, pray before you get there. If you have kids, talk to them and prepare them. Have a game plan in mind.

 

  • Third, smile, be upbeat and be kind. Most will ask you very little. They have very little interest in what you are doing. So, take the lead and catch up with the rest of them. You may hear things that turn your stomach. Divorcing. Living together. DUI’s. Arrests. Dishonesty. Cheating the system. It’s enough to make you scream. Making a scene by preaching and condemning the whole group isn’t a productive solution. Turn the conversations to safer topics. One on one, say and do what you can. Suggest coming to worship with you. Offer to sit down and talk at another time. Show concern. Let  them  know that you care.

 

  • Fourth, keep an eye on your kids. Cousins, around the same age, can introduces words and activities that you do not approve of. Your kids may come running to you, declaring in a loud voice, “Tommy, said…”  Kindly remind your kids, “we don’t say that. Find something good to do.” You may have to get up and supervise. That may get you out of the dull, trashy talk that the adults are engaged in.

 

  • Fifth, keep your eye on the time. If it’s getting to be too much, leave. Leave politely. Don’t leave in a huff, with threats to never come back. There is a bigger battle that you are trying to win. People are watching you, even if you don’t realize it.

 

  • Sixth, lead by example. I’ve seen times when the dinner is over, everyone gathers around the TV and poor mom is left in the kitchen to clean up by herself. Jump in there and help her. Be that servant that Jesus talked about. When the conversations turn to gloom and doom, find constructive and positive solutions. Be helpful. Solving the woes of the country is a common conversation piece, but most of us are not in the position to do much about that. Politics, sports and TV shows seem to be the thrust of what most families spend the afternoon talking about. Bring up a great book that you read recently. Talk about something good that is going on in your life. Turn the conversation and lead it to something useful, helpful and beneficial.

 

  • There always seems to be that one obnoxious person in every family. He’s the in-house ‘know it all’ about all subjects, including God and the Bible. He talks loud. He doesn’t even take a breath. He gets on a rant and there is no stopping him. He’ll take pot shots at the church, Christians and the Bible. He’s the self declared expert, and you may be his number one target. He loves to show the failures of Christians. He loves to find inconsistencies in faith. He thrives on contradictions. All of this makes him feel justified for having nothing to do with religion. Don’t take it personal, even though he’s trying to make it that way. It’s not the place for a debate, even though he seems to want to. Let him say what he wants, but end it with a strong positive affirmation about God and His people. This guy doesn’t want to discuss. He is not interested in you talking with him one on one. He’s proud and he knows he is right, even though he’s not. Remember, they thought Jesus lost His senses. He hadn’t. They were wrong. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent, Solomon tells us. I have been in settings like this. It’s not comfortable. Try to say something and Mr. Obnoxious interrupts and dominates the conversation. It’s like watching a talk show on TV when two opposite views are being passionately discussed. Everyone is talking at the same time and nothing can be heard. That’s when I take the remote and try to find the Three Stooges. You may have to say nothing more than, “I don’t see it that way.” Don’t be shaken. Confidence is what the obnoxious person can’t deal with.

 

  • Try not to get too discouraged. You may be the one bright spot in your family. The things that you see that bothers you, can be the motivation to lead your self and your own family in a different direction. So your dad never spent much time with you. Be different and spend time with your kids. You and your siblings never got along. Build relationships among your children. Build a family like God wants you to have.

 

The family of Jesus thought He had lost His senses. They didn’t realize that they had lost their souls. Your family may think the same of you. It hurts. You wish it could be different and better. Make your home in such a way that people will want to come and be with each other. Make your home warm, loving and Christ like. Your home can be different from the home you grew up in. It’s your choice.

 

Home for the holidays…Family, you just have to love them.

 

Roger

 

07

Jump Start # 1740

Jump Start # 1740

Matthew 27:54 “Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’”

  Our verse takes place at the Cross. A lot of things happened. Some were typical of most executions, but there were things that were most unusual. The centurion and the guards that were assigned to him, were Roman soldiers. They were the execution squad. Putting rebels and criminals to death was their job. I doubt this was their first assignment to that bloody detail. There had been others. Crucifixions were not nice, neat and quick. It was just the opposite. It was state sponsored torture. Death was slow and painful. Those dying on the cross often spoke final words. Those words were threats, cursing and pleadings to take them off the cross. The place of these executions were public and often the public gathered. Guards were needed to keep peace. Rome was making a statement. If you dare mess with the Empire, you will be crushed. These executions were as much of a statement to the living as they were a form of death to the rebellious.

 

Our verse reveals the feelings and the words of a centurion. There are many centurions in the N.T. They seem to be people of high moral fiber. We remember Cornelius, he was a centurion. Then there was the centurion who came to Jesus because of a servant that was suffering. He understood the authority of Jesus. We don’t see these men as being heartless, cruel and evil. In a pagan, worldly atmosphere that these soldiers have been in, they have a character unlike the image we would have of a tough Roman soldier.

 

Matthew states that the centurion and the guards with him, noticed the earthquake and the things that were happening, they became “very frightened.” Earthquakes are common in that area. The earthquake itself wasn’t too unusual. But remember, the sky became dark for three hours. An earthquake. The graves of the righteous were opened, and the righteous came back to life. And then there was Jesus. He didn’t die like other criminals did. He didn’t curse this torturers. Instead, He prayed for their forgiveness. He was talking about being in Paradise that very day. He promised to take one of thieves with Him, as well. He was prayerful. He didn’t say anything about Rome. Very strange to the eyes of those who witness executions often.

 

Then there was the reason for Jesus even being there. That was questionable. The others beside him were thieves, rebels and murderers. They were bad. They messed with Rome and they were getting the full force of Roman justice. But this Jesus, He’s different. There was doubt about what He had even done. Pilate, Herod and others had questioned Him and found that this was an internal Jewish problem and certainly not worthy of Roman execution. A riot nearly broke out. The Jews wanted Jesus crucified. Why? How strange?

