The blog contains daily devotions and notes from the weekly messages.  We encourage you to review the notes during the sermon or through the week!  Most of the posts will have an audio and/or video link at the end of the notes.  From time to time the pastors will share other insights and devotions here.

Search the Blog

Seize the Moment – Day 4

Follow Jesus!

Matthew 4

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and I am reaching out to you to bring some hope to your day with a short, daily, devotion.

 

Today is Saturday, March 21
 

Today is day 4 for our daily devotions so please turn with me to Matthew 4, which is an amazing chapter of how Jesus faced His wilderness experience and the temptations to give into His circumstances. Jesus was victorious and used God’s Word to win the day! So can you!

 

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus invites with a promise: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of [people].” This is Jesus’ call to become His apprentice—to walk with Jesus on the Journey, through all that is happening today, and learn from Jesus, our Master Teacher.

 

Who are you following: Jesus or the world?

 

What is informing you: God’s Word, Social Media, or Network News?

Jesus’ promise is fulfilled through the work of the Holy Spirit, in and through you. God’s desire is for you to trust the work of God’s grace in you to do the impossible through you. God is going to use you today when you trust the Holy Spirit’s power and presence to show the world Jesus, in and through you.

 

Let us pray, “God, I ask You to fulfill in us what You began in faith. I believe that You can do this and I come to You now with all of the heavy burdens and weariness of this day. I find rest in Your sovereignty and sufficiency. Please O Lord, rescue me and use me for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”  

 

God loves you and your church is praying for you today! Please follow Jesus to reach out to at least one person, today, to share this encouraging message from God’s Word. May your life point people to Jesus.

 

Please our church at the number at the bottom of the page if you need a personal phone call someone from First Baptist Church will get back to you as soon as possible.
 
 
 
 
NOTE:  The name of this devotion has changed from Siege Devotions to Seize the Moment Devotions.  This reflects a change in thinking from taking a defensive stance to an offensive one.  We want to be on the offense in this situation with the Pandemic that has hit our world.  As we understand how God wants us to live during these times, let’s all take the initiative to seek what is best for our families and communities to the glory of God.
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well.  Click HERE to visit the page.  Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 
 

Read more...

Seize the Moment – Day 3

Bold, yet Humble!

Matthew 3

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and I am reaching out to you to bring some hope to your day with a short, daily, devotion.

Today is Friday, March 20

Each day I will share a short devotional thought from my personal Bible reading, as we walk through the New Testament, together.

Today is day 3 for our daily devotions so please turn with me to Matthew 3, which focuses on John the Baptist, and I must admit that I am a huge fan! What a perfect guy to introduce Jesus to the world—bold with the truth and humble in his relationships.

John knew that his calling in life was to point people to Jesus, not call them to himself. Therefore, he could be bold and humble. Remember, humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is simply thinking about yourself less.

In Matthew 3:14, when Jesus approached John to be baptized, John’s response was one of recognizing Jesus as the Lord, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Yet Jesus needed John to fulfill his life purpose; so that, Jesus could fulfill His purpose in coming to earth. Wow!

Friends, let us be bold with the truth of God and humble enough to fulfill our purpose in this time, no matter the cost! God will use us in all of our circumstances, including these scary days, to point others to Jesus. God is taking that which the devil intended for evil and is using it for good!

God loves you and your church is praying for you today! Please reach out to at least one person, today, to share this encouraging message from God’s Word. May your life point people to Jesus.
 
Please call the number at the bottom of this page if you need a personal phone call and someone from First Baptist Church will get back to you as soon as possible.
 
 
 
 
NOTE:  The name of this devotion has changed from Siege Devotions to Seize the Moment Devotions.  This reflects a change in thinking from taking a defensive stance to an offensive one.  We want to be on the offense in this situation with the Pandemic that has hit our world.  As we understand how God wants us to live during these times, let’s all take the initiative to seek what is best for our families and communities to the glory of God.
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well.  Click HERE to visit the page.  Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 
 
 

 


Read more...

Seize the Moment – Day 2

Light in Dark Places!

Matthew 2

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and I am reaching out to you to bring some light into your day with this short, daily devotion.
 

Today is Thursday, March 19

Each day I will share a short devotional thought from my personal Bible reading as we walk through the New Testament, together. Today is day 2 for our daily devotions.

 

Matthew 2:10 highlights one of the details of the Christmas story, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” The story of Immanuel (“God is with us”) is the light of God piercing into the darkness of this world situation and our human brokenness.

 

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World and He calls Christians to be the light of the world (see Matthew 5:14-16). Yes, the world is a dark place. Yes, our circumstances are challenging, if not scary. Yes, life is not always the way we hoped it to be. But, there is hope! As long as the sun rises in the East there is hope, because with the light, comes hope.

 

God is not surprised by the current darkness, but if we let it, the darkness can prevent us from being the light of the world. Don’t let the darkness prevail—we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus! Shine the Light into the darkness. Reflect specifically, today, on how you can help others to see the light of God in the midst of all the darkness. Be a hope-bearer, not a Doomsdayer!

 

Your church family loves you and is praying for you today! Consider reaching out to at least one person, today, to share this encouraging message from God’s Word. You never know how you can bring light to another person’s darkness.

 

If you need a little light in your own life through a personal contact from your church family, please the phone numbers at the bottom of this page.
 
 
 
 
NOTE:  The name of this devotion has changed from Siege Devotions to Seize the Moment Devotions.  This reflects a change in thinking from taking a defensive stance to an offensive one.  We want to be on the offense in this situation with the Pandemic that has hit our world.  As we understand how God wants us to live during these times, let’s all take the initiative to seek what is best for our families and communities to the glory of God.
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well.  Click HERE to visit the page.  Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 
 
 

 


Read more...

Seize the Moment – Day 1

Day 1 God is with us!

Matthew 1

Today is Wednesday, March 18

 

Good morning to my First Baptist Church family. This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls.

These daily devotionals are our church’s effort to create some family unity and community well-being.

Each day I will share a short devotional thought from my personal Bible reading as we walk through the New Testament, together. Consider this a great time to get into God’s Word and follow along each day.

 

Matthew 1:23 describes about Jesus, “They shall call His name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” What a promise!
 

One of my good friends, an ICU nurse, shared with me the profound comfort this promise gives her. No matter the trauma or heartache of her daily experiences, she knows that God is with her. This is a promise she holds on to tightly: day after day, heartbreak after heartbreak. 

When nothing else makes sense in your life, it is my prayer for you that the promise of Immanuel (“God is with us!”) will comfort you and encourage you to keep walking faithfully.
 

Your church family loves you and is praying for you! Consider calling one person today to share this encouraging message from God’s Word. You never know how you can bring comfort to another person.

If you need someone from the church to contact you personally, please call.  Our phone numbers are at the bottom of this page.
 
 
 
 
NOTE:  The name of this devotion has changed from Siege Devotions to Seize the Moment Devotions.  This reflects a change in thinking from taking a defensive stance to an offensive one.  We want to be on the offense in this situation with the Pandemic that has hit our world.  As we understand how God wants us to live during these times, let’s all take the initiative to seek what is best for our families and communities to the glory of God.
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well.  Click HERE to visit the page.  Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 
 
 
 

Read more...

