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Monday, April 27, 2020

God the Son


The Trinity
God created the universe.  That sentence is only four words long.  The brevity is misleading.  Consider: it is over 93 billion light years from one side of the observable universe to the other.  In other words, it would take 93 billion years to travel from one side to the other if you could travel at the speed of light, which is 670,616,629 miles per hour.  God created the universe and everything in it.

Furthermore, God created time.  We often fantasize how amazing it would be to travel through time--to either go back in time or forward to the future.  We haven't figured out how to do it.  However, can you even imagine a reality where time does not exist, where there is no beginning or end?  God exist without beginning or end.  People sometimes ask me, “Who created God?”  The answer is a bit unsatisfying:  No one.  No one created God.  He is uncreated.  God has always existed and always will.  “Well, that just makes no sense.” I know.  It makes no sense to the human mind whatsoever because we are created, physical beings, bound by time and space.  God is not.

The nature of our infinite God is unfathomable to the human mind and indescribable by our feeble language.  The best we can do is describe God as the Trinity.  Trinity literally means a state of being three.  Throughout the Bible, we see the trinitarian nature of God.  For example, God visited Abraham in Genesis 18:1-2.  “The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.”  The Hebrew word translated as “Lord” is YHWH and it is the eternal name of God.  It roughly translates to something like, "I am who I am" or "I will be who I will be" (notice the timeless quality of His name?)  And there were three men who represented God to Abraham.

Another example is when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  As he came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descends like a dove and the voice of God from heavens speaks and says, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  So we see all three persons of the Trinity involved in Jesus baptism:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity boggles the human mind.  We don’t worship three Gods.  There is only One God.  However, God is three distinct persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Now people come sometimes come to me and say, “Pastor, I have a simple illustration that will clear all this up for everyone…”  I've heard many different illustrations offered.  Every example falls short and misrepresents God in some way.  I appreciate people wanting to help, but think about this:  the Apostles and all the saints, theologians, and smartest scholars who have ever lived for the last 2,000 years have tried to break the Trinity down into something simple that everyone can understand and they’ve all failed.  Do you think you are going to come to me with a something that explains it all?  Probably not.  It is the nature of an infinite God.  It is unexplainable by human lips. 

All we can do is explain what we know.  Here is what we know:
  1. There is only one God.
  2. The Father is God, the Son is God, and he Holy Spirit is God.
  3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct persons. (The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Father, but both are God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, but both are God. And... The Holy Spirit is not the Father and the Father is not the Holy Spirit, but both are God.)

Confused yet?  Good.  You are on the right track then.  The infinite nature of God is incomprehensible to the finite human mind.  That is why it was essential for Jesus to come down to earth in human form to show us the nature of God.  Today, I want to talk about God the Son, Jesus Christ.  

Luke 1:34-35
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 

Did you notice the Trinity in this familiar passage from the Christmas story?  There is:  The Holy Spirit, The Most High (which is God the Father), and the baby (who is the God the Son)--three persons, one God.  Now, let's look at another passage from the Gospel of John.

John 1:14-18
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

Jesus Christ was Fully Human
I have kept a brood of chickens for several years at my home (which we affectionately call "Mullis Farm").  We usually keep them inside a secure pen because there are lots of predators like hawks, owls, raccoons, possums, foxes, and coyotes that would love to feast on a nice chicken dinner.  So we keep them safely inside a chain linked pen.  Sometimes, on a pretty day, we let the chickens out to free range while we keep a watchful eye on them.  When night comes, we will usher them all back safely inside there pen.  But every now and then, one of the chickens will decide she doesn't want to go back in the pen.  If you want to see something funny, come watch a 46-year-old fat man trying to chase and catch a chicken so he can put her back into the pen, all the while hoping the other chickens won't come back outside to see what all the commotion is about.  Chickens aren't that smart. Maybe that's why we call them "bird brains".  And a wayward chicken just doesn't understand me when I plead with her, "You dumb chicken!  You've got to go back inside your pen.  You can't stay outside or some viscous predator will come tear you to shreds!"  And sometimes, I have wished I could become a chicken for just a few moments.  Then, maybe, I could go up to that chicken and say, "Buck Buck Buck, BUGGOCK!" (Which roughly translates to "You silly chicken!  It's not safe out here!  Follow me back into the pen where's it's safe so some wild animal doesn't rip you apart!"