 

Matthew said these soldiers became very frightened. They realized something bigger was at hand. The sky, the earthquake, the resurrections, it was as if the gods were shaking the earth. Maybe, just maybe, there was something to those rumors about who He was. He had followers, but they were peaceful. They didn’t cause fear. They didn’t cause trouble. Stories had been told about lepers being cured, blind receiving their sight and dozens and dozens of people who were helped by this one called Jesus. He was a teacher, a rabbi. He taught moral goodness and responsibility. Could it be that the gods sent one of their own down here and now Rome got caught up in this and put Him to death? What will the gods do to Rome? What will the gods do to the executioners? It’s too late now. They have gone too far. Jesus had died. Now, the curse of the heavens was falling upon them.

 

It is here that Matthew records the centurion saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Some translations, and some Greek texts word this statement as, “Truly this was a son of god,” showing that these pagan soldiers didn’t fully understand the concept of Jesus nor Jehovah. Either way, they recognized that Jesus belonged to the Heavens and not one of us. He was different. Different in life and different in death.

 

It is at this time of the year that the world gets excited about a baby in a manger. That’s how the story began. The baby in the manger is cute. The baby in the manger makes no demands. The baby in the manger is dependent upon us. It is the Savior upon the cross that changes the world. It is the risen Savior that demands obedience. It is the risen Savior that causes us to fall to our knees and makes us realize that we are dependent upon Him.

 

The thrust of the Bible, especially the New Testament, is to lead us to Christ. It is to get us to see who Jesus is and to develop a great trusting faith in Him. As we intersect with so many people, like this centurion, we are not told what happened to them later on. As Paul Harvey would make famous, “the rest of the story,” is not given. We wonder. What happened to the bent over woman after she was straightened up? What happened to that little twelve year old girl that Jesus resurrected? What became of her? And here, what happened to this centurion? After he saw all these things, did it change him? Did he look at other executions differently? Did he pursue some of the disciples to find out more about this one called “Jesus?” Did he turn in his resignation papers to Pilate and walk away from putting people to death? Did he become a believer? Will we see this one in Heaven? We are not told. We don’t know. Or, could it be, that he went to a pub drank himself drunk to forget the events of that day and lived out a pagan life putting criminals to death? Don’t know. I’d like to think he changed. I’d like to think that he’ll be with Jesus in Heaven.

 

A greater question comes to you and I. Now that we have stood at the foot of the cross, through the Scriptures, how has it changed us? Are we any better because of that? Are we different? Have we turned in our resignation papers to Satan and the world? Or, have we continued on, pretty much the same. Same attitudes. Same outlook on life. Same outcome to life.

 

Seeing Jesus at the cross…it ought to change us. I hope it has.

 

Roger

 

06

Jump Start # 1739

Jump Start # 1739

John 8:48 “The Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’” 

  The angry Jews had enough of Jesus. They were not only convinced that He was not the Messiah, but they tried to get the crowds to join them in denouncing and discrediting Him. Our passage reveals a powerful way that they tried to accomplish this. The Jews claimed that Jesus was a Samaritan. That doesn’t mean that much to us in our culture. This was an extremely racial, prejudicial and offensive label among the Jews. The Samaritans were “half-breeds.” They were not pure Jews. When Jesus went to Samaria, John states, “For the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (4:9). If Jesus was a Samaritan, that meant, He wasn’t a full blooded Jew. He was no longer a true descendent of Abraham, He would not be of the tribe of Judah and He could not be in line of David’s throne. In essence, the Messiah is not a Samaritan. You are a Samaritan, you are not the Messiah. This was more than a theological dig, it was racial. In our culture, using the “N-word,” is wrong. It is offensive, careless and hurtful. For a white person to call a black person, the “N-word,” will start trouble. It is wrong. This is what calling Jesus a Samaritan meant. It was intended to belittle, hurt and ruin Him.

 

Name calling is nothing new. It’s often the place people turn to when they have no defense, no argument. “Samaritan language” hasn’t stopped. It’s still being used today by brethren. We don’t recognize it, but I hear it much too often. Today, the “Samaritan language,” is to call something you don’t like, agree with, or is simply different, “Denominational” or “Liberal.”  Those “Samaritan” words are used to discredit, denounce and condemn what others are doing. It goes too often like this:

 

  • “Your church building looks denominational.”
  • “You don’t have regular gospel meetings like others do. You must be liberal.”
  • “You are doing a special weekend for teens. That’s liberal.”

 

The thought behind this “Samaritan language,” is that everything the denominations or the liberals are doing is wrong. Let’s first clarify some words.

 

The word “denomination” means a subunit of something larger. It’s only a part of something else. Organizational, financially and other ways churches that belong to a denomination are linked and tied together. Denominational churches have headquarters and are organized beyond the congregation. Congregations are not independent. An example would be you could see a boat in the ocean. You could see several boats in the ocean. These are separate and independent. Then you could see the U.S. Navy Fleet. They are linked together under the U.S. government. That’s the idea of a denomination. I went to the bank once and asked for some change and the teller asked me what denominations I wanted. I said, “Two Baptists and one Methodist.” She didn’t get it.

 

The church you read about in the Bible is not a part of a denomination. Each congregation stands independent. Each congregation decides which direction it will go and what it will do. There are no orders coming down from an earthly headquarters. Money doesn’t flow back and forth and personnel isn’t changed by the decision of someone outside that congregation. The church in the Bible is not a denomination. It belongs to solely and completely to Jesus.

 

The assumption is made that everything done in denominations is wrong. This is why this has become a “Samaritan” word. To say, “That’s denominational,” is to discredit and denounce something because it looks like something the denominations would do. Take a walk through your preacher’s library someday. The majority of the books in his library are written by “denominational” authors. Not everything done in denominations is wrong. Truth is truth, no matter who says it.

 

I have found those who so quickly and thoughtless use this “Samaritan” word, act more like a denomination themselves than what they are pointing their critical finger at. People say, “That doesn’t look like one of our buildings. It must be denominational.” Really? “One of our buildings?” What does that mean? People are asked, “What time does worship begin?” The reply, “The Scriptural time, 10:30.” They say that as if they nearly believe that. There is no SCRIPTURAL time to start services. Search that Bible, you won’t find that other than worship on Sunday. Our gospel meetings, some say, go from Sunday to Friday, the Scriptural way. Better be careful with that language. It is sounding more and more like they are part of a denomination. Because something is different, doesn’t make it wrong.