A New Message in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic (Week 1)

“Fear Not… GOD IS WITH US!”

Key Verses:  Psalm 91

I have put aside the sermon I wrote for this Sunday in the reality that we must respond to the 9-11 moment of this generation: The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) international pandemic that is slowly, but surely impacting the lives of most every person in the world. It was at one-time a distant conversation with no impact, but now it is damaging economies, closing colleges and schools, shutting down sporting events, and locking down military bases, nursing homes, prisons. There is an enemy out our gate, but instead of one that very visibly flies airplanes into towers and threatens the American way of life, this one invisibly threatens to overwhelm our existing medical infrastructure and simply stated, threatens every life.

 

On 9-11-2001, I was a Captain in the US Army and was away from home on assignment at Fort Carson, Colorado when the planes flew into the towers. I remember exactly where I was the moment I found out: I was in line for breakfast at Burger King before heading to my meetings for the day. Needless to say, life changed, not just for us soldiers, but for everyone! The base locked down and airports closed for day. In fact, I was on the first flight out of Colorado Springs a few days later to head back to my home at Moffett Airfield, to be reunited with my wife, and life was different. People were very scared! I know people, 19 years later, who still are…

 

In the same way that the National Guard was called in to protect us in 2001 and Americans experienced a change of lifestyle, this time it is our Health Department who have been called in to work for our safety and security in the face of an enemy that, once again, threatens our safety and security, and is confronting the illusion of invulnerability that we Americans like to return to as quickly as possible.

 

In both cases, we are called to respond to the enemy at our gate. We must respond as a community and as a nation. Our response will be different this time than it was after 9-11-2001 because the threat is different, but this one thing I know, God is with us!

 

The enemy may have different packaging, but the enemy is the same: FEAR!

 

As I was reading from the Psalter this morning, as part of my daily, early-morning rhythm of getting in the yoke of Jesus (I read 1-2 chapters from the OT, I read and reflect on a Psalm and then write and do a “breath prayer”, then I read a chapter of the NT, and then pray). It is a way of focusing my mind and heart on Jesus and getting my body in rhythm with Jesus for the day.

 

Psalm 64:9-10 said this morning, “Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!”

 

I wrote this breath prayer in response to this:

  1. Get your body in a good physical posture to focus your mind and heart on God.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 5-7 seconds, “The Lord is my refuge!”
  3. Hold slightly and focus your mind on God’s Truth.
  4. Breathe out for 5-7 second through your mouth, “Fear not, I am with you!”
  5. Repeat as many times as necessary to align your mind, body, and soul to God’s Truth.

 

Reading your Bible and praying, including what I am calling a breath prayer, are not new practices to God’s people, and please know that just because I am asking you to breath while you pray does not mean that this is not some new age thing. This is a focused way of praying to learn how to love God with all of you heart, soul, mind, and strength. God wants to align your whole human person to His will and His ways. And trust me when I tell you this: FEAR will find a way into your mind, heart, body, and soul if your faith is nothing more than an intellectual understanding of God!

 

In moments like this, when there is real reasons to be scared, nervous, worried, or anxious, God is not discounting the human reality of fear, He is inviting you to a better way to deal with your fear, anxiety and worry than giving yourself over to the fear, anxiety, or worry.

 

The reason the Bible says so much about the human experiences of fear, anxiety, worry, and such joy-robbing, life-threatening realities is because they are a reality of the human experience!

 

To fear is to be human and to be confronted by a fear-inducing situation is to be alive in a broken, fallen world where people fly airplanes into building and viruses exist that threaten national security and community well-being.

 

Let me give you a biblical principle from the Bible. Paul says in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

 

Here is what we need to know:

  1. Anger is real and in and of itself, a human emotion, not a sin.
  2. When you have a real human emotion, do not give yourself over to it and sin.
  3. Deal with the situation, QUICKLY, in such a way as to invoke God’s power and presence.
  4. If you give yourself over the human emotion, you are not helping yourself, or others, because you are giving the devil a foothold.

 

This teaching is focused on the human emotion of anger in Ephesians 4:26-27, but the principle applies to all human emotions that can lead to sin: sexual desire, ambition, fear, worry, anxiety…

 

With that principle in mind, you should hear the following promises of God:

 

From Philippians 4:5-7, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

Let’s apply the principle:

  1. Anxiety is real. Anxiety is generalized fear (like a spider web that captures us when there is an enemy at our gate). For Americans, anxiety is the current reality, if not a predisposition that threatens any aspect of our way of life.
  2. Name it when you experience it, but don’t give yourself over to it.
  3. Deal with the situation QUICKLY through prayer and thanksgiving!
  4. God’s Peace will guard (military imagery) your heart and mind from the Devil.

 

Again with James 4:6-8, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

 

Let’s apply the principle:

  1. Pride is a real threat for every human. Pride is the opposite of humility, the enemy of meekness and submission.
  2. Confess and repent of your pride by humbling yourself before the Lord.
  3. Deal with the situation, Quickly, by drawing near to God and resisting the devil’s urging of you to give yourself over to arrogance (the American mindset that I know better than those in authority over me, in fact, I don’t need anyone over me…)
  4. God will draw near to you!

 

I could go on and on. In fact, as you are hearing on Christian radio and as many Bible teachers are teaching right now, there are so many verses about “Fear Not!” in the Bible that you can follow this template with a unique Bible verse for every day of the year. I read one Christian author say that God has given us a reason to not to fear for every day of the year, including leap year.

 

But that does not mean that you won’t experience fear, anxiety, or worry. It’s just saying that God knows your human condition and has given you a way of victory.
 
As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

 

There is way of victory in this time, as there is in every human encounter with fear: “God is with you!” This is His promise and it is the one that I have been reminding you in every communication I have made to you all week as the Coronavirus has escalated to where we are today. I don’t know what tomorrow holds for our nation, our community, or your family, but I do know this, this one thing I know: GOD IS WITH US!

 

That sign that we put out on SR3 on Friday will stay out there as long as needed. It says, “Remain Calm & Pray… God is with us!” That is my message to you today in the face of a community trying to brace itself for an unseen enemy at the gate. The reason we are cancelling programs and events for 2 weeks, including providing an on-line (instead of in-person) service, is because we are locking arms with our community leadership and health department to respond as one people.

 

This is not a lack of faith! Anything but that. Your elders, staff, and leaders have been praying and are faithfully responding to the needs of the community. This is community cooperation that shows our community that we love them and are here to serve them. If our vision statement is “we desire to see communities thriving to the glory of God” and when we ask the health management experts of our community the best way possible to bring human flourishing to our community and love our neighbor as ourselves right now and they tell us to limit the exposure of people to the virus for 2 weeks (that allows for 2 cycles of exposure and manifestation of symptoms according to what they know about COVID-19 as of yesterday at 4 pm) by closing down our big venues of gatherings, then that’s what we are going to do. This is not a government edict, it a request for our participation in a potential public health crisis that would overrun our hospitals and capacity to care for the least vulnerable in our community—the elderly, the children, and those with preexisting medical conditions. Friends, if you know our congregation, that is a lot of our gatherings—our elderly (defined by the healthy management officials as 60 and older), our children, and our people going through cancer or who have complicated medical situations. Have you seen our prayer guide lately? That’s us!

