A message from the series "Jonah ." You need some good news and encouragement right about now. Let me give it to you. Your life is in God's hands. There's never a moment when he doesn't watch over you. How's this for comfort... "You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book." Psalm 56:8 The whole world has pushed the paused button and continues practicing social distancing. (I prefer "physical distancing" because we need to stay social.) The results are starting to come in. Families are reconnecting around the dinner table. Americans are tuning in to church services they once left. People are checking in on neighbors. Disruptions cause us to pause and think about what's important to us. Our man Jonah has come to the last chapter of his story. Let me forewarn you. It doesn't end the way we want it to end. You see, he hasn't learned from the disruptions in his life. God is showing Jonah the lack of love in his heart but he doesn't see it. He is bothered by the fact that God would remove his earthly comforts. In fact, he cares more about his own security than the salvation of thousands of people. Jonah failed to accept God's larger plan for the common good. This is important. God cares deeply about the common good of all people. The simplest acts of kindness will not be forgotten during times of crisis. And neither will selfish ones. Be encouraged Christian, you have a part to play in showing the world what you really believe about your God. A friend of mine said it well: "Christians should be washing their hands, not wringing them!"
A message from the series "Jonah ." Fear is the world's most powerful motivator. Fear will paralyze our actions, consume our minds and make us forget who we are. Remember, the devil is a thief and he loves to steal our peace. So it's good to have this verse in our minds and hearts... "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7 Power Love Self-Control It's the power of God that gives us the ability to love and exercise self-control. Jonah was called to minister to lost people caught up in the fears of life apart from their creator God. Jonah didn't want to do it. He ran. God pursued. God gave Jonah a second chance. From the belly of the fish Jonah exclaimed, "Salvation comes from the Lord!" These are the days of disruption. God has ordained them for you and me. These are the times for which God calls us to imitate Jesus Christ. Let's not run away from them but rather let's run toward them. It's the Spirit of God that helps us overcome the spirit of fear. Can we pray this together? "Lord, you have given us your son to prove you love us. You have given us your Spirit to empower us. Give us now your compassionate heart and lead us as we minister to those in need. All for your glory!"
A message from the series "Jonah ." Some of the most accomplished people on the planet will tell you about the failures that came before the successes. Although I prefer Popeye's, the Colonel makes some great chicken. You're probably familiar with his story. In retirement he started traveling by car to different restaurants and cooked his fried chicken on the spot for restaurant owners. If the owner liked it, they would enter into a handshake agreement to sell the tasty birds. Sounds easy right? Did you know he was turned down 1009 times before his chicken was accepted once! He was considered a failure, but his story was just beginning. By 1964 Harland Sanders had 600 franchises selling his trademark recipe. Many of us have had some epic failures. Jonah can relate. He ran away from God. This always leads to a dark and desperate destination. He finds himself wrapped in seaweed under the raging waters of a storm. Previously he was down in the belly of a ship hiding, now he's down in the depths of the sea drowning. Jonah can't get any lower but God hasn't abandoned him. God interrupts our lives with storms in order to get our attention. Why? Because the human heart can't simply be told it is sinful, it has to be shown, and oftentimes this comes through brutal experience. It's not until we are under extreme distress that we call out to God. In the bottom of the pit we have nowhere to look but up. Sometimes God brings us out and sometimes we see him coming down to us, giving us the gift of his presence so that we might know peace in the midst of our storms.
A message from the series "Jonah ." When my kids were little we played a game that took "hide and seek" to the next level. They loved it when I turned out the lights while they hid themselves in the house. Then after one minute I would quietly seek to find them. They could never keep it together. When I got close they would scream with excitement, run from their hiding spots and flee my presence in terror. But it didn’t matter. Back then I was faster and stronger and would always catch them; take them up in my arms and rub my whiskers on their little faces while they squirmed and laughed. You can’t outrun dad’s affections. The story of Jonah is about a man who tried to outrun God. Jonah should have known better, after all, he was a prophet. He signed up to be God’s man to do God’s work. But he didn’t agree with the plans. He thought he knew better. Things didn’t make sense to him. He had extreme prejudices. Why would God want to give grace to his enemies? Why would God want to save a city full of wicked people? The problem is that Jonah didn’t see himself as a recipient of God’s grace. Therefore he didn’t believe grace should be given to others. God’s grace is just that good. It’s for the self-righteous and the unrighteous. God wants to give grace to our city too. So let’s learn from Jonah’s example and let’s not run from God’s desire to reach our home. Let’s experience God’s transforming grace together!
A message from the series "99 + 1." Sources used for this series include commentary by John Piper, Tim Keller, Colin Smith sermons at unlockingthebible.org, Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. We live in a time when this question will be answered a hundred different ways. But there is only one answer that matters and it comes from Jesus. His response carries by far the most weight because as he said himself, “I came from heaven.” So it makes sense for the man who has been there to speak about how to get there. This is the conversation Jesus has with a very religious man named Nicodemus. This guy thought he had everything figured out. He was safely traveling down the road that would lead to an eternity with God, after all, he was doing all the right things… but he was dead wrong. It’s as if he was asking Jesus for some advice on how to decorate his house and Jesus says, “Tear it down, scrape the foundation and start over.” No amount of personal effort will get you to heaven and you’ll have to give up all your “good” work. You must experience a total rebirth; "born again," you might say. Jesus concludes the conversation by giving Nicodemus the answer he needs with just one word: “Look.” Nicodemus has only to look upon Jesus and find the way to heaven. What a relief this is. You can’t get to heaven by being good or by being religious. You must look to Jesus for salvation. But it gets even sweeter because Jesus gives the motivation for his coming to earth from heaven. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. What do our “1’s” need from us this week? They need to know the love of God expressed through Jesus Christ. So let’s pray and act and speak and show them this great love!