 

The term “Liberal,” is offensive, rude and used to end a discussion. Back in the 1950’s-1960’s, some progressive brethren and conservative brethren differed on the role of the church and the use of church funds in social things and in helping non-Christians. A division took place. The conservative wing was rudely referred to as “antis”. They were “anti” doing things. They were against things. The progressive side was referred to as “liberal.” And the terms seem to have stayed with us far too long.

 

A congregation decides not to have Sunday night services. “LIBERAL.” Why? Because everyone has Sunday night services. A congregation decides not to offer the Lord’s Supper a second time on Sunday. “LIBERAL.” Why? Because they are different. That’s how this “Samaritan” word is applied.

 

It is easy to throw out those “Samaritan” words to discredit and destroy the good a church is doing. We must not forget that when Jesus taught, He was “different.” He didn’t teach like the other rabbis. The words we ought to use are “Biblical” or “unbiblical.” Different isn’t wrong, if it is Biblical.

 

It would do a lot of places much good if they started doing things a bit different. They are stuck, stagnate and stale. Every year doing the same thing. No new ideas. No fresh approaches. Bible classes taught the same way. Sermons on the same subjects. Over and over and over. To dare introduce a new idea is immediately shot down as being both “Liberal” and “Denominational.”

 

It is refreshing where I worship. Our leaders are only concerned about being Biblical. We change things all the time. We may have a visiting preacher come in for just a day or two. The following year, we might do something completely different than that. We’ve had some classes that only lasted 5 weeks. The decisions our shepherds make are solely based upon what they feel our group needs at this moment. They thoroughly research the Bible to make sure we are Biblical. Then we set sail. Oh, we hear it all the time from others. The stale churches love to call us liberal and denominational. They continue to drift along, going no where, and we have goals, plans and agendas for years to come. We don’t listen to what others say. We are concerned solely with what the Lord thinks. We are a large congregation. We’ve been told that you can’t be that large and be right. Funny, guess those folks that say that never read the first pages of Acts. We are not up to 3,000 yet, but would love to be there someday.

 

Jesus was called a Samaritan. Was He? No. Did that cause Him to adjust what He was doing or to tone down His plans and words? No. He wasn’t a Samaritan. He wasn’t wrong. The name callers were trying to stop Him. Jesus was Biblically right.

 

We must follow suit. Don’t stop things just because others call you names. Make sure you are Biblically right, then launch away. Don’t listen to what others are saying. It may be nothing more than guilty voices who are jealous because you are doing more than they ever will. And please, stop using “Samaritan language.” It isn’t nice, right nor what God wants us to do. If something is not right, point it out with the Bible. If it’s simply different, recognize that and don’t stand in someone’s way. If you do, you might just get run over.

 

Roger

 

05

Jump Start # 1738

Jump Start # 1738

Acts 10:38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

 

Our verse today comes from Peter’s opening statements to Cornelius, the famous centurion who became the first Gentile convert to Christianity. And in a simple summation of the life of Christ Peter reveals that:

 

  • God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit
  • God worked power through Jesus
  • God was with Jesus
  • Jesus healed all who were oppressed by the devil
  • Jesus went about doing good

 

What isn’t mentioned here in this verse, which is most important to the life of Christ, is that He died on the cross for our sins and was raised to reign forever in Heaven. That was still to come in Peter’s words. There is something simple yet very profound in the thought, “He went about doing good.”

 

First, Jesus went about. He wasn’t stationary. He didn’t have a headquarters and people made appointments to come to see Him. Jesus was in Jerusalem, but he was also in villages of Galilee. He traveled to Samaria. He was even in the Gentile regions beyond Tyre and Sidon. On the sea, on the hillside, in synagogues, in homes, in the Temple—reading the Gospels, we find our Lord on the move, often. He went about. He went to the people. He went to where they were. As news about Him spread, crowds gathered. They filled a house so full that four men carrying a crippled friend could not get in. The feeding of the multitudes numbered 5,000 men, not counting women and children. The number may have been upwards to 20,000 people fed. Seeing Jesus in a boat, along the shore, crowds raced to the place where he was headed. They lined the streets so thick, that little Zacchaeus, had to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of the passing Jesus. Luke reports that so many thousands gathered, that they were stepping on each other. It’s hard to imagine all the events in the Gospels from the beginning wedding in Cana to the cross in Calvary cover just three years. Three years isn’t very long. It takes longer to finish high school. He went about. He was busy. He did this without a personal secretary to keep his schedule straight. He did this without drivers, travel agents, and people who booked His next appearance. So often, on these journeys, as Jesus was traveling from place to the next, He healed people along the way. Even on the journey to Jerusalem, to be crucified, He healed the ten lepers.

 

Second, Jesus went about doing good. He left people better than He found them. For many, it was physical healings. The miracles proved that Jesus was the Christ, but for so many of the people, the miracles gave life back to the people. The crippled walked. The blind saw. The deaf could hear. The demons were cast out. The lepers were cured. The dead were raised. Incurable diseases. Conditions that had plagued some for decades were changed. The quality of life was made better for hundreds and hundreds of people. News about Him spread. The crowds that gathered were full of sick, crippled and demon possessed people. The audience looked more like an emergency waiting room, that the crowd at church. People did all that they could to get the attention of Jesus. Some stood as He passed by and shouted at Him. Some begged. Some fell at His feet pleading for Him to come and heal. Some were so desperate, that they tore up a roof and lowered a crippled friend down in front of Jesus. He did good. He was popular because of this very fact.

 

Peter probably wasn’t including this in his statement, but not only did Jesus do good, but He taught good. What He said was fresh, different and full of hope. He forgave. He showed prophecies fulfilled. He included the outcast and the forgotten. The hero of His stories were not war veterans, but Samaritans and faithful servants. His words lifted spirits. His words challenged and led to changed behavior. His words were personal and specific.

 

Not only did He do good, and teach good, but He, Himself, was good. He was perfect. He was without sin. The negative things said about Him, were made up. There was nothing negative that would stick. Jesus was good. He was the definition of good. He thought good of others. He illustrated good. Even when angry, He never crossed the line and did wrong. He never had to apologize. He never had to back down from something He said. He never spoke out of turn. He never cussed. He never gossiped. He never trashed anyone, even though many deserved it. He forgave His crucifers. He gave Peter chance after chance, when Peter’s little faith kept failing. Be like Jesus, is the theme of the N.T. Be holy as He is holy, found in Peter. Be imitators of Him, found in Corinthians. Be conformed to His image, found in Romans. The absolute perfect person is Jesus. He is good.