 

Let us be honest, if we opened our doors for services today or next Sunday, guess who would show up, even if I asked them not to—you got it, the faithful remnant of God would be here because we, your pastors and elders, opened the doors of the church—our elderly, our people with complicated medical situations, and many of our families. And I love that about us and you, but that is the very reason we are closing the building. Because our faithfulness to gather no matter what is what could rapidly spread a virus that doesn’t show symptoms right away. By closing down our large gatherings, cancelling events and meetings for two weeks, we are giving our community leadership and health experts time to get ahead of the Coronavirus.

 

I join with other community leaders in this sentiment,

In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much,
but it will be QUITE apparent if we under-reacted or did too little”
(unknown source, but passed on to me by a member of FBC).

 

As I said in my announcement to the church last night, “By making this decision, we are locking arms with our community and its leaders, instead of standing opposed to them. Please pray for us as we continue to make decisions and please pray for all of our community leaders and all who are being impacted by the COVID-19” (https://www.newcastlefbc.com/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020-03-14-Closure-Announcement-Letter.pdf). 

 

We love you! I love you! “Fear not… GOD IS WITH US!” And yes, I already know it is happening, judge me and us—your elders and pastors—as you may, to your own detriment. Someone has to make the hard calls and until you’ve sat in the seat of responsibility for one of the largest gatherings of people in our community that gathers on a weekly basis, then please know that your judgments are nothing more than the rantings of children. We love you as parents love their children. We are prayerfully providing faithful, wise leadership to you in this time. And just like every parent has had to tell their children, “no, you can’t have that” or “no, we can’t do that” even in the face of their cries and anger and protests, we, as under shepherds of Jesus, are prepared to provide that same kind of loving care to you now.

 

We applied the principle:

  1. The enemy is at the gate and fear is gripping the hearts of people. This is real!
  2. We brought it to the Lord: confessed, repented where necessary—our pride to think our plan to have 2 services and keep all programs and services open, no matter what the experts said, because we are people of faith and that’s what the world needs to see. Honestly friend, we, as elders, didn’t want our standing upon faith become a mutation of American arrogance or lack of submission to experts or straight up stupidity in the face of common sense requests made by the health department at this once in a generation threat.
  3. We are dealing with the situation QUICKLY, rebuking the devil, with prayer and thanksgiving. We believe God is going to use this time to confront the idols of Americans, the hypocrisy of the American Church, and call many to faith and repentance.
  4. God’s peace is guarding us! His presence is with you and me, with us!

 

After days of gathering in prayer about this and after last night’s meeting with the Henry County Health Department, this is the best way for us to fulfill our vision as a church to see our communities thriving to the glory of God. This is the first, but not last, step on how we can love our neighbors as ourselves. I am calling you now to love your neighbors in real and practical ways:

 

  1. Call on the elderly, those shut-in, those who are the most vulnerable.
  2. Check on friends, family, neighbors who have complicated medical situations to ensure they have food.
  3. Send cards and hand-written notes to people.
  4. Help deliver food and be a part of the solution in our community.
  5. Be the hands and feet of Christ. I’ve asked our elders to lead us and organize us in this effort, not only for our congregation, but to help our communities.
  6. Volunteer your time to the Henry County Health Department and become a part of the response effort.
  7. FBC is going to partner, as a church. Will you, as a member of the church?

 

As we always say, “Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how BIG GOD IS!” Yes, we must take sober steps in this time, but we do so in faith, wisdom, and partnership, trusting God’s providence to use His Church in this time. We are God’s people and we trust in the promises of God, so we can respond with faith and not in fear!

 

Let me close with the reading of Psalm 91:

 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

 

Are you dwelling in God? Are you trusting Him in how you now talk about this, pray about this, and serve others in this time?

 

Walk through the steps I’ve given you today… “Fear not… GOD IS WITH US!
 

You can listen to the Audio here:

 

You can watch the video HERE.

 
 

Read more...

Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 3)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Keep Journeying Together!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 21:12-13

Our goal for all of 2020 is to do one thing: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”

 

The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World! In response to His Passion!

 

Throughout this series, the word “Passion” has a more technical meaning that in Biblical Studies points to the suffering of Jesus Christ, specifically from the historical events of the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion.[1]

 

The Passion of Jesus cannot remain a once-upon-a-time idea in your head captured in the icon of the Cross, just as our call to follow Jesus and share in His sufferings cannot remain an abstract concept. There are real implications to the Passion of Jesus, not only in what He did to rescue us and give us life, but in how we should live our lives in response to His life, death, and resurrection. As we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, we are walking toward the Cross in order to hear personally, from the Spirit, how each of us is invited to respond to Jesus’ Passion.

 

Today, we are going to learn: As the Body of Christ, members of Jesus’ Church, we must keep journeying together, even when we experience disappointment in fellow members of the Body. Jesus experienced deep disappointment through His ministry, with His followers, the clamoring crowds, the religious establishment, the political authorities, His own hometown and family. Even so, Jesus did not let His disappointment or pain stop him from journeying with them and for their good—to the Cross! In the same way, we can’t let our disappointment or pain with one another stop us from journeying together because we are the Body of Christ.[2]

 

Paul states in Romans 12:4-5, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

 

Jesus experienced significant disappointment during His earthly ministry, but He still gave His body to the Passion so that we can be His Body to proclaim His love! Love is when we keep journeying together even when we face significant disappointments with one another and in the church as a whole—that is a part of our sharing in the fellowship of His suffering that conforms us to His death (Philippians 3:10).

 

That is why we can’t forsake the gathering (Hebrews 10:24-25)—it short circuits God’s plan to reach the nations: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

 

If you didn’t know this—there is no Plan B—we are Plan A of God’s plan to show the world His love! I bet that sounds pretty crazy to you. But no crazier than the whole Gospel story and that the way God decided to save humanity was through the Passion of Jesus Christ!

 

If Jesus had to pay such a high cost for our salvation, what cost is His body willing to pay to carry on the work of God in the world?  Reflect on things in your life that are not pleasing to God or are not working in agreement with His Plan A for your life and invite the Holy Spirit into that place. Are you willing to let God work in you and through you?

 

Honestly, going by what I see in how easily and how quickly people jump ship from the Body of Christ, or remain ineffective because they habitually forsake the gathering of the saints or are unwilling to let anyone do any kind of “stirring up” in their lives, people are not willing to suffer at all for the privilege of being a member of the Body of Christ, nevertheless, doing the necessary work to fulfill God’s plan to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).[3]

 

Most people I know are too distracted by the world and when they do get involved with the church, they are too preoccupied with their own comfort and preferences to join with Jesus in His Passion as a member of His Body. And I know mostly church people…

 

You are a member of Jesus’ Body and His Body is God’s chosen vehicle of salvation to the world…for the lost of our community and every community. We must return to a high view of Jesus’ Church.

