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Archive for August, 2012

… walking through the valley … (1)

 

Whenever the road we are walking gets hard, so steep that it steals our breath or so low that it  compresses our spirits, we long for flat land.

 

When life becomes a challenge, we reach for the EASY BUTTON.

 

While we may head to the mountains on vacation, seeking their soaring vistas or the coolness of the fertile valley floor which separates them, we secretly pray for flat land for our daily journey.

 

Many Christians have the unreal expectation that our spiritual life will always be level. (2) 

 

When we are tested by God, forced to wade through the valley and to make the steep climb from their depths, we frequently complain to Him that he is not doing His job, that He is unjust and unfair.

 

How often have you visited a loved-one in ICU at the hospital and been mesmerized by the monitor above their head?  I have frequently stared at these monitors watching lines rise and fall either with consistency or with jagged irregularity.  

 

Regardless of which line I am watching, I find myself wondering, “Is that good or is it bad?”  

 

While I cannot judge whether the line’s slope, peaks, and valleys are a good sign, I do know one thing, a line with peaks and valleys is better than a flat-line!

 

If a patient flatlines, a Code Blue is sent through out the hospital.  Doctors and nurses come running with carts, machines, and meds.  They have one goal: restore the line to one with peaks and valleys!  

 

Without the peaks and valleys, the patient remains dead.

 

Christians who pray that God make their lives a smooth plain are, unknowingly, praying for their death.

 

When you are walking through the valley do not fear because the Lord your God is looking for the perfect moment to mount you up on eagle’s wings. (3) 

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  1. Psalm 23:4
  2. Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Start Devotionals (Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009).
  3. Isaiah 40:31 (Read also Psalm 91).
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Give Jesus Christ a chance, give Him elbow room … 

because the devil doesn’t get lazy around you. (1)

Most Christians only pray when they are desperate.

As Screwtape might say to Wormwood in C. S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters:

“Never let them think they need to pray.  Let them have enough confidence in themselves and fate that they do not ask Jesus to intervene.  This way they create more space for our tempting ploys.”

Prayer is a bother to us because we have nothing measurable to show for it at the end of the day.  

This is why many pastors rarely pray.

How do you explain to the Church Board that the 3 hours you spent in prayer this morning was productive work, while Mr Jones and Mrs. Smith were at nursing home ailing in loneliness, while Darrin was off being a teenage derelict, and while the homeless at the shelter needed someone to cook them breakfast?

Let’s be honest, what would impress your boss and friends the most?

Tell them you woke up at 6 AM and prayed for 3 hours for the Spirit of God to mold your heart and mind, to send Jones and Smith a friend, to get Darrin on track, and to motivate volunteers to work at the homeless shelter.

Or

Tell them that you woke up at 6 AM to serve breakfast at the homeless shelter, then met with Darrin before he went to school, and visited with Smith and Jones as you passed the nursing home before arriving at the office at 9 AM.

No contest here.  We know who will get the big raise.

Genuine praise, adoration, and glory comes to the man, woman, or child who works for God serving the needy, while pleasing pleasant platitudes are offered for prayers.

At the end of Luke 10, when Martha complained to Jesus that her sister avoided kitchen work to listen to him, Jesus said:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (2)

In Luke 11:1, Jesus is praying and one of his disciples said, “Jesus teach us how to pray!”

We all need more knee time with God.

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  1. I compiled this quote by combining two statements, the first from Oswald Chambers and the latter from Martin Luther.  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).  Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 240). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Luke 10:41–42.

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The Lord declares: ‘Those who honor me I will honor, 

and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. (1)

I have a friend who tells me he is a Christian.  He worships regularly and serves in the church. Yet, he routinely speaks flippantly about God and His ways.

I like this individual, but his careless dishonoring of God in the name of humor bothers me.

Perhaps I am too sensitive, on the defensive for God because Christians are under constant attack in our culture.

Should I bear his humor quietly, letting my silence and refusal to respond sink in and make a clear statement, or should I tell him that his words offend me?

I doubt this friend sees his speech as being dishonorable to God.

Common counsel is to never question another’s intentions.  I do not believe my friend wants to dishonor God, but he is.  I fear his goal is either to impress others or to stir up a fight at which he will take offense at my sensitivity for God.