That's what Jesus did for us. He became one of us so he could lead us to safety.  Humans have very limited understanding.  And our understanding is hindered even more by sin.  Trying to understand God and what He expects of us is like a chicken trying to understand me.  God knew the only way to show us who He really is and what we need to do was to become one of us.

And so, God “…became human and made his home among us.” (John 1:14).  Jesus was born.  He is also called Emmanuel, which means “God is with us”.  As a human, Jesus knows everything about us and what we experience.  In the New Testament, Hebrews 4:15 says, Jesus “…understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  Colossians 1:15 says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.”  

If you want to know what God is, look at Jesus.  He was perfect; he never sinned.  He never disobeyed the spirit of God's law.  He was obedient to God the Father, doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way all according to the Father's will.  Jesus is the only man who ever lived who never sinned.  And Jesus loved perfectly because God is love.  He even loved his enemies. Jesus cared for people everyone else ignored because everyone is important to and loved by God.  Jesus searched for people who were lost; nobody get's left behind by God.  Everyone gets a chance to follow Jesus and be saved.  Ultimately, Jesus showed the infinite depth of his love when he laid down his life for us.  Jesus died on the cross for us while we were still sinners (not because we deserved it, but because we needed it).

Jesus was perfect, but he was also fully human and endured all the same trials we do.  He got tired and thirsty and hungry.  He was tempted.  He was frustrated by ignorant people.  Jesus even grieved when he lost people he loved to death.  Since his earthly father, Joseph, disappears from the biblical record before Jesus is grown, most scholars believe Jesus father died prematurely.  If you've lost a father, Jesus knew what that was like.  We also know that he would have lost many aunts and uncles and friends to death and he would have grieved just as we do.

Ultimately, Jesus faced the one thing we all must face--death.  Jesus died.  God the Son's human experience was complete because he was fully human.

Jesus is Fully God
Somehow, mysteriously, Jesus is fully man and also fully God.  How can someone be 100% God and also 100% man?  I don’t know.  It is a mystery.  How do you explain the incomprehensible nature of an infinite God?  Here’s how:  Jesus was totally and completely human and also totally and completely God.

Colossians 1:15-16 says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.”

Jesus knows all about our pain and brokenness, because he was fully human.  However, because Jesus is also fully God, he has the power to save us.  If Jesus was only human, he would have died and stayed in the grave.  Because Jesus is also fully God, he was able to rise up out of the grave and live again.  And do you know what that means?  It means Jesus has the power to make you rise up out of the grave too!

Jesus has the power to give you new life. No matter how many times you've messed up, Jesus gives you the power to make a fresh start.  When you repent and turn to him, there is grace and power to start again.  And if you mess up tomorrow, there is power to start ove ragain the next day (and the next day and the next day).

Jesus has the power to give you eternal life.  Even if you die, you will live again.  For there is eternal life for everyone who trust in Jesus holy name.  This life and this world is not all there is.  There is eternal life, where there will be no more suffering or sickness or shame  or death.

Jesus has the power to set you free from sin.  You don’t have to sin anymore.  People will often do something wrong and then say, "The Devil made me do it."  However, Christ sets us free from sin so the Devil can't make us do anything anymore.  We have a choice every day to live for Christ or live for ourself (or someone else).  We don't always choose Jesus, but we have the power to.  Our job is to walk closely with Jesus everyday so we choose his way over our own.

Jesus has the power to live in you and through you.  Jesus' actions and words have changed everything and they can change your life.  Even ore amazing, when we follow him, he beings to work through us to make a difference in other people's lives as well.  Something you say or do can change the whole course of someone else's life.  It could even change their eternal destiny.  Now, it's not you, but Christ in you working these miracles.  Jesus has that power.

Invitation
Jesus has come down from the glory of heaven to our broken world.  He became one of us so he could warn us, "Come, follow me out of the darkness into the safety of the light.  It's dangerous out here in the darkness.  There are predators roaming all around and they will tear you apart if they get the chance.  Come inside where it's safe, before it's too late."  And because Jesus is one of us, we can understand him and trust him.  But because Jesus is also God, He has the power to save us.  Won't you let Jesus save you today? 

Monday, April 20, 2020

God the Father


Introduction
There are certain times in life when you tend to pause and ponder everything. It may be when you are a senior in high school and about to graduate and start a new phase of life. You may contemplate who you are and who you want to be and what you want to do with your life.  Perhaps it is when you’re nearing the end of your life and you realize you will die soon; you may reflect on all your years and what it was all about—your joys, your regrets.  There are other times too—maybe when you become a parent and hold your baby in your arms or after a divorce or when someone you love dies.