 

Third, the outcome of Jesus’s doing good, is that we have learned to become good. He didn’t just do good, He showed us how we can become good and in turn we do good to others. We can’t heal as He did, but we can teach, influence, show and lead people to Jesus. We are good because He was and is good. He has changed us. Gone are the self centered, stingy ways that we walked in. We no longer feel better than others. Christ has changed us. We find ourselves caring for others. We find ourselves being patient and kind with others. We rejoice with good news. We hate evil. We see the ugliness of sin. We stand for something and with those who love the Lord. We have become good because Jesus is good. We have learned to love, as He loved. We have learned to pursue unity instead of being a radical and a rebel. We have come to love truth and righteousness. Our language has changed. Our attitudes have gotten better. Our families have benefited. We have become trustworthy, honest and righteous. None of this would have been possible without Jesus. And now, we find ourselves, telling family and others, about this Jesus. He changed our lives for the better and we want the world to taste the goodness of God.

 

One simple statement, He went about doing good. If that is how we are remembered, we will have done well.

 

Roger

 

02

Jump Start # 1737

Jump Start # 1737

Luke 14:28 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”

  I watched an interview about Don Henley recently. Henley and Glen Frey were the heart and engine of the famed rock group “The Eagles.” The Eagles were superstars. They produced many number one hits. Frey died suddenly in January this year, which ended the Eagles. Henley publically stated that the Eagles are finished. In this interview, Henley was discussing one of their greatest hits, “Hotel California.” The song was describing the dark side of fame and popularity. Fans only see the glamor. Wouldn’t it be neat, we think, to be so rich and famous. The mansions, the limos, the autograph seekers, the private jets—it all seems so glamorous. Henley admitted that there is a price to pay for all of that. That price is hard and it comes with a dark side that many do not see.

 

What Henley confessed is true to most public and famous people. The actor, the athlete, the author, the politician—they all have had to pay a price to reach the level that they are at. The public sees only the status and fame, but for the famous, they know that there has been a cost. Often, it’s their marriages and family that have suffered. For the world class athlete, it has been years of grueling workouts, playing with pain and for most of them, surgeries to repair broken bones and torn tendons. There is a price that they paid to reach the level that they are at.

 

Paying the price is a Biblical concept. One of the words for salvation, “redemption,” literally means, bought with a price. Our salvation came with a cost. Jesus upon the cross is what it took to pay what we owed. His blood for our sins. The Corinthians were told, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”

 

Our verse today, reminds us of another price to be paid. It’s paid by us. There is a cost to be a successful Christian. In a series about discipleship, Luke records Jesus using the illustration of a man in construction. This man wants to build a tower. For us, it’s a house or it’s an addition to our house. We watch shows about home improvements and we get the bug to fix up our place. Let’s redo the kitchen or let’s add on to the back of the house. Wouldn’t it be great, we think. So, a builder is contacted. An appointment is made. We tell him our dream and what we would like done. Even before a blueprint is drawn up, rough estimates are discussed. It is right here that our dream either ends, becomes a nightmare or is possible. We must sit down and calculate. Most times, it involves going to the bank and discussing a loan. How much is this going to cost and how long will it take for us to pay this off? It is right here that we find out whether or not this construction dream becomes a reality. Count the cost. Jesus’ point is that there is a cost to be paid to be a disciple of Jesus. We’ve always been told that salvation is free. That’s not technically true. It costs Jesus His life. There is a cost on our part as well. I think the “free” part came into theology to counter the idea that we earn our salvation. God doesn’t owe us salvation. God doesn’t have to forgive us. His choice.

 

There is a price to being a strong, healthy and growing Christian. Have you ever given that much thought? The reason some never reach that level is because they don’t want to pay that price. It’s like seeing the athlete, we see the trophies, the rings and we’d love to have that, but it’s those long, long hours of work that we don’t want to put in. In hot August, we want to be inside with the air conditioner, not wearing a helmet and running on the football field. When it’s a cold, icy rain, we want to be in safe and warm, not on the field playing a game. We want the success, but we don’t want to pay the price. We want to be superstars, but we don’t want to pay our dues. This is the very reason why some only put their big toe into Christianity. They want to be around it and enjoy the benefits of it, but they don’t want all the work, hardships nor pay the price that comes with being a success spiritually.

 

  • There is a commitment of time involved with being a successful Christian. To be strong, you must worship with God’s people. And, it’s not now and then, or, I’ll be there if I don’t have anything else going on. Sacrifices. Just as a family has to budget if they want to add on to the house, the athlete has to go to practices, the Christian is expected to be at worship. Our causal world has not only introduced causal dress, but it has allowed a casualness in attitude about what is expected. Some come for a week or two and then they are not seen for a month. Can you imagine trying to finish college with that track record. You show up for class, then you skip two or three weeks, back now and then, and gone most times. The outcome is obvious. That person will flunk. Imagine trying to hold a job with that track record. Within a month, that person would be looking for another job. The successful Christian worships. He will make sacrifices to accomplish that. There will be days that he is tried and wants to stay home. He will get out to the church house because that’s the right thing to do. There are nights when it is so dark and the weather is not nice, but he will still get there, because he knows it is important for his soul and the spirit of others. There are times when other things are going on. There is a show, a game, a family gathering, a concert that pulls for him to skip. Part of him says, “It’s only one service, you can skip.” But then, part of him reminds himself that there is a cost. Jesus paid it. Did Jesus feel like going to the cross? His example, the need to be encouraged, seeing the big picture, helps him make the right decision.

 

  • There is a price to be paid to live the moral standards that God expects. Be holy is what Peter told the disciples. It’s that “Be” that means become. One can do holy things, but it’s the becoming that changes us. This price means that the disciple of Jesus will not wear things that are immodest, even if it’s a wedding. It means he may not go to the movies that everyone is talking about, because it doesn’t fit with being holy. It means some Christmas parties will not be attended, because the atmosphere is not good for a Christian. There is a price. Some want to be that person who lives like a sinner and dies like a saint. They are so confused. They are most miserable, because they haven’t made up their minds who they serve nor are they willing to pay the price to be successful spiritually.

