Friday, January 13, 2017

Legalists, Rebels, and Worshippers

(As always, I got permission to use this story)

I remember well arguments with our daughter Hannah, now 27, when she was in her early teens. She often didn’t fight fairly. It was not unusual for her to take the literal words I used and throw them back at me or exaggerate them in a manner that hindered the conversation. For instance, if I said to her, “I don’t want you hanging out with so-and-so any longer. I don’t like the attitude I see in you after you have been with her for a while.” Then she might say, “You don’t want me to have any friends at all!” or, “You just want me to hang out with people who think like you!” It was a way of listening, but not listening, that blocked her from hearing what I actually meant and left us both frustrated. I’m fully aware that I also didn’t handle such conversations well on many occasions.

This behavior is serious enough in relationships, but is even more dangerous when we interpret the Bible in a way that causes us to miss it’s real purpose. For instance, when someone asks me, “Do you believe the Bible is literally true?” My answer to that is “yes”, depending on what you mean by ‘literal’.” What I don't mean is believing the sun revolves around the earth or that mountains literally skip like lambs. To read the Bible that way is to deliberately seek to avoid hearing the truth.

Obviously differences exist in the interpretation of many passages of scripture. Oddly, one of the most famous passages of all produces some of the most divergent opinions on how to interpret and apply it. The passage is the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Some streams of theology largely dismiss the text as not relevant for today, but rather for a future kingdom age. Others dismiss the specifics of the Sermon by thinking the instructions are not realistic. They think Instructions about lust, anger, retaliation, and praying for enemies in the Sermon, seem so outlandish that they are not realistic for most people. They think, perhaps, that maybe God has made some people who are just good at being good and able to obey such commands, but that He certainly didn’t make themselves that way.

Others can miss the point of the Sermon by treating it like a huge goal to achieve, like preparing to run a marathon. In a sense, they are saying to themselves that they need to get super disciplined and try to work these practices into their life. That’s closer to the truth, and maybe an even more dangerous distortion, because it can lead to a legalistic heart believing one has to achieve a level of goodness to be acceptable to God.

Both dismissing the Sermon. and seeking to achieve its standards, miss the point. Rather, this grand vision is meant to drive us to surrender to Jesus.  We need to recognize that His standards of holiness are beyond our ability so that we repent of rebelling by ignoring God’s instructions, or rebell by trying to manipulate God through obedience. Instead, we bow in worship before Him.

I don’t think the need for us to deeply immerse ourselves in Jesus’ words has ever been greater. Perhaps it will be just the tool the Holy Spirit will use to help us to see our need for a lifestyle of repentance. Our greatest spiritual danger is pride. Not the good kind of pride that leads us to do our best, but the arrogant flavor of pride that blocks us from allowing God’s word to challenge our values, attitudes, and lifestyles.

I can’t think of a greater need for us as individuals, as a church, a community and even a nation. So much of the political turmoil coming from all sides in this past year was fueled by arrogance. We can get caught up in that and dress it up in religious disguise that looks good, but is repulsive to people who are far from God and worse, repulsive to God himself. I need the medicine of Jesus’ Sermon. Don’t you?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Archive of Reflections on the Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read an explanation of the idea behind these reflections

January 1, 2017

Sunday won’t normally be one of the days that I will write, but I thought it would be good if you heard from me today. I won’t be trying to write about all of any day’s reading. Below I only reflect on one verse.

A member at Bethany Place, has created live links to each days reading in the ESV. You can access that here  If you want to print a pdf to place in your Bible with the readings for the year, you can get that here. Other links are provided in my initial write up here.

One last thing, don’t get discouraged if you fall behind in the daily readings. That’s going to happen. I recommend if you do, that you simply jump to the reading for that day, instead of trying to keep up. The point is not so much to read the Bible in a year as great an idea as that is. The point is to meet God in his word.

Reflection on Genesis 3:8

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Even still our sin creates in us a desire to hide from God. This is part of what challenges us meeting with God daily in his word. It's something of what Peter experienced when he cried out in Luke 5 after hearing Jesus preach and then watching him perform a miracle. Luke 5:8 (ESV) But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” God in his grace was moving toward Adam and Eve in this moment recorded in Genesis 3..And Jesus in his grace kept moving toward Peter in that moment recorded in Luke 5. And now this moment today and at the beginning of this year, may we hear the voice of Jesus in Rev. 3:20 coming to us by his grace in spite of our sin, Revelation 3:20 (ESV) 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

My hope is not to provide carefully crafted sentences that will be profound. Perhaps sometimes they will not even be grammatically correct. But I pray with some written reaction a few days a week that God will use this to provide ongoing encouragement for us to meet with him. It provides encouragement for me to know that I've promised to write. And I hope the writing provides encouragement for you to keep responding to Jesus' invitation, not listening to either the voice of Satan or the natural tendency still resident within each of us to hide because of sin.