God has given us all time to reflect over the past several weeks. Never in the history of the world has there been a time like this. Oh yes, there have been plagues before, and plagues that killed far more than COVID 19. However, never before has the whole world, all at once, been so affected as we have been in this time, a time when the whole globe has been disrupted all at once.  It is unique in the history of the world.  And this has given everyone a chance to think about things in a way we might not have thought about before.  What insights have you gained?

The Disciples and earliest followers of Jesus had a special time of reflection too. Jesus was arrested and tortured, crucified and buried.  On the third day he rose from the grave in victory!  Jesus spent 40 days with His followers, proving he was really alive. Then, Jesus gave His followers their mission and He ascended to Heaven to be with the Father and His followers were left to contemplate all these things.

One of the most important commands Jesus gave before He ascended in found in Matthew 28:19.  His followers were left to ponder these words as they waited to be filled by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity
This statement, known as the Great Commission, is Jesus instructions to His followers (and to us).  We are on a mission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Now, there is something for the Disciples (and us) to think about. The mission, though it may be grand and overwhelming—is not hard to understand—“Go make disciples.”  But what about the part: “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”?

Jesus helped us understand God better than anyone else who ever walked the face of the earth.  This is because Jesus is God. In Jesus, God took on human flesh.  John 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Jesus and God one and the same. But wait, I thought Jesus was the Son of God?  John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, but somehow also mysteriously Jesus is God. And who is the Holy Spirit?

You see, the Disciples and earliest followers of Jesus had a lot to think about!  Very early on, they recognized and began to teach the triune nature of God.  We know that there is only One God, for this is what Jesus taught from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”  Christians don’t worship three Gods.  We only worship one God.  However, the One God exists as a Trinity.

Though the word “trinity” is never used in Scripture, we see the Trinity of God expressed throughout the pages of the Bible.  We see God and the Spirit of God at work in the creation in Genesis 1:1-2. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” And John 1:1 tells us Jesus, the Word, was also there. “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Genesis 1:26 even uses a plural form when speaking of God at creation.  “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” You find this in the NLT, NIV, and KJV as well as the original Hebrew.  And when Jesus was baptized in Matthew 3:16-17, we see all three persons of the Trinity. “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  Did you see them?  There is God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus the Son.

So there is only One God, but He is a Trinity of Three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Still confused? That’s Ok? The Apostles began to teach this triune nature of God as soon as the Holy Spirit filled them at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 (40 days after Jesus ascended to Heaven), but it took several centuries for the Christian Church to work out all the details of the Trinity as a formal  doctrine. How do you verbalize the mysterious nature of an infinite God in feeble human language? The Trinity is the best we can do. There is One God, but He is three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

So pray for me!  My task over the next several weeks is to write about the mysterious, infinite, inconceivable nature of the Trinity.  Pray that God gives me the words.

God the Father
Let’s look at God the Father today.  God is our Father.  Of course, God is Jesus' Father.  His Spirit overshadowed Mary and she conceived a child in her womb who is Jesus.  God the Father is the Father of Christ.

God also created us. In a grand sense, God created us all because He created the human race. Genesis 1 tells how God created male and female in His own image. So God is our Father in the macro sense. However, God is also our Father on the micro level Jeremiah 1:5 gives us this sense as God said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart.” And as our Father, God provides for and protects us before we even know about Him.  I have three children and each time I held them as newborns, I was struck with the overwhelming sense that I was their father and my job is to protect and provide for them.  I supposed that's the way God designed us to be.  There is something in our DNA that compels us to shelter our offspring.  That's probably a good thing, because it's a lot of work and children (especially as infant) do nothing in return.  They don't even realize what you are doing, let alone show any gratitude.  On the contrary, infants are incredibly needy.  They need you to do everything for them--feed them, clean them, protect them, sooth them, nurture them.  And this is what God does for us; even before we have any awareness of Him, God is our protecting and providing Father.

