Seven Words of Worship-Harland & Moser-Mar. 20, 2013

Week 8-Experience-March 20, 2013

Points to Ponder

v  When we experience God in worship, we are empowered to serve Him-and worship Him more.

  1. After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. Luke 10:1.  In fact, not one of their names is even mentioned in the Bible.  Most likely, their only real qualification for service was their eager desire to spend time with Jesus.
  2. The Seventy must have learned numerous valuable principles during the time they had spent at Jesus’ feet; and when it was time to put their faith to work, they were empowered by His presence.  These ordinary people got a firsthand view of God’s willingness to respond to their act of worship! Luke 10:1-19

v  Experiencing God in worship requires time and sacrifice.

  1. Experiencing God in worship starts with our willingness to give God first place in our lives.  This means spending time with Him every day-through prayer and devotion to His written and Living Word.  God rewards those who diligently seek Him.  Apart from Him, we truly can do nothing-and that includes worship.  We cannot worship God unless we spend time with Him.
  2. We can’t receive a fresh revelation of God and the continual indwelling of the Holy Spirit without changing our priorities in life.  Mark 1:35; Luke 9:57, 59, 61-62
  3. Don’t pay so much attention to the sacrifices and commitments of others, but rather what does God desire for us to do?
  4. They willingly suffered loss that other might know Christ.  Worship Him as you step out in faith, my dear friend He is worthy. And He is waiting.  Acts 5:41

v  Experiencing God in worship requires us to trust and obey and keep our focus on Jesus.

  1. God doesn’t just use preachers, worship leaders, and celebrities to accomplish His work on this earth.  He is constantly working around you, too.  Ephesians 3:20-21
  2. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven, Luke 10:20.  It is not then what He accomplishes through us but first and foremost that we are His.
  3. Authentic service and worship must always be about Jesus!  As God moves in our midst, it is so easy for us to trust in our own talents and abilities rather than maintain total dependence on God.  It is crucial that Jesus remains the object, source, and fulfillment of our worship.  He truly deserves the glory!

v  God shows up when His people immerse themselves in worship!

  1. Luke 19:37-38-Their worship was unrestrained.  God Himself fulfilled His promise to be present with them as they worshiped!  God always inhabits the praises of His people.
  2. If Jesus really is who they say He is-if He really is the Son of God come to set us free from sin-then you must respond!  Surely it is Him!  There is no way to stop the worship.  The religious leaders have lost control.  If the people stop praising Him, the stones will start to cry out.
  3. The presence of God in Christ Jesus at the moment provides an indelible living image of God’s promise to be present when His people worship Him.  God always inhabits the praises of His people!  And when God is present-when the revelation of God increases-complete and unrestrained worship is our only reasonable response.

v  Our worship invites God’s presence; His presence brings increased revelation; and we respond with never-ending worship.

  1. Never-ending worship was their destiny, and it is ours as well.
  2. When we turn our attention to the One we worship, our worship expression and experience is totally dependent on where we see our Father seated.  If He is seated in the press box, carefully judging our performance (and our lives) because it is His job to see if we meet some performance standard, the we will approach our Father with caution and fear.

But if we see Him as the Father who has climbed on top of the bleachers to get a better view of His dear child-as a Father who waves His arms and screams His support with all His strength to let us know that He loves us and is there for us-then nothing and no one can keep us from experiencing God at the very moment.

  1. Worship while you wait.  Worship while you are under the weight of circumstances.  Worship when He seems near and when He seems so far away.  Your name is written in the book of Heaven; and when this life is over, you will be worshiping Him day and night for eternity.  Now that is something to celebrate!

Jesus Heals…Blessing or Blasphemy?-Mar. 17, 2013

Jesus Heals…Blessing or Blasphemy?-Mar. 17, 2013

Scripture:  Luke 5:15-26

The news begins to spread of this man Jesus.  There is a new excitement in the air and this excitement threatens the status quo.  People who have been lame, hurting, and without hope now begin to believe hope may be possible.  The traditional sources of authority are upset that Jesus does fit their view or understanding of how things are “supposed” to work.  As the hopeless being to find a new source of hope the “system” draws more skeptical of this new reality that they don’t understand.