My challenge in Bible reading is no longer one of whether or not I'm going to read each morning. by God's grace, that practice is set. The question is, will I respond to the heart of Jesus' invitation in Rev. 3:20 and approach God's word as a feast in which I will meet Him and he by his presence will satisfy the cravings of my heart. I know in my mind that this is what I need.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Many mornings as soon as my feet hit the floor, I start listening to a book using the Audible app on my phone, while I’m making coffee and getting settled into my spot for meeting alone with the Lord.  I’m not certain of the wisdom of this, but it is what I do. (I use earbuds so I don’t disturb anyone else.) Right now I’m listening to Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. This morning I heard something I’ve heard Keller say before and that I’ve referenced in a few messages. He said something to the effect that if there is no judgment day, then we have one of two options, either we will despair or we will seek vengeance. If there is no day coming where God will mete out justice then it doesn’t matter how anyone lives and we will be far more likely to seek revenge when hurt.

I think that’s important to remember when reading about something as dire as Noah and the flood when we are tempted to think of God as harsh or even cruel in the flood. There are plenty of questions this incident raises that are not easy to answer, but that God has and will judge is an important doctrine. But what we also need to note in this passage is God’s grace. It was an act of God’s grace to Noah and his family and to all of us who came later, that he chose to preserve Noah and his family. Though Noah is listed as righteous, it is still an act of God’s grace that he sought him out and rescued him. It was not something that Noah earned.

Then beginning in Gen. 9:9 the text records that God established a covenant with Noah, and as I read it, with everyone who will live following Noah.This too is an act of God’s grace. All of the initiative is on God’s side. When God makes a covenant with us, we have nothing with which to bargain, it’s all an act of his grace toward us. The same is true in the new covenant. We are dependent on God’s grace to seek us out and draw us to himself and to give us a new heart. It’s important to learn to see God’s grace in the O.T., even in a story like the flood, because of the tendency for people to believe that the God of the O.T. is a God of judgment and the God of the N.T. is one of love. Actually reading the Bible will not allow either conclusion.

January 4, 2017

Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV)
12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

This is a pivotal incident that every believer needs firmly in their mind to be able to understand the rest of the Bible. So much in God’s word points back to this spot. An immature approach to the Bible sees the Bible as something like a cookbook. You know there are great recipes in there and you might mark them so that you can come back to them. It's easy to understand the Bible in this way. But that is not what the Bible is at all. The Bible is one grand story, God's story, and we will be helped immensely to know that story and to be able to think through it. Every believer needs to be able to know the major outlines of this grand story so that we can then understand how everything we hear in God's word fits into the whole. Paul said, “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in rightness.” Heb. 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword . . . “ This is all true. But that works more effectively not by us just dipping in here and there, but shapes our imaginations more effectively when we can get the full scope of the story. Imagine trying to understand a novel by just dipping in here and there. It wouldn't work, and it doesn't work well with the Bible either.

So Genesis 12 records the creator of the universe, calling a man named Abram to himself. It is the beginning, from a human perspective of the story of God calling a people to himself. This is the beginning of the story of God's' chosen people, the children of Israel as they will later come to be called. From the beginning of God's call on his children, of which you are now a part if you are a born again believer, is that he calls us not to live to ourselves, but in his grace in choosing us and drawing us to himself, we are to be aimed at being a blessing to the rest of the world. God promised to make Abram great, so that he would be a blessing. Now there will be more nuance to learn down the road and there are dangers to us simply focusing on this and saying, that God has promised to make me great. That would be focusing too much on the wrong thing. We need to recognize that God builds into our hearts and shapes us and forms us into people that he can use for his purposes. He sends us into the world to be a blessing to other people. Beginning at Abram and extending to all of God's people, into the future, all the families of the earth will be blessed. Primarily, and we will learn this as we go,  through Abram's family will come the Messiah, Jesus himself, who will give his life for the world and through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. So even here in Genesis 12, we see that God's people are to have the identity that they are to be a blessing, that we are to be on mission, that we have a message that will bless the rest of the world.

Thursday, January 5, 2017
Genesis 16:1 (ESV) Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children . . .