 

  • There is a price to be paid to know God’s will. Your preacher seems to know the Bible so well. He seems like a machine. Ask him where a certain verse is, and he’ll tell you. He whips off information and facts that amazes you. How does he know all this stuff? He seems so confident. He seems to have all the answers. How does he do it? He has paid a price. He has stuck his nose in books, especially the Bible for years and years. He studies. He thinks. He learns. He’s put in hours and hours. You can be the same, but you have to turn the TV off now and then. You have to read. There is no short cut. There is no easy way. There is a price to having great knowledge, faith and confidence in the Lord. Some will pay it, others won’t.

 

I have two offices. One at home, and one at the church building. My home office is decorated with an antique typewriter and phone and a lot of sports memorabilia. I have one photo in both offices. It inspires me. It’s a black and white photo of Babe Ruth hugging Lou Gehrig. Both men are smiling big. The photo was taken after Gehrig’s famous farewell speech in which he said, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Ruth and Gehrig had a falling out, but here, the old teammates were united in a joyous hug. Babe reminds me to hit it out of the park. Give it your all.  Gehrig reminds me of playing consistently, even when hurt. Both men paid a cost to be who they were. So must I and so must you.

 

You can become a person of enormous influence and great help in your congregation. You can’t do that overnight. There is a price to pay to be that person. But what good you will do if you are willing. There is a price that preachers must pay. There is a price that shepherds must pay. If you are going to be good and make a difference, you must pay that price.

 

It’s time for many of us to get off the sidelines of life and get into the game that God wants us to play. It’s time we started making a difference in our homes, marriages, and congregations. The world needs to see your light shinning. There are people that need you. There are classes to be taught, articles to be written, people to be visited—but all of this comes with a cost. Who will pay it? Will you?

 

Roger

 

01

Jump Start # 1736

Jump Start # 1736 

Galatians 5:20-21 “idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”

  I have to admit that I am one who completely gets into the holiday spirit of things. I love Christmas shows and Christmas music. I’ve already watched Rudolph, the cartoon version of Grinch and Ernest saves Christmas. And we are just now in December. On my list to watch is Elf, Frosty, Christmas Carol, and It’s a wonderful life. The radio on my car is set to Christmas music. When we lived in Kansas City, there were two radio stations that competed about bragging rights about being the first to play Christmas music. One year, on a Tuesday afternoon in October, one station started the Christmas music. Immediately, the other station followed. It was great.

 

I was listening to the song the other day, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.” There is a line that caught my attention. It says, “You got garlic in your soul.” I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean, other than it’s not good. It sounds corrupt, evil, and wrong. And that brings us to our verses today.

 

Paul warned the Galatian Christians about what we call the “works of the flesh.” There are behaviors, attitudes and “garlic of the soul” that will keep one from Heaven. I find it interesting that he reminds Christians about these things. Most of us would assume that if a person is in Christ, then they have left these things already. Apparently not. The carnal spirit was alive among the Corinthian Christians. Later in Galatians, we would find warnings about “biting and devouring one another.” John would warn about hating others. Just because a person has believed that Jesus is the Son of God and has obeyed Him in baptism, doesn’t mean that his insides magically change. Often, little is done to change the insides. And the results are “garlic in the soul.”

 

You may have witnessed sour behavior out of Christians. It’s shocking and sometimes we think, “Why don’t they know better?” The answer is obvious, they haven’t changed their insides. They haven’t put off the old man as the Ephesians were told. They haven’t walked in a new life as the Romans were told. They were baptized but they continued on with their selfish ways. Jealous, envious, angry, gossiping, dividing the ranks, this sort of garlic in the soul keeps a congregation from reaching it’s potential. Such a church is handicapped. These internal attitudes will cripple any good that a congregation tries to do. It doesn’t take very long for a person to recognize things aren’t right in a congregation. Tension, mean talking, hard feelings come to the surface rapidly and the damage that these do is profound. Hurt feelings. A spirit of not being welcomed by some.

 

It helps us to realize that a person must continue to grow in Christ. The new babe in Christ needs to learn so many things. Often, too often, there isn’t any set program. He’s baptized and he starts attending whatever adult class is offered. That class can be over his head and not dealing with the necessary changes that he needs to be working on in his heart. Nothing is ever said about these inside things. All appears to be fine because he was baptized. Not only do months pass, but years pass. The new convert notices others who seem to have some garlic in their souls as well, and nothing is ever said about it. The new convert settles into a routine of worshipping, helping out here and there, but he never gets the message that he ought to be re-wiring his thinking. He needs to be like Christ. The fruit of the Spirit, which follows this section in Galatians, never becomes a part of his character.

 

When I look back through the years, some of the meanest things ever said to me, came from the mouth of Christians. What they said was hurtful. Who said it made it even worse. When you look at some of the first conversions in Acts, Pentecost, Ethiopian, Lydia, Jailer, Samaritans—they were obedient to the fact that Jesus was the Christ. There isn’t much detail about changing your thinking and putting on Christ. We pick up on more of this in Paul’s letters. The Ephesians were told, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you…” That’s some of these works of the flesh. That’s changing our insides. That’s pitching the garlic that is in our souls. Shepherds and preachers need to lead the way in teaching and showing Christians the spirit and heart that God expects us to have. It’s not natural to be generous, forgiving and thinking of others. A person must learn.

 

Unless the Galatians changed, many of them, although they were Christians, would not make it. They became their own worst enemy. It makes us wonder how many of us will make it? A church house full on Sunday is a great sight, but Christ living in us on a Thursday is a better sight. Letting the word of Christ richly dwell within you is the key. These things are a matter of choice. We choose to grow, excel and become like Christ or we choose to remain pretty much just as we are.

 

Jealousy and envy will eat you up. Fighting, dividing and being angry will run people off. Acting like the world will win no one to Christ. In this same chapter Paul said, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” That’s it. That’s the solution. That’s what we must do. We must walk by the Spirit. Now, we must figure out, through a study of God’s word, just what walking by the Spirit means and what it looks like. Then we must master it and do it.

 

If you take a car to the car wash, you can clean the outside and make it shine so nice. But if the engine is knocking, and it’s burning oil and doesn’t start half the time, clean on the outside doesn’t fix the inside. The hood must be raised and some attention given to the motor. The same thing goes for us. We can look good on a Sunday, but listen to what we are saying. Watch how we act during the week. Maybe it’s time to raise the hood on our hearts and give some attention to our souls.