Scripture teaches that God’s ways are not man’s ways.  Too often we may be looking to conventional ways and thoughts, while missing the unconventional love and mercy of our gracious God.  I think to think of the question this way, Who but God?”  Who but God, could heal the lame, make the blind to see, give hearing to the deaf, and bring the dead to life?  Who but God, could with His very Word call into existence the sun, moon, stars, earth, everything living thing, and mankind?  Who but a living, powerful, eternal, God can create something out of nothing and by His very breath give life?

Jesus also made sure to take time and withdraw from the busy times in His life.  After busy events or seasons Jesus would always pull back to lonely places and pray.  There was a continuing pattern of this during the life of Jesus, and should also be with us as well.  It was this continual connection that helped to restore Jesus as the daily life of ministry pressed in around Him.

Jesus was becoming popular and was able to do things that the teachers of the law were unable to do.  These “special” abilities are what makes the Pharisees even more suspicious.  The scripture says there were Pharisees and teachers from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem.  Have you every personally felt like you were being followed or observed?  If you think about it some of these men had to come a great distance to see Jesus and to hear Him teach.  Why also do you think there would be so many?  Perhaps they were hoping to catch Jesus in some type of false teaching to discredit Him.  If they could discredit His teaching or His character then they would be able to assert their own self-diluted, self-seeking forms of righteousness.

The word spreads and so they come.  They came along with those that are hearing power in the voice of Jesus, they came along with the sick, the hurting, and the outcast.  One group came looking to discredit Him while trying to maintain the comfort of their lives.  They didn’t mind Jesus as long as He knew His place and stuck with tradition.  Then there was another group who came hoping what they had heard was true.  Hoping that this man Jesus had answers, powerful teaching, and more important to them, healing abilities.  Think of these people who spent their whole lives hoping one day to be whole, complete, and as “normal” as any of us can really be normal.

Scripture goes on to record that the power of the Lord was present for Jesus to heal the sick.  Healing is a power of the Lord that should demonstrate who Jesus was or claimed to be.  One might also think that those religious teachers of the law had at some point in time seen or experienced the power of God.  That they should be able to discern the genuine article.  Perhaps their religious forms had blanketed their hearts and covered their eyes from the truth of God.  I suspect like their days and also now many go to the house of the God or the place of God without experiencing the power and presence of God.  It would be similar to going to someone’s home and talk about them to others right in front of them, and getting it wrong.  Thinking that because they found a to do list in the house they know the hearts of the owners.

Another group of characters in the story are the “faithful friends” these men who believed that Jesus had the power to heal their friend.  The four men come into town carrying their paralyzed friend to get him before Jesus.  I believe they were tired from the journey, and they most likely didn’t show up early because they were carrying their friend.  These four and their friend show up tired and worn out only to find the house-church Jesus was teaching in was full.  It was full-out into the streets surrounding the house.  People were listening through the windows and doors as best they could.

Scripture says they tried to take him to the house to lay him before Jesus.  If our story ended there we might could say well they did the best they could do.  However, was that really the best they could do?  Many today put their faith into action only until the first obstacle  comes along.  Those that believe Jesus has the answer to the hurts of life and that He can heal us, our friends, and our neighbors are willing to push through the obstacles of life.  They are willing to do what it takes to be in the presence of Christ and help others to do the same.  The question remains, what are we willing to do to help bring others to Jesus?

The faithful friends don’t care what others think or perhaps the poor homeowner, but they take their friend to the roof and rip a hole in it to lower their friend into the presence of Jesus.  Some people maybe would have taken the man, but fewer would have stayed after seeing the crowd, and even fewer would have torn a hole in anything to bring their friend to Jesus.  Destroying the roof on this house-church physically got their friend to the feet of Jesus.  Then after seeing their faith Jesus figuratively tears a hole in the traditions of the Pharisees and in exposing His heart also exposes theirs.

Jesus in seeing the man knows what everyone in that room knows that this man needs physical healing.  Jesus does not do that right away, what Jesus does give is of far greater value than any physical healing.  Jesus gives healing for the soul and body.  In Jesus’ time there may have been others who were known as healers, but in stating that the man’s sins are forgiven Jesus is declaring Himself equal to God.  It is this that the Pharisees and teachers are bothered by as perhaps we would have been if we had been alive during that time.

The religious leaders begin reasoning to themselves, but Jesus always knows our hearts.  Who, is always the main question?  The identity of Jesus is one of the main ideas of this passage of scripture.  Who is this man who speaks blasphemy?  Who can forgive sins but God?  The important question is the second and with an open mind the pharisees may have been able to get to the point of seeing Jesus as God.