Even today, not being able to physically bear children is often a deep source of grief to a married couple. But in this ancient culture, a woman's ability to bear children was her primary source of identity. It was, she might think, her sole purpose for existing. The inability to bear children would not have been just a source of grief, but a loss of identity, and intolerable shame. What else could explain such crazy behavior, that Sarai would take the initiative to place another woman in her husband's arms? God had already promised them more descendants than they could count, but Sarai became tired of waiting and took matters into her own hands.

It never ends well when we choose to go against what God has made clear in his word and come up with a different plan or approach because we think we see a quicker path to happiness and relief. Sarai, Hagar, and Abram are exhibit A. I find myself wanting to ask, what did Sarai expect? Notice that Sarai is blaming God, "the Lord has prevented me from bearing children." Because of this it makes her feel entitled to come up with her own plan.

I'm also struck by this phrase: "And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai." What in the world was he thinking? How about some push back? "Sarai, this is not a good idea. Let's be patient and wait on God." But given other incidents in Abram's life up to this point, his willingness to put Sarai in an awkward position to save his own skin, perhaps his behavior here is in line with his character. And given the reality that polygamy was culturally expected, perhaps it's not fair to be so hard on them. Regardless, the engineering of descendants by their own means goes poorly. The mini-series “The Bible,” does a brilliant job depicting the sort of jealousy Sarai might have been feeling during the intimate encounter between Abram and Hagar.

Human nature being what it is, pride immediately surfaces. Hagar begins to treat Sarai with contempt, being condescending and cruel. Sarai responds with malice toward Hagar, exercising her power and position, to hit back. True to character, Abram is passive, going along with her idea earlier and here again taking the path of least resistance. “Just handle it, I don't want to hear about it anymore,” he says.

These stories are part of what shape our imaginations as adults and children, seeing the consequences of believing we've found a shortcut or a better way to get what we want outside of God's revealed will. But if we don't read these stories, and don't read them to our children, we are no better off than someone who can't read, or someone who has no access to the word of God.

Friday, January 6, 2017
The end of Genesis 18 records one of the most remarkable instances of intercession in all of the Bible. Abraham, after hearing that God plans to destroy the land of Sodom where his nephew Lot lives, goes to a place where he can see Sodom off in the distance and begins to plead with the Lord in a unique way, “if you find 50 righteous people in the city, would you still  destroy it, will not the judge of all the earth do what is right?” This cycle is repeated downward a few times until he gets down to ten, each time then saying, “will not the judge of all the earth do what is right.” The incident is a picture of the sort of wrestling prayer God invites us to when we don’t understand what he is doing or what is allowing to happen, and by this inclusion appears to invite us to pray in this way, honestly expressing ourselves to God. But what really caught my eye is what happens near the end of chapter 19, after God does in fact destroy Sodom and Lot and his family are saved, which was it seems what Abraham’s primary concern would have been.

Genesis 19:27–28 (ESV)
27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

Abraham in this moment has no idea how or if God has responded to or heard his prayer. God had rescued Lot from the destruction, but the point here is that Abraham had no way of knowing that. The whole incident is a reminder that could be easily missed. Normally when we read this text, it’s hard not to focus on the dramatic scenes of fire raining down, and Lots wife being turned to a pillar of salt, and the earlier instances addressing issues of homosexuality.

But we need to also see and be encouraged in our faithfulness to pray in this text, and see the very flawed character Abraham, who is at times faithful and other times faithless, just like us, earnestly praying and trusting God, not knowing how or if his prayers are being heard or answered. We don’t know how long he had to wait before he knew that Lot had in fact been saved by God through this. I take encouragement at seeing Abraham standing there that morning and for all the world it looks like his prayer did no good whatsoever, because he sees the smoking ruins of Sodom, but in fact God had heard and answered his prayer. May we be encouraged to pray faithfully about the things that grieve our hearts, trusting that God does hear and respond to his people even though we often can’t see how or why in the moment.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Thoughts on Genesis 25:29–34

