Sunday May 27, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:46-49 “Obedience, Not an Option”

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Luke 6:46-49
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The words of our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount are indeed difficult and perplexing, but their essence is clear. We are to do what no one else will do—love our enemy. We are to do so because God has loved us while we were His enemies. We are to do so because God is the One who will bless us for obeying His commands. As Jesus comes to the end of this sermon, He asks pointedly, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Obedience to the “tough” commands of our Lord proves a person to be a true follower of Christ, and handling the tough tasks now assures us of enduring tough times ahead. Jesus taught that it is not only to call Jesus Lord, they must prove He is Lord by obeying His commands (v. 46). It is in doing the tough things which shows our discipleship. It is not test of a child’s obedience to hand him money and instruct him to go and buy candy. It is a test of obedience to have the child submit to an inoculation at the doctor’s office.

In the parable of the two builders, Jesus sought to illustrate the fact that doing the hard thing now gives confidence in the hard times ahead. When building a house, the wise man “goes the extra mile” of laying a strong foundation. Digging deep to establish a solid foundation is not the easy way, but when the storms come, the building will stand. Obedience to our Lord’s commands regarding the loving of our enemies is not easy, but it does give us confidence that in the future we will have been well founded, well established in our faith and obedience, and able, by His grace, to withstand any coming storms.

In each and every one of these illustrations in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-49), the need for “betterness” has been established, even though the cost is high to live according to Christ’s higher standard. The commands of Christ regarding loving our enemies is a very high standard, higher than that which others hold or practice, but this only shows that with God all things are possible for those who trust in Him, who obey His commands, and who are sustained by His power and grace.

Sunday March 25, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Everyone is a Sermon Critic” Luke 5:12-26

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Luke 5:20-21
Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

This is the colorful story of the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof as Jesus spoke in a crowded house (Luke 5:17-26). Mark’s gospel is the most elaborate in describing the men digging through the roof. If this were Peter’s house you can imagine how he, not to mention his wife, felt to have his house jammed with people and then to see these four guys dig a hole through his roof to let their friend down in front of Jesus! As a preacher, I can relate to the problem of dealing with distractions while you’re preaching. As Jesus was speaking, some of the people in the front row began feeling dirt raining down on their heads. As they looked up, they saw a patch of daylight through the ceiling. As they kept looking, it grew until they saw four sweaty-faced men who proceeded to lower this guy on a stretcher right in front of Jesus. How do you stick to your message when that happens?

Jesus had a minute to think about His response. He surprised everyone by saying to the paralytic, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” It must have startled the guys on the roof. One of them had his head down through the opening so he could hear. The other guys were asking, “What did Jesus say?” He relayed, “He said that his sins are forgiven.” “His sins are forgiven? Didn’t He heal him? You mean we went to all the trouble of making this hole through the roof and letting him down just so he could get his sins forgiven? We want him healed.

Some may look at this poor man and say, “His main need is for emotional healing. Imagine what he must feel like, being totally dependent on others for everything he needed. But Jesus did not say, “Friend, I want you to feel good about yourself.” He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Others may have said, “What this man needs is economic and educational help. Let’s give him food stamps, government health care benefits and some job training.” But Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Forgiveness of sins is not just a little option, thrown in with the total benefit package of the abundant life. If the Bible’s message about death and eternal judgment is correct, then forgiveness is the main need of every person. People don’t primarily need their marriages fixed, emotional problems resolved or economic help. People need to know with assurance from God that their sins are forgiven. All other needs are secondary. As Jesus taught on another occasion, “What profit is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” (Matt. 16:25). There’s something much more important than having a healthy body and plenty of money; it’s having God forgive your sins.