Jesus sees their hearts and confronts their thoughts.  Which is easier to say your sins are forgiven or get up and walk?  Either may be easy enough to say but both can only come with the true power and authority.  Jesus was testing them and proclaiming His identity that you now know the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins on earth.  Then He also demonstrates the power to heal by doing so.  Jesus’ words have the power to heal.  He instructs the man to take up his man and go home.  Immediately he stands, picks up the mat, and went home praising God.  Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God.  I would guess everyone did not include the Pharisees.

The word about the Word spread and attracted all kinds of people.  Some who were curious and still figuring things out, others who had faith that they could see the power and mercy of God in a miracle, and others yet who came as fault-finders labeling the blessings of God as blasphemy.  These people represent three groups today the curious and not yet committed, the faithful, and the religious.  The curious crowd is waiting to see, the faithful are moved to action, and the religious seek to preserve their comfort by finding fault with the work of God.

Four friends demonstrate faith in action by tearing a hole in the roof of a house-church to get their sick friend before Jesus.  Jesus then tears a hole in the legalistic minds of the religious by telling the man his sins are forgiven.  Giving the man the greater of the two gifts first. The law teachers question the identity of Jesus in their minds. Asking first who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Second, who can forgive sins except God? The second question should have been first, the first revealed that their minds were made up before their hearts could ask. Answering the questions of their hearts with one if His own, revealing the truth of His identity and power. That the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins and yes heal a body too. We see faith in action by the friends, and law professors coming to test Jesus and end up failing a test themselves and one man was carried in and a crowd came walking out praising God.

Sabbath

Sabbath

Year after year goes by and there are times and seasons that are busier than others.  These seasons occur in our walk with Christ, busy times of anticipation and celebration such as Christmas and Easter.  The same was true in Jesus’ time.  The weeks leading up to Jesus crucifixion were some of the busiest.  However, even in those busy times Jesus sets an example for us all.  Jesus establishes a pattern that after a miracle or high time of stress Jesus withdraws to a place of solitude and rest as He draws near to God.

When we withdraw it is for physical rest, to eliminate distractions, and to reconnect with the Father.  Many today think of rest as the absence of work or worse laziness.  It is these negative connotations that keep us pushing toward the next thing rather than resting to discover God’s will for our lives.  God’s intention for Sabbath is slowing down to abide in His presence.  The Sabbath allows for rest of the body and the soul, but more importantly it is an opportunity to fully enjoy being in the presence of Christ.

In being attentive to Him we are restored with hope but also direction for the future.  These moments of less activity that allow for our ears to be fine-tuned to the rhythms of His grace and the power of His call.  It is in this place of quiet expectation that we can look at life with perspective and know things may not change but how we choose to live each day tells the world who we believe to be in control.

Imagine if you will the roller coaster of emotions the disciples must have felt.  Excitement, hope, wonder, and joy in the days before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.  Then the disappointment, grief, confusion, and hopelessness experienced at the death of Christ.  As dawn begins to break on that third day an overwhelming sense of amazement, joy, comfort, peace, calm assurance, and victory that Jesus lives.  He really lives!!

Jesus tells them soon He would be going away, and He gives them a call, direction, and purpose but first tells them to wait.  They have their purpose but not the power yet.  In the days after the resurrection Jesus instructs them to wait for the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The men didn’t go home to wait but they waited together as the body of Christ ready to receive the Spirit of Christ.

What do people of faith to do in the days after the resurrection?  We gather together in hope, anticipation, in victory, and in expectation that our collective abiding with one another in the presence of our Father will give us rest.  During this time of rest that He will reveal His will, and provide the power of His presence for action in the world today.

 

Seven Words of Worship-Harland & Moser-Mar. 13, 2013

Week 7-Presence-March 13, 2013

Points to Ponder

v  God has promised to be present when we worship.