And like any father, God loves us.  However, unlike any other father, God our Father loves us perfectly.  He always knows what to do, has the power to do it, and loves us perfectly so He does exactly what we need.  Love is not just warm and fuzzy affection.  Sometimes love requires discipline.  Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

God the Father grieves for us when we turn away.  It breaks our Father's heart when we turn our backs on Him.  If you've ever had a child who disappointed you, you understand something of what God feels for His own wayward children.  If you've ever had a friend betray you or a spouse be unfaithful, you know something of the heartache God feels for His rebellious children.  However, God feels it infinitely more deeply because of His infinite character and perfect love.

Thankfully, God our Father never gives up on us.  Jesus told a famous story called the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).  In the story, a man has two sons and the younger demanded the Father go ahead and give him his inheritance; in essence, he was saying, "I wish you were dead. Give me my inheritance now."  The gracious father gives the son his inheritance and he runs away to a foreign land where he wastes all the money on wild living. Finally, he hits rock bottom and is on the brink of starvation, longing to eat the slop he is feeding the pigs.  He decides to return home and beg his father to take him back as a slave.  He goes home, but his father runs out to see him and embraces him.  The father, puts a ring on his finger and a fine robe on his back and throws a "welcome home" party for him.  And this is what God the Father does for us.  He longs for us to choose to come Home to Him.  And He graciously welcomes us home whenever we repent and turn to Him.  God welcomes us home, cleans us up, heals us of the terrible wounds we sustained while we were running from Him in our rebellion.

There is another sense in which God is our Father.  God adopts us.  Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”  Adoption is a choice.  Society expects us to take care of our biological children.  It's against the law to abandon them.  Even if society didn't enforce this, nature itself testifies that we are obligated to care for our offspring.  The same is not true for a child who is not your own.  We may feel a tenderness for a child that doesn't belong to us, but we are not obligated to provide for them in the same way we are obligated to care for our own.  That is why we laud those special people who adopt.  We understand that they are showing extraordinary compassion by committing to expend tremendous resources to care for a child that is not their own.  It is a choice they make.  And this is what God the Father has done for us.  The Father is under no obligation whatsoever to care for us.  Because of sin, we have turned our back utterly on God.  Sin has effectively severed the parent child relationship.  And yet, because of His great love, God chooses to adopt us as His own children when we accept Christ as Lord.

And so God becomes our proud Father, just as He is the Father of Christ.  When God looks at us, He does not see our sin, our rebellion, our flaws or weaknesses.  Instead, because of what Christ did for us on the cross, God sees Jesus in us.  And it makes God so proud.  So we could apply what God said about His Son to our own lives.  In Matthew 3:17, when Jesus was baptized “...a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  If you follow Christ, God is proud of you too.  And we can now live in ways that continue to make God the Father proud to call us His sons and daughters.

Conclusion
Have you ever known a father’s love? No matter how special your earthly father was, it was only a glimmer of the Love of Your Heavenly Father.  In fact, your earthly father was good only because he was copying the character of God the Father.  God the Father loves perfectly, powerfully, and infinitely.

Perhaps you have never known a fathers love.  It is an regrettable fact in our broken world that too many fathers do not act the way a father should.  They do not protect and provide.  They sometimes abandon or fail.  And I know many who read these words have never really known the love of a father.  And for you, it may be difficult to relate to God as a good father.  But please don't let that deter you.  Instead, understand that you may have a great blessing; for though you never knew a father's love on earth (or knew it imperfectly), God is your Father in the greatest sense.  You are not an orphan; you are not fatherless.  God is your Father and He s the greatest father of all.

And so, I invite everyone to turn to the Father today.  He created you, provides for you, protects you, loves you, chooses you, and wants to be proud of you.  Won't you turn to Him today?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life

Introduction
The glorious Good News of Easter is that Jesus rose from the grave.  The evil powers of the world threw everything they had at Jesus.  The arrested him, tried him in the middle of the night before a kangaroo court, tortured him, and crucified him.  Judas betrayed him.  His disciples deserted him. Peter denied him.  They threw him in a tomb and thought it was over.  The darkness came.  It lasted all through Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday morning.  But then, then the Light of the World rose up out of the grave!  The shadows were shot through with Light.  Darkness can never over come the Light!  Jesus said, I AM the resurrection and the Life. And he proved it.  Lots of people talk a big talk, but Jesus is the only one who said the big words, "I am the resurrection and the life..." and then also backed those words up with action.

Christians are an Easter people.   Just as Jesus overcame the grave, Christians find hope and resurrection in all circumstances (with God’s help). Though this is not the way we would choose to celebrate Easter, we celebrate it anyway.  And it is a celebration!  Jesus is alive!  Christians are an Easter people and we always find a way to have hope, and life, and joy and peace when none of these things should be possible.  And it drives the Devil crazy!