This is one of the earliest stories I remember hearing in Sunday School as a child. I don't know how to calculate the benefit of having this story shape my imagination for nearly my entire life. I'm impressed again though, reading this morning of the way the narrative shapes me even still after all these years. This is because we never outgrow the need to be reminded of the dangers of cruelty. Both brothers demonstrate wrong thinking, wrong behavior. The text takes pains to tell us that the boys are different, see Genesis 25:27-28, and as the story unfolds this difference plays a pivotal role, see Genesis 27, Apparently they have some resentment toward one another for their stark difference. In this incidence of Esau selling his birthright, Jacob is cruel, taking advantage of Esau's weakness, "sure, I'll give you some stew. The price is your birthright." The rights of the firstborn in that society were substantial and not to be treated lightly. Esau acts without any self-control, when he largely despises this right by selling it away here for some dinner. There's no evidence that he was somehow literally starving to death. He lived in a well off family. He was just really tired and really hungry after a long day. It's hard to see that he somehow had no other option to eat that evening. Still as we keep reading the story, we see that without any forgiveness and restoration between these brothers, the story gets way worse and ends up hurting everyone in the family. Of course, God is at work in all this accomplishing his purposes, but the Holy Spirit does not mean for us to excuse their behavior because of that. Rather, our imaginations continue to be shaped to see the danger of solely acting in our own interest in family, work, school or other relationships. The Holy Spirit takes this story and shapes the heart of a six year old as well as a sixty year old and everything in between and beyond.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Today's reading in Genesis 30 and 31 reveal the private conversations of a family in dysfunction. Jacob and Laban throughout their interaction seek to outwit each other. Earlier in their story is the perhaps more well known incident of Laban tricking Jacob by first giving him his daughter Leah as his wife rather than Rachel. Then in the beginning of today's reading Jacob expresses a desire to return to his own family having been gone for at least 14 years. Laban strongly persuades him to stay, challenging him a couple of times to name his wages. Laban seems to alternatively love and not want to be away from his family but also ready to use them or even to destroy them. Once Jacob agrees to stay, he manipulates Laban's flock in a bizarre incident that's hard to understand but greatly increases his share of their flocks. Eventually, the relationship is at such a low level that Jacob conspires with his wives to sneak away while Laban is out of town. The daughters show that they feel contempt for their father and in leaving you Rachel steals her father's household gods. The whole thing a colossal mess. It's hard to know what we are to learn from all this. But I will mention a couple of things to remember.

Jacob and Laban's persistent refusal to treat each other with mutual respect and honesty filters down to others in the family. It is always sad to see this happen. Every person needs a place where they are at home, where they know they are unconditionally loved and accepted and where they know that people are not seeking to take advantage of them. When that is absent, to state the obvious it harms everyone with the radius of that dysfunction and makes a greater hurdle for any of the individuals in that family to love well. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but it does give more to overcome.

Also, an incident like this provides in story form a background for what the N.T. explicitly teaches in several places such as this:

Philippians 2:2–4 (ESV)  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Finally, in spite of the mess that Jacob's family relationships were, God was at work. Tomorrow's reading will record a profound encounter with God and Jacob that will mark him forever. This story provides all of us hope, that regardless of the mess we've made or the mess that others have made for us, that God can redeem and use even the worst circumstances.

Thursday, January 12

God’s word is so much more honest than we often are in churches or in books written for believers, small group studies, or Christian radio. You could get the impression from the upbeat, easy encouragement that flows from some of these things that a life of following God is a relatively calm stroll through a park on a nice spring day.

The realism that stretches across today’s reading is jolting. It begins with fear. Jacob rightly is afraid to meet his brother Esau and the way the story plays out gives him plenty to worry about (Gen. 32:6). The text says that Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. Don’t pass over that. Perhaps that phrase looks harmless sitting there on the page of your Bible, but such words are not used lightly. Sensibly, this leads Jacob to honest prayer. 32:9-12. This is a good example of a prayer in the Bible from which we can learn to pray.

Then a few verses later is what all serious students recognize as a profound encounter with God, where Jacob wrestles with a “man” all through the night. It’s a picture of prayer that that knows nothing of a polite folding of the hands before dinner or bed. Wrestling with God! Praying like that would better prepare us for real life. Praying like that deals with what we actually face, it has nothing to do with tacking on a passionless prayer at the end or beginning of a worship service or study or meeting.

Jacob leaves that encounter to experience tremendous relief at having a peaceful, if awkward meeting with his brother. But then in just a few short lines the family encounters rape, deceit, revenge killings, death of a loved one, and incest. I think part of what the Holy Spirit reveals to us here in placing this profound picture of prayer next to such heart rending events is to say to us, “I want you to learn how to wrestle things out with me in prayer so you will be equipped to face well the real difficulties you will or have already faced in this life.

Finally, we need to learn to read such material without just passing over it as old news. Those few chapters contained wild swings of soul crushing difficulties. Let’s not pass over them casually.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Don't Point Out a Need, Create a Hunger (An Invitation to join me on my Bible Reading Plan for 2017)

Several weeks ago, my friend Gary Stewart* challenged me with the words above. In a sermon, I had just issued an invitation to our church to join me in my Bible Reading plan for 2017. His phrase has haunted me ever since. I have longed for years to know how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to create a hunger in us to meet God in His word. God began creating such a hunger in me as a teenager. Then, in my mid 20's I experienced a revolution in getting at scripture in a way that transformed my life and I continue to follow it to this day. But how to effectively help others to develop this hunger has mystified me.

