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Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Delayed" Answers to Prayer

Andree Seu on Delayed, Not Denied answers to prayers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Louis Armstrong AND Danny Kaye!

Oh Yeah!

Friday, April 23, 2010

[Matt's Messages] Special Edition - "One Thing" Allegheny District Conference

“One Thing” Allegheny District Conference
April 23, 2010
Luke 10:38-42
                   

So...

Are you busy?

I don’t mean right now.  I know that you’ve got nothing better to do than to spend the next half hour listening to me!

Or maybe you do have something better to do, but you’re stuck with me right now.

I mean in life right now.  Are you busy?

My guess is that most of us here would be quick to say, “Yes, I’m busy.”

Life is busy right now.

Busy is the buzzword of our generation.

Even though we have so many labor-saving devices at our fingertips, we are more busy than we have ever been.

Maybe because we have so many labor-saving devices at our fingertips, we are more busy than we have ever been.

Did you know that scientists have now invented a microwave fireplace?

A microwave fireplace!

You can now have an entire relaxing evening in front of the fire in only 8 minutes.


Are you busy?

I know you are.

I know you are because you’re in ministry, and that means busy-ness.

I’m a solo pastor of a medium-sized local church.  And there is so much to do!

Preach, teach, counsel, administrate, visit, equip, make calls, run programs, provide vision, raise up elders, lead worship, disciple young leaders, and the list goes on...and on...and on.

And that’s before volunteering for district ministries like regional pastors’ groups, constitutions and credentials board, and so on.  And trying to work on a doctorate.  And raise a family.

As if I needed something extra to do, this week I joined Facebook, and now I have a bunch of “friends” to manage!

I am busy.  Are you busy?

You church planters have even more responsibility.  Including sweeping the bowling lanes!

Are you busy?


And as busy as pastors and church planters are, how much more busy are you non-staff church leaders?  Lay leaders.

I mean, being busy in ministry is my job.  But you--you have full time jobs, and then you do your ministry on top of that!

My hat goes off to you.

I’m sure that you are busy.

And thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come to the District Conference.

I’m paid by our church to be here, but you are not, and I applaud you for being here and making our family of churches one of your priorities.

We are busy people.

In fact, as I talk about it, I’ll bet that your mind has immediately gone to your TO-DO list.

Whenever I’m away at a conference, my TO-DO list grows like mushrooms in the dark.

Is your blood pressure going up as I talk?

Are you busy?

How do you set your priorities?

How do you figure out how to use your time?

Because we are all given just the same 168 hours per week.  The same 8,736 hours per year.  That’s it. 

We are a limited resource.

As a busy person, how do you figure out what to do with your time?

Wouldn’t it be great if there were was ONE THING that was a such a tremendous priority that it set all of the other busy-ness things in their rightful place?

ONE THING?

One EXTRA BIG ROCK to go first into the jar of priorities?

One thing.

You and I both know that there is.

ONE THING that does all of that.

We know about that ONE THING.

But that doesn’t mean we always choose it.

Would you turn in your Bibles with me to the Gospel of Luke chapter 10?

Our church family at Lanse is studying through the Gospel of Luke this year.  And we’ve just made it through chapter 10.

There is a 5 verse story at the end of chapter 10 that reminds us what that ONE THING is that should set the agenda for all of our busy lives.

It starts in verse 38 of Luke 10, and it’s what I call, “Tale of Two Sisters: Mary and Martha.”

I’m sure it’s a familiar story to everyone here.

One sister has her priorities right. And the other sister needs her priorities adjusted.

We all know this story.

I’m not going to say anything new tonight.

What could I say to a bunch of ministry people that would be new about Mary and Martha?

But I want to “stir you up by means of a reminder.”

I want to persuasively remind you of what you already know.

We need to choose the ONE THING.


“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’  ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” [NIV].

I don’t know if Mary and Martha fought very often.

Do sisters fight?

This is the only story in the Bible where Mary and Martha disagree with one another.

But on this day, they had their differences.

Martha was mad.

Isn’t that clear in verse 40?  Can’t you hear it in her voice?  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

Martha was miffed.

In her eyes, Mary was falling down on the job.

Verse 38 tells us that 13 hungry men had dropped in on the home of these two sisters. Jesus and his twelve disciples were “on their way,” and they came “to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”

And Martha got busy with the preparations. 

She got to cleaning, baking, cooking, organizing, sending someone to the market for a missed item, polishing the silverware, getting everything ready to please the Master.  Busy, busy, busy. ....

In ministry! Service to Jesus!  This is ministry. Martha was busy in ministry.

But Mary, probably Martha’s little sister, just...sat there.  Verse 39.

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

That was somewhat unusual for a woman to sit learning at a rabbi’s feet.

But this was an unusual rabbi!

And Mary just...sat there.

This steamed Martha.  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

Can you identify with Martha?

Serving is really important!  Isn’t it?  Yes, it is.  The Bible tell us to do it!
You are all here because you are servants of Jesus and want to serve Him faithfully.

But notice that Jesus does not agree with Martha at this point.

He doesn’t say here, “You’re right, Martha.  Mary, get up and get to work.  Off with you now.”

No, He very tenderly and very lovingly rebukes Martha.  V.41

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Jesus is talking about priorities.

He’s talking about the number one priority that out rules all others.

“Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In this context, what is that one thing? ....  Sitting at Jesus’ Feet.

What does that mean?  And what does that look like for us in ministry today?

My wife says that I can take something simple and make it complex.

So, I’m going to take that One Thing and split it into three things this evening to help us to grasp it better and apply it to our lives.

Sitting at Jesus’ Feet means:

#1.  LISTENING TO JESUS.

If you are taking notes tonight, that’s point #1.  Listening to Jesus.

And it’s obvious from verse 39 itself.  “Mary...sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”  Literally, “listening to His word.”

Mary was hanging on every word that came from Jesus’ mouth.

This sitting at Jesus’ feet was taking the posture of a disciple, a learner.

Mary was focused with all of her attention on what Jesus had to say, what Jesus was teaching.

Can you imagine being in that class?

To listen with your own ears to Jesus’ wisdom and knowledge.  To start to see the dawning of the Kingdom of God in His words, the authority with which He spoke, and the tenderness in His voice as He shared words of grace and mercy and truth.

Mary sat enthralled by the Master’s teaching.

She prioritized listening to Jesus over everything else.

Listening to Jesus.

Now, this does not mean that Mary never served.  It doesn’t mean that Mary abdicated her obligations.