  1. According to the dictionary, presence means “the state or fact of being present, immediate vicinity, proximity.”  Another word used when referring to God’s presence is manifest, which means “obvious, apparent.”
  2. The Bible reveals at least three different dimensions by which God makes His presence known.  Indeed, He is everywhere!  But the ways He chooses to manifest Himself imply certain distinctions.  Consider:  God’s awesome presence, God’s abiding presence and God’s amazing presence.
  3. God’s awesome presence is often described as God’s omnipresence, which means that God is present in all places at the same time.  Psalm 139:7-8
  4. God’s abiding presence is evidence by God’s loving, tender, understanding, and intimate relationship with those who call upon Him as Lord.  Deut. 31:6, Matt. 28:20, Psalm 139:9-10.  Jesus made it very clear: if we dwell in Him, we will bear fruit and glorify God-we will prove ourselves to be His disciples.  John 15:5, 8 (vine and branches), It is truly a divine mystery that God Himself would choose to dwell in us, but it is fact.
  5. God’s amazing presence-sometimes called His manifest presence is God’s response to His followers as they call out for His intervention. Acts 4:29-31
  6. The Bible makes it clear that God is doing the same thing every time we come to worship Him.  He has promised to be there, and if we will focus our attention on the One who made us, we will find Him in the audience.  He loves to hear our voices of praise!

v  God revealed His presence in Old Testament times in many different ways.

  1. God was present before the heaves and the earth existed. Genesis 1:1
  2. God was present with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:3-10
  3. God made His presence known through His creation. (Romans 1:20)  Although the Gospel message is being preached around the world today, that wasn’t always true.  Nevertheless, God has always been “visible” to man through His creation.
  4. God’s presence was in the cloud and pillar of fire that led the Israelites in the wilderness.  Exodus 13:21
  5. God revealed His presence to Moses in the burning bush.  Exodus 3:2,4
  6. God was present in a cloud at the dedication of the temple.  2 Chronicles 5:14
  7. God was present with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.  Daniel 3:24-25
  8. God was present in the holy of holies inside the temple. Leviticus 16:2-Similarly, God loved His people so much that He revealed Himself through sensory experiences-images and sounds with which they could interact for guidance and instruction.  Why?  Because without Jesus, our great High Priest, any contact more direct than that would have been fatal!

v  God revealed Himself in New Testament times through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

  1. Jesus was the Word of God who physically dwelt on the earth.  John 1:14; Heb. 4:14-15
  2. Jesus was and is the exact image of God, for He is God.  Colossians 1:15-17
  3. Jesus’ life and words gave testimony of God.  John 8:29
  4. Jesus and God are on and the same.  John 10:30; 14:9
  5. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to remain with us.  John 16:7-8
  6. The Holy Spirit came upon and empowered His people; His is present in us.  Acts 1:8
  7. Biblical elements in worship
  • Expectation (Ps. 27:14; 62:5; Isa. 8:17; 40:31)
  • Obedience (Jer. 7:32; 42:6; Titus 3:1; Heb. 5:9)
  • Sacrifice (Ps. 51:16-17, 54:6; 116:17; Matt. 9:13; Rom. 12:1)
  • Faith (Matt. 17:20; 21:21-22; Rom. 3:29; 5:1-2; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 11)
  • Patience (Luke 8:15; 2 Thess. 3:6; James 1:4; 5:10-11)
  • Thanksgiving (Ps. 50:14; 95:2a; 100:4a; 107:22; Phil. 4:6)
  • Attention (Prov. 4:20; 5:1; 7:24; 1 Tim. 4:13)
  • Submission (James 4:7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17; 5:5)
  • Prayer (Matt. 6:5-6, 9-13; 14:23; 26:41; Rom. 8:26; 1 Thess. 5:17)
  • Meditating on God’s Word (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 63:6; 119:15, 148; Phil. 4:8)
  • Humility (Col. 3:12; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Pet. 5:5)
  • Surrender (Rom. 6:13-14; 12:1; Phil. 3:8-10)
  • Drawing near (Ps. 73:28; Heb. 10:19-22; James 4:8)
  • Listening (Ps. 78:1-4; 81:13; Prov. 8:32; 19:20; Eccl. 5:1)
  • Watching (Matt. 25:13; Mark 13:35-37; 14:38; Luke 21:36; Acts 20:28-31)

v  We can encounter God’s presence today when we worship.

  • Coming with expectation is crucial to experiencing God in worship.

v  Faith is foundational to worship.

