Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I Love to hear good preaching!

A "Serm-o-holic"

I think I’m a "serm-o-holic"! I love to listen to sermons! Hearing the teaching and exhorting of God’s Word is so exciting and uplifting to me. Besides attending our local churches, I’m always listening to radio and tv teaching, as well. (Some of my favorites are Chip Ingram, David Jeremiah, Chuck Swindoll, and John MacArthur, to name a few of the many.)

On "Resurrection Sunday" I heard (I guess) 3 or 4 sermons. I heard some things that were very familiar to me and some things that were new to me. And then, I heard some very well known things in a brand new way - a brand new way that was both comforting as well as gently rebuking… God is SO good! His rod (of discipline) AND His staff (of reassurance) they comfort me!

In this particular sermon, the pastor started out by telling about an incident wherein a boat filled with fishermen was in the midst of a storm. The boat was filling with water and (seemingly) in danger of sinking. And the “Master” of the vessel was asleep “on a cushion.” When they called to Him, He simply looked out at the sea and said “Peace! Be still…” and they ask, “Who IS this Man?”

From there the pastor went to the tomb, and the question “Mary, why are you crying…” because Mary, you see, was in the midst of a raging storm… and she couldn’t see her way through it…

That got me to thinking about something I’ve said many times lately - most recently in an e-mail to my Prayerlogue list requesting prayer for a couple of people. In that e-mail I stated, “As I've often said, we know where we are in the "here"; and we know what shall be in the "hereafter" - it's the getting from here to there that worries us.”

It was in that, that I was gently rebuked. It is in the midst of a storm that our Saviour comes, either walking on the waters (walking ON the troubles) or He has been with us all along and when we call upon Him, He simply says, “Hush - be still!” to the storm (and our hearts.)

Jesus is with us in the “here.” Jesus is with us in the “there.” And He is with us every step of the way. We have no need to fear…

After a recent phone call which upset me, my first reaction was, “I must pray!” And that reminded me of an old song that I hadn’t thought of in years - “I Must Tell Jesus.”

Print this out and hang it on your refrigerator door or inside your bathroom medicine cabinet. You need to see this every day!

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.


Tempted and tried, I need a great Savior;
One Who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;
He all my cares and sorrows will share.


O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the victory to win.


May God comfort you, still your storms, and dry your eyes today! In Jesus' Name - Amen!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday Devotion

Wade Out a Little Bit Deeper

St. Augustine, in speaking of the Gospel of John said, “It is shallow enough for a child to wade in, and deep enough that an elephant can swim…”

Our Scripture tonight is from John’s Gospel, chapter 13, verses 2-17. I’ll be reading from the New International Version.

(Read John 13:2-17)
13:2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus.
13:3 Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 13:4 he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself.

13:5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

13:6 Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 13:7 Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.”

13:8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 13:9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 13:10 Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” 13:11 (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”)

13:12 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you?

13:13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. 13:15 For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you. 13:16 I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 13:17 If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Let us pray - Father, may Your Holy Spirit open our hearts to hear Your Word. In Jesus’ Name - Amen.

Imagine the strains of “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah” - “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords - and He shall reign for-ever and ever (Hallelujah, Hallelujah)…”

Who among us can hear that music without tears and cold chills…

Now, imagine this Very God of Very God; this Creator of the Universe; this Almighty El-Shaddai of the Old Testament, now, takes His cloak off - the cloak without seam, for which soldiers would be gambling in a few hours; He takes it off, lays it aside and begins to wash His disciples’ feet…

What in the world, can this possibly mean?

We’ve talked before about taking Scripture literally and figuratively… Well this time, we need to do both. This is where St. Augustine would say, “Yes, understand it like a child… but don’t be afraid of the deep parts, either…

Jesus, as you know, was a Master storyteller. That’s why His parables are so effective. He has, it seems, a story for every occasion. This time however, instead of telling the story, He acts it out…

Let me set the stage for you…

The events of this night are recorded in all 4 Gospels - albeit from differing viewpoints, as any eyewitness accounts are. Therefore we need to combine the Scriptures in order to get the total picture.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find the disciples coming into the city of Jerusalem to the home of one of Jesus’ followers where a guest room has been prepared for them to partake of the Passover meal.