I’m 100% sure that when Jesus was done teaching, Mary would have gladly gotten busy with the serving herself.  Probably Jesus would have helped Himself!

But Mary recognized that serving was not the priority here.  The Rabbi of Rabbis was teaching. The Teacher of Teachers was speaking. The Wisdom of God was in the living room. 

Mary was not going to be lost in the kitchen.

“Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

Now, the chief way that you and I do that today is by Bible intake.

The Bible is Jesus’ teaching.  It is how we listen to Jesus today.

The Bible is Jesus’ Word.

So, if we’re going to be like Mary and sit at Jesus’ feet, we must prioritize our own time in His word.

“Only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

How are you doing at listening to Jesus?

How are you doing at listening to Jesus in His Word?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people try to have a relationship with Jesus without listening.

They think that praying is enough.  I talk with people who say that they pray, but they feel far away from God.  And they don’t understand why they don’t hear from Him.

But all relationships are two-way, aren’t they?

There is talking, and there is also listening.

And the chief way that we hear from Jesus now is hearing Him in the Bible.

So, are you reading your Bible?

Do you set aside time to read your Bible?

And I mean: NOT FOR SERMON PREP!
Not for lesson prep.
Not for a class that you are teaching.

But for you.

Just you and the Holy Spirit reading the Bible together for the good of your own soul?

Sitting at Jesus’ Feet.

Are you studying your Bible?

Do you work at trying to figure out what it means?
Do you meditate on what you find in there?

Do you mull it over and think about it and make it a part of your day and your conversations and your journaling?

Are you memorizing the Bible?  “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

The EFCA is known for being a family of churches built on the Bible.

We say, “Where stands it written?!”  “Keep your finger on the text!”

We believe in inerrancy!

But...if we don’t read it and study it for ourselves, and listen to Jesus in its pages, our  doctrinal statement isn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

How are you doing at listening to Jesus?

Mary listened to Jesus.  She prioritized it above everything else–including even serving Jesus!

Sometimes those of us in Christian leadership can make the mistake that Martha did.

Martha made the mistake of thinking that serving Jesus was more important that listening to Him!

And no wonder we get worried and distracted about ministry! 

This month, I realized as I was preparing this message that I was worried and distracted about my district conference message about being worried and distracted!!!

Because I was not focused on Jesus.  I wasn’t listening to Him.

He wasn’t my ONE THING.

Jesus said to me, “Matthew, Matthew, you are worried and upset about many things, but only ONE THING is needed.  There is nothing more important than sitting at my feet.”

What practical steps do you need to take to prioritize listening to Jesus?

Some of us here in this room need to re-establish a quiet time.

Or I like to call them a “noisy time.”  I’m a noisy fellow.  And the Psalms are noisy-not quiet.  But what I mean is a time for serious Bible intake.

I’ve recently adjusted how I do my Bible reading because I had found that it was getting de-prioritized. 

It was still getting done, but on the side.  Not front and center.

So I moved where my reading-Bible sits, and I changed my habits about when it gets read.  It now gets read ahead of my novels, ahead of my books for class, ahead of my books for sermon-prep.  It’s now first.  Front and center.

What do you need to do to get the Bible into you?  To listen to Jesus?

A few years ago my beautiful wife did a complete media fast.  No books, no magazines, no radio, no T.V, no internet. 

Nothing but her Bible for several months.

And it profoundly changed her relationship with Jesus.

She cut out all kinds of mental-clutter, mental busy-ness.

What do you need to do to prioritize listening to Jesus?

I’m not telling you something amazingly new, but I’m asking you if there is something you need to do to re-prioritize listening to Jesus?

If so, write it down right now and then do it!

Because there is nothing more important. 

One thing is needed–sitting at Jesus’ feet.

And that means listening to Jesus.

It also means #2. LINGERING WITH JESUS.

And by that, I mean that this is not just an academic pursuit.  It’s not just teaching for teaching’s sake.  It’s not studying the Bible for studying the Bible’s sake.

It’s not theology for theology’s sake.  This is personal.

This is Jesus’ teaching.  Mary wanted to be with Jesus.

She drew near to Jesus.  Not just to theology or to truth or even to the Bible, but to Jesus Himself.

Martha was right, you know, about one thing.  Mary had “left her” to be with Jesus.

Mary had left the kitchen and she was sitting with Jesus.  I don’t know what kind of a chair He might have sat in, but she was there lingering in His presence.

She was focused on Jesus.  This is personal!

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet. [SIT] She was right there with Jesus at His feet.

How are you doing at lingering with Jesus?

Being in Jesus’ presence?

Of course, we’re always in Jesus’ presence.  Through His deity and the Holy Spirit, Jesus is omni-present, so we can’t get away.

But this is the language of relationship here–“drawing near,” “being with,” “sitting at His feet.”

How are you and I doing at that?

Here’s where I do think about our prayer life.

A prayer life that is focused on Jesus.  Attentive to Jesus.  Not like Martha who is worried and upset and (v.40), “distracted.”
                                       
Yes, Martha talks to Jesus, but it’s out of desperation and distraction. She’s stressed out.  She is not at peace. She’s not resting. She’s not sitting. She’s not trusting.

She’s demanding things from Jesus.  That’s not prayer.

Martha is not focusing on Jesus.

What is your prayer life like right now?

Can I recommend a book to you this evening?

I love to recommend good books, and this is a great one.

This book is called “A Praying Life,” and it’s by Paul Miller, one of my favorite authors.

Like you, I’ve read a number of books on prayer, and I can easily say that this is the best book I’ve ever read on prayer.  And Heather would agree.

The advertising for the book says that it’s a book for “Badly Praying Christians, which is about 95% of us.”  Can you identify?

Most books on prayer make me feel tired when I read them.  “Oh, I have to do that?”

This book got me praying as I read it!

I believe in this book so much that I ordered 40 of them to bring along and sell this weekend at the district conference.

It’s back on the district table in the foyer.  I brought them here at no cost to the district and no profit to me.  In fact, if you buy one, you are buying directly from Paul Miller’s ministry: SeeJesus.net, and you can make out your checks to SeeJesus or even use a credit card to buy one.

They are only $12 a copy and 9 bucks if you buy 10 copies to take back to your church.

I highly recommend “A Praying Life.”  And I’m even going to offer a 0% discount for the first 40 takers.

Why am I selling this book so strongly?

The subtitle of “A Praying Life” is “Connecting with God in a Distracting World.”

And there’s the tie-in with Martha and with our busy-selves. 

Martha was distracted.  She was worried and upset.  King James says she was “careful and troubled.”  Full of cares and full of troubles.