Sunday – January 7, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Day Jesus Went AWOL” Luke 2:32-53

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Luke 2:49-51
Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

In Luke 2:39-52, we have the only reference in Scripture to the years between Jesus’ birth and the beginning of His ministry when His age was about 30. Some of the apocryphal gospels that circulated in the early centuries of the church contain fanciful and miraculous legends from the childhood of Jesus. He touches some clay birds and they come to life and fly away. He touches a plow that Joseph had botched up and it is instantly made right. Some other legends are more disturbing: The young Jesus curses some bothersome children who immediately wither up or drop dead. After such fanciful tales, the account in Luke of Jesus getting left behind at the temple sounds pretty tame!

The Old Testament (Deut. 16:16) prescribed that every Jewish man should appear before the Lord for three feasts each year: Unleavened Bread (Passover), Weeks (Pentecost), and Booths (Tabernacles). By the time of Jesus, it was customary for those some distance from Jerusalem to attend only one feast. Joseph and Mary’s custom was to make the 80-mile journey from Nazareth each year for the Passover. This incident happened when Jesus was 12. It must have been the most exciting time of the year, to leave the small town and go to the capital for this celebration that drew thousands of worshipers.

If you have ever had a child get lost, you can identify with the panic that gripped these conscientious parents. You always think worst case scenario — such as Jesus was kidnapped and we’ll never see Him again. Joseph and Mary had a lot more time, three days in fact, to think the worst. Given the amount of time, one can appreciate Mary’s emotional words, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” Jesus responded, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?

The parents of our Lord struggled as to how to put together the facets of our Lord’s nature, His humanity and His deity. In our text, the humanity of Jesus had so dominated their thoughts that they forgot to reckon with His deity, which was the basis for his actions and response to them. You and I have the same struggle in recognizing both the divine and the human elements in our Christian lives. This is the tension between the element of divine work in our lives and human responsibility. You see, the struggle of Mary and Joseph is not so unique as it might first appear. There is a kind of incarnation which is going on in the life of every Christian – the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our personal response to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us not deny the divine nor the human in what God is doing in our lives.

Sunday – July 2, 2017 Genesis 43:1-34 “Tears and Fears”

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Genesis 43:16-19
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, “Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.” So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.”

Joseph’s brothers provide us with an excellent illustration of salvation. In their current spiritual state they faced Joseph with the greatest fear. They perceived their only “salvation” to be in their “works” of returning the money they found in their sacks and in the pistachio nuts and other presents they brought from Canaan. The first was refused by the steward, and the second was ignored by Joseph. It was not their works that endeared these brothers to Joseph; it was their relationship to him. That is what they did not yet realize.

In the same way today sinful men dread the thought of standing before a righteous and holy God. The future must be faced with great fear. Frantically men and women seek to gain God’s favor and acceptance by their “pistachio nuts” of good works. Such things as trying to live by the Golden Rule or the Sermon on the Mount, joining the church, and being baptized, are unacceptable to God as a basis for salvation. What saves a man or a woman is a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

When we stand before the throne of God, the only thing God will be interested in is our relationship to His Son, Jesus Christ. As our Lord Himself put it, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). This is the consistent message of the Bible: “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I John 5:11-12).

Have you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ? I urge you to acknowledge that you are a sinner, deserving of God’s eternal wrath. Let your eternal destiny rest in Jesus Christ, Who died in your place and Who offers you His righteousness and eternity with Him. Realize that any work which you may do will do nothing to gain God’s favor; He is pleased only with the work which Christ has already done on the cross of Calvary.

Jacob was putting all his hopes for the future on his son Benjamin (42:38; 44:29-31). Without Jacob’s realizing it, God had purposed to save him and his sons through Joseph, who was rejected by his brothers, marked for death, and who was, so far as Jacob knew, dead. Later this son who “was no more” was elevated to the throne where he was able to save his brethren. Jacob’s hopes were placed on the wrong son. It was through Judah, who offered himself in place of Benjamin, and Joseph, who was rejected and then exalted, that Jacob and his sons were saved. Jacob would be saved God’s way or not at all. God had to systematically pull out all the props from under him before he was willing to accept things God’s way. How little has changed between the time of Jacob and today.