 

Allow me a personal illustration. After decades of not doing it or not enjoying it like I did before my military days, I am back to enjoying running. I was a runner a long time ago and I’m back at it. Funny thing though is that one of my toes does not consider itself a runner and it has a black toenail to prove it. Every time I go running, it lets me know that it’s not a runner. Not too loud, but loud enough for me to question whether or not it is really committed to the fellowship of the body. I have not yet gotten to the place of questioning whether or not I should cut it off… J Really, it’s a part of me, a member of the body, even if it’s not quite on board with this whole running thing. Do you know what I do with this toe? I give it more attention. I use my wife’s fancy little stone to rub down the ever-growing callous at the end of it and I make sure my blackened toenail is hanging in there… It must feel beaten and battered, but I keep telling it that it’s doing it to itself if it would just get with the program like the other 90% of my toes. J

 

That reminds me of Paul’s teaching about the Church—the Body of Christ—in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Listen to Paul talk about my toe, hidden to you, but trying to take over my whole body:

 

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

 

Jesus’ Passion gives us the motive to stay together as the body of Christ, whether we are that “toe” or find ourselves disappointed in it because it likes to let us know it’s still there from time to time. Maybe, that toe thinks it’s calling in life is to keep everyone patient and graceful.

 

Jesus had some “toe-pain” over 3 years of journeying with His disciples for 3 years. We think that the only suffering Jesus had was during His Passion. To capture this, I walked through the Gospel of Matthew, just took my Bible out during my morning quiet time, and read through it seeing the places Jesus experienced moments with people who are the people Jesus was inviting to become members of His body and instead might have felt some “toe-pain”:

 

  • But what about how painfully disappointing the whole state of affairs were with the Jewish religious leaders: Matthew 9:3, 11; 12:2, 14, 24; 15:12; 19:3; 21:12-19 and throughout the rest of His time in Jerusalem until He is crucified He is in constant conflict with the religious elite. Talking about toe-pain! I’m sure I would have cut these people off, but Jesus didn’t. On the Cross He forgave them (Luke 23:34). What an example!
  • How painfully disappointing His chosen followers—the future church leaders—were: Matthew 8:26; 14:31; 16:8, 23; 18:1 and that is just through His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and doesn’t cover their abandonment and betrayals up to His crucifixion. But upon His resurrection, He spends 40 days with them and forgives them. Empowering them at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit to be His Church—the Body of Christ.
  • He experienced disappointment and pain with the crowds: Matthew 8:34; 9:24; 17:17; 19:23-24. With the cities and the generation as a whole: Matthew 11:16-24; 12:38-39; 16:1-4, 5-6, 11-12.
  • Maybe most acutely, He experienced “toe-pain” with His hometown: Matthew 13:55-58.

 

So often, in the life of Christ, we are called to love people who have been hurt by so many others. And you have heard me say it: “hurt people hurt people!” It’s true! Part of responding to the Passion of Jesus is being a healing person in those hurt people’s lives, not adding church hurt to an already long list of offenders.

 

A pastor once said to me, there are people in the church who are EGRs—Extra Grace Required! They are in every church and if you leave a church because of them, you will just find them eventually in your next church. And if you don’t know who the EGR is, then you are probably the one and everyone else knows it! I laughed… I cried… I am the EGR…

 

Jesus was constantly surrounded by EGRs! I guess, when we view it from His point of view on the Cross, we are all extra grace required folks. Starting with me…

 

Do your daily behaviors reflect and point to Jesus? Are we pausing in difficult decisions? When dealing with difficult people are we submitting our emotions to the Lord and waiting on the Lord to guide us? Love flows out of patience and meekness…

 

Do we love others as God first loved us? As Paul taught in Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Hurt people may hurt people, but Forgiven people forgive people!

 

Which are you? Have you been forgiven?

 

Do we know that our love for one another is a primary way we lift up the Name of Jesus as His disciples (John 13:34-35)? Are we willing to suffer with the members of the Body so that we may persevere in belonging to the Body?

 

To practically know how to do this, read Romans 12:9-21.

 

 

We are God’s Plan A! There is no other plan to reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus.

 

What’s your Plan A?

 

My plan, although I still need to get over myself from time to time (alright, all the time!), is to not only not cut my toe off because it disappoints me from time to time, or hurts me, but to give it some special attention so that it knows it belongs. Love it even more. And the rest of my body is going to be happy with that, because you know the old saying: Happy Toe, Happy Body!
 
 

Listen to the Message here:

 

To watch the video click HERE

 
 
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] For a short article that explains the technical usage of “Passion” in Biblical Studies, please check out:  https://www.gotquestions.org/passion-of-Christ.html (accessed February 20, 2020).

 

[2] A colleague wrote back to me in response to this paragraph, “This really puts into perspective of how long-term care for people is so hard. Addictions, rebellious lifestyles etc.…  The fleshly reaction is to cut that person out of your life, so you don’t have to deal with their brokenness. Please help me Jesus to love others and see others how you see them with Kingdom eyes not worldly eyes.”

[3] A friend who read this sermon earlier this week wrote about this point, “The truth of this whole paragraph really highlights how much the world’s culture affects church culture. There are generational and geographical examples I can think of. Generationally, 60-70 years ago, we lived in a world where neighbors coordinated what they planted in their gardens so they could share, and everyone knew and cared for each other’s children because it was what they did. Church attendance at that time was also considered much less “optional”. Now, we live in a “every man for himself” culture. If you begin to feel threatened, you bail. End of story. You have to have a meet and greet with other kids parents before you even think about maybe letting your kid spend time at a friend’s house. You certainly can’t trust people who want to give you something. They have an ulterior motive. And people generally feel the same mistrust about church and therefore do not commit. But, geographically, particularly in countries where being a Christ-follower is illegal or heavily policed, church congregations still gather every day of the week! They spend nearly every evening together. They are desperate to preserve the gathering of the saints!”
 
 

Read more...

Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 2)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Rest in Meekness!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 21:1-11
 
Our goal for all of 2020 is to do one thing: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
 
This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
 
The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World! In response to His Passion!
 
Throughout this series, the word “Passion” has a more technical meaning that in Biblical Studies points to the suffering of Jesus Christ, specifically from the historical events of the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion.1 As I will teach today, I believe the suffering of Jesus began, with intentionality, well before the Garden scene when it was first put on public display.
 
The Passion of Jesus cannot remain a once-upon-a-time idea in your head captured in the icon of the Cross, just as our call to follow Jesus and share in His sufferings cannot remain an abstract concept. There are real implications to the Passion of Jesus, not only in what He did to rescue us and give us life, but in how we should live our lives in response to His life, death, and resurrection. As we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, we are walking toward the Cross in order to hear personally, from the Spirit, how each of us is invited to respond to Jesus’ Passion.
 
Today, we are going to learn: We are invited to rest in meekness because it was the meekness of Jesus that marked His every step to the Cross!
 