While I am uncomfortable with my decision, I have chosen silence because I do not wish to create a stir.

I’d like to say that my silence is a deliberate attempt to be faithful to scripture.

He was oppressed, and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. (2)

Blessed are the meek. (3)

Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake. (4)

If my friend’s words were not dishonoring my Lord, my silence would feel golden.

Lord, what do you want me to do?

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Samuel 2:30.
  2. Isaiah 53:7.
  3. Matthew 5:5.
  4. Matthew 5:10.

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Behold the Lamb of God – John 1:19-34

Preaching Notes – August 26, 2012

John 1:19-34

This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,  even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’  I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

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I.    A World of Questions and Seekers – John 1:19-22

A.  John the Baptist created a stir among the people

B.  Religious leaders needed to know: Who are you?

Messiah … Elijah … Prophet

C.  Who Are You

D.  The Search Continues

Your neighbors, friends, co-worker, strangers, and family

Despite fanfare all truth is relative” – people are seeking Truth

==>  Leaders asking John, “What do you say about yourself?”

II.   John’s Testimony – John 1:24-28

Note the remarkableness of John’s testimony about himself

A.  I am not

John the Baptist, chose not to be a Poser

B.  I am the voice

He downplays his calling and importance by quoting Isaiah

I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!”

At best, I am an announcer

C.  I am not The One

John could have said, “I have been chosen and called by God to ….

In today’s world his publicity director would have said so, but he stuck with his story

I am not The One

D.  I am not worthy

He went so far as to state with humility

I am not worthy to untie the strap on his sandal

Churches known for everything, but pointing people to Jesus

John the Baptist says later, John 3:30: He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease

III.  John’s 3 testimonies about Jesus  – John 1:29, 32-34

After taking the focus off himself John the Baptist, turns the focus to that which is important

The testimony is from God delivered through John (1:33)

A. John’s 1st testimony about Jesus – pointing to Jesus he says:

The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29)

Powerful descriptive language about Jesus

He covers all the critical mass information about Jesus in one sentence

We do not know if everyone fully understood, but he described Jesus in a sentence that when unpacked

=> telling us everything we need to know

When someone asks you, Who is Jesus? What do you say?

The Lamb of God

In Jewish world => many images

Lambs were offered as sacrifices for sins

Of 96 OT references to lambs, 85 are about lambs used is sacrifices

1.  The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12)

2. The Scapegoat  from The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16)

Upon him all the iniquities of the people.”

3.  The Sacrificial Lamb and Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:7, 10, and12)

A. W. Pink about the teaching of Scripture concerning “the lamb.”

Progressively in the Bible the Lamb is:

Typified, prophesied, slain,personified, identified, magnified, glorified

From another perspective notice the orderly development of for whom the lamb is sacrificed:

For the individual, for the whole household, for the entire nation, and finally for the world

Thus by calling Jesus, “The Lamb of God”

John the Baptist was making an empathic statement about Jesus

B.  John’s other two testimonies

In this passage John declares:

1. In verses 32 and 33 – The Spirit of God dwells on Jesus

2. In verse 34 – Jesus is the Son of God

IV.   Conclusion

In this passage we are taught two critical lessons:

1.  We are to bear witness, not to ourselves, but to Jesus

2.  The best witness begins with

The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

This is what people need, desire, seek

Will you, show them the way

John Calvin wrote:

The principal office of Jesus is that He takes away the sins of the world by the sacrifice of his death, and reconciles men to God. There are other favors which Jesus bestows upon us, but this is the chief favor, and the rest depend on it.  In John 14:6 when John records Jesus saying,“I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  John leads us back to Christ alone.  By calling Jesus,The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” John is teaching why there is no other way to God because Jesus alone takes away our sin and reconciles us to God.” 

Have you received Jesus as The Lamb of God who takes away YOUR sin?

If, not, you need to do so, today, right now.

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God detests idolatry, even in the form of parental love. (1)

 

It’s the first week of school and school buildings across the nation are filled with parents.

 

Yes, there are kids present, but you have a hard time seeing and hearing them through the thicket and over the buzz of the parents hovering around their kids.