In ministry!

Are you full of cares and full of troubles in ministry?

What Martha needed was to linger with Jesus.

She needed to rest at His feet.

She needed to give over her burdens to Him and listen to Him.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen [to linger with me], and it will not be taken away from her.”

What are you worried and upset about right now?

What has you distracted?


Linger with Jesus. 

The ONE THING that is needed is time with Jesus.

“But, but, but, but I have all this work to do!”

Yes, you do.  But that’s not the ONE THING that is important.

Jesus is.

And lingering with Jesus will give you what you need to do your ministry for Jesus.

We who are in ministry need to go twice as often to the Living Well, or we will have nothing to serve to our people.

Your church needs you to choose the ONE THING needed!

Your church needs you to sit at Jesus’ feet before you go trying to serve them.

If you don’t, you will run dry, and so will most of them!

Listening to Jesus.
Lingering with Jesus.

And #3.  LOVING JESUS.

Just plain-old loving Jesus.

Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it?

V.42, “Mary has CHOSEN what is better.”

What has she chosen?

Jesus Himself.

She has loved Him. She has valued Him. She had adored Him.

She has worshiped Him.  He is her ONE THING.

Sitting at Jesus’ feet is treasuring Jesus above everything else. And that’s what we call “worship.”

And it’s what we call “love.”

Loving Jesus.

Martha may have been trying to love Jesus by serving Him.

But it’s clear that her focus was not on Jesus Himself.

It’s clear because she got so miffed at Mary and even at Jesus!

“Lord, don’t you care?”  “Tell her to help me!”

Which is using Jesus, not worshiping Him.

And it’s certainly not enjoying Him.

Mary had it right.

Mary had chosen what is better.  V.42.  Literally, “The better portion.”

What the Psalms are talking about when they talk about God being “our portion.”

Jesus Himself is our portion.

And it will not be taken away from her.

Sitting at Jesus’ feet was loving Jesus.

Treasuring Him above all other things.

Mary did that again, didn’t she?

In John chapter 12, this same Mary took a “pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Can you imagine?

John says that Judas objected, saying, “Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.”

A year’s wages?!  I don’t how much money you make, but that’s extravagant worship.

But Jesus said, “Leave [Mary] alone.  It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”

Perhaps Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, had understood what the other disciples had not.

Perhaps Mary had understood the gospel!  That Jesus was going to die for our sins.  And she was anointing Him, preparing Him for burial.

She was pouring out all of her treasure on Him because He was worth so much to her.

She was, in costly worship, loving Jesus.

How are you and I doing at loving Jesus?

Do we chose Him above everything else?

Are we choosing Jesus as our portion, our One Thing?

If we do, it will not be taken away from us.

It CANNOT BE taken away from us!

Nothing will be able to take it away from us.

If Jesus says that He won’t take it away from us, then nothing can!

In February, my favorite mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Abdominal cancer of a rare and deadly type.

She went in for an emergency appendectomy, and the doctor took a few things out of her and then sewed her up and didn’t expect her to live through recovery.

It was a total shock to the family. She is just 59, and they are giving her about a year to live.

As you can imagine, this diagnosis has totally changed her busy-ness.

She is still busy, but she has a new focus now.  Her priorities and the priorities of her family, including my loving wife, have had to change.

But it hasn’t ruined or destroyed her no matter how distressing it is (and it IS distressing).  But it hasn’t destroyed her.

You know why?

Because she already had ONE THING driving her life.

The Lord Jesus Christ.

He was already her portion.  Her ONE THING.

And nothing can take that away from her.

She had already chosen (and is continuing to chose) what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

One Thing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Themelios - 35:1


I just got done skimming/reading it all the way through.

It's loaded.

200 Gossip Stories

I forgot to mention in my last post, that I'm trying to collect at least 200 stories for this phase of this project.

Thank you to those who have already sent one in!

Grappling with Gossip

I need your help, gentle readers.

Both of you.

I have begun my the research phase of my doctoral project on gossip, and I need help with the real-life examples side of things.

I'm reading books about gossip from all kinds of perspectives:  evolutionary theory, sociology, Jewish rabbinic wisdom, Christian self-help books, tabloid journalism, etc.

But what I'm missing is the human element.  How the sin of gossip becomes attractive (to the speaker and the listener) and destructive (to the one talked about).

I need your stories.

No names, please!  I don't want my project against gossip to be a gossip session itself.

But I am looking for stories:

- the time you passed on that juicy tid-bit when you shouldn't have
- the time you were confused about whether or not to share
- the time you said, "Stop, I don't want to hear this."
- or "Have you talked with that person about this?"
- the time when gossip caused your church to almost split
- the time you chose a "apples of gold in settings of silver" word instead of a "choice morsel."

etc.

I'm especially interested in the heart that wants to gossip.  What was the motivation? 

Why do we do it?

Leave a comment on this or email me:  pastormatt AT lansefree DOT org.

Thank you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus Teaches Us to Pray"

“Jesus Teaches Us To Pray”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
April 18, 2010
Luke 11:1-13

The Lord Jesus was a man of prayer.

The Gospels tell us again and again that Jesus withdrew from the crowds to pray.

He stole away and prioritized time with His heavenly Father.

The Lord Jesus was a man of prayer.

And His disciples could see it.  They knew that Jesus was a man of prayer, a man with a hotline to God, a man with a special relationship with God.

The Lord Jesus was a man of prayer, and His disciples wanted to know how to pray like Him.   V.1 again.

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’”

“John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray.

We are your disciples.  Teach us to pray.”

And Jesus agrees.  Jesus would like nothing better than for His followers to know how to pray.

“Jesus Teaches Us to Pray”

Notice that this instruction in prayer immediately follows Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Martha saying that she was upset and worried about many things. But only one thing is needed–sitting at Jesus’ feet. Spending unhurried, uninterrupted, priority-time, lingering with Jesus.  And that’s the kind of time that Jesus spent with His Father in prayer.

And now Jesus teaches His disciples (and us) to pray.

Jesus Teaches Us to Pray

And there are three lessons in this class.

Jesus Teaches Us to Pray:

#1. BY GIVING US A MODEL TO USE.

What do we normally call verses 2, 3, and 4?

We normally call that “the Lord’s Prayer.”

And by that, we mean that the Lord gave it to us.

But it wasn’t the Lord’s Prayer in the sense that He prayed it.  It’s the prayer that He gave His disciples.  Us.

So, it might be better to call it the Disciples’ Prayer.

Our prayer.  Because it’s a model for all of us to use.