For nearly 2,000 years, people have speculated about Jesus.  Who was he?  How did he have such a tremendous impact on our world?  How can the people who call themselves by His name be so determined and so able to rise up above the disasters of this life?  How can following this man--a man who was not educated or powerful or wealthy or of a high standing--lead people to find light in the darkest times?  Who is this man and how is he still relevant today?

And so people in our world, non-believers--have try to rationalize it or explain Jesus and the Christian movement away.  They have speculated this or that about Jesus.  However, if we really want to know about Jesus, perhaps we should listen to what he said about himself.  He told us exactly who he is and why he came and why it matters.  Using seven statements in the Gospel of John, Jesus said:

I AM the bread of life.  In other words, I am the only one who truly satisfies our soul.
I AM the light of the world, the one who overcomes darkness.
I AM the gate, the only way into God’s sheltering presence.
I AM the good shepherd, the one who knows everything about us and takes care of us and even lays              down his life for us.
I AM the true vine, the One who makes our life fruitful and sweet.
I AM the resurrection and the life, the one who rises from the grave and gives us eternal life.

Today, I want to share the last “I Am” statement Jesus made.  And this is a very important message to which you need to listen and take to heart.

John 14:6
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."

Living in a Pluralistic Society
First, I want to look at the last part of Jesus’ statement, because we must come to grips with this first.  It is very important.  Jesus said, “No one can come to the Father except thought me.”  That is a hard statement for many to accept. 

America is very diverse and that can be a very good thing.  I love food, all kinds of food, and I am grateful in America I can enjoy Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food, Japanese food, and many other varieties as well.  (You can tell I love to eat!)  And it's not just food.  We have benefited greatly in our country from a variety of ideas, points of view, backgrounds and histories, and philosophies.  And since there is so much variety, we have learned to be a tolerant people who are gracious and allow people the freedom to think and act and even worship in a variety of ways.  This is all good and we should cherish it.
However, along with diversity there comes a danger.  There is the danger that we begin to think, in our quest for tolerance, that all ways are equal and that truth is relative.  In our quest to to get along with everyone, we may begin to believe that everyone is right about everything (for to say someone is wrong would be to offend them or to say some ideas are wrong would be "intolerant").  Is the truth relative?  Does every individual get to decide for themselves what is truly true?  Can my Truth be different from your truth?

In his classic distopian book 1984, George Orwell’s tackled this question when the lead character, Winston Smith, is arrested for thought crimes by the thought police.  The interrogate, O'Brien, tells Wintson Big Brother controls what is true.  Winston argues that 2+2=4.  This is true.  It cannot change.  O'Brien says disagrees.  He argues that if Big Brother says 2+2=5 and society gets enough people to believe it then that becomes the truth.  What do you think?  Does can the truth be changed?  Can 2+2 eve equal 5?

With some things there are is more than one way to skin a cat.  However, not with your soul, not with God, not with the purpose of life, and not with eternity.  Jesus is either the only way, the only truth, and the only life or he is not.  You must decide.  Regardless of whether you accept it or not, Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life.  Your assent or disagreement to this truth does not change the truth of it in any way.  You do not determine the truth about Jesus.  He is the Great I Am.  He is who He is regardless of what you believe.

Jesus is The Way
You cannot be a Christian by default.  What I mean is, you are not a Christian merely because you were born into to a Christian family or live in a Christian community.  Nor is being a Christian simply adhering to a certain set of beliefs.  Following Jesus is a lifestyle. 

In the very beginning, Christians were not even called Christians.  The term “Christian” was not used until later.  At first, people who followed Jesus and believed he rose from the grave were called members of “The Way” because Jesus said, “I Am the Way…”

The Christian life is a life of action.  Jesus and His disciples lived the Kingdom of God.  Everywhere they went, the brought healing and hope and love.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  We live the way Jesus lived.  We love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and we love our neighbor as our selves.  We listen to guidance of God’s Holy Spirit and do and say as He leads.  Just as Jesus only did what the Father told him to do, so we seek only to follow God’s will for us as well.

And this is the way it is supposed to be.  It brings God’s perfect Kingdom to earth, more and more.  And as we live this way we find healing and hope and incredible fulfillment because it is the very purpose for which we were created.  There cannot be another way.  Jesus is the way.