  1. Without faith it is impossible to please God…Hebrews 11:6.  Our worship makes a place for us to encounter God’s manifest presence.  And when God is present, our lives are changed!
  2. It is by faith we surrender, that we choose to be different, that we believe and act upon God’s promises, and receive the promises of God in our lives.  Eph. 2:8-9, John 15:5, Rom. 12:1-2, James 2:17; 1:21,25.
  3. Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.  Romans 10:17.  That is why preaching and teaching the Word of God, and then proclaiming His love for and to every person on earth, are so important.  As we worship God, even unbelievers can be drawn to know more about this wonderful Savior we serve.
  4. We are saved by faith and faith alone, but faith without corresponding action is like being able to breathe and choosing not to take a breath!-2 Cor. 5:7
  5. In worship, we put action to our faith by lifting our voices in praise, and God rewards us with His presence.
  6. You don’t need to be perfect to enter the King’s presence.  All you need is to have faith that God is who he says He is and to make a place for Him to come and meet with you.  God desires to inhabit your worship!

Jesus Provides-Mar. 10, 2013

Jesus Provides-March 10, 2013

Scripture:  Luke 9:12-25

Late in the afternoon Jesus’ disciples believe they have a problem on their hands.  They are not in a town or village but in the countryside.  The disciples are concerned about the crowd where they will stay or what they will eat.  The disciples urge Jesus to send the crowd away.  The disciples were more concerned about the physical than the spiritual.  I know most of us don’t want  church to over but can you imagine telling Jesus to wrap it up and send the people away.

Jesus tells the disciples to “give them something to eat.”  In one way He is saying if you concerned about it, do something about it.  The disciples wanted the people to take care of themselves.  How many today are like the disciples they’re okay if people come to church at the right time, but when it’s over time to go back to our lives and they go back to theirs.  But what if they are hungry, lonely, hurting, or in desperate need of God?  Do we identify the surface needs and the suggest that the people take care of themselves.  This is also an analogy to what God asks all disciples to do.  Give them something to eat.  At the end of John’s gospel in a story by the Sea of Galilee Jesus confronts, calls, and restores with the charge to Peter , “feed my sheep.”  It is about more than food.  It is about what gives life, food provides existence but only Jesus can provide life.

They tell Jesus that they have five loaves and two fish-unless we go and buy food for this crowd, they will not be provided for.  The concern turns from a perceived lack of provision to the large cost (financial) that it would take to provide for so many.  Later they would learn from Jesus the cost to provide bread for life was a far greater cost than financial, it would cost Jesus His very life.

Jesus teaches demonstrate that all provisions from God.  He asks the disciples to put them in groups of 50 and have them sit down, and so so they do as Jesus asks.  Jesus will demonstrate that the provisions come from God.  Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven he gave thanks and broke them.  The Lord also in another way has given provision for salvation in His Son Jesus Christ would give His very body as the bread of life to be broken.  Jesus gives thanks and then breaks them.  Will we give thanks to God for the provision of broken body of His Son for salvation?  Jesus is showing what will soon become of Him.  The benefit will be for more than the twelve or 5,000 but for the world that all who would receive Him would receive salvation.

He then gives the responsibility to His disciples to distribute that which was broken to those gathered there.  They received and were filled.  This same responsibility today falls to the disciples to distribute bread for existence but also the bread of life.  Both are more than adequate in for that time and for the future.  Many who are concerned with missions may be tempted to take a more socialist stance and provide for existence without providing the bread of life.  What a tragedy that we would feed their stomachs and not nourish their souls.

Jesus provides for us here in our daily living, but He also provides His body as the Way for our salvation.  We need to thank God each day for that grace, and we should desire as His disciples today to be those who will be stewards of the bread that sustains life, and the bread that gives life.  Will we be those that look at the world and see those that are lost and be willing to provide for both.  Bring people in to our homes, our hearts, our church, and our lives.  Helping them to see each day that life does not begin or end with the next bite of food but with the bread that provides for the deep hunger of souls Jesus Christ.  To put it another way there are those starving to death with food all around them, and they don’t know how to get it.  It is our responsibility to feed the sheep.

The world is starving to death with hurts, pains, low self-worth, struggles, finances, food, family pain, broken lives, broken families, broken moms and dads, and broken children.  They are willing like the prodigal son to eat dirt, or pig-slop or anything this world tries to feed it to cover the hurt and pain of life.  Choking down this filth is only making them more desperate as their hunger grows.  Pascal once said that there is a God shaped hole or void in our lives that can only be filled by God.  We were meant to be His, and it pains us to live in separation from Him, whether we know of the separation or not.  It is like a person who has been separated from their family.  There is always a sense of seeing the complete picture, of connecting even if momentarily.  What if that connection could out last this life.  That the very God that whispered us into existence and knit us together in our mother’s womb is calling us to Him to be our great provider.