Allow me to define “meekness” for you and give you a short overview of its usage in the Bible: The word “meek” in the Bible has a rich history in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament it was used to describe Moses in Numbers 12:3,
 
“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
 
And every great person in the Bible, after Moses, is compared to Moses with this being his most exalted characteristic. Just see how the Bible addresses those who are the opposite of meek: those who are proud!
 
This Hebrew word is found 25 times and its range of meaning is “poor, afflicted, humble, weak, needy. [It] can mean either ‘humble, afflicted’ as a general condition or ‘humble’ as a virtue.”2
Here is one more: Psalm 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”
 
That might spark a memory, something Jesus said in the third Beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:5,
 
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
 
Jesus uses the same word to describe Himself in Matthew 11:29,
 
“I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
 
We’ll get back to this later in the sermon.
 
Meekness is to live with humility towards God and towards others. Specifically, it is when you have the right or the power to do something but you don’t do it (you cease, you stop, you refrain from acting) for the benefit of someone else.
 
Meekness is power in reserve! Resting in God’s promises and experiencing the abundance of God’s peace does not come by claiming our rights or exerting the fulness of our personalities to get our way or utilizing all the limited resources at our disposal (the work of our own hands) to fulfill our ambitions. This leads to disobedience to God at so many levels, and it doesn’t lead to a deeper trust in God!
 
Resting in God’s promises and experiencing the abundance of God’s peace comes by trusting God’s will and patiently waiting on Him to act when every ounce of your being is screaming for control and reaction, to take the bulls by the horn and fix it your way. Meekness is trusting that God’s hand is mightier than your own, that His judgement is wiser than your own.
 
Meekness is Psalm 46:10 in action,
 
“Cease striving and know that I am God!”
 
Meekness is Proverbs 3: 5-6 in action,
 
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
 
I know many of you have memorized these promises of God, but I wonder how many of you are living by them!?! Meekness is the life that believes God for His promises!
 
If we are going to experience the Passion of Jesus beyond the historical story or as an abstract concept, then we must become meek as Jesus was meek—Jesus believed all of His Father’s promises for humanity and submitted His life fully to fulfill them. We must learn from His example as the Meek King—the One who emptied Himself of all of His rights as God to take on sin as a human to become our Passover Lamb (Philippians 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21)!
 
To explore this thought, let’s read our text for today, Matthew 21:1-11. While this story is classically read on Palm Sunday, we are doing it today as we enter into the Lenten season.
 
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
 
This is a commonly taught passage, but today I simply want to bring out one specific point of this story and to a Jewish listener, the point of this historical event. Jesus is fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 which states,
 
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble [meek], and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
 
Jesus fulfills this prophecy, not just in His triumphal entry as the humble one, but in how He goes about His ministry. The Jewish audience would not have missed this—Jesus was the Meek King in the line of King David—the Anointed One of Israel, the Messiah.
 
Listen to another passage to demonstrate meekness in action. It comes at the time of Jesus’ betrayal, right after the famous Garden of Gethsemane prayer scene of Matthew 26:36-46 when Jesus prays in great meekness to God,
 
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (39).
 
Verses 47-56 show Judas Iscariot bringing a great crowd with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus. When one of those people laid hands on Jesus and seized him, Peter attacked with his sword. Peter was keeping his promise to not forsake Jesus. Jesus responded with meekness to the plan of God in verses 52-56:
 
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
 
Had Jesus claimed His rights, exerted the fulness of His potential or used all resources at His disposal He would have rescued Himself from His Passion and we would have been left dead in our sins. God’s will would have been thwarted had Jesus not exhibited meekness.
 
To start pulling it all together for our lives, Jesus calls people into Christian discipleship—to become like Him and to take on His lifestyle. We hear this in Matthew 11:28-30,
 
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
 
Resting in God’s promises only happens when we habitually take on the lifestyle of Jesus Christ and in doing so become like Him at the center of our beings: gentle, humble, lowly, meek. Submissive to God and His will.
 
Here is a spiritual reality: If you are not humble of heart, meek at the core of your being (heart, Prov 4:23), then you won’t act this way under pressure or when put in a situation where you need to choose between exerting all of your personal power versus trusting in all of God’s power.
 
If we are not being trained in the easy yoke of Jesus I can predict how we will act—powerless to the knee jerk reactions and quick-tongued responses of our flesh, and not in meekness to the Holy Spirit. That is the reality of the human condition, which means that for all of us, there is a need for discipline in our relationship with Jesus Christ—a training in righteousness that goes well beyond the well intentioned “What would Jesus do?” A joining with Jesus in His Passion!
 
The following verses illustrate this for us:
James 1:21-22: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
 
James 3:13-16: “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
 
1 Peter 3:14-17: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness [meekness in KJV] and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
 
Jesus invites us to become meek by taking on His life—carrying His cross (His Passion) from morning to night and learning how to live in the abundance of God’s peace by walking with the God of peace in a personal growing relationship.
 
Interested that it is in embracing Jesus’ Passion that we will find peace when our culture teaches us to spend a majority of our time and money avoiding discomfort/suffering at all costs. Yet, our culture is also without peace of mind or heart at personal and community levels. The cost of not being meek (being proud, self-sufficient, arrogant) is the greatest felt need of our culture!
 
The church has the answer and it is embracing the person of Jesus Christ and His life of Passion. This is learned behavior, a rhythm or pattern of life that becomes yours from the inside out as you take on the yoke of Jesus. As Paul promised in Philippians 4:9,
 
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
 
This is the promise of God from the Old and New Testaments for the meek.
I invite you to join with Jesus on His Journey. It is a journey of patience and trust—of meekness so that you can join with Jesus in not just praying as He taught the disciples, but in living as He modeled for all of us:
 
“Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9-13).
 
 

Listen to the Message here:

 

To watch the video click HERE

 
 
 
 

Read more...

Responding to the Passion of Jesus (Week 1)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus stayed on Mission!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”

 

The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World! In response to His Passion, by which we are saved!

 

Throughout this series, the word “Passion” has a more technical meaning that in Biblical Studies points to the suffering of Jesus Christ, specifically from the historical events of the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion.[1] As I will teach today, I believe the suffering of Jesus began, with intentionality, well before the Garden scene when it was first put on public display.

 

Throughout this series, here is my overarching teaching goal: The Passion of Jesus cannot remain a once-upon-a-time idea in your head captured in the icon of the Cross, just as our call to follow Jesus and share in His sufferings cannot remain an abstract concept. There are real implications to the Passion of Jesus, not only in what He did to rescue us and give us life, but how we should live our lives in response to His life, death, and resurrection. During this Lenten season, as we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, we are going to walk toward the Cross and learn together how we are invited to respond to the Passion of Jesus.

 

Today, we are going to learn: Jesus stayed on mission by long-suffering with His followers, not just suffering for them! The mission of Jesus to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) is not a one-time event of saving a soul, just like Jesus’s Passion was more than one week of events. The mission of Jesus was, and still is, a long slow obedience in the same direction of seeing people transformed by the love of God. This requires long-suffering with people!