Sunday – May 21, 2017 Genesis 39:1-33 “From the Penthouse to Prison”

Sunday – May 21, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

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Genesis 39:1-3
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.”

Each of us wants to succeed in life. But if we want true success, it’s crucial to work out a biblical definition of the term. Otherwise, you’ll be like the guy who climbed the ladder of success only to find that it was leaning against the wrong wall. You’ll waste your life pursuing the wrong goals and making wrong decisions. If our target is wrong, we will fail even if we hit it.

Our American culture defines success primarily in financial terms, throwing in, perhaps, the ideas of power, fame, and the elusive quality: “happiness.” As Christians, we can easily see the fallacy in defining success in those terms, and yet often we are influenced by our culture more than we care to admit. Many pastors succumb to the prevailing definition, thinking that if you pastor a large church, or gain national recognition through writing a book or speaking at important gatherings, you are successful. Christians reveal their skewed definition of success when they rush out to buy the latest story of some celebrity who has made a profession of faith, or when they parade famous athletes before the church as if they were spiritual authorities. So we need to bring into sharp focus the biblical answer to the question, “What is true success?”

Was Joseph more blessed by God or more successful when he was at the top of Potiphar’s household than when he was in the dungeon? They were just different phases of God’s training program in which He was preparing Joseph for the job He had for him under Pharaoh. Joseph was truly successful, whether he was in Potiphar’s house or in the prison, because God’s hand was on him. I believe that is the biblical definition of true success. True success is to have God’s blessing on your life. If you have God’s blessing, you have everything, even if you’re poor and unknown; if you lack God’s blessing, you ultimately will have nothing, even if you’re rich and famous now.

I want each of us to covet God’s blessing for yourself. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel, we all should say, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26). You can live a comfortable Christian life, serve in the church and succeed in worldly terms. But if you lack God’s blessing on your life, you’ve missed true success. True success is when it can be said of us, whether we are in Potiphar’s house or in prison: The Lord is with that man or woman. Being blessed by God, we then will be used as His channels of blessing for the nations through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday – February 12, 2017 Genesis 28:1-22 “How God Starts With Us”

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Genesis 28:20-22
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

Frank W. Abagnale, in many ways, lived the life of Jacob.  At the age of 16, Abagnale’s parents divorced. Having to choose between his parents was so devastating; he ran away from home and became a con man that circled the globe living the high life by passing bad checks. One of his favorite schemes was impersonating airline pilots so that he could pass fake airline payroll checks as well as “ride the jump seat” for free, to anywhere in the world. From age 16-19, Abagnale also impersonated a medical doctor, a BYU sociology professor, and a lawyer. His autobiography is subtitled “the true story of a real fake.” His life is so fascinating that Steven Spielberg turned it into the film Catch Me if You Can.  In the end, an FBI agent caught Abagnale. Since then he serves as a world-renowned consultant and lectures at the FBI’s Financial Crimes Unit.

In Genesis 28, Jacob runs away from home. The plot to receive the blessing from Isaac was a great success…in one sense. However, in another sense it was a terrible failure. Jacob was forced to leave home to escape being killed by his furious brother. So Jacob gets the blessing but he has to leave the inheritance with Esau. He is a runaway. Fortunately for Jacob, and for us, God loves to chase down runaways. This is God’s defining feature—He comes to rebellious people to be with them and to save them. In fact, when God finally chose to become a person [Jesus], He came to “seek and to save the lost”.

At some point in time, all of us must claim the great promises of God for ourselves and step out in faith, making our own commitment to Him. God has no grandchildren! You may be able to relate to Jacob. Like Jacob, you may have grown up in a Christian home; however, you’ve spent your fair share of time running away from God. Like Jacob, you have to find your own faith. Most people leave the church and then come back when they have children, with the hope that their children get religion.

The assurance of God’s presence should bring about, in every believer, the same response of worship and confidence it prompted in Jacob. This is the message from the beginning: God, by grace, visits His people and promises them protection and provision so that they might be a blessing to others. They in turn were to respond in faith, fearing Him, worshipping Him, offering to Him, vowing to Him, and making memorials for future worshippers at such places.