Notice that it’s good for anyone to pray.  It’s not just for new Christians or old Christians.  Or just for adults or just for kids.

It’s a prayer that any Christ-follower can (and should) use to pray.

You probably noticed when I read it to you that it sounds different in Luke than it does in Matthew.  That’s probably because Jesus taught about prayer at different times and in slightly different ways.

Good teachers repeat themselves often and make changes in their presentations to really get their points across.

And I think that’s another good reason not to just use this prayer as a liturgical prayer where you pray it word for word.  Praying the exact words, “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come...” etc.

We can do that.

But more importantly, we should use this prayer as a MODEL.  As an example. As a template to fit our prayers into.

Jesus is a master teacher.  And He doesn’t just give us a prayer to repeat, but a template prayer to fit our particular heart-prayers into.

Jesus teaches us to pray by giving us a model to use.

And the question is: Do we use it as a model?  Do you use it as a model for your prayers?

Do you pray, “Father,” when you talk to God?

Not that you can’t use other words to address God, but do you use that word, “Father” and all that it means?

It means that we, who belong to God, are His children.  And God is, in a special way, our Father!

He is both authoritative (FATHER!) and personal (Daddy!) in our lives.

This word “Father” suggests authority and intimacy at the very same time!

Do you call God “Father” when you pray?

Do you pray “hallowed be your name?”   You might not use that word, “hallowed.”  We don’t use that word in normal English these days.

But we do say, “Holy.”

Do you pray to God as holy and ask that His name be holy?

My kids and I have been learning about this prayer at breakfast each day for the last few weeks.

And we have a catechism question that goes like this, “Why do we pray, ‘Hallowed by thy name?’” And the answer is, “We pray ‘Hallowed by thy name’ because we want God to be loved and His name to be special.”

Yes!  That is what we want.  Is that what we want?

Do we pray it?

Sometimes, I just dive right into my grocery list of prayers.

“Lord, I need help.  Lord, please heal my mother-in-law.  Lord, help me with this sermon.”

Those are all good things to say to God.

But do I call him more than just “Lord?”

Do I call Him “Father?”

And do I say, “I want your name to be special.  I want you to be loved.  May your name be Holy!”

Do we use this prayer as a model?

Do we pray, “Your kingdom come?”

I told you last week about this book, A Praying Life by Paul Miller.

It is easily the best book I’ve ever read on prayer.

Chapter 17 is titled, “What we don’t ask for: ‘Your Kingdom Come.’”

Paul Miller says that we’re afraid to ask for the Lord’s Kingdom to Come because it means change:

“Change in others (too controlling, too hopeless), change in me (too scarey), and change in things I don’t like in our culture (too impossible).”

But Jesus invites us, challenges us, teaches us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come.

For things to change here to be like they are in heaven.

Here now in part and, someday, in whole!

Do you pray, “Your kingdom come?”

Don’t be afraid to ask for it!

Jesus gave this prayer as a model for us to learn how to pray.

And that includes verse 3.

“Give us each day our daily bread.”

This is a prayer of dependence.  Of neediness.

It declares to God that we need things–physical things. Daily bread.

Food on table.
Manna for today.
A job.
Shelter.
Help with my homework.
One good night’s sleep.

Real, physical, needy things.  And it’s looking God for those.

We depend on God each day for everything.

God is inviting us to ask Him for our daily bread.

What do you need right now?

What do you need right now?

Are you asking God for it?

Have you mentioned it to the King of the Universe?

Or have you thought that you wouldn’t bother him with your little need?

And you’d take care of it on your own.  Or hope that someone might notice.

Jesus teaches us to pray by using this model.

“Give us each day our daily bread.”

Ask Him!

One of the reasons why He likes to give daily bread is to keep in touch with us daily.

If we need bread each day, then we’re more likely to seek Him each day.

But our needs are deeper than just physical.  We also have very spiritual needs. V.4

“Forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.”

Here’s the biggest battle of our lives.  Not with being fed, but being holy ourselves.

The fight with sin.

We need both God’s forgiveness and His power to resist temptation.

This is a prayer foo our hearts.

For forgiveness, because we cannot pay cost our sins deserve.

Only Jesus could pay that cost. And He did on the Cross.

And because of that payment, God can say, “I forgive you.”

And forgiven people are forgiving. That’s why we tell God that we will forgive those who against us.  Forgiven people are forgiving.

And “lead us not into temptation.”

Do you pray that?  Do I?

Asking God to guide us around temptation and keep us out of harm’s way?

This is a prayer that God would give me the power to say, “No!” to the temptations that want to come my way.

What are your besetting temptations?

Anxiety?
Lust?
Rage?
Gossip?
Worry?
Bitterness?

Have you asked God recently to keep you from your temptations?

I don’t know about you, but I pray, “Forgive me my sins” much more often than I pray, “lead me not into temptation.”

We need to use this prayer as a model!

Not just sing it in worship services!  That can almost lose the force of what kind of a prayer this is.

This is a prayer about my heart’s desire being for a Holy Father and His Kingdom to Come and my neediness for both daily needs and eternal needs, physical needs and spiritual needs.

And I need to use this prayer as a model for all of my prayer.

And not just me alone.

Did you ever notice the personal pronouns in this prayer are plural?

It’s not “my” daily bread, ‘my sins,” lead “me” not into temptation.

What is it?

It’s “our” daily bread, “our sins,” lead “us” not into temptation.

This is a community prayer.  This is a prayer for the church together.

That’s why we don’t just pray alone.  We pray as families.  As Link Groups.  As Sunday School Classes.  As a Prayer Meeting.

We pray for each other.  And we pray together.

Jesus teaches US together to pray using this model prayer.

And then in verse 5, Jesus tells a story to encourage us to keep praying.  Not pray once and then just give up, but to persevere in prayer.

Jesus Teaches Us to Pray:

#2. BY ENCOURAGING US TO KEEP ASKING.

Listen to His story in verses 5-8.

“Then he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' [That’s a huge problem in the middle East because of their emphasis on hospitality.  This man is in trouble if he can’t locate some food for his guest.]   ‘Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.'  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

Who are we in this story?

We’re the needy neighbor, right?

Who is the one who is like God in this story?

It’s the bother neighbor, isn’t it?

Because the bothered neighbor has what the needy neighbor is asking for.

And, Jesus says, that in the end, that bothered neighbor is going to get up in the middle night and supply the need.

Why?  Because they are friends?  No, verse 8 says it’s not because they are friends.

But because (v.8) because of the needy neighbor’s “boldness” he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Now, catch this.