 

Let’s leave the garlic soul to the Grinch. If you watch the cartoon version, you’ll notice at the end, even the ole’ Grinch changes on the inside. His heart grows and he becomes loveable, kind and generous. If the Grinch can do it, just imagine what we can do with Christ and His word working on us.

 

Roger

 

30

Jump Start # 1735

Jump Start # 1735

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

  A Jump Start reader asked if I would write about this verse. She couldn’t find any earlier Jump Starts on this passage. Before I comment, a couple of thoughts.

 

For those that do not know, there is a Jump Start website (www.Jumpstartsdaily.com) that allows you to search previous Jump Starts by date, number or passage. This is helpful if you are wanting some thoughts for a class, bulletin or to use for an invitation. There is a search engine that allows a person to type in certain words and it will take you to the Jump Starts using that word.

 

Second, I am amazed that anyone would want to know what I think about a passage. This whole Jump Start journey continues to be beyond my comprehension. Our list of readers continues to grow and more and more are finding ways to use these articles to reach and help others. It is simply amazing to me.

 

Now, our verse. There seems to be four components to this passage.

 

First, there is the togetherness. It is expressed by the words, “Let us.” I like that. Sometimes we preachers like to tell the audience what to do, but we do not include ourselves. Paul did not say, “You need to…” He said, “Let us.” This thought is used three times in Hebrews 10. There we find, “Let us draw near…” (22); “Let us hold fast…” (23); and “let us consider how…” (24). Let us. We are in this together. The work is too much for any one of us. We need each other. Every organization, every team, and every church needs the spirit of “let us” to be successful. The quarterback can’t make it without linemen, receivers, coaches, equipment men, administration personnel,  and even the guy who sells the tickets. Different roles, but all connected. So it is in the church. Some preach. Some shepherd. Some invite. Some serve. Some support. Everyone has a role. We need to lose the “me” verse “them” way of thinking. It’s us. It’s “let us.”

 

Second, don’t lose heart in doing good. The “losing heart,” means to become discouraged. We’d say it this way, “I don’t feel like it,” or, “my heart is not in it anymore.” That person has “lost heart.” In Luke, Jesus told the disciples to pray at all times and not to lose heart. John 14 begins with the thought, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Why would one become discouraged in doing good? That’s hard for some to see. Others, know this. They have experienced it. The losing heart seems to be connected with the final expression in this verse, “grow weary.” That’s the cause of losing heart. They became tired. Tired of always being the one who takes meals. Tired of being the one who is always teaching class. Tired of being the one who is always the encourager. Tired of carrying the load. Tired of shepherding. Tired of being the “faithful few.” Why don’t others do it for a change? Why don’t the young folks step up? If I don’t do it, it will not get done. Boy, I know that song. I’ve sung it too many times, myself. From this weariness comes discouragement then comes the Elijah syndrome. Remember ole’ Elijah, hiding in the cave to escape Jezebel’s assassins? He was ready for God to take him. He was the only one, he thought. No one else was doing anything. He must have been singing, “Gloom, despair and agony on me,” in that dark cave. Pitiful me. Woe is me. God had to remind Elijah that there were thousands who had not bowed their knees to Baal. He didn’t know about them. He wasn’t the only one. He was not stranded on the island of misfits, as he so believed.

 

Losing heart will cause one to quit. He will walk away and never come back. It’s good to take a break. It’s good to get away. It’s good to catch your breath, refocus, recharge your batteries, but get back in there. You are needed. You are doing good. You are making a difference. Your efforts matter. Your example is helpful and encouraging. If you stop, you’ll be just like the ones you complain about. No, there won’t be a banner with your name on it stretched across the auditorium on Sunday. No, there won’t be a banquet in your honor. No, you probably won’t even be mentioned in the bulletin or get a shout out from the pulpit. That would take away from the good that you are doing. You do what you do because it’s the right thing and it’s necessary.

 

Third, in due time we shall reap. Payday is coming. Payday comes after you have first worked. The reaping is what the five talent man witnessed when his master praised him for doing good. Reaping may come in several forms. We first think of Heaven. The crown of righteousness that awaits us. That’s the truest sense of reaping. But there are other forms of reaping. It’s seeing children learning and doing well because you have taught them. It’s family members who are changing because you have influenced them. It’s seeing people in the audience who came because you invited them. It’s seeing a young man preach because you spent time with him and encouraged him. It’s seeing marriages saved and thriving again. It’s seeing people conquer their addictions. It’s seeing the church reaching others and becoming stronger because you poured hours into leading them. Sure the benefits are Heaven, but there are many, many other benefits right now. Most of us are where we are today because of someone else. A parent, a friend, a preacher, an elder, poured hours into us. They wouldn’t quit. They never gave up on us. And today, we stand tall because of their work. We are the harvest of the work of others.

 

There is a “due time” that comes before the reaping. Farmers understand this. They plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. They have to wait. There is no short cuts that allows them to plant and harvest in the same week. Due time means simple that. It takes time. Patience. Waiting. Still doing good. In time it will show. It will show in grown children. It will show in mature Christians. It will show in stronger faith.

 

Finally, all of this is based upon not growing weary. IF we do not grow weary. IF. A big IF. Satan is counting on you not making it. Satan is hoping that you will get weary. He wants you to become discouraged. He wants good to stop. Keep going, is what Paul is saying. Hebrews reminds us that we have not endured to the point of shedding blood. Yes, you are tired. Keep going. Yes, there is so much to be done. Keep going.

 

The next verse connects to all of this. “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all…” While the door is  open. Get up. I know you are tired. Get off the couch. Another study. Another phone call. Another meal to make. Another class to teach. Another chance to do good.

 

Some day the opportunity will be gone. The person will move on, things change and the window of making a difference closes. Someday we will not be in the position to do much good. Health and age will take it’s toll upon us. I have been preaching about 40 years, 36 of those have been full time. For the first time in my life, I have been thinking about when will it be time for me to call it quits. “While we have opportunity,” won’t always be there. The end is closer than it has ever been for me. This is why we must do good.

