Monday, August 6, 2018

Amazing words

“The Word became Flesh” 

Those are amazing words and I’m pretty sure we don’t spend enough time contemplating their significance.

But let me go one step further and express that same thing using slightly different words,…. “God the son became man.” 

To help understand the significance of God becoming man we can reach back into the Old Testament to a time when Moses made a request of God. God asked a lot of Moses. He commanded that Moses lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt and guide them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Moses wanted reassurance that God would teach him His ways and that the presence of God would accompany him and the Israelites on their entire journey. So Moses made a request of God which is found in Exodus 33, he said,

“Show me your glory." 

God granted Moses’ request, but there were certain conditions. Those conditions weren’t to protect God but to protect Moses.

Exodus 33

And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." 

Isn’t that amazing? The glory of God is such that man, in our present nature, cannot look upon the face of God and live. We are weak, He is strong. We are sinful, He is holy. We are created, He is eternal. But God in his love reached out to us “The Word became Flesh”, “God became man.” 

Now realize that before Jesus entered this world he shared that same glory that Moses had to be protected from. Listen to these words from Philippians chapter 2 and think about what Jesus gave up to come into this world.

Philippians 2:6-8

Although Jesus existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

Let’s remember and celebrate a love so great that Jesus was willing to leave the glory he shared with the Father and not only take on human form but suffer under the hands of his own creation.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The heart of the giver

If you’re like me when you hear the word giving you may think of:


And especially in our current economy you may worry about how much you should give and whether we can make our budgets, whether it be at home or at church. And while it may be tempting to focus our thoughts on the quantity of our giving I think it may be more important to focus our thoughts on the quality of our giving.

What I mean by that is that I believe the heart of the giver is more important to God than the gift of the giver. There is a well known verse in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 that refers to giving and the heart of the giver that sometimes we overlook: 1 Cor 13:3

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing”

God is more concerned with relationship then he is with budgets and balance sheets. He is more concerned about the quantity of love in our hearts then the number of dollars in our collection plate.

In the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 5:23

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.”

Again we see, the heart of the giver is more important to God than the gift of the giver. That doesn’t mean that the gift we are giving is unimportant, because we do have budgets both at home and in the church, that require commitment, sacrifice, time and money. But as we give lets make sure that, first of all, our hearts are filled with love, and if we do that, I’m convinced that God will bless both the giver and the gift.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Some consequences of sin

Sin has consequences. But one of the most devastating effects of sin is something that we can’t necessarily see with our eyes. It’s something that occurs on the inside of us, in our hearts. It may display outward symptoms just like a fever is a symptom of an inward infection. But the real problem is not on the outside, its on the inside. The devastating effects of sin which I’m talking about are guilt and fear. 

Guilt and fear manifested itself almost immediately after sin entered the world. It caused Adam and Eve to cover themselves and to hide from the presence of God. And it is still the same today. Guilt and fear still causes us to try to cover up our sin and to avoid being in the presence of God. It may manifest itself outwardly by us no longer praying or ceasing to meet with other Christians. The barrier that sin places between us and God is the result of our own actions. 

The world we live in offers an almost infinite number of ways for numbing the effects of guilt and fear. But the world in its wisdom has no answer for its removal. We are powerless, there is nothing that we can give to God to pay back for our disobedience, there is nothing we can say to God that will erase our actions, so we do what Adam and Eve did, we try our best to cover up our sin and we avoid being in His presence.

But God seeks us out, even though we may try to hide. He tells us he knows of our sin, even though we try to cover it up. He offers us a path back to him; even though we go astray. Listen to these verses from Hebrews 10:19-24: 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

The blood of Jesus renews our confidence to stand in the presence of God. The blood of Jesus cleanses our hearts and frees us from our guilty conscience. What we were powerless to do God accomplished by sending his Son into the world. The writer of Hebrews states that we have an advocate before God who understands our weaknesses and exchanges are guilt and fear for grace and confidence. He says: (Hebrews 4:14-16): 

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Thoughts before taking communion

Jesus told a parable of 2 men. In some ways these 2 men were very much alike. They both believed in God, they were both men of prayer, and one day they both went to the temple. But at the end of that day, after they had left the temple, one man was right with God, the other wasn’t. One man left the temple justified by God, the other left the temple in the same state that he arrived. 

The parable that Jesus told can be found in Luke chapter 18 verses 9-14.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

When we gather around the Lord’s table to take communion it is a time to examine ourselves. It is a time that we should seek to be justified by God, not to justify ourselves to God. It’s a time for honest reflection. But honesty comes with a price and it is a price that some people are unwilling to pay. 

Honesty means that we are willing for the light of God to shine into our lives exposing every wayward and misaligned thought and attitude of the heart. And the price that we must be willing to pay for that light to shine in our hearts is our pride. We must let go of any self-righteous hope that deceives us into believing that somehow we can be good enough, or even worse yet, are already good enough to stand justified in the presence of God based on our own works.

Letting the light of God shine into our hearts is a humbling experience. And when the light shines the brightest into the darkest areas of our lives it leaves us like the tax collector, standing at a distance, with our head down, uttering the only words that we have to offer, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

As we gather around the Lord’s table, it Should be a time of honest reflection, but it is also Should be a time of remembrance. Remembering that God hears our pleas for mercy. Remembering it is God who lifts our heads, draws us close into his presence, and justifies us through the death, burial and resurrection of His son. 
So through reflection, we come to the Lord’s table humbled. Through remembrance, we leave the Lord’s table renewed in our confidence that we have been cleansed of our sins. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The pain of insults

None of us likes to be insulted because insults hurt. In some ways insults are like knives. Some knives are dull and won’t cut much, but others are so sharp that just brushing a finger against the blade will draw blood. Likewise, there are different types of insults, some that don’t bother us, but then there are others that cut deep. So what is it that makes some insults easy to bear and some insults hurt so bad that we carry their scars around our entire lives? I believe the answer to that question centers on one word; love. The degree to which an insult can inflict pain is directly related to the depth of our love. If someone we barely know, or a total stranger, says we are pathetic or worthless, it may hurt, but we might pass it off as a comment from someone that doesn’t really know us. But, if someone we love, whom we have known for a long time, says we are pathetic or worthless it cuts right to our heart and hurts as much as any pain we can experience in life. Insults are a form of rejection. It’s the use of words to inflict pain and injury and if you have ever been insulted by someone you truly love you know they are wounds that are slow to heal and hard to forgive.

Read these words describing the sufferings of Jesus found in Matthew chapter 27:37-44.

Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" 

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' "In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. 

When we remember the sufferings of Jesus we often focus on the physical pain of the cross and overlook the pain of Jesus being mocked and insulted. The degree to which an insult can inflict pain is directly related to the depth of love, and the depth of Jesus’ love was being demonstrated by his very presence on the cross. Each insult must have inflicted pain that reached deep into his heart because he was being rejected by his own creation, which he dearly loved. If you have ever been insulted by someone you care about, someone you love, you understand that pain. But maybe that very pain can serve as a reminder to you of how much you are loved, because Jesus willingly bore the pain of being mocked and insulted. And not only was he willing to bear the pain of insult but at the cross he freely forgave.

Reflect on these words from 1 Peter 2:22-24:

"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”