To have a provider one must acknowledge their need for provision.  The provision cost Christ His life.  Accepting the provision will cost us something.  Whether it is the disciples or us we cannot give people what we do not have.  We cannot give out of our emptiness.   Jesus asks His disciples about His identity, “who do the crowds say I am?”  They list the worlds speculations, John the Baptist; other Elijah; and still other, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”  Even today there is a lot of speculation to the identity of Jesus.  He was a good man-but not God, a great moral teacher, my buddy or friend, still other choose to ignore Him altogether as a figment of religious imagination.

The next question is quite telling because it is at the heart of our faith and desire to share the gospel.  Jesus then asks, “Who do you say I am?”  Let that question just sink in for moment.  Peter answers, “The Christ of God.”  Another gospel records Peter as saying, “you are the Christ the Son of the living God.”  When we consider this question if forms the basis of our faith and how we answer all other question and what we see as our mission.

It is also a question that we cannot dodge it will continue to be ever before us.  It is also a question that we must answer daily.  “Who do you say that I am,” Jesus asks?  Who we truly believe Jesus to be will shape everything else, not just what we do in church life.  Jesus made no separation there not church life and other life there is life.  Jesus tells them that He must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and on the third day be raised in to life.  Jesus tells them more directly who He is and what He came to do.

If we do not believe in our hearts the answer to this question we will not see His provision for our lives on earth or eternity.  It will be something we are doing just hoping that it will be true and it then becomes an obligation rather a reality.  An obligation that when the things get tough we may choose not to do, ignore, or walk away from.  If Jesus if who He says and we really believe that He is God and provides for all or our lives and eternity.  That becomes reality, and reality changes lives and shapes how live.  To believe that Christ is God’s Son and He is fully adequate will change us and we will desire more to tell others about this great reality of our lives.  If we do not believe He is adequate we will not share Him if it is not convenient because we do we do not believe that He can really make any difference.  We will not share if it compromises our comfort and in so doing we are trusting what we believe we can provide or some control that we have.

Getting this question off the center of our focus produces a watered down gospel with all the right words and doctrine but with none of the power for daily living.  We must answer this question daily because Jesus then tells them, “If anyone would come after men, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  People who do not believe that He is the Son of God and provides in this life and in salvation don’t pick up crosses and walk with them daily.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a  man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  We are saying ourselves for something that is not eternal.  In giving up of our lives here we are not loosing them but investing them in the future of God’s Kingdom continuing to be revealed her on this earth in this day and time.

Those who answer the question of who Jesus is in their heart of hearts and believe Him to be the Christ are transformed not just for eternity but now that all would come to know the Kingdom of God.  If we do not believe He is who He said He was we wont trust Him in anything including provisions in daily life or eternity.  We will just be hoping that salvation is real rather than living out that reality daily and in so doing making every effort and sacrifice to invest in that Kingdom’s greatness and expansion that the world would have hope.  That those among us and those around us may know there is hope for the hurts in life, that families can be mended, hearts can love again, life is possible not just because our needs are met and our stomachs are fed, but that our souls are nourished each day by the reality of Christ and His great salvation.

The question then can be asked another way, will we believe to the point that we are willing to surrender all to Christ and trust Him fully.  Trusting Him we will have to surrender our right to ourselves and sometimes our comfort that the provision is adequate for us with an abundance in supply that all the world might know that He lives and provides the way.

Will you surrender all today?

Hymn 275-I Surrender All

Jesus exalts…What it is to be humble-Mar. 3, 2013

Jesus exalts…What it is to be humble-Luke 18:9-17

Jesus begins with understanding the true attitude and heart of a man.  The text says “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.”

To be confident of our own righteousness is to not see clearly God or ourselves.  We have a heart problem and a problem with a the focus of worship.  To put confidence in ourselves is to put confidence in the flesh and flesh can only produce flesh but the Spirit can produce its fruits in our lives.  To put confidence in the flesh is folly because all flesh even at its best will eventually fail.  There is no such thing as coming close to the righteousness of God only falling short.