Jesus is The Truth
Now it could be possible to do all the right things, but to do them for the wrong reasons.  There are many in our world today who have accepted that you are to be kind and loving and a good neighbor and a good citizen.  There are many who even volunteer or give generously to charity.  Some do all these things without believing in Jesus.  (Every person—whether Christian or not—should be eternally grateful that Jesus so fully ushered in the principle of “Love Thy Neighbor” that even those who are not Christian still accept this beautiful Christian principle as true.)

However, it is a dangerous thing to divorce the Way of Christian living from the Truth of Christian living.  For when you separate the Way from the Truth (the way you live from the reason why you live that way), your best virtues slowly erode away.  It is not long before you start asking, “Well, why should I care if COVID 19 kills some old person or someone with asthma or diabetes? I am young and healthy and the coronavirus won’t hurt me.  Why do I need to practice social distancing?”  Or you might think, “Why should I obey the law if I’m cunning enough to break the law and get away with it and not get caught, I will have an advantage over everyone else and I will get ahead.”  I mean, if there is no God and we are just animals and it’s just survival of the fittest, why should a person accept the foolish notions Jesus taught—things like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “the greatest love is shown when someone lays down their life for someone else”.  If you don’t accept that Jesus is the Truth, then why would you follow Jesus' way?  It might all start to look like just a bunch of foolish nonsense.

Jesus is the Truth!  His truths have been admired by people from all religions throughout all time.  These are not the words of a madman or liar.  They are the words of someone more divinely inspired than any  spiritual leader who ever lived.  Could it be, they are the words of the Son of God himself.  That is what Jesus claimed.  He said, "The Father and I are one." (John 10:30)

So if you accept that Jesus us the way, you must also search to know the Truth He taught and the Truth He still want to teach you today.  “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), for it is a tremendously powerful force when you live the right way and you know why you are living that way.

Jesus is The Life
For those who follow the way of Jesus because of the Truth of Jesus, Jesus is also the life.   He is eternal life, for when these bodies we inhabit eventually wear out, we will be given a new body and live in a new heaven and a new earth God will create.  Just as Jesus rose from the grave, we will rise too!  It is an amazing and liberating understanding that there is more to life than just the few years we live in this world.  There is life after death!  And the promise of God is that all the wrongs and decay and suffering and sickness and sorrow of life in this broken world will be wiped away.  What a wonderful, glorious hope we have!

However, we are not just waiting to die so we can go to heaven and start real life. No. When Jesus is the way and the truth to us, he is also the life right now.  We begin the new life as soon as we start tof follow the way and truth of Christ.  And to the extend we surrender to His Truth and live out HIs Way, we begin to experience the abundant life He has planned, right now.  There is nothing more fulfilling in this life than living out the ways and truths of Jesus, for that is the purpose for which our Creator designed us.

Invitation
I want to invite you to claim Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life for you right now.  Would you allow me to pray for you?

Dear Father in Heaven, please help the person reading this today to claim Jesus as their Way, their Truth, and their Life right now.  Help them to surrender all that they are and all that they have to You right now.  Forgive them of their sins.  Save their soul.  Renew a right heart with in them--one that truly desires to follow You completely and obediently.  Help them to know how much You love them so they will love You completely and seek to love their neighbor.  For I ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.

Closing
Cling to the hope of the resurrection.  Even in darkness, even in social isolation, even with fears and anxiety looming around, even in sickness, even in the face of death itself, the glorious hope of Easter is that Jesus rose from the grave and we will rise with Him!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I AM the Resurrection and the Life


Introduction
I preached this message at the Easter Sunrise Service last Sunday.  It was early in the morning and the sun was just rising.  It is the first service of Easter.  It recalls the dawning realization for the first disciples that the crucified Jesus was no longer dead or in the grave. He is risen and alive.  Such news is so wonderful and extraordinary, it takes time to comprehend.

John 20:1-16
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
16 “Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

A Sunrise Moment
Just as the sunrise dawns new light on the day, Mary finally saw the light the moment the resurrected Jesus spoke her name.  It took a few moments.  No wonder.  No one expects to visit a grave to remember and honor the dead and then find they are not dead, but alive.  Mary is overwhelmed with grief and depression.  All she can think of is how they murdered her beloved Lord.  She assumes the someone has taken the body.  She doesn't notice the "men" she speaks to inside the tomb are angels.  She assumes the man she sees outside the tomb is the gardener; she doesn't realize it is Jesus.  That is, not until he speaks her name.  But in speaking her name, Jesus, the Light of the world, sheds light on the darkness that engulfs Mary.  She immediately recognized her Lord, Jesus.