 

God has made us in such a way that all of us can do good. Not everyone can preach, nor do we need everyone to preach. Not everyone can say the right words of encouragement. Not everyone is gifted at inviting folks to services. Not everyone can teach. Not everyone can cook a meal and take it to someone. But we all can do something. Even the one talent man had one talent. That may be all you have. That’s fine. Don’t compare yourself with others. Don’t complain about what you can’t do. Just get busy and “let us not lose heart in doing good…”

 

Off the sidelines and into the game of life, that ‘s what God wants. It’s easy to point out the problems. Help be a part of the solution. Don’t wait for others. They are probably waiting on you. Jump in. Get involved. Do what you can.

 

That’s the thoughts. Now, let’s do it.

 

Roger

 

29

Jump Start # 1734

Jump Start # 1734

1 Corinthians 11:17 “But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”

  Our verse today begins a series of valuable instructions about the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper brings us all together. It makes us all knee before the cross and realize that each of us need the saving blood of Jesus Christ. God wanted His people to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It was the theme of those early sermons. It has the message that changed the world. And it was a memorial that was to bring us together, both literally, and symbolically, each first day of the week.

 

But somehow, the Corinthian ugliness and divisive spirit even trickled into the Lord’s Supper. They messed that up. Some were eating it like pigs and others were not getting any. The memorial had become yet another occasion to splinter hearts that were not united. In most places today, folks would leave. It would be enough to cause a church split. Fingers would be pointed at each other, stuff would be said that probably shouldn’t be, tempers would flare, and that would be it. Some would leave. That didn’t seem to happen in Corinth. When Paul writes 2 Corinthians, he writes one letter, not two. It appears that wisdom prevailed and apostolic instructions were followed. I wish we could do that today!

 

There are some lessons we see here:

 

First, it is possible for a worship service to be counter productive. Instead of praising God and encouraging one another, God can be shamed and the worship ruined by bad attitudes and hateful hearts.

 

Second, something that is good and right, such as the Lord’s Supper, can be misused and abused if not given the proper attention with the right motives. The same can be said of singing, or, even preaching. Those things are good and right, but they sure can be distorted.

 

Third, when we come together, it’s not only for God and ourselves, but it is also for others. If it wasn’t, then why even come together. Why not just stay at home if my only concern is God and self. I must be thoughtful of the “others.” It’s not just me. My attitude, my cooperation, my heart will either be open to others or it will be the cause of hurt feelings and trouble. So, I must think of others, not just myself.

 

This thought will hasten me not to be disruptive by being late all the time. There are times you can’t help being late. Emergencies at home, traffic on the road, someone can’t find something, there are days like that. But for some families, it seems to be every day. All the time. Always late. The getting in, getting settled, causes commotion and disrupts the class or the worship around you. Be mindful of others. Get to bed earlier. Get up earlier. Find what you need before you get to bed. Make sure the car is gassed up. You’re heading to worship, so get there.

 

Fourth, it is possible that we leave worship worse than when we came. I’ve experienced this. Tense feelings spill over and our minds lose focus of God and we start thinking about the problems, the people involved and worship becomes more of a battle ground than a safe haven for our souls. Thankfully, I’ve never been in a real military battle before. I don’t think I would do well. I’ve known dozens and dozens who have. To stay alive in a battle, you must be alert, sharp and always watching. It’s not a peaceful moment. It’s not relaxing. Everyone is on edge. It’s not like the video games, not real war. Worship should not be like this. We get beat up everyday in the world. We need each other for comfort, encouragement and help. Yet, if things are not right, worship can be just another battle that we must engage in and endure. The trauma of an unhealthy worship can leave us battered, bruised and worse off than when we came. This is the very reason why some stop coming and others begin looking for another congregation. Why “go to church,” when it takes all week to get over the experience.

 

Fifth, as ugly and as bad as these problems can be, they can be fixed, if the right hearts and the wisdom of God prevails. We can do better, is the spirit that will bring about change. It doesn’t have to be this way. Change is hard. Change involves someone taking charge and leading souls back to God. It involves reminding what we are supposed to do. Herein, lies yet another problem. It’s easier to point fingers and leave than to stay and make things better. “Why should I,” is too often the response, when the exit above the door seems to be the best option. Why? Because your leaving doesn’t help. Your leaving only discourages others. Your leaving indicates that  you have given up. Stay in there and lead the charge with a Bible in your hand. Read and repeat what God wants. Remind others who we are. Be the first to forgive. Put aside your personal feelings and see the big picture.

 

It is interesting how folks in the world can sometimes do things better than those in the church. The election is over. Trump will be the new president. He is interviewing people to fill various positions in his administration. Many of those he is talking to were harsh critics of him. They said some mean things about him. Some didn’t even vote for him. Yet, he sees beyond that to the qualities that they have that would help his administration. The media won’t stand for this. They are making a big deal and reminding us of the ugly things that were said during the campaign. There is a lesson for us. Can we move on together after things have been said? Can we see the bigger picture and the good that each person brings or are we destined to always remember the ugly things that were said? Can we forgive? Can we move on together?

 

Maybe this is why Jesus told the disciples to become like children. Kids fuss at each other. They want the toy that the other one has. They cry. They get mad. Yet, an hour later, they are sitting together, laughing and playing. Adults can’t do that. We remember. We can’t move past what was said and done. To be like a child would help us.

 

Our coming together ought to be for the better. That’s the principle and that’s the goal. We ought to leave refreshed, encouraged and challenged. We ought to be better after worship than before. There is a goodness to be found in worship. We need that. That pulls us together. That helps us become a better people. It’s more than smiles and hugs, although those help, it’s the deeper connections. It’s the bond we have in Christ. It’s the goal we have as a church. It’s being that one mind, one heart, and one voice. It’s the spirit that says we are all in this together. It’s the heart that loves those people and loves God. It’s an understanding that this is my family, my church family. Love them. Pray for them. Support them. Defend them. Encourage them. Work with them. And never give up on them.

 

Do you think about your church family much during the week? Do you ever just pause and pray for some of them? How about the leaders? How about your preacher? How about those busy deacons? How about the teens? How about the young mothers? How about the senior saints? A lot of folks. A lot of history. A lot of love.