 

Did you know the word for patience in the KJV is “long-suffering”? Long-suffering means patiently enduring lasting offense or suffering, especially those caused by other people. As a friend said to me recently, “Committing to having patience isn’t just agreeing to passively wait without worrying or complaining, but rather it is a commitment to be willing to suffer at the hands of others.”

 

There are three passages we are going to look at this morning as we start our journey towards the Cross of Calvary and Jesus’ vicarious death and victorious resurrection. Along the way we are going to study the Passion of Jesus and how we are invited to respond.

 

The first time Jesus clearly and explicitly states the plan of God to His disciples is found in Matthew 16:21-23:

 

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

Peter is the voice we hear, but it’s very plausible that Peter’s voice represents the community voice of all Jewish people’s expectations of their Messiah: the anointed one of Israel would not die at the hands of Roman imperialism, but He would be the right hand of God to rescue God’s people from all foreign oppression, once and for all.

 

A real part of Jesus’ suffering was how much He was misunderstood—throughout His ministry. Even those who knew and believed He was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God misunderstood His actions, because they did not know the plan of God.

 

Jesus responded to His disciple Peter the same way He did to Satan in the temptations in Matthew 4:8-10,
 
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ’ ”

 

Both were attempting to thwart Jesus from the plan of God—the devil maliciously with evil intent and Peter ignorantly with ethnocentric intent.

 

The Passion of the Christ, which we have typically focused on as a Holy Week reality, was for Jesus a ministry reality. As we see in three allusions to His crucifixion before this first overt announcement of His coming death: Matthew 9:15; 10:38; and 12:40.

 

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’” (9:15).

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (10:38).

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (12:40).

 

The followers of Jesus did not/could not/would not hear it at the time.

Jesus told them again, for a second time, in Matthew 17:22-23:
 
“As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’ And they were greatly distressed.”

 

This time, instead of being a stumbling block to Jesus, they were “greatly distressed” by Jesus’ insistence that betrayal, suffering, and death was coming His way. They most likely never heard Jesus mention being raised on the third day and if they did, they did not understand Him.

 

How is that possible? Have you ever received really hard news? Once the person dropped the diagnosis or bad news on you, did you hear much of anything after that? Nope… The disciples of Jesus are in a state of shock, disbelieving shock…

 

The third and last time Jesus tells His disciples is in Matthew 20:17-19,

 

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

 

Jesus tells them in the greatest detail of any of the three times. He is forecasting what is coming. Clearly demonstrating a firm grasp of what He must do to fulfill God’s plan for His life, death, and resurrection. Jesus is also expressing His willingness to submit to His Father’s will in order to fulfill God’s plan.

 

As one commentator wrote, “It is the Son of Man, the Son of David, the divine Son of God, who would voluntarily undergo such treatment to save others. His humility would contrast starkly with the arrogance of the sons of Zebedee in the following section.”[2]

 

Jesus’ pronouncement is contrasted vividly by Matthew 20:20-28 when we see the followers of Jesus jockeying for power positions in the coming kingdom. Clearly, they still don’t get it after three years with Jesus, after three clear articulations of His coming Passion. Jesus responds with abounding grace and honest truth to His followers,

 

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

I say, “UGGHHH!!!! Frustrating people!!!” Jesus says, “Grace Abounds! These are My people!”

 

Why? Because Jesus was passionate about making disciples (a.k.a. training apprentices)—passionate about taking people who believe in Him on the Journey of being transformed from what they were in the world to what God intended them to be in His Kingdom!

 

Jesus was about to pay the ultimate price and hand this entire operation over to His apprentices after training them 24/7/365 for 3 years. Can you imagine His internal suffering at their thick-headed insistence to not understand Him or His mission? Can you imagine the amount of passion Jesus must have had for these disciples for Him to keep on keeping on with them?

 

It couldn’t be that He was stuck with them—they were chosen by God to be His Apostles! Jesus didn’t tolerate them being in His life, He loved them. They were His mission and the reason for His Passion! Do you see people this way? Do you tolerate difficult people or love them with long-suffering? Is this even possible apart from the Holy Spirit?

 

Jesus’ journey to the Cross demonstrates the entirety of His Passion! But, it wasn’t just the Passion Week where we most clearly saw Jesus’ transformative act of love for all sinners. Jesus was passionate about making something out of these ragamuffins—of walking with them and loving them through their doubts, uncertainties, and stubborn refusals to change their minds on preconceived notions. He’s still doing the same today, with us!

 

He is still patiently loving those who have been chosen by God to be His followers!

 

Time after time, situation after situation: Grace Abounded! Jesus kept showing His followers the way to be on mission, even though they did not fully understand Jesus’ mission.

 

Jesus’s journey to the Cross was a long, slow obedience in the same direction! It was a Passion Journey and on His journey we see Jesus on mission the way we are to go on mission: with a persevering and transforming love for others, starting here, but going out beyond the borders… out of our comfort zones!

 

Jesus long-suffered (showed patience) with His slow-to-get-it followers, soon-to-be-called the Church. Their transformation did not happen because of one moment (the Cross) alone! It happened because of three years of Jesus’ long slow obedience in the same direction of love that lead to the Cross, but did not end there!

 

Jesus’ mission carries on today, after the Cross, after the Resurrection, after the Ascension, because of those 3 years of Jesus’ long slow obedience in the same direction of love! These men may not have gotten it until after all these major events happened, but it was the love of Jesus on the Journey that led them to carry on the mission of Jesus to a new generation.

 

Let me say it this way: it took 1,095 days of persistent love for that one triumphant day to make sense. But, then only in hindsight after 3 long days apart from that love, followed by 40 glorious days of experiencing Jesus’ resurrection and redeeming love for them to finally get it, and now for an eternity without a day apart from God’s love living in us through the Holy Spirit.

 

Don’t bail before the blessing! God is with you and He has a better plan for your life than you currently have for your own life. God is in you…patiently loving you to work in you His love and through you His love to the world. Be patient with others as God is patient with you!

 

This is our mission, so be like Jesus in His Passion and be long-suffering with people on the journey, just as God is still being patient with you on the journey.  Go as Paul commands in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8,

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

 

As you go, may grace abound in you, for you, and through you! May your long-suffering with others lead them to respond to the Passion of Jesus Christ. Be patient with them and yourself…
 

You can listen to the message here:

 

To watch the video click HERE

 
 
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] For a short article that explains the technical usage of “Passion” in Biblical Studies, please check out:  https://www.gotquestions.org/passion-of-Christ.html (accessed February 20, 2020).

[2] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Matthew,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1490.


Read more...

Responding to Jesus (Week 7)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Lord of the Harvest: Go with Him!”

Key Verses: Luke 10:1-3

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World!

 

Today, we are going to learn: Jesus is the Lord of the Harvest and He has invited us to pray for people to work His fields. Let’s look at the text where Jesus teaches us this.

 

Turn with me to Luke chapter 10, verses 1-3 (Luke 10:1-3):

 

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

 

This is not the only place Jesus gives His followers a command to take the good news (gospel) to other people—we call this evangelism or missions.