 

Young adults are heading off to college and pictures are popping up all over Facebook of parents unpacking, decorating, and rearranging their children’s rooms, while the adult-child sits on the side with a perturbed look on his face.

 

When I was in school, parents never made it past the table set up 25 yards before the front door.  It was at this table where we learned who our teacher would be for the next year.

 

When I went to college, my Dad (Mom stayed home) helped me get my suitcases and boxes out of the trunk of the car and onto the sidewalk before shaking my hand and telling me he’d see me at Thanksgiving.  I had to haul the stuff up to my room by myself.

 

It use to be that most Christians only practiced idolatry at the bank, in front of the mirror, or at sporting events of their college or professional team.

 

That has all changed.

 

Parents, including the Christian-kind, have become idolatrous in their worship of their kids.  

 

God would rather we worship Him instead of our kids.

 

Sarah Young wonders if this is why God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  In the voice of God, she writes:

I took Isaac to the very point of death to free Abraham from son-worship. Both Abraham and Isaac suffered terribly because of the father’s undisciplined emotions. (1)

 

God instructs parents to love their kids, not to worship them.  We have become a nation of child worshippers.  It is an addiction that is reinforced everywhere we go, including church.

 

I love my boys deeply.  I love them so much I refuse to worship them.  After they were married, I told both of them, “I relinquish my parental rights over you.  However, I will always love you as your father.”

 

It was a freeing moment for them and for me.

 

I am the Lord your God, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” (2)

 

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  1. Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling – Deluxe Edition: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (p. 247). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. 
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Exodus 20:2–5.

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We always know when Jesus is at work because 

He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring. (1)

Yesterday after teaching a class on Living in the Spirit, for the Men’s Recovery program at the Rockford Rescue Mission, I was feeling a bit of smug pride that I had taught so well.

As my students departed one of them came forward saying, “Here’s the way I see it!”  He erased a portion of my scribbled drawings, add a few lines and circles of his own.  By doing so, he illuminated the teaching of scripture in a better way.

Oswald Chambers speaks of the ministry of the unnoticed when he comments on Jesus’ teaching, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (2)

In the past (and I am certain, into the future), I have prided myself on my ministry to the unnoticed.  In a quiet and humble way, I want others to notice when I am ministering to the unnoticed.

But this is not what Jesus was teaching.  He was teaching something much deeper, richer, more profound.

The poor in spirit are a blessing because they draw attention to God and not to themselves when they minister to others in simple commonplace ways.

Big things draw attention, but it is the little things which change the world.

The servant of Christ is never bigger than the person he serves!

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).
  2. Matthew 5:3.

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Virtue brings light; indulgence brings fog. (1)

Virtue is a word we rarely use in today’s world.

We now consider practicing virtue as the restraining of one’s real desires. This goes counter to the philosophy of today’s world which says, “You are free to indulge in your pleasures.”

Indulgence brings pleasure for the moment and discomfort for the future.

Eat a huge Thanksgiving meal and your taste buds dance with joy, while your eyelids and blood sugars droop into sleep.

Drink a tub of beer and laugh your heart silly tonight knowing your brain will ache and brake in the morning.

Shop till you drop today so tomorrow you can beg the banker for cash while still on your knees.

The loss of virtue in our society is a cause of concern for me.  When an individual dishonors virtue, he invites problems into the lives of many, not just himself.

In all of my counseling, the loss of virtue in one’s sexual ethics brings with it a greater assortment of hardship and problems than one imagined in the heat of the moment.

Jim Wilson asks and responds to this question:

Can you name a single family (person) that is better off because of premarital sex or an extramarital affair? Sexual indiscretions shatter love, destroy trust, and ruin morale. (2)

Keeping to the virtue of a sound biblical sexual ethic in your personal life will always be a blessing to you and those you love.

It is a virtue which when held, brings light, yet when cast aside, brings darkness and problems.

Sunny days are a blessing.  It is good to walk in the light.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue. (3)

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  1. Lewis, C. S. (2009-03-17). A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 254). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  2. Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Start Devotionals (Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009).
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Peter 1:5.

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