When the time arrives for the meal, (about 7:00pm, by the way) Jesus and the disciples make their way to the Upper Room. The atmosphere is tense. The disciples know that something is different about this Passover, but they just can’t quite lay their finger on it. They’re tired, and dusty from the walk in from Bethany, and more than just a little on edge.

Over the past few weeks they’ve argued about “status” - about who is the greatest among them, and in fact, they’ll rehash that again this night as well. Normally when they come into a home where no servant is present to wash the dust from their feet, they would just wash one another’s, but not tonight. No one will take the initiative to do that tonight.

And so, stubbornly they just come to the table, with none of them, except maybe John, happy about where they end up sitting - again in relation to their “status” in their own eyes.

Get this picture in your mind. Jesus, knowing fully well what is about to transpire in the next few hours, literally has the weight of the world on His shoulders and there the disciples are sitting at the table, their feet dusty and dirty, grumbling about just which one of them is the most important to Jesus!

According to Luke’s version, Jesus then tells them that one of them will betray Him.

After the initial shock, and questions of “Is it I, Lord?” The conversation quickly turns to, “Well it couldn’t be me because…” And another one says, “Oh yeah, well it couldn’t be me either… and the arguments begin all over again.

At this point, without saying a word, Jesus rises from the table, takes off His outer garments and wraps the rough scratchy linen servant’s towel around His waist and begins to wash their feet.

Imagine their shocked faces as He silently moves from disciple to disciple, gently, carefully, washing their feet, and then drying them with the towel tied around Him.

There is so much more here than meets the eye initially. Jesus, who is fully One with the Father; Who was adorned with all the splendor of heaven, of His own free will, laid aside the Glory that was His, and put on humanity; and all the pain and suffering that fallen humanity brings with it; from the scratchy straw in the manger, to teething, to all the cuts and scrapes that little boys get. He got tired, and hungry and thirsty and wept as any other human being did - and in just a few hours… He would die… But then, He would put back on that Glory and sit back down at the right hand of the Father. And all of His own free will.

There’s a lot more to this analogy than we have time to get into, but the bottom line is - He became a servant so that we might be made royalty.

Well, He’s washing their feet, and He comes to Peter. And Peter says, “No way. You’re not washing my feet. But it was not humility that caused Peter’s protests - it wasn’t that he didn’t think he was worthy of having his feet washed by Jesus - it was pride - false humility and pride are just two sides of the same evil coin.

Peter was saying in essence, “Don’t You know who I am? I’m one of the leaders. I’m one of ‘inner three’. I’ve been on the mountain top with You. And You want to wash my feet? No Way!”

Jesus says, “Peter, you just don’t understand… if you don’t allow me to do this for you, you can have no companionship with Me…” And then in typical “Peter” fashion he says, “Then wash me all over, Lord! Wash me all over…” But he still doesn’t understand.

We know that Jesus is teaching humility and servanthood. In verse 16 He says, “A slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent, greater than the one who sent him…” The idea of being servants to others is normally the primary focus of this passage, but I think the main reason most folks don’t really understand this scripture is that they don’t want their feet washed. Most people would have no problem if they were the ones doing the washing or the serving - the one in control. But most of us just don’t want to be on the “receiving end” of the service. We don’t want to be the one “without control.”

I came to understand this when my Daddy was in the hospital. One day as I was feeding him he said, “I just hate for you to have to do this…” And of course I replied, “Daddy, I don’t mind.” Then he said, “Well, I do…” I made some remark about “having your feet washed…” But then, like Jesus said to Peter - I just didn’t understand.

While Daddy was in the hospital I was the one “doing” the serving. Then, as the time wore on and I became more and more exhausted, I began to “need” more and more help myself.