 

Across the landscape today, we are witnessing two things happening among God’s people. In some places, things are the best that they have ever been. Attendance, spirit, vision and opportunities are as great as they have ever been. Some places are adding on. Some places are appointing more elders. Good things are happening. But sadly, we are also witnessing in many places the death of some congregations. Things are stale and dying. Folks are leaving. Some congregations seem to be drifting without any direction. Leaders are resigning. Preachers are leaving. Some places are considering closing the doors for good.

 

Why is it that some are doing so well and others are doing so poorly? Many factors, from leadership, vision, spirit, to even what we’ve talked about today, worship. Satan wants all of us to become discouraged and for all congregations to close their doors. We must not allow that to happen.

 

Roger

 

28

Jump Start # 1733

Jump Start # 1733

John 9:31 “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.”

  A friend asked me to share some thoughts in Jump Start about this passage. This passage is layered with thoughts and is a great way to show the value of looking at the context. Here’s the background. Jesus and His disciples passed a man who was blind from birth. The disciples, with the common Jewish thinking of the day, assumed the man had been punished for some sin. They asked Jesus, who sinned? Was it the man or was it his parents? Interestingly, they never thought to ask Jesus if He could or would make the man better. Just a curious thought that involved no action on their part. Jesus, in a remarkable miracle, spit in the dirt, made mud, rubbed it on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash in the pool Siloam. Jesus didn’t have to do that. He could have cured the man by just saying the words. The man returned seeing. The miracle covers about three verses. The entirety of the rest of the chapter is an intense interrogation by the Jews concerning this miracle. The Jews continually refer to Jesus as a “sinner.” They question the blind man. Then they question his parents. Then they again question the man. The man is getting irritated with the Jewish questions. He asks the Jews if they want to become a disciple of Jesus? That sets them over the edge. In response, where our verse is found, the blind man states, “You do not know where He is from…and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners…” His conclusion was that Jesus could not be a sinner, otherwise God would not have heard him.

 

That’s the story. Now comes the question that we struggle with from this verse: Does God hear sinners? We must think this out before we shoot out a quick answer. I’ve heard folks quote this proudly in a Bible class without thinking this out.

 

First, if God doesn’t hear sinners, how does he hear anyone? Romans tells us that all have sinned. John tells us in this first letter, that if we say that we have no sin, present tense, the truth is not in us. That’s a problem. Does God hear any of us?

 

Second, although this is in the Bible, this statement isn’t from God. Jesus didn’t say this. Neither did one of the apostles. This comes from the blind man in a heated exchange with the Jewish establishment. He doesn’t quote any specific passage. This is how he sees things. This tells us that the Bible contains conversations of uninspired men. The words of Pharaoh, Herod, Nebuchadnezzar, Pilate, soldiers, servants and others are found in the Bible. These words are part of the conversation and the story. This man’s perspective may not be correct.

 

Third, we know that God has heard the prayers of sinners. In Acts 9, when Saul of Tarsus, saw Jesus in a vision and became blind, God sent Ananias to him. God told Ananias  that Saul “is praying.” How did God know that if He doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners? The next chapter, Acts 10, we find Cornelius, a God-fearing man, but not a Christian. An angel appeared to Cornelius and reported, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” God heard the prayer of a man that wasn’t saved. In Jesus’ great sermon, He said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  The person who has does not ask, seek or knock. It’s the person who doesn’t have that will do these things. To say categorically, God does not hear the prayers of sinners, is not Biblically correct.

 

Fourth, Psalms 66 states, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, God will not hear.”  This is probably where the blind man in John 9 came up with his idea that “God does not hear sinners.” The intention of the heart is what is important here. Cornelius was not saved, but he was God-fearing. Saul was not saved, but he was questioning and seeking. That is so different than a man who never worships, never follows the Lord, never cares about the spiritual side of things and then one day troubles come and then, and only then, he prays so that the trouble will end. Once the troubles are over, he’s back to his selfish, one dimensional, materialistic pursuits in life. He needed prayer to get him out of trouble. Once the trouble ended, he was finished with prayer and with God. His only motive for praying was selfish. He has no intention of pursuing the will of God.  He has no faith. He has no understanding of God’s word. He couldn’t name the four gospels if his life depended upon it. As soon as trouble leaves, he quickly is done with the spiritual stuff until the next time trouble comes. The fact that he prayed never changed him, moved him nor affected him. He’s not even sure who He is talking to when he offered his emergency prayer in the moment of crisis. He’s not even concerned about knowing who he is talking to. For such a person, his prayer is not heard. He is not interested in God. He is not interested in doing what God says. He simply wants a nice, smooth life with little trouble. That’s the only reason he prays. The only time he ever hears the Bible read is at a wedding or a funeral.

 

We pray not to just get us out of trouble. Sometimes trouble teaches us things that we need to learn. We pray to thank God. We pray to praise God. We pray to talk to God. We pray because we know, like and love God. We pray because we want to be with God. We pray because God is our Father.

 

Our verse today, shows us that statements found in the Bible must be understood. Who is speaking? What is the background? What’s going on? Those thoughts help us to get an understanding on the meaning of a verse. The statement, God doesn’t hear sinners, was used by the blind man to justify Jesus. How could Jesus be a sinner, like the Jews were saying, if God had heard and answered His prayer. The proof was in the eyes of the man who once was blind. He now had sight.

 

In a hard to understand statement, the Bible is from God, but not every word is a quotation of God. This does not mean that man has added his own words into the Bible. The Bible is a product of inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but even the devil is quoted in the Bible. God included man’s words to build the historical story behind the Bible events. Study helps us to understand this concept. This also helps us to see that just flinging out a statement of the Bible can be dangerous. If misused, if taken out of context, the conclusion may not be God’s conclusion. We could build a whole system of faith around, “God doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners.” From that, we could easily build the bridge to, “God doesn’t hear the praise of sinners.” Just a step or two more, and we get to “God doesn’t even like sinners.” None of that is true. That’s the danger of taking a statement out of it’s background and context.

 

I hope this has been helpful. It makes us think about that statement, “handling accurately” the word of truth. That’s our responsibility. Don’t cut corners. Don’t be sloppy in your study. Don’t assume. Be diligent. Do your homework. Dig deep. Look carefully. Lower the nets. Think things out. See the big picture.

 

I’d expect most of us were praying to God before we obeyed Him and were saved. I’d also expect that most of us didn’t think that was a bad thing to do. The more folks prayed to God, the better our world would be.

 

Roger