Is Jesus saying that God is bothered by our prayers?  That God sometimes answers like a grumpy sleepy old man?

No.  Jesus is arguing from the lesser to the greater.

God is not like this man. God never sleeps.  God is never bothered.

God is doesn’t complain when He gives good gifts to His children.

He’s only like this man in one way–He will give the needy neighbor what He needs when He comes knocking.

He answers prayer.

So, what’s the point?  Let me put it this way – just try to bother God.

Go ahead!  He wants to be bothered.

Knock!  That’s what Jesus says as the punchline in verse 9.

“‘So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

All three of those verbs are present, active, indicative.  That’s just a Greek way of saying that they are all continuous.

Keep asking.  Keep seeking.  Keep knocking.

Be bold.

Just try to bother God!  That’s what He wants.

Jesus is encouraging us to keep asking.

Do you ever feel, I do, like you’re always asking God for things?

Paul Miller says in A Praying Life, “All of Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Gospels can be summarized with one word: ask.”

Ask.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up. 

Be bold.

Now, does that mean that Jesus will always give us what we ask no matter what?

No, I don’t think the Bible teaches that.

Sometimes we ask with the wrong motives.

And sometimes we’re asking for something that wouldn’t be best.

But all too often the mistake I make is not asking enough.

Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking.


“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Jesus Teaches Us to Pray:

#3. BY ASSURING US OF GOOD ANSWERS.

Verse 11.

“‘Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”

None of them!

If he asks for a Happy Meal, will you give him a cup of Draino?

No, we love our children, and we want to give them good things.

Well, that’s why we know God as Father.  Heavenly father.  V.13

“If you then, though you are evil [sinners], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your [holy] Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’”

He says “the Holy Spirit” because the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives is the greatest of great gifts purchased by the blood of Christ and generously poured out upon us by our loving holy heavenly Father.

And again, if He gives that gift, what good gift would He withhold?

Is God like an evil Father?

No, He’s the best of Fathers.  He is the Father of Fathers.

He is where all good Fatherhood gets its name.

So, yes, sometimes He will say, “No.  I’m your Dad. I know what’s best for you.”

But He loves to say, “Yes.  Here you go.  Here’s that thing you asked for.”

Why wouldn’t we ask?

I want my kids to ask me for good things.

Sometimes, I wear down with all of the asking.

But our Heavenly Father never does.

He never tires of us asking.
And He love to give good gifts to those who ask Him.

Especially the greatest gift–the Holy Spirit Gift Himself.

Ask!

Ask!

God loves to answer.

If were to open up a mic right now, and take half an hour, everyone here could come up to the microphone and tell us a story of a time when God answered your prayer.

Everyone of the Christ-followers here has at least one story to tell.

Why don’t we give God opportunity for us to have a lot more stories to tell?

Jesus is teaching us right now to pray.

Why don’t we? 

Let’s pray together!

_________________________
Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

9 Branches

I've been reading a new blog called One New Branch by an EFCA pastor named Eric Nygren.

Today's post is 9 branches that pastors should cultivate.  Good for my heart today.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Sitting at Jesus' Feet"

“Sitting at Jesus’ Feet” 
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
April 11, 2010
Luke 10:38-42

We’re back to our series entitled “Certain of Jesus - The Gospel According to Luke.”  This is actually the 23rd message in this series, and we’re not even half way through the book yet.

But today, we’re just going to advance five verses.  One little story tucked into the middle of this great book about Jesus.  It’s the story of Mary and Martha.

And it’s been a story I’ve been thinking a lot about these last few months because I’m planning to preach on it in a couple of weeks at the district conference in McKeesport.  I’d very much appreciate your prayers for me as I prepare my message for that conference.

In this story, there is a contrast between two sisters.  It’s a tale of two sisters: Mary and Martha.  Both are beloved of the Lord. Both are His friends.  Both are special women to Jesus.  But in this story, one sister has her priorities right and one has her priorities wrong.

And Jesus uses this to teach you and me a lesson about what is most important in life.  He calls it the “one thing needed.”

And this is what it is: “Sitting at Jesus’ Feet.”

Let’s read the story.  Luke chapter 10, verses 38-42.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’  ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” [NIV].

I don’t know if Mary and Martha fought very often.

This is the only story in the Bible where they disagree with one another.

But on this day, they had their differences.

Martha was mad.

Isn’t that clear in verse 40?  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

Martha was miffed.

In her eyes, Mary was falling down on the job.

Verse 38 tells us that 13 hungry men had dropped in on the home of these two sisters. Jesus and his twelve disciples were “on their way,” and they came “to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”

And Martha got busy with the preparations.  She got to cleaning, baking, cooking, organizing, sending someone to the market for a missed item, polishing the silverware, getting everything ready to please the Master.

But Mary, Martha’s sister, just sat there.  Verse 39.

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

That was somewhat unusual for a woman to sit at the rabbi’s feet learning.

But this was an unusual rabbi!
And Mary just sat there.

And it steamed Martha.   “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

Serving is really important!  Isn’t it?  Yes it is.

But that’s not what Jesus does.  He doesn’t say.  “You’re right, Martha.  Mary get up and get to work.  Off with you now.”

No, He very tenderly and very lovingly rebukes Martha.  V.41

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Jesus is talking about priorities.

He’s talking about the number one priority that out rules all others.

“Only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

What is that one thing?  Sitting at Jesus’ Feet.

What does that mean?  And what does that look like for us today?

My wife says that I can take something simple and make it complex.

So, I’m going to take that One Thing and split it into three this morning.

Sitting at Jesus’ Feet means:

#1.  LISTENING TO JESUS.

That’s obvious from verse 39 itself.  “Mary...sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”  Literally, “listening to His word.”

Mary was hanging on every word that came from Jesus’ mouth.

This sitting at Jesus’ feet was taking the posture of a disciple, a learner.

She was focused with all of her attention on what Jesus had to say.  What Jesus was teaching.

Can you imagine being in that class?  To listen with your own ears to Jesus’ wisdom and knowledge.  To start to see the dawning of the Kingdom of God in His words, the authority with which He spoke, and the tenderness in His voice as He shared words of grace and mercy and truth.

Mary sat enthralled by the Master’s teaching.

She prioritized listening to Jesus over everything else.

Listening to Jesus.

Now, this does not mean that Mary never served.  It doesn’t mean that Mary missed her obligations.

But she recognized that serving was not the priority here.  The Rabbi of Rabbis was teaching. The Teacher of Teachers was speaking. The Wisdom of God was in the living room. 