I didn’t want to be the one receiving the help. I didn’t want my “feet washed.” But I needed it. I could no longer do it all myself. And that’s when I really began to understand this scripture. Until you’ve been the one on the receiving end, you’ll never know how much an e-mail or phone call, even leaving a message, can mean; how much a meal can mean; how much a loaf of bread and an afternoon of talking can truly mean!

I began to understand that, yes, it is important to “be the servant” but it’s also important to understand humility and to “allow” another the “gift” of being the servant.

One cannot truly be a leader unless they are willing to be a servant. And one cannot truly learn to be a servant unless they are willing to receive service.

Peter didn’t think he “needed” washing - at least not by Jesus. Are you willing to admit that you “need” washing by Jesus? And then, are you willing to wash and to be washed by others?

Are you willing to forgive others, as you’ve been forgiven? You see, we must remember that among that group of disciples, was Judas… and Jesus washed his feet, too.

Let us pray…

Father, as we wind down these hours of Maundy Thursday, may we be mindful of what happens next. As Jesus leaves this meal, He has less than a hour or so of freedom left; and less than 18 hours to live. And yet, in this time of agony, He is still teaching, still caring, still washing His followers, and even Judas…

Oh God, may we do no less than serve our brothers and sisters, including Judas…

In Jesus’ Holy Name we pray - Amen.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Palm Sunday Devotion

This short devotion is the "Prayer Preface" that I used on Palm Sunday for our "Pastoral Prayer" time.

Psa 118:24-26 (NASB) This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.

Psalms 118 is the last of 3 Psalms, or songs, that the Israelites would sing every year during the Passover. The phrase in verse 25, “O LORD, do save” is the Hebrew phrase “hoshia-na” or as we would pronounce it, “hosanna”.

So on that day (on this day) nearly 2000 years ago, when the crowds and children shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” Everyone within earshot would have recognized the words to this Psalm.

“O LORD do save; do save Thou Son of David. BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!”

As we go into our time of prayer, may the words on our lips and in our hearts be, “Hosanna! Do save O Lord; save, restore, and revive our nation, our churches, our community, and our homes.



Monday, March 10, 2008

Study on Prayer - week 5

As we finish up our 5 part study on prayer, we come now to the Gethsemane Prayer, Jesus’ last and most intense time of prayer with His Father. Many times as we go through our Holy Week services, we tend to “hopscotch” from the Last Supper, to the cross, to the empty tomb, and we never seem to spend much time on this prayer. But it is here that Jesus reaches the very core of His humanity.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He (that is, God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

As we studied “The High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus last time, we saw that the perspective of that prayer was like it was from “the other side of the cross.” In other words, Jesus prayed like the crucifixion was a “done deal” - like it had already happened. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d think that prayer was being prayed after the Resurrection!

But it wasn’t… and now we have come to the moment of entering the garden, where Jesus is preparing to take on all the sin, of all mankind, of all eternity…

Let us listen in…

I’ll be reading from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 26, verses 36-45, with details (in italics) added from Mark 14 and Luke 22. I’ll be reading this from the KJV. I normally use either the NASB or the NLT, but there’s just something about the KJV that allows us to feel the magnitude of the moment…

Mat 26:36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
Mat 26:37 And he took with him Peter (and James and John) the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Mat 26:38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
Mat 26:39 And he went a little further, (about a stone’s throw) and fell on his face,
(and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
and He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.)

Mat 26:40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Mat 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Mat 26:42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it… thy will be done.

Mat 26:43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy (and they didn’t know how to answer Him.)
Mat 26:44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

(Then Luke tells us, Luk 22:43-44 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. )

Mat 26:45 Then, cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Let us pray… Oh my God, we cannot read this and be unmoved. The agony that Christ felt… Though He was fully God… He was fully man, and His fear was so very real. We cannot begin to imagine the terror that He felt on that night, knowing, fully, what lay ahead of Him.