Sunday – January 1, 2017 “God’s Inefficient Use of Time & People” Ecclesiastes 9:10-18

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Haggai 1:7-9
Thus says the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified, says the Lord. You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts, because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.”

Every day you exchange a day of your life for something. It’s as if at the start of life each of us were issued a certain number of coins. They’re hidden inside a large machine so that we don’t know how many we were issued or how many we have left. Each day, the machine issues us a new coin. It may be the last coin we get, or we may get many more. All we know is that the average person in America gets between 70 and 80 years’ worth, but some get far less; a few may get more.

You take each day’s coin and exchange it for something: a day at work or school, shopping, church, leisure, or whatever. Once spent, you can never get the coins back to spend them differently. The art of living wisely is largely a matter of spending your coins on the things that really matter in light of eternity and not frivolously wasting them. Living wisely is difficult because often the choice is not between the bad and the good, but between the good and the best.

Meanwhile, life continues to move forward. You started a career and a family. You had bills to pay and other demands on your time. Church and the Lord’s work drifted into the background. You still attend church as often as you can, but it has become a slice of life, not the center. You tell yourself that you just don’t have time to serve as you used to. Without deliberately rebelling against God, you have drifted into putting your house above God’s house. When your conscience nags, you have reasons to explain why things are this way.

Twice in Haggai 1 the Lord tells the people, “Consider your ways”. That means to stop long enough in your busy schedule to evaluate your life in the light of God’s Word and fearing Him. How are you spending your time? These people had plenty of time for themselves, but they didn’t have time for God. How are you spending your money, which is really God’s money? These folks claimed that they had to get their own houses built first, and then they could build God’s house. But that was backwards. What are your goals? What is it that you’re aiming at in life? If you live to an old age, what do you want to look back on as far as accomplishments? If God seems distant in your life, perhaps your priorities have gotten mixed up. When you put God truly in first place, you experience a new awareness of His presence. That is true blessing!

Sunday – June 21, 2015 Elder Ken McAuley “The Father’s Great Love Must Be Given Away”

Sunday – June 21, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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John 14: 2-3
2: In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3: If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

When we think of our Father God, it is usually in a rather distant, obscure way that is full of wonderment and awe. I think it can be more wonderful than that. In this passage, Jesus talks about His Father’s house in a way in which we can relate, as if He were going home. Isn’t that how we want to picture Heaven? He is going to prepare a place for us in our Father’s home where we can expect to stay eternally. The Father wants the Family to be together where we can fellowship with Him in a loving, peaceful relationship, full of trust and worship.

Worship may sound kind of strange to us, but our fathers are fallible and insecure and learning as they go along, hoping we will learn from them and remember the good and the wise things they try to pass along to us. We are not expected to worship them even though they would seem to desire it from time to time. So, worship should be natural to us when it is our Father God we are looking to.

He is our Creator, Healer, Comforter, Provider, Protector in Whom we can place our complete trust because He knows all, sees all, hears all; nothing can sneak up on Him or surprise Him. He knows the BEST answer, the BEST way and we don’t have to wonder if He made the right decision. I wonder sometimes if we maybe compare Him to our fathers rather than comparing our fathers to Him. Perhaps it’s because we don’t put enough effort into finding out a little more about Him. The Scriptures are full of references to and about Him from which we can gather a lot of information and insights.

He’s not a big comfortable teddy bear that only provides comfort and cuddle. He’s more like a lion. In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, the question was asked of Mr. Beaver, is he (the lion, Aslan) safe? “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” He’s good and kind and loving, but also just, merciful, forgiving, righteous, holy; there’s nothing wrong with Him. But we tend not to trust him because we compare Him to our own fathers. Let’s make a conscious decision today to make Him our pattern of Fatherhood and encourage our own fathers to be more like Him as we love and obey Him.