 

Jesus famously commands in Matthew 28:18-20,And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

 

In our lesson today, we see that Jesus instructs His followers:

 

1. The work is not just for pastors and missionaries.

 

Jesus sent 72 followers, not just the 12 Apostles. This is the mission of the church—all the people of God are to go!

2. Don’t go alone!

 

Jesus sent the workers two by two. Each of us needs a battle buddy!

 

In the Army, we were trained to have a battle buddy… [I will tell a story of my battle buddy linking arms with me in Ranger School to illustrate what a battle buddy is and why they are important.]

 

Do you have a battle buddy? That question may seem out of context, but when you listen to Jesus’ words, they make sense: “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” There is hardship and pain awaiting each of us in the world we live and attempt to serve in the name of Jesus. We live in a very broken world, filled with sadness and grief, sin and selfishness. Bad things happen to all of us and all we have sometimes is our faith in this message of hope, to reminder ourselves and to share with others because so many are feeling hopeless and beat up by a world that doesn’t seem to care.

 

If you got at it alone, there is a very good chance that your initial excitement to be a part of the work of God will waver and fail in the midst of so much pain and hardship. It is amazing how much life can beat us down, circumstances and chronic pain, alike, can distract us and keep us from seeing any light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Listen to three promises from God’s Word about spiritual relationships:

  • 1 Corinthians 16:17-18 states,

    “I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.”

  • 2 Corinthians 7:13 reiterates,

    “Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.”

  • Hebrews 10:24-25,

    “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

 

We are better together in Jesus Christ! Be a refreshing presence to one another as you bring the love and hope of Jesus to a world in so much conflict and pain. Remember, we are hope-bearers and the first people we need to bring hope to is one another and then we go out together to help people and love people through their most damaging and devastating life experiences.
 

3. Go to every place Jesus would go!  Stay in His yoke!

 

Jesus commands His followers to follow a certain path in how we plow the field: I want you to listen to some teachings from Jesus that help us understand how we are to work His harvest fields.

 

Acts 1:8 instructs,
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

This scripture has 2 lessons I want you think about: 1) start where you are because this is where you are (Jerusalem, your home community), but be willing to move outside of your comfort zone as the Lord leads you. That can include our region/state (Judah), the nation (Samaria, this also has the implications of people who may not be like you, maybe people considered outcasts or “not like us”), and to the end of the earth (anywhere and everywhere, people distant from you in every way).

 

Jesus is tearing down the cultural and religious prejudices of His day and He’s still doing it, today! Are there people or places you are not willing to go?

 

Don’t just think about way away out there, think about in here (around this room) or around our city or your school or workplace or extended family… Are their barriers in your mind and heart that disallow you from loving people the way Jesus loves you? Do you need to seek forgiveness or forgive another person today? Are there a few difficult minutes of a hard conversation ahead of you so that you can be free forever?

 

Does this sound like a heavy-burden to you? Does it cause anxiety or fear just thinking about going across this room or across the street in your neighborhood or across town or across the lunchroom or across the world?

 

Remember don’t go at it alone! The second lesson of Acts 1:8 is that the Holy Spirit will be with you and give you the power to be on mission with Jesus. Jesus invites, instructs, and promises in Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

I want you to get one thing out of this passage today: when you take on Jesus’ yoke, He will direct your path and set your pace in the harvest field. When you are yoked to Jesus, you are now working under a different power source that causes His yoke to be easy and His burden to be light. We are in the yoke of Jesus when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. You are not alone!

 

And when you are not alone, you can do whatever it is God is putting on your heart to do! You can go where He leads you, even if others don’t understand why you are going to that place or to those people. We all needed someone to come to us at some point in our life… Let’s return the favor and reach out to others where they are.

 

Remember this story in Mark 2, after Jesus invited Levi (a.k.a. Matthew) the hated tax collector to be one of His followers and Jesus went to Matthew’s house and ate with sinners, and all the “church people” were upset with Him. Listen to Mark 2:16-17 and how Jesus reacts, “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples,
‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

 

Where is God calling you to go? Then, you go there! If each of us would just go where we each were called to go, then how many more people would have Jesus in their lives?

 

4. The final point for today is this: Pray for God to capture the hearts of more people to come on journey with Jesus and share in all the work.

 
Never forget, the Harvest Field belongs to God, not to you and me! He loves all these people, including you and me, more than we possibly can. But He uses you and me to love one another. So pray… pray for people’s hearts to be captured by the love of God!

 

 

There is so much pain in the world and there is so much pain right here in this room. The final point is also the starting point: Pray. Seek God’s face—His presence and His power for all the hardship and pain in the harvest field.

 

Don’t go alone means praying to God and inviting Him to go with you. He also invites you to bring a friend with you as you go. If you are currently going alone, pray and ask God to raise a worker to join you.

 

If you currently see places of need that you aren’t called to go to, then pray that God would raise up people to go.

 

I can’t go everywhere, because that would be disobedience to what I am called to do. No guilt to you, nor will accept guilt to come back on me. We each are called—I’m in the yoke of Jesus learning to go where He calls me.

 

Whose yoke are you in and where is that yoke taking you?

 

It’s time to pray…

 

You can listen to the message here:

 

You can watch the video HERE.

 
 
 

Read more...

Responding to Jesus (Week 6)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is our Example: Serve Like Him!”

Key Verses:  John 13:1-20

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John chapter 12, verse 32 (John 12:32, ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary to give His life as a payment for sin, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we are called to live our lives in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross as the Savior for all the World!

 

Today, we are going to learn: Jesus is our Example in all areas of life. We are called to serve like Jesus served. That is why He came and that is why we have been saved: Jesus emptied Himself, took on the form of a servant, and died on the Cross so that we can live an abundant life. We are Blessed to be a Blessing! Serving is a life of giving away what you cannot lose: God’s grace!

 

Jesus said to His first followers (the disciples) in Mark 10:42-45,

 

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many [by being lifted up on the Cross].

 

Jesus makes it clear in His teaching that He came to set us an example: one of a servant who was willing to put aside His own comforts, in fact His very life, so that we can return to a right relationship with God that was intended for us from the beginning of creation, but was destroyed by human sin. Jesus came to rescue us and to show us what our lives can look like when we are completely submitted to the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in us.

 

The example Jesus came to set for us is found in our theme verse of John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” It was on the Cross of Calvary that Jesus demonstrated what true service looks like! As we talked about last week, it was not easy for Jesus to do this: in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus sweat blood leading up to the Cross because of the extreme anguish He felt (Lk 22:44; Mt 26:38; Mk 14:34), but loved compelled Him to serve us this way; as Hebrews 12:2 says, it was for the JOY SET BEFORE HIM!

 

Just like Jesus, we are called to be different and live different than the ways of the world: to die to self-service and live for God-service. The world says look out for number one and use other people to get your way. The world teaches us self-service and most everything that makes a profit in today’s world is something that caters to the whims and desires of “self”. Just think of the billions of dollars the advertising departments of multi-million dollar businesses spend on wooing you to invest your time and money into yourself.