Gary's challenge put words to my concern that bluntly stating, "you need to read the Bible" does not motivate anyone. I have some insight now as to why that is. The time I meet with God in His word each morning is not a duty. Rather, most days it is a delight! But it seems that my encouragement to others often comes out sounding like it’s a task to be performed. Reading the Bible is not primarily an intellectual experience as if I am just trying to learn something. It is how I meet with God. Even when I'm reading tough passages, as long as I don't rush, this time hearing from God and responding in prayer nearly always reminds me that my relationship with God is not based on obligation but on love. I'm reminded God is still God, I am not alone, and regardless of what I'm facing that day, I can live with hope and confidence. Though I am often reminded through scripture that I am more sinful than I feared, I'm also reminded that I am more loved than I ever dreamed.

I want to hear and respond to Jesus' invitation in Rev. 3:20, often used in evangelism, but was initially directed to those already in God's kingdom:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.

How can we refuse such an invitation?

Jesus spoke out of a culture that richly valued unhurried time at a meal as a deep act of friendship. Don't think of scarfing down waffle fries while rushing off to the next engagement or standing over a sandwich and checking email on the phone. No, this is an invitation to a rich experience that results in knowing God, which Jesus says (John 17:3) is the very thing that our soul craves whether we realize that or not.

In 2017 one way I plan to accept Jesus' invitation is to read the Chronological Bible plan. Several in our church have used this plan in recent years. I have not used it before but am very much looking forward to it. You can purchase a physical copy (several translations available)** that follows this plan or you can get the plan for free and read it on a phone or tablet (if you can manage the distractions) or print out the plan and read it in your own Bible.  A few days a week, I will make observations about the reading for that day and send it by email to those who sign up for those updates. Though maybe not profound, I will engage with some portion of the daily reading a few days per week in a way that I pray will be helpful. You can expect two or three emails per week. Please send your email address to or by private Facebook message to subscribe to this list.

*Gary Stewart and I have been friends for more than 20 years. He recently retired from serving as a full time pastor. He and his wife Melinda have been attending Bethany Place for a couple of months. Gary is preaching at Bethany Place this Sunday while we are visiting with family in Kentucky. I’m looking forward to the privilege of preaching in my home church, Cumberland Baptist, Sunday morning.

**There is more than one chronological approach to reading through the Bible in a year. I'm using the one linked to above. You can purchase a physical copy in several translations, but there is not one for the ESV (my preferred Bible) following this specific plan.  I'll be printing a plan and reading from my own Bible or computer.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Misunderstanding Greatness (message outline)

Misunderstanding Greatness: or How to Avoid Embarrassing Yourself
Mark 10:32-45
Stuff Jesus Talks About, But We Don’t

Is there a way to speed up growing up? 

Hear and apply what Jesus says

Mark 10:32–34 (ESV)
32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Recognize the danger of embarrassing yourself if you don’t

Mark 10:35–40 (ESV)
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

Aim at genuine greatness

Mark 10:41–45 (ESV)
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Friday, July 22, 2016

Comfortable Danger: How Grace Cures an Anxious Heart (Sermon outline)

Comfortable Danger: How Grace Cures an Anxious Heart
From the series Stuff Jesus Talks About But We Don't
Mark 10:17-31

You need uncomfortable encounters with God to root out secret idolatry that threatens your well being now and for eternity. 

An awkward conversation

Mark 10:17–22 (ESV)
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

An impossible task

Mark 10:23–27 (ESV)
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

A gracious God

Mark 10:28–31 (ESV)
28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Receiving the Kingdom Like a Child (message outline)

Receiving the Kingdom Like a Child
Mark 10:13–16
Stuff Jesus Talks About, But We Don’t

How children help us overcome barriers that blind us to the heart of the gospel.

Recognize how persistent our stubbornness is

Mark 10:13–14a (ESV)
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant 

Recognize that our stubbornness offends God

Mark 10:14 (ESV)
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Receive God’s kingdom understanding that we are powerless to help ourselves

Mark 10:15–16 (ESV) 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Why Hell Matters Message Outline

Why Hell Matters 
Mark 9:42-50
Stuff Jesus Talks About, But We Don’t

Know the seriousness of negative influence

Mark 9:42 (ESV)
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Feel the urgency of fully following Jesus 

Mark 9:43–48 (ESV) 
43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

Live accordingly with passion

Mark 9:49–50 (ESV) 
49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”