A message from the series "99 + 1." This week we’ll be discussing the most important concept in the Bible. Yes, I know that’s a big statement, right? So here’s the thing…if you don’t understand this concept you will not be able to relate to God, Jesus or yourself. You won’t have personal joy or the motivation to serve others. There will be a consistent groan deep within your heart as it searches for what will give it life. I’m talking about the concept of grace. There’s a little known story tucked into the Old Testament and in my opinion, it is one of the greatest testimonies of grace in the Bible. Have you heard the name Mephibosheth? Well, you should. He was a recipient of kindness. He did not deserve it, he could not earn it and he could never repay it. That’s the definition of grace itself and it is the most beautiful truth in God’s Word. Jesus is described as full of truth and grace and when we give grace to others, then we take on the character of Jesus Himself. Grace really does change everything!
A message from the series "99 + 1." If you’ve grown up in Sunday school then you know the story of a diminutive but wealthy man named Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector. You probably know the song about him as well…"Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he…” He climbed above the crowds perched in a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus. The story unfolds with Jesus calling him down saying, “I must stay at your house.” People are shocked. The tax collector was a man of few friends. He’s the guy no one wants to spend time with and yet Jesus makes a dinner reservation for the two of them. With this, a relationship begins. The man is radically transformed by the grace of Jesus. That’s what grace does, it changes you. Jesus was not waiting for Zacchaeus to clean up his act, he simply met him where he was…in the tree. You see, we can search for Jesus all we want, but truth is we will never be searching for Him longer than He's been searching for us!
A message from the series "99 + 1." Not all "coming to faith" stories are the same. Some are gradual and some are rapid. The phrase “Damascus Road experience” is used to describe a conversion which is dramatic and startling. It was a man named Saul (you might know him better as the Apostle Paul) who experienced Christ in a life-changing, instantaneous experience, although many others describe their conversion as more of a process in understanding the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But both types of experiences have several things in common. First, salvation is of the Lord, by His will and according to His plan and purpose. As He does one way or another to each of us, Jesus made it clear to Saul that he had gone his own way for long enough. Previously Saul believed heaven was a reward for “good” people and then he discovered that heaven is for people who know Jesus. Now he is an instrument in the hands of the one who died for him.There’s another commonality in Saul’s conversion. One that Saul expressed himself: “What do you want me to do?” Saul didn’t try to bargain, negotiate, question, or come halfway. His response like ours is to be one of obedience. When God truly touches our hearts, our only response can be, “Lord, may your will be done and may you use me to do it.” Such was the experience of Saul on the Damascus Road. Not everyone accepted Saul’s conversion. Some believed in his past and not his future. But that was about to change. Saul knew that his past did not have to determine his future. Therefore, his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was the beginning of an incredible journey. And while not all conversions are as startling as Saul’s, each of us is commissioned by Jesus to live in obedience to Him, love one another in His name, and tell the world of the wonderful riches in Christ! Who is your 1 and what is your next step in obedience?
A message from the series "99 + 1." Right in the middle of Jesus’ family tree is a shocking name: Rahab. Most of us are familiar with her. She is almost always mentioned in the Bible as “Rahab the harlot." But that’s not all. Rahab was also a Canaanite; the hated enemies of Israel. Her most exemplary deed was telling a lie. Think about that. A harlot, a Canaanite and a bald face liar. You wouldn’t think she would have much chance of making the list, but there she is. There’s no good reason to include a relative like this. This brings dishonor to the family name and family honor was everything in Jesus’ day. Or perhaps God is telling us something about himself and Jesus’ purpose. Hebrews chapter 11 brings attention to her again. This time she is commended for her faith in God. Many people are intimidated by Jesus Christ. They associate him with a lot of religious paraphernalia like big sanctuaries with stained glass and beautiful pipe organs surrounded by formal prayers, and all the rest. To many in the world today, Jesus seems either out of reach or too good to be true. But the story of Rahab shatters that. It reminds us that God will go to great lengths to save just one person. His grace and mercy is for everyone. Rahab’s faith was on display through a scarlet cloth. God still saves today through the color scarlet. Jesus' shed blood brings salvation to all regardless of the past. I can assure you that right now Rahab is no longer referred to as “the harlot.” She will forever be known as Rahab the child of God and a great grandmother to Jesus. Let’s never forget that God is in the business of changing lives and he wants to use you to bring that transformation. Who is your 1?
A message from the series "99 + 1." One of my mentors would often say, “The most misbelieved verse in the Bible is Ephesians 6:12.” “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” I think he might be right. Very often the Christian community seeks to fight the battle in the natural and ignore the spiritual. Our ignorance is not bliss. C.S. Lewis rightly says, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. ”In other words, if you believe demons don’t exist then they are happy because they can do their work unnoticed and without resistance. If you believe there is a demon behind every rock they are fine with this too because they will keep you in a constant state of fear. The balanced and informed approach comes to us in the Bible. The confrontation between the powers of heaven and hell are nowhere seen in better perspective than in Jesus’ encounter with the demoniac. Several observations can be made... 1. Spiritual warfare is real. 2. Demons worship Jesus. (Yes, you read that correctly.) 3. None is too far gone to be reached by the strong arm and compassionate heart of God. The story ends with a dramatic turn around. The demoniac came naked and bleeding and crying out but he leaves clothed, healed and sane. At the end of Mark’s account of the life of Jesus he says that Jesus was on the cross naked, bleeding and crying out. It’s as if this man and Jesus exchange places. Jesus absorbed all our evil and injustice into himself. He took our wrongs and didn’t place them on an animal, he placed them on himself. He did this for you. Jesus defeated the evil in your life. So now you can overcome evil with good. I don’t care how messed up you think you are. Jesus will restore you and send you on a mission of restoring others.