Mary was not going to be lost in the kitchen.

“Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

Now, the chief way that we do that today is by eating God’s Word.

We sometimes call it “Bible intake.”

The Bible is Jesus’ teaching.  It is how we listen to Jesus today.

Reading the Bible.
Studying the Bible.
Listening to sermons like this one on the Bible.
Memorizing the Bible.
Meditating on the Bible.

The Bible is Jesus’ Word.

So, if we’re going to be like Mary and sit at Jesus’ feet, we must prioritize our own time in His word.

“Only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

How are you doing at listening to Jesus?

How are you doing at listening to Jesus in His Word?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people try to have a relationship with Jesus without listening.

They think that their praying is enough.  I talk with people who say that they pray, but they feel far away from God.  And they don’t understand why they don’t hear from Him.

But relationships are two-way, aren’t they?

There is talking and there is also listening.

And the chief way that we hear from Jesus now is hearing Him in the Bible.

Are you reading your Bible?

Do you set aside time to read your Bible?

Only One Thing is Necessary – Sitting at Jesus’ Feet.

Are you studying your Bible?

Do you work at trying to figure out what it means?
Do you meditate on what you find in there?

Do you mull it over and think about and make it a part of your day and your conversations and your journaling?

Do you memorize the Bible?  “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Do you listen to the sermon?  Do you take heed to what you hear?

How are you doing at listening to Jesus?

Mary listened to Jesus.  She prioritized it above everything else–including even serving Jesus.

Sometimes those of us in Christian leadership can make the mistake that Martha did.

She made the mistake of thinking that serving Jesus was more important that listenin to Him!

And no wonder we get worried and distracted about ministry!  I realized this week that I was worried and distracted about my district conference message about being worried and distracted!

Because I was not focused on Jesus.  I wasn’t listening to Him.

There is nothing more important than sitting at Jesus’ feet.

What practical steps do you need to take to prioritize listening to Jesus?

Some of us need to establish a quiet time.  Or I like to call them a noisy time.  A time for serious Bible intake.

I’ve recently adjusted how I do my Bible reading because I found that it was getting de-prioritized. 

It was still getting done, but on the side.  Not front and center.

So moved where my reading Bible sits, and I changed my habits about when it gets read.

What do you need to do to get the Bible into you?  To listen to Jesus?

Maybe it’s join a Sunday School Class or Link Group or come to Prayer Meeting on Wednesday nights.  The details of all of those groups are in the bulletin this week.

Whatever it is–do it!

Because there is nothing more important.  One thing is needed–sitting at Jesus’ feet.

And that means listening to Jesus.

It also means #2. LINGERING WITH JESUS.

And by that, I mean that this is not just a academic pursuit.  It’s not teaching for teaching’s sake.

It’s Jesus’ teaching.  This is personal.  Mary wanted to be with Jesus.

She drew near to Jesus.

Martha was right.  Mary had left her to be with Jesus.

She was sitting with Jesus.  She was lingering there in His presence.

She was focused on Jesus.  This is personal.

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet.

How are you doing with lingering with Jesus?

Being in Jesus’ presence?

Of course, we’re always in Jesus’ presence.  Through His deity and the Holy Spirit, Jesus is omni-present, so we can’t get away.

But this is the language of relationship–“drawing near,” “being with,” “sitting at His feet.”

How are you and I doing at that?

Here, I think about our prayer life.

A prayer life that is focused on Jesus.  Attentive to Jesus.  Not like Martha who is worried and upset and (v.40), “distracted.”
                                       
Martha talks to Jesus, but it’s out of desperation and distraction. She’s stressed out.

She is not at peace. She’s not resting. She’s not sitting. She’s not trusting.

She’s not focusing on Jesus.

What is your prayer life like right now?

Can I recommend a book to you today?

I love to recommend good books.

This book is called “A Praying Life,” and it’s by Paul Miller–the guy who wrote, “Love Walked Among Us.”

I’ve read a number of books on prayer, and I can easily say that this is the best book I’ve ever read on prayer.  And Heather would agree.

The advertising for the book says that it’s a book for “Badly Praying Christians, which is about 95% of us.”

Most books on prayer make me feel tired after I read them.  Oh, I have to do that?

This book got me praying as I read it!

The subtitle of the book is “Connecting with God in a Distracting World.”

And there’s the tie-in with Martha.  Martha was distracted.  She was worried and upset.  King James says she was “careful and troubled.”  Full of cares and full of troubles.

Martha needed to linger with Jesus.

She needed to rest at His feet.

She need to give over her burdens to Him and listen to Him.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen [to linger with me], and it will not be taken away from her.”

What are you worried and upset about right now?

What has you distracted?

Linger with Jesus. 

The one thing that is needed is time with Jesus.

But, but, but, but I have all this work to do!

Yes, you do.  But that’s not the one thing that’s important.

Jesus is.

Sitting at the Lord’s feet.

Listening to Jesus.
Lingering with Jesus.

And #3.  LOVING JESUS.

Just plain old loving Jesus.

Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it?

V.42, “Mary has CHOSEN what is better.”

What has she chosen?

Jesus Himself.

She has loved Him. She has valued Him. She had adored Him.

She has worshiped Him.

Sitting at Jesus’ feet is treasuring Him above everything else. And that’s what we call worship.

And it’s what we call “love.”

Loving Jesus.

Martha may have been trying to love Jesus by serving Him.

But it’s clear that her focus was not on Jesus Himself.

It’s clear because she got so miffed at Mary and even at Jesus’ Himself.

“Lord, don’t you care?”  “Tell her to help me!”

Which is using Jesus, not worshiping Him.

And certainly not enjoying Him.

Mary had it right.

Mary had chosen what is better.  V.42.  Literally, “The better portion.”

Jesus Himself.

And it will not be taken away from her.

Sitting at Jesus’ feet was loving Jesus.

Treasuring Him above all other things.

Mary did that again, didn’t she?

In John chapter 12, this same Mary took a “pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

John says that Judas objected, saying, “Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages."

A year’s wages?!

That’s extravagant worship.

But Jesus said, "Leave her alone.  It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”

Perhaps Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, had understood what the other disciples had not.

That Jesus was going to die.  And she was anointing Him, preparing Him for burial.

She was pouring out all of her treasure on Him because He was worth so much to her.

She was, in costly worship, loving Jesus.

How are you and I doing at loving Jesus?

Do we chose Him above everything else?

Do we chose Him as our One Thing?

If we do, it will not be taken away from us.

Listening to Jesus.
Lingering with Jesus.
And Loving Jesus.

