Values To Live By

I can’t remember who said it or exactly how they said it but here it goes: the reason we don’t evangelize is because we don’t worship. If we both in personal and corporate worship know what God is like, evangelism would be the most natural outcome. To stand in awe of God moment by moment will put us in a position where we can’t help but share our faith. This Sunday we are going to examine how to be in awe. Our God is an awesome god, but do we understand the ways in which Jesus is awesome? Last Sunday we established the fact that Jesus is the God. This Sunday let’s establish the fact that we need to be in awe of Him. What are the practical benefits of being in awe of Christ? Let’s consider the scriptures on that subject.

If you have shared your faith with some frequency, you will often find the Jesus objection: Oh Jesus was a great man and a great moral teacher but he was not God. There are even Bible translations that refer to Jesus as God not the God, e.g. New World translation. There is not a more important truth to consider in the New Testament than  the identity of Jesus Christ. The New Testament was originally written in Greek so what does it say? Is Jesus ever called “the” God or is the word “the“ found in the Greek text? Assuming the Bible is the word of God, does the New Testament make it absolutely clear who Jesus is and how his identity impacts your eternal life? Secular humanism and several Christian cults are trying to undermine the identity of Jesus Christ. What’s our answer? I hope to give you some tools with which to answer doubters on Sunday.

Forgiveness. We all need it. Do we give it? Regret, anger, guilt, and blame are all causes of pain. But often the pain is unnecessary if by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the permanent attitude: please forgive me and I forgive you. Some psychologists believe that the number one downside in harboring unforgiveness is a perpetual state of unhappiness. Thus your ability to forgive in part determines the overall quality of your life. Of course Christ understood this concept and talked about asking forgiveness in Matthew 5 and seeking to forgive in Luke 17. Why is Christ so intent on the subject of forgiveness? People who know how to forgive and seek forgiveness, are able to live life at a high-level in personal relationships. So let’s explore forgiveness this Sunday in such a way that we live together in an atmosphere of love and harmony. 

One element of most world religions is the belief in ghosts. Even the disciples of Jesus were at  first confused at his appearance in the upper room. "They were frightened and thought they were seeing a spirit." It wasn’t the first time the disciples made mistakes about Jesus. So how did Jesus address their spooky orientation? There would have to be physical evidence in addition to Christ’s words. When you think about Christ's resurrection, is there any harm with symbolic, allegorical, mythological, or spiritualist  orientations regarding his post resurrection appearances? How is a fish one aspect of evidence?  Do you think Christ will have pierced hands when you meet him in heaven? Can it be helpful to prevent people from seeking resurrection experiences? These and other questions will be answered this Sunday as we consider the value of the Physical Resurrection in history and in our own story.

What will be on your tombstone? What will be your last words? Alfred was born in Stockholm Sweden. He was a gifted engineer, chemist, and inventor. His specialty was weapons of war, especially explosives like dynamite. Years later his brother Ludwig died suddenly of a heart attack and the newspaper got it wrong and said Alfred died. That morning he read the headline: the merchant of death is dead. The article explained how  Alfred had become rich by finding new ways to kill people. He was appalled. The mistake resulted in him changing his legacy. He left nearly all his wealthy estate to establish the Nobel peace prize, each year given to the person doing the most to  help humanity  in the elimination of war. How satisfied would you be with your legacy today? Alfred Nobel had a rare opportunity to re-write his ending, How about you? What will your obituary/tombstone/last words look like? What will be your legacy? Jesus Christ left an example. Sunday in Luke 23 we will discover how to die.

In Luke 23 Christ is dying on the cross. Even though there are a multitude of witnesses, a common criminal might be the only one who became a Christian that day. The criminal was objective. He was a sinner and Christ was innocent. The criminal listened to what Christ had to say. Do you? The criminal welcomed Christ’s message. Do you? The criminal responded to Christ’s identity. Do you? DNA testing has proved there are many people who are innocent who were put in jail. But although they are innocent of that particular crime, very often they have been found guilty of several unrelated crimes. Does being innocent of a particular sin set you up for self righteousness? So many today feel morally superior when in fact their life is filled with sinful acts. Christ tells the women of Jerusalem not to weep for him but to weep for themselves. That’s odd. So this Sunday we'll consider criminals, the ladies of Jerusalem, and those who feel morally superior because of their stand on justice and various moral issues. 

In Luke chapter 19 Christ has to address the fact the disciples thought that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to set up his kingdom. In fact he was going there to die for his kingdom. He reveals that he was going away after his resurrection on a long journey through the parable of the minas. The question Jesus answers is: what do we do between his ascension and his return for his people? He’s coming back in power. When is it? How should we respond? Jesus has a message filled with grace and peace. He rewards his servants according to their faithfulness. He judges those who reject him. The Jews said in John 19:15, "We have no king but Caesar." That required judgment from the returning King. But what about those who have been faithful and serving Christ in the interim? What is required is faithfulness in the stewardship of the gifts that God has given us. Spiritual gifts, financial gifts, educational gifts, relational gifts, etc. We all have received by the grace of God these great assets. By the power of the Holy Spirit and abiding in Christ we are to use these assets to bring glory to the King. Luke 19 gives us a better understanding of what it means to be a faithful servant before Christ returns. It’s required of servants that they remain faithful. Are you faithful? 

Love limits liberty. We can be too indifferent or too sensitive to the thinking of our fellow Christians. Concerning areas where the Bible is silent, is liberty our first consideration? We have to balance rights and unity. If we err, what is the governing principle that should overrule our thinking? When in doubt about a course of action, do you view your rights as an American as more important than your responsibilities as a Christian? Are you setting the right example for other people? Believers? Unchurched? Children? Simply because something is a liberty does not mean that liberty is the right course of action. God is not so much concerned with who is right in the gray areas but do you act and speak with loving actions and loving words? So often we want to solve problems with rules. Instead let’s make love the preeminent consideration. Let’s respect one another. We must remember the influence we have. We can build up or we can tear down. What’s on your agenda?  

Every year our nation spends 6.55 TRILLION dollars with the average American holding $6,270 of credit card debt. With all the spending going on in our country and all the debt that the average person has, the logical thing to do would be make as much money as you can and keep it all to yourself so you can pay off your debt and buy lots of nice, shiny new things. But the Bible has a different message. Jesus preaches a message of giving and being generous with what you have. What if the answer to financial health is not saving or spending more; what if the answer is being generous with what you have? Join us this Sunday as we continue to explore values to live by from the Book of Luke; and specifically the Value of Generosity.

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.