Putting false confidence in ourselves and our righteousness creates a skewed perspective.  In not understanding that true righteousness comes from God we begin to trust ourselves and begin to find fault in others.  Looking to God first and worshiping Him helps us to put ourselves in perspective.  Understanding our standing and relationship before God helps us to rightly view ourselves in relationship to one another.

When we puff ourselves up we can also be easily deflated.  That type of righteousness has to be maintained by us and is always one crisis or comparison away from being exposed as inadequate.  Scripture describes the righteousness of man as “filthy rags.”  In our best attempt to prop it up against the perceived righteousness or lack thereof of another person is to engage in the greatest folly of all.  Righteousness is about our right standing before God and only God is qualified to say if we are in right standing.

Jesus exposes the heart and nature of man with a parable.  The parable describes two men.  They might as well be any two men or women at any time in human history.  They go to the temple to pray, one was a Pharisee (or Jewish law keeper) the other a tax collector.

The first man stood and prayed about himself, beginning drawing a comparison to others.  “God, I think you that I am not like other men.”  Thanking God that he is not like other men implies that he believes his own righteousness makes him better than these “other men.”  For this man it is a form of religious pride.  We can only boast in the Lord.  In his letter to the church of Ephesus Paul reminds us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

These “other men” he lists as robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector.”  He lists generally people that he perceives as some of the worst in the world.  It is easier to speak about nameless and faceless people who are doing these things somewhere.  It would be like us saying that I am better than some murderer or evildoer somewhere.  We set up the image of what we think of  as bad or worse than us, and in doing so we are looking around and not up.

There is no proper bearing when we look around, and by the truest definition we will are lost.  Like a person lost in a vast forest, looking around all the trees look pretty much the same and a lost person will remain lost.  Look instead to the sun, moon, stars, and sky, look above to gain perspective, bearing, and eventually a purposed direction.

When one is lost like this will they make grand claims about their own goodness.  The claims of righteousness are in comparison to a generic made up “bad” person to try to inflate or puff up that we can feel better about ourselves. This only lasts until someone “better” than us shows up.  We then would be constantly comparing ourselves.

This man sees only himself in view of others and in exalting himself is stealing the glory that belongs to God because of all He is and the great price of grace.  Then the height of hypocrisy he looks down and compares and condemns the second man down the road.  The second man in his own humility confronts the puffed up religious pride of the first man.

The Pharisee then begins to brag by talking about fasting and tithing as badges of courage rather that humble service to the Lord.  This man looks around and feels good about what he has done rather than seeing the Holiness of God and the working of His costly grace.

The tax collector did not feel that he could enter the temple stands at a distance and humbles himself and cries for mercy.  This man recognized who he was in relationship to God and understood apart from the mercy of God he would be doomed.

The one who thought he knew better trusted himself and his work and worth under the law, choosing to look around rather than to God.  Exalting to the point that God will not.  This man’s reward was the applause of others and will soon be empty as the claims he makes.

The second man sees himself before God and does not look around but rather agrees with God that he is a sinner, and pleads for mercy.  Only one man was justified before God.  God humbles those who exalt themselves and exalts those that humble themselves.  The second was justified and to the first puffed up man, “sorry to burst your bubble.”

It may seem disconnected to have this encounter with Jesus, His disciples, and the children following this parable of Jesus.  The truth is this scene is a continuation of the same lack of understanding.  People are bringing their children to Jesus and the disciples begin to rebuke.  We don’t really know why perhaps there were many or they were running around?  Maybe the disciples thought Jesus had more important people to meet or talk to?

Jesus quickly corrects them saying let them come for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  He goes on to say anyone who does receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.  What does this mean?  Jesus loves children, but also think of a child and what they represent…innocence, excitement, trust, love, joy, genuine spirit…and this list goes on and one.  It is not an issue of if but how, how one receives the kingdom of God.

A young child is voiceless to communicate or be prideful, but they do discover their cry.  Their cries become a place of response of a loving parent.  A young child isn’t able to do as much or to understand pride per se and so the young child’s sense of worth and identity is given to them through their family.  And so whether it was the children trying to come to Jesus excited to be in His presence or a much older child discovering the primal cries to the Father for both grace and mercy, but also for provision for daily living, and guidance in to out true identities as sons and daughters of the king.

It would be better to think of ourselves as being part of the kingdom and begin to discover our identity as sons and daughters of the king than to assume such and wake up one day to find the dream taken for granted was only that to begin with.

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