 

Unfortunately, this includes in the American-led church growth models if you want to have a “successful” church. I don’t know what to tell you other than that I, and your elders, won’t pander to that mindset and false definition of success for the church. With that said, for us to remain in our community, the faithful need to step up in even greater ways, in both serving and giving, to keep a Jesus-centered church thriving in our self-centered culture. Giving in to the self-centered culture is idolatry and we must flee from it and not cooperate with it. Lord Jesus, please forgive us for the ways we have already.

 

Jesus says that the only way to glorify God through your service and to truly be great is to not to self-serve, but to serve people by submitting to God first; this is God-service. In fact, Jesus’ life glorified God for this exact reason as we learn from Jesus’ prayer in John 17:4, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” Jesus did not heal every person that needed healing, teach in every synagogue, feed every hungry person, tackle every social evil, tear down oppressive regimes and solve economic disparities between the haves and the have nots. Jesus did not do everything that would have been on each of our agendas for this world and all of its problems, but Jesus did everything His father asked Him to do!

 

Jesus rescued humanity from the damaging effects of sin so that we would be “free” as God-centered people to do all these things and even more—to do even “greater things” (John 14:12).

 

Jesus prays for us, His future disciples, in John 17:22-23,
 
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

 

Jesus has given us the same glory that His father gave Him and that glory is to do the work God has given each of us to do. We are called to be pleasing to God by doing what He commands us to do. People will often misunderstand how we serve them, because we are pleasing them in the Name of Jesus, not in our own name (personal self-interest), or the name of our church (corporate self-interest), or even in the name of our city, state, or nation (ethnocentric self-interest). We are God-serving people: God-pleasing service not people-pleasing service!

 

The bottom line is that living a non-serving life or self-serving life is not the real thing—neither biblical Christianity nor Jesus following. It’s disobedience to Jesus because you are still living according to your selfish nature. Following Jesus means your faith produces acts of obedience. Not to save you, but because you are saved! Not as works of the Law to attempt to please God, but obedience that flows from faith. Faith and good works are inseparable, and if you are separating them and you think that is OK, that is a problem. 

I do not have permission from God as your pastor to allow you to sit there and think that it is OK to live disobedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ. With truth and grace, I say to each of you: you are blessed by God to be a blessing to others—to real people with real issues in real everyday life! Put some feet on your prayers and go serve in such a way to meet the needs of a lost and dying world. Faith compels you! The Holy Spirit within you empowers you… take a step of faith and follow your Lord and Savior Jesus by putting on the towel of service.

 

Even Jesus’ closest followers did not understand the example of Jesus. Grace abounds for those who do not get it, but we can’t stay there. God is calling you to understand this very basic teaching—to get it and to stop making excuses for disobedience. Even Jesus’ closest followers were consumed with self-interests. Listen to this very famous real story, the historical account of Jesus Christ putting on the towel of service, from John chapter 13, verses 1-20 (John 13:1-20):

 

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

 

Jesus emptied Himself in this moment by doing the work of a slave by washing their feet. In the times of Jesus, the person who was to wash the feet of guests was not the husband or wife, nor the children or hired hand. It was the work of the lowest person in their culture. Jesus took on the form of the lowest person to wash the feet of His followers. But Jesus’ followers did not want this kind of example nor understand Him.

It’s not that Jesus wasn’t clear in His teachings or in the example He set—how could Jesus have been any clearer in either?—it was just that His followers were blinded by their own self-interest. They wanted Jesus to be greatest of all (not least of all) and to lead a revolution against Rome and liberate them so that Israel could be great again and they could then personally rule their country (and then the world) with Jesus (not to be a part of some spiritual kingdom that gets you ridiculed, side lined, and eventually crucified).

 

Jesus’ followers were still consumed with self-interest, but Jesus did not have an ounce of self-interest in his example. Jesus did not have an ounce of self-serving in mind when He went to the Cross—Jesus experienced extreme anguish in going to the Cross, but He did so because of the Joy of knowing that we would be rescued from sin—the very sin that keeps us yoked to SELF!

 

You are either yoked to Jesus or yoked to yourself! As Paul said in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Sin has been defeated, now abide in Jesus and God-serve—that is true freedom!

 

Are you free in Christ?

 

One of the core values of our church is, “Developing people for a life of service.” Over the last year and a half I have often talked to you of the “7:1 initiative”, which is an FBC initiative to: 1)  invest in 7 relationships through a small group, Sunday School class, or Bible study opportunity where you are learning from God’s Word and one another how to love others like Jesus first loved you; and 2) invest in 1 place of service in the church where you can be involved in a ministry team or mission partnership to serve like Jesus. If you don’t know where you can find a place of service, we have provided you with an updated 2020 “service opportunities” handout that has lots of places for you to prayerfully consider.

 

I know for a fact that we are having a hard time meeting the basic needs of meals needed for people in need of meals after medical issues or having babies. I was informed just this week by one of elders of these recent data points for our church:
 
  • lack of sustainable financing, evidenced by a huge deficit in the maintenance budget and the recent cutting of the mission’s section of the 2020 budget.
  • struggles of the Meal Trains, which get sent out to 118 +/- families every time:
      • missed 3 of 8 days for a member.
      • missed 5 of 10 days for a member.
      • missed 4 of 10 days for a member.
      • struggled to fill out for a member.
      • If you look at who is taking the meals, it is a relatively small group.
  • lack of volunteers in the Children’s area, leading to the closing of the elementary children’s church during 1st Sunday services.

 

The 7:1 initiative is not about meeting these needs of our church; it is about our maturity in Christ. To love and serve are the ways of Jesus! How you do them shows who you are in Christ! We must expect that by loving and serving we will become more like Jesus because we are living our lives by the example of Jesus.

 

We do this, not because it will get you respect from other people or make our church better or will cause God to love you more, but because it is obedience that comes from faith—in other words, it is a faithful response to the gospel of Jesus Christ when you put your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. To say it another way, it is what the Holy Spirit will compel you to do because He lives in you and He is forming you into the example of Jesus Christ.

 

As you examine yourself about your area(s) of service, please remember that we do what the Spirit leads us to do, the way the Spirit has gifted us to do it, and in the way of Jesus—for the glory of God! I am not asking you to do anything more or less than obey Jesus! For me, that caused me to resign my career as an Army Officer before I hit my 20 years with no retirement or medical benefits. To leave all that I knew as security, to find my security in Christ alone. Then, again to leave all of our security at our first church in Sunnyvale, CA to come to New Castle, IN over a decade ago. And again and again, to die a hundred little deaths to obey Christ to love and serve like Him, instead of loving and serving myself and my own self-interest.

 

I am not asking you to do anything more or less than I have done, I never will! I am only asking you to respond to Jesus’ example by completely submitting to God and by asking the Holy Spirit to show you how He wants you to respond to Jesus’ example. Through God’s grace and only by God’s grace can we serve like Jesus!

 

How are you going to respond to Jesus’ example?
 

 

 

You can listen to the message here:

 

You can watch the video HERE.

 
 
 

Read more...