As we look at this prayer, let us stop and think for a few moments what our salvation, what our redemption from an eternity in hell, really cost.

In Jesus’ Name - Amen.

Jesus prayed 3 times that the “cup” might be taken away… There are several differences of opinion of just what the “cup” actually was that Jesus prayed for God to let pass by; some believe it was a premature death right there in the Garden, before He ever made it to the cross (you remember, He said His soul was deeply grieved, to the point of death) or whether it was the cup of God’s wrath, which is a well documented theme throughout the Bible, or possibly as Wesley taught, the cup of terror and fear, or even as some have said, an avoidance of the cross all together. Perhaps we’ll study that in depth at some other time, however what the “cup” actually was is not the subject of this particular study - but what Jesus did with the cup is our concern.

E.M. Bounds, in his book titled, “The Reality of Prayer” says that in the Gethsemane prayer, “Jesus sought to be relieved from that which seemed too heavy to bear. He prayed, however, not in revolt against God’s will, but in submission to that will, and yet He prayed to change God’s plan and to alter God’s purposes.”

Bounds goes on to say, “Simple submission to God’s will is not the highest attitude of the soul to God.” He says, in essence, there is a difference between submitting to God’s will and conforming to His will…

Conformity to God’s will involves submission… But submission in itself falls short of and does not necessarily include conformity.

For instance, think about a cake pan. If I take 2 cake pans and pour water into one and cake batter into the other - both the water and the cake batter have “submitted” to the shape of the pan, but after 30 minutes or so in a 350 degree oven, only the batter will “conform” to the shape of the pan. The water will pour right out.

A prisoner of war may “submit” to his captors, but seldom will he “conform” to their ideology.

“Conformity means to ‘stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.’ It means to delight to do God’s will…"

William Barkley says that “It makes all the difference in what tone of voice a man says, “Thy will be done.”
1. He may say it in a tone of helpless submission, as one who is in the grip of a power against which it is hopeless to fight. The words may be the death-knell of hope.

2. He may say it as one who had been battered into submission. The words may be the admission of complete defeat.

3. He may say it as one who has been utterly frustrated and who sees that the dream can never come true. The words may be those of a bleak regret or even a bitter anger which is all the more bitter because he cannot do anything about it.

4. Or, He may say it with the accent of perfect trust. That is how Jesus said it. He was speaking to one who was “Father”; He was speaking to a God whose everlasting arms were underneath and about him, even on the cross. He was submitting, but he was submitting to the love that would never let Him go. Life’s hardest task is to accept what we cannot understand; but we can do even that if we are sure enough of the love of God.

Let me end by sharing the story of a woman I know who found a lump under her arm as she was putting on her deodorant one morning. It was about 7:00am and so it was about an hour or so before she could call a doctor to make an appointment.

She spent that hour in prayer, in an agony of her own. She had 2 small children and a husband for whom she was deeply worried. The word “lump” strikes a fear in anyone’s heart, and it did hers as well.

She was a Christian, and knew what the outcome of even the worst diagnosis would be - that is, an eternity with Christ - but no one wants to go through pain and suffering.

And so she prayed.

At first her prayer was to beg God that it not be anything serious - but, resignedly ending it as she had always been taught, “nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done…”

Then her prayer progressed to “but if it is serious… if we cannot avoid this suffering…” then with a deep breath she said, “whatever You say Lord, Your will be done…”

She continued to pray and to cry, thinking of her children - her “babies” as she called them, and as she prayed, a calmness came over her; a peace that she didn’t understand.

She saw that her Loving God and Father loved her children more than she herself did; more than she ever could - and that even if the diagnoses was a serious one, God was still God, and would provide… no matter what.

And as she rose from her knees, and reached for the telephone, she confidently declared, “Thy Holy and perfect will be done!”

Jesus spoke like that; and when we can speak like that, we can look up and say in perfect trust, “Thy will be done!” And we will be “conformed” to the image of God.

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