Do you remember the words Jesus spoke to Mary’s sister, Martha, when Jesus raised their brother, Lazarus, from the tomb?  Jesus did not come when Lazarus was sick and Lazarus died.  When Jesus finally arrived and Mary and Martha were grieving, they said, "If only you had come, Lazarus would not have died."  But Jesus consoled them, saying in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying."  Let's look at his word to themclosely.

I AM… 
These are the same words God said to Moses when Moses asked to know God's name.  God told Moses from a burning bush, "Tell the people 'I Am' has sent you.  This is the name you shall know me by for all generations."  The name is mysterious, but recalls the unchanging character of God.  He is who He is.  He is not defined by our beliefs or doubts.  He simply is and He is the one who defines reality.  And Jesus says, "I AM".  Jesus is God.

I AM the Resurrection… 
Because Jesus is God and rose from the grave, we have the hope of eternal life.  John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  Just as Jesus rose from the grave, we too can rise to new life--even after this life is over.

I AM the Resurrection and the Life… 
However, we aren’t just waiting to die so that we can start our real life.  When we follow Jesus as Lord, we start real life now.  For we were created by God to worship and serve God.  And we live fully to the extent we do that in this life, even as we long for and hope for the Day we shall be set free from this broken world to live eternally with God when He creates a new heaven and a new earth.  You are never more fully alive than when you live your divine purpose. 

Anyone who believes… 
We must believe in Jesus and trust him.  Our resurrection and life does not happen automatically.  It happens as a result of God's grace and our faith.  Therefore, trust in Christ and start living today and hoping for resurrection.

Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying… 
 We all die, but there is eternal life for those believe in Christ. However, there is a second sense to what Jesus is says. Remember, Jesus also said, "If anyone wants to follow me, he must take up his cross every day and follow me." And he also said, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it. But if you lay down your life, you will truly live." So, we must deny ourselves and let our own selfish ambitions die so that we can come alive in Christ and begin to truly live. Christ's way is infinitely better than you own plans. You must trust him and follow him, even when it means dying.

Conclusion
So, let’s cling to the hope we have because of the resurrection because Jesus said, "I AM the resurrection and the life."




Monday, April 6, 2020

Palm Sunday 2020

Introduction
Palm Sunday is the day Christians have celebrated for nearly 2,000 years.  It is the Sunday before Easter and celebrates the day Jesus entered Jerusalem while the crowds cheered and waved palm branches.  We traditionally remember the occasion by inviting young children to wave palm branches as they process into the sanctuary.  During our social distancing isolation, we showed a video of the children holding homemade palm branches instead.  It was great to see their faces on our video screens, even though we would prefer to see them in person.

The people waving palm branches for Jesus that day didn't know it was "Palm Sunday".  They knew it as another traditional day.  you could call it "Lamb Selection Day."  Exodus 12:3  [On this day] “…each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household.”  They were choosing the lamb they would roast for the Passover celebration.  

Passover is the most important holiday/religious festival for Jews.  It recalls the day God used Moses to deliver the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  To deliver them, God sent several horrible plagues to torment the Egyptians.  The last and most terrible was the Angel of Death.  God warned the Israelites the Angel of Death would take the life of the firstborn child of every household unless they marked the doorpost with the blood of a lamb.  The Angel of Death would "pass over" every house marked by the blood of the lamb. In this way, God saved the lives of the Hebrews firstborn and convinced the Egyptians to let His chosen people go free.

Every year, the Jews commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt with the Passover celebration.  And the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem, was they annual day everyone selected their lamb to be slaughtered for the Passover.  (A modern equivalent might be something like the day your family goes out to choose a Christmas tree for your home.)  

It is no coincidence that Jesus entered Jerusalem to great fanfare on “Lamp Selection Day”.  Though the people did not know what they were doing at the time, Christians soon realized after Jesus rose from the grave that Jesus was the Lamb of God that was chosen as a sacrifice to cover all our sins.  I 1 Corinthians 5:7b, Paul wrote,  “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.”  But let's review the Palm Sunday story.