Sitting at Jesus’ Feet.

Worship at the Lord’s Table

One more thing about this story.

I think there is also here, a picture of the gospel.

Martha is trying to serve.  She’s trying to do something FOR Jesus.

And we can get to thinking that salvation comes by our doing things for Jesus.

But Mary receives from Jesus.  She is a picture of someone who receives a gift of grace.

Martha spells things D-O.  Do.

But Jesus spells things D-O-N-E.  Done.

He’s done everything for us that we need.  Including dying for our sins in our place which is what this table represents.

And those who come to this table are not worthy of it.

We are not good people who come to serve God.

We are sinners who needed to be saved.  And Jesus did it for us.

We just receive it.

Mary is a picture for us of sitting still and letting Jesus do the work.

Oh yes, there is a time for serving.

I’m sure that when Jesus was done teaching, He’d probably say, “Okay, let’s wrestle up some grub.”

But serving comes after sitting.

Serving comes after being served.
Serving comes after been saved.
And it comes out of being saved.

“Only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, and are walking with Him, then you are invited to eat and drink this meal with us today.

Use this time to linger with Him, thanking Him for all that He has done for you.

If you have not received Jesus as your Savior or are not walking with Him right now, then we ask that you not eat and drink this memorial meal with us.

Instead, use this time to think about the gospel.  About Jesus.

About how awesome Jesus is in every way.

How worthy He is for us to listen to, to focus on, to love, to adore, to treasure.

And how loving He has been to give Himself for you and me.

You know, I believe that Martha learned her lesson.

Because when her brother Lazarus died, and Jesus came to visit. She was upset because He hadn’t come in time to heal him.

“But Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” 

And Martha said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

She had been listening.  She had been sitting at Jesus’ feet.

_________________________
Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shadow Boxing



Math class on April Fools Day - Matthew Weathers of Biola University [HT: Alex Chediak]

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Monday, April 05, 2010

All Beauty Speaks of Thee



My bride and our children on Resurrection Sunday.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 04, 2010

[Matt's Messages] Resurrection Sunday "Missouri Thomas"

“Missouri Thomas”
April 4, 2010
John 20:24-31

John 20 is that great chapter that recounts the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
At the start of the chapter, Mary Magdalene finds Jesus’ tomb empty and is worried that his grave has been robbed.  She tells Peter and John, and they run to the tomb and find it empty, as well. John begins to understand and to believe, but Peter is puzzled.

Then Jesus appears to Mary, and she tells all of the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

And then Jesus appears to all of the disciples on that first Resurrection Sunday, shows them His hands and side, and they are overjoyed.

But there was one of Jesus’ disciples who wasn’t there that first Resurrection Sunday.

We don’t know where he was, but he wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples.

And because he wasn’t there, it was very hard for him to believe.

What was his name?

Thomas, right?

We often call him, “Doubting Thomas,” right?

 When I was boy, we liked to play a game in the car on vacation where we spotted license plates from all the different states.

Did you ever play that game?

I wanted to turn pro at the license plate game!

I loved to recognize a licence plate from half a mile away and rack up the points ahead of my family!

It was very competitive.  In fact, I don’t think I saw very many of the sights on our vacations, I was too busy trying to rack up the points at the licence plate game.

Grand Canyon?  No, I must have missed that.  But a saw an Alaska license plate!

Playing that game, we got to know license plates pretty well.

And each state’s plate had its own motto.

I was from the humble state of Ohio whose motto was, “Ohio - the Heart of It All!”  Very humble weren’t we?!

I always loved Pennsylvania’s.  I didn’t know that I was going to grow up to be Pennsylvanian, but I loved the PA license plate.

Both the keystone shape and the motto, “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania,” right?!

Okay, here’s a test for you.  What was the motto of the state of Missouri on their license plate?

What state are they?

The “Show Me State.”

Now, I always thought that meant, “Show me all the wonderful things in Missouri.  All the great things to see.”

But it turns out, I later found, to mean, “I'm from Missouri, and I won't believe I thing you tell me until I see it with my own eyes!”  I guess they're famous for the attitude, “seeing is believing.”

I think that Thomas could have been from Missouri.  Today, we’re going to call him, “Missouri Thomas.”

Because the other disciples tried to explain to Thomas that Jesus is alive, but he didn’t believe it.  He doubted.  He chose, in fact, to not believe unless he was given first-hand evidence.

“Show me!” his license plate says.  Missouri Thomas.  Let’s read verses 24 and 25.

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.’”

Now, let’s not be too hard on Missouri Thomas.

I mean, do you think that you or I would have done better?

Thomas was a very brave disciple.  In John chapter 11, Thomas is the one who encourages the other disciples to follow Jesus into danger–being willing to die with him.  Thomas didn’t keep that promise and go with Jesus into death, but neither did any of the other disciples, including Peter who had said that he would die with Jesus.

Thomas had just seen Jesus be betrayed, arrested, beaten, tortured, ridiculed, and killed.

Jesus was dead and buried.  Jesus was a corpse.

Pardon me for not believing that He is alive!

It was easier for the other disciples to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead–they saw him with their own eyes.

So Missouri Thomas says, “Show me.” v.25

‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.’”

Now, I love this next part of the story...

Jesus is alive, and He knows what Thomas has said.

And in grace and love, He brings the proof that Thomas had required.

He didn’t have to, but He does.  V.26

“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them [this time]. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”

Wow!

Jesus is alive.  Death could not hold him.  Doors could not keep him away.  And he appears to the disciples with peace on his lips and to Thomas with an amazing invitation.

“‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Jesus knew exactly what Thomas had said, and now he lovingly holds out his hand to Thomas and invites him to believe.

No, it’s more than that, isn’t it?

He demands that Thomas believe.

Thomas demanded proof.  Jesus demands faith.

#1.  STOP DOUBTING AND BELIEVE.

Jesus insists on faith.  “Stop doubting and believe.”  I like how the NASB translates this “Be not unbelieving but believing!”  Here's your proof Thomas, now believe!

Jesus loves us, but he demands our faith.  He loves us and He does not allow us room to half-way believe, to disbelieve in Him, to not trust Him.  He demands faith of all his followers.

And He is still inviting skeptics to consider his claims.

You might have been dragged here against your will.

Resurrection Sunday is one of those Sundays when people get drug off to church whether they feel like it or not.

If you are here and you’re skeptical about the whole thing, I understand.

I’ve been there, too.

I’ve struggled many times with questions about the reality of the resurrection.

