Values To Live By

Zacchaeus was a little man with a big problem. Of all the people Jesus encountered, Zacchaeus did not have an illness nor was he called to be one of the 12 disciples. And yet we know a lot about him. The people of Jesus‘s day wondered why Jesus would bother with a tax collector. Tax collectors were despised because they collected taxes for Rome from their own people. Zacchaeus was almost textbook on how to be unpopular. He worked for the occupying army. That role can put you in a very precarious position when it comes to your fellow citizens. But Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. It wasn’t simply celebrity watching or a paparazzi moment, he was drawn to Jesus. And Jesus was looking for him. In Luke 19:10 Christ says his specific mission  was to seek and save that which is lost. The key is who qualifies as being lost. Will we join with Jesus and be on mission to seek and save that which was lost? This Sunday we will look at some of the principles that Jesus used to reach an unlikely subject with good news that even a tax collector can become a Christian!  

It is so appropriate to have communion when giving a message on heaven and hell. The most common notion in our culture is that the very nice religious people go to heaven and those who have shown themselves to be socially unsophisticated do not. We need to remember that God grades on the cross not on the curve. We are indebted to God’s chosen people for bringing us the old testament and of course the human genetic roots of Jesus Christ. None of us can claim so great a heritage unless you are a Messianic Jew  reading this today. If you are, please identify yourself to me. But the bottom line is no matter how great our religious credentials, nor how minimal our social standing, heaven is available to those who believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament who died in their place. So even I as a pastor have to constantly remind myself that my standing with God is not based upon my seminary credentials, my 40 years of full-time ministry, nor the fact that my uncle was a Baptist preacher. My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.

This Sunday I'm preaching on a familiar passage. Maybe you'll recognize it ...

Feeling Footloose and Frisky, a Featherbrained Fellow Forced his Fond Father to Fork over the Farthings, and Flew Far to Foreign Fields and Frittered his Fortune Feasting Fabulously with Faithless Friends.

Fleeced by his Fellows in Folly, and Facing Famine, he Found himself a Feed Flinger in a Filthy Farmyard. Fairly Famishing, he Fain would've Filled his Frame with Foraged Food from Fodder Fragments. "Fooey, my Father's Flunkies Fare Far Finer," the Frazzled Fugitive Forlornly Fumbled, Frankly Facing Facts. Frustrated by Failure, and Filled with Foreboding, he Fled Forthwith to his Family. Falling at his Father's feet, he Forlornly Fumbled, "Father, I've Flunked, Fallen Flat, and Fruitlessly Forfeited Former Family Favor."

The Far-sighted Father, Forestalling Further Flinching, Frantically Flagged the Flunkies to Fetch a Fatling from the Flock and Fix a Feast. "What Forbids Fervent Festivity? Let Flags be un-Furled! Let Fanfares Flare!"

Father's Forgiveness Formed the Foundation For the Former Fugitive's Future Fortitude.

There are several valid excuses we may give for doing or not doing something. But when it comes to God's agenda, God will not ask you to do anything or not do something, where you can give a valid excuse to skip God's directive. Very often the reason we give an excuse is because we think we are an exception to the rule. Sometimes it's true. But when it comes to God's revealed will, there is never a valid excuse. So when we know that God has asked us to do something, we must act. Can we be forgiven? Yes, but there is one invitation we must act upon now. This is because we never know when we may face the eternal judgment seat. Are you prepared? Check out heavenornot.net.

This week's message is on prayer. What a great subject! As we look at how Jesus teaches on prayer we discover that prayer changes us first. Then we go back to our prayer request with a better perspective.. In essence, Jesus coaches us on prayer. Sometimes my athletic coaches would give me instruction that seemed unnecessary. For example conditioning when I was not at practice. This seemed like overkill. However, as I matured as an athlete, I discovered the benefits of additional conditioning. The more personal conditioning I was able to implement on my own time, the greater the performance in the game. Some of us need to get into prayer shape.  Join us this Sunday either in person or online to discover some of Christ's conditioning tips.

The good Samaritan may be one of the best known parables in existence. However, was Christ’s point to make us better neighbors or was there something deeper? It turns out Christ’s point was of a eternal significance. A lawyer, expert in the Mosaic law, was devastated by the story Christ told. Why? It’s important for us to understand the story of the good Samaritan or we end up beating ourselves up or misrepresenting the gospel. I’m excited about this message. I hope you’ll join us this Sunday either in person or online.

The easiest way to disguise hypocrisy is cover it with moral superficiality. Being a vegan is healthy, not smoking is healthy, moderation is healthy, exercise is healthy, etc. But we can be the healthiest person in the room, which admittedly makes us feel superior, and yet our deceitful lying superficial love finds us to be in greater mortal danger than the sickest person in the room. Do we show grace to people who are less disciplined than we are? Do you tend to over value one aspect of your righteousness to compensate for your lack of righteousness in other areas? When sharing Christ with people they detect, very easily, whether you’re sharing from a point of humility, one sinner showing another sinner where the bread line is, or whether  you’re sharing from pride from your moral stance on various issues: I’m going to heaven and you’re not! The fact that all have sinned is one of the great evidences the Bible is true. Do you realize that your moral pride may undermine this very central truth of Scripture? This Sunday we will investigate Christ’s view of sin and forgiveness and judgment. 

We would all like to see a miracle. Yet do we realize this may require greater faith than we currently have? This Sunday we will try to determine how the disciples failed to learn the lesson on miracles from Luke chapter 9. Miracles generally don’t happen for personal gain. When we see an opportunity for the kingdom and the gospel, we have to bring what we have, we have to take some initial responsibility, and it is not unspiritual to be organized. Little is much when God is in it and the way God gets in it is through prayer. Remember miracles happen when the gospel is clarified by showing who Jesus is. Is that your goal when you ask for a miracle? So next time you think you need a miracle, consider the above New Testament guidelines from Luke nine and take the risk for the good of the kingdom and the gospel.

Jesus was busy ministering in a packed home but stopped everything to minister to the man brought in by friends. I think that means Jesus honors us when we try to reach family and friends for Jesus. Will you bring your friend to meet Jesus? Will they understand that the most important thing that Jesus  can do for them is forgive their sins? Do we wrongly believe that people will seek out Jesus without any help? Sometimes people’s personal needs will open them up to hearing more about the Unmatchable Jesus. In order to introduce people to Jesus, you need a list of unchurched/unbelieving friends who might be open to the conversation. Do you have such a list? Start with the most receptive people first. Maybe develop a prayer strategy with two or three people to reach your common friends and family. Pray that other mediums, radio, television, movies, books, the internet, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, etc. that are Christian will somehow enter the life of your unbelieving family member or friend.