John 12:12-19
12 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”
16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.
17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”

Palms and Hands
Today is Palm Sunday. Obviously, palms refers to the palm branches the people waved as they praised God and hailed Jesus as the King of Israel. However, the story has me thinking about a different kind of palm that is so important—the palms on our hands. During the COVID 19 epidemic, we know how important hands are. We've been told to ash your hands. Don’t touch our faces or other people. The other day, I delivered something to a church members house wnd their young daughter, Jazmin, came running up wanting a hug. It broke my heart to turn her away saying, "It's not safe to hug right now."

While we've been told not to touch each other with our hands, others must do just that because their hands are deemed essential. Think about doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. They must use their hands to care for and bring healing to others. First responders are the first ones on the scene when there is an accident or emergency and they must use their hands, regardless of the danger.  And what about the person behind the counter at the grocery store using her hands to ring up your essential groceries or the truck driver using skillful hands to drive the truck delivering supplies to the store.  My daughter works for Taco Bell and uses her hands to pass food through the drive through window to people who need food.  And some jobs that require good hands are not very glamorous, but just as essential--like people collected and disposing of garbage (absolutely essential if we want to stay clean and safe and sanitary).

The hands of all these people are important; they (and others) have been deemed essential workers. While the rest of us are supposed to stay art home, these people are supposed to keep using their hands to serve. 

 It all depends on the set of hands. A basketball in my hands is worth about $19.  A basketball in Michael Jordan's hands is worth about $33 million. Two fish and five loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches.  Two fish and five loaves of bread in Jesus'hands will feed thousands.  It depends whose hands are holding it.  Put some nails in my hands and I might build a birdhouse.  Put some nails in Jesus Christ's hands and it saves the entire world.  You see, it depends on whose hands you have.   Who holds the world in His hands?  Whose hands are holding you?

Jesus' Hands
I want to tell you a little about Jesus' hands. Jesus' hands were carpenter’s hands. Just an ordinary man. I bet they sometimes were dry and rough (like mine are right now because I've been washing them so much). Jesus was flesh and blood like you and me. He built ordinary things with his hands--houses, furniture. Did he ever mash his thumb with a hammer and bleed?

And yet, this ordinary man's ordinary hands also laid the foundations of the world.  As John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning the Word [who is Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.”  Jesus was a man, but He was also God. He created the world and everything we see. His hands were the hands of God.

Jesus hands were also a healer’s hands.  With his caring hands, he scooped up dirt from the ground and mixed it with his own spit and smeared the mud on a man's eyes to heal him.  The the man had been blind from birth, Jesus' hands made him see!  And Jesus used his healing hands to take another man by the hand, a man who was lame and could not walk, and Jesus lifted him to his feet and he could walk!  And Jesus also used his hand to touch people who were considered untouchable because they had leprosy, which was a contagious disease.  And Jesus touched them with the palms of his hands and they were made clean and healthy and whole!  Jesus hands were healing hands.

And Jesus hands are a Savior’s hands.  Reaching down from heaven into our broken world, Jesus takes hold of us and lifts us out of the miry clay of sin and puts our feet safely on the solid rock again.  Jesus rescues us from all those situations that threaten to destroy us or keep us from being all we were meant to be.

Jesus' hands are nail scared hands, for they were pierced to pay the price for our sins.  On the cross, they were pierced and bled for us that we could be forgive and made clean and restored to a right relationship with God.  Speaking of this hundreds of years before it happened, Isaiah prophesied, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16)  When we look at the palms of Jesus hands, we see nail scars.  When Jesus looks at his palms, he sees you name.

Invitation
Today is Palm Sunday/Lamb Selection Sunday.  As we prepare for Easter, who will you select as your Lamb.  I pray you will select Jesus Christ.  For He is the only Lamb that is worthy.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Won't you select Jesus as your Lamb today?

If Jesus is your choice, I would invite you to symbolize this by tying a red ribbon on your door, your mailbox, you porch railing.  The red ribbon symbolizes the power of the blood of Jesus.  Just as the Israelites originally put blood of a lamb on their door post so the Angel of Death would "pass over" their house and leave them unharmed, we put the blood of Christ over our life so the Angel of Death passes over us and we receive eternal life through Christ, the Lamb of God.

Put up a red ribbon to show that Jesus is your lamb.  Take a picture of your red ribbon.  Post it on your Facebook page (share it with me too).  This is a witness to everyone that you trust in the power of Jesus' blood.  You have faith in Jesus & trust that He’s still in control and has the master plan during this worldly chaos.

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