If you’re in that boat, let me recommend to you 2 books that have been really helpful to me. 

This one is called “The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus” by Lee Strobel. And this one is called “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism” by Tim Keller.

This one has sold over 2 million copies.  This one was in the top 10 of the New York Times bestseller list.  Both have been very helpful to me.

And to my friends.  I’ve got friends right here in this room that went from skeptics to believers because they read these books and worked through the evidence for themselves.


There is evidence that demands a verdict.  Jesus will accept no middle ground.  He demands our faith.  “Stop doubting and believe!”

Now, that might be a process for of us.  For many, many years (even after I had gone to Moody), I struggled with believing in the resurrection.  But Jesus would not accept my unbelief.  He brought me again and again to consider the evidence for the reality of his resurrection and insisted that I stop doubting and believe.  And he does the same with you today. 

I challenge you, if you do not believe, to read one of those books this week.  Because the Risen Jesus is demanding your faith.  “Stop doubting and believe!”

Because Jesus is really alive.

Really!

This is real.  This really happened.  Jesus said, “See my hands.  Reach out your hand and put into my side.”

Can you imagine?

It’s as real as if one of us went up and down the rows today showing each other our scars.  They were real.  Thomas could have done.

He could have reached out and touched the nail scars.

“Stop doubting and believe.”

Missouri Thomas stopped doubting immediately.  And he uttered the fullest expression of the worship of Christ that anyone had ever said up till that point.  v.28

“Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”

And Missouri Thomas wasn’t swearing!

He was worshiping.

“My Lord and my God!”

Thomas was proclaiming his faith in Jesus.

He was proclaiming his worship of Jesus!

He understood what was happening now.

This Jesus is none other than the Lord.  None other than God Himself.

And He deserves total worship.  In my mind's eye, I see him falling on his face before Jesus.  Not even bothering to touch his hands or torso.  Just falling down in worship of the Risen Jesus.  “My Lord and My God!”

Notice those personal pronouns.  My Lord and My God.

He’s not saying that He isn’t the Universal Lord and God of all things.

But it’s personal.  He belongs to Jesus and Jesus belongs to Him.

My Lord and My God.

He worshiped Him as truly as you and I have come this morning to worship Jesus!

We aren’t here to memorialize a great and dead saint.  Saint Jesus.

No, no. We’re here to worship the risen, living Savior–Our Lord and Our God.

Notice what Jesus does NOT do here.  He doesn't say, “O no, Tom, don't worship me.  I'm not God.  I'm not your Lord.  Don't bow like that.”

NO!  He receives his worship.

Jesus allows Thomas to ascribe deity to Him, to recognize him as his Lord and his GOD!  The Risen Jesus receives total worship from Missouri Thomas.

And He wants our total worship today.

He not only demands faith from us but he receives our worship.

That’s why we’re here today.

Not just to worship some generic creator God.  But to worship the God/Man Jesus Christ!  We are Christians!  We worship the Lord Jesus, God Jesus!

We say, with all of our hearts and all of our minds and all our souls and with all of our money and with all of our strength, “Jesus!  Our  Lord and Our God!”

Stop doubting and believe.

And worship Christ the Risen King!

Now, notice what Jesus says next.

Jesus has been gracious enough to show himself to Thomas like Thomas had demanded.

But now He needs to gently rebuke Thomas and promise you and me a greater blessing.  V.29

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

#2.  START BELIEVING AND BE BLESSED.

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

Who is He talking about?

He’s talking about you and me.

We haven’t seen, yet we believe.

There is a special blessing for people like you and me.


You might get the idea that the most blessed people in the world are those who have seen Jesus and believed like the apostles and Thomas and eventually Paul.

But that's not what Jesus says!  Jesus says that there is a blessing (a special gift of God's grace) to those who believe without seeing him yet! 

And that’s you and me.  We have not seen Jesus yet except with the eyes of faith.  We know that He lives, but our eyes have not beheld His risen body, yet. 

We are waiting, waiting for that. 

Think about that for a second, the disciples didn't have something (a blessing) that you and I can have by putting our faith in Jesus!

Jesus is promising us a special blessing because our faith has not yet become sight.

Missouri faith is not as good and blessed as faith without sight.  Missouri faith says “seeing is believing.”  Jesus says, “believing without seeing is blessing.”  We walk, Paul said, by faith and not by sight.  Not yet. 

Peter, years later, reflected on this in his first letter, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are (blessed!) filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Someday we will see him.  1 John 3 promises, “...we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  But not yet.  Till then we hope and trust and obey and wait–and are blessed.

Missouri faith is not as good and blessed as faith without sight.  And that is a wonderful promise for you and me.  If you and I believe in Jesus then we will receive this extra blessing, this extra gift of God's grace that Jesus promises.

And John goes on to call it LIFE.  Look at verses 30 and 31.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Life!

Start believing and be blessed with LIFE.

Abundant life.
Life to full.
Eternal life.
Forever life.

Blessed life.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of death.

I’m tired of my loved ones dying.

My last grandparent died in January.  Heather’s grandpa Lundeen died this week.

He was 91 and a half and knew the Lord.  So, death was great for him.  He got to go be with Jesus.

But that doesn’t make death good.  Death is an enemy.

It’s a part of the curse on this world.

Death is not the way things should be.

I’m tired of the sentence of death hanging over my life and life of all of those I love.

And I’m waiting for death to die.

You know that death will die one day, right?

Death is going to be thrown into the lake of fire, the second death.

Death is going to come to an end.

We know that Jesus has conquered death and brought life.

He brings life to all who believe in Him.  V.31

“These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.”

LIFE!

Jesus has conquered death.

Stop doubting and believe.

If you are here today and not yet a believer, I urge you to turn from your sins and put your trust in the Savior, Jesus Christ who died for your sins to bring you to God.

Stop doubting and believe.

And start believing and be blessed.  Blessed with LIFE!

Worshiping Jesus our Lord and our God.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Resurrection Sunday Messages

2010    Missouri Thomas - John 20
2009    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Resurrection - 1 Corinthians 15
2008    Eyewitness
2007    New Life - Romans 6
2006    This Changes Everything! - Mark 16

"Our Lord Jesus was a Corpse"

"On a Saturday long ago, our Lord Jesus was a corpse."  So begins this brief meditation by Russell Moore.  So painfully true.

And yet, the emphasis today must be on the word "was."

Because now, our Lord Jesus is no longer a corpse.  He is alive!

When I was boy, we had a record of the song below, and I remember playing it again and again and again until I knew all the words--and rejoicing the whole way.

He's alive!