What’s More, Part Three

Slide3

The series, What’s More, has focused upon the more still available to us in this life. The invitation to discipleship offered by Jesus extends the opportunity to follow the only one who leads to life – both a life in the future, but one lived before God in the present.

The third message in this series centers upon a question of Peter, “Look we have left everything and followed you. What will be have?”

“What about us?” is the basic question of Peter. He and his fellow disciples have left everything – family, friends, profession, and possessions – to follow Jesus and serve alongside of him.

The question is not unwarranted. Jesus has just described the challenge the rich (and, really, everyone) will encounter when they attempt to enter into eternal life (vv. 23-26). Salvation can not be earned. Salvation can only be received. Salvation, here, should be understood as life in the presence of God; or, life in community with God. 

Salvation must be received, though!

The paradox, however, is the reception of this free gift comes with a cost! One must detach themselves from the things of this world to which they are tethered so that they can be free to go with him who leads into life. 

Peter’s wishes to know what he and the others disciples should expect to get based off what they have given. While the message considers the response of Jesus to the question of Peter, an observation is also made within this message: “What about us?” reflects our attitude, at times. What can we expect to get!?

The basic teaching of the message being anyone who has made a personal sacrifice for the sake of Jesus’ name can expect an abundant blessing. No one will receive more than another, because the blessing of life is far greater than anything offered by any one of us. The life freely given is far greater than the cost anyone will incur. Therefore, there is no need to question what will be received (nor is there a justifiable reason to squabble over who will get what) because everyone will receive equally the abundant blessing of life.

Follow this link to hear the full message. 

What’s More, Part Two

Slide3What is the more for you?

The first message in the series, What’s More, looked to the story of the rich young man to introduce the difference between doing and receiving. The young man’s desire to know what good thing he must do and, then, to know what he was still lacking, provides Jesus with the opportunity to distinguish between the observance of the ethical principles of religion and the reception of the grace God extends through a life of discipleship with Jesus. The former enable an individual to do good, while the later blesses an individual to enter into life with God the Father through the Son.

The second message in the series furthers the emphasis upon the more available to us – true life with God the Father in the present through a life of discipleship with the Son for Jesus alone leads into life. The life received in Jesus will be fully realized in the future, but the disciple of Jesus can begin to experience the presence of God through the love of God made known by Jesus.

The Scripture lesson for this message follows upon the story of the rich young man, who walked away from Jesus in disappointment. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach his disciples about the challenge every human being will encounter: the impossibility of earning life. He specifies the primary obstacle for this rich young man – his wealth. Jesus declares it will be hard for the rich to enter into life; but, then, he moves from the difficultly to the impossibility. He declares, “It would be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle.”

Assuming Jesus is condemning the wealthy would be an easy interpretation of this text; after all, Jesus comes down pretty hard on the rich. The challenge confronting this young man, and others of comparable wealth, emphasize the difficulty everyone will encounter. The rich were believed to be favored by God. Their great wealth was interpreted to be an expression of the abundant favor God had shown to them. If these individuals, who were believed to be favored by God, could not earn through their deeds entrance into life, then who could?

The disciples’ response echoes this point, “Who then can be saved?” — salvation should be understood to mean entrance into the eternal presence of the Lord Almighty. 

If the people believed to be favored by God (the rich) could not earn their salvation, then what hope is there for anyone else to enter into life?

Once more a distinction between doing and receiving is brought forth. Jesus declares that while the achievement of salvation may be impossible for man, all things are possible for God.

Once more, entrance into life is not only a future reality, it is a present opportunity! No one can earn this gift. Life with God is made possible for all, because God makes it possible.

How, then, do we discover what’s more for us? Jesus extends the same offer to each of us that he extended to the rich young man: loose the grip upon the things of this world obstructing your relationship with God and, then, go with him…Follow him who leads into life. 

Finally, the challenge is revealed – the difficulty the rich young man encounters, which exemplifies the difficulty to be encountered by anyone who possesses an abundance and, to a delicate degree, the difficulty everyone will experience when they choose to follow Jesus. There is a cost. God freely offers the blessing of eternal life through Jesus Christ, but the reception of this gift requires you to release a grip on the things tethering you to this world. Walking towards Jesus requires you to walk away from something else…

Click this link to hear the message in full.

Influencing Moses, Part One

Slide2Moses was certainly an influential leader in the history of Israel. To become a person of influence, however, Moses would first be influenced by others.

Influencing Moses is a series on the individuals who influenced Moses in the earliest part of his life. And, really, it is a series about the extraordinary courage of a number of women!

Part one of the series considers two lesser known women: Shiphrap and Puah! These two Hebrew midwives defied the order of the king of Egypt by allowing the boys born to the Hebrew women to live!

But, a little consideration of these women will reveal they have not acted out of disobedience (of the king); rather, the act of these women is one of radical obedience to God, whom the reverently feared.

The influence of these women is far reaching! By their actions, the further leader of the Israelites would be born! Through Moses, these women would have an influence upon all of us!

More poignant, these women influence the way we ought to view the decision we face every day. These women were given a choice: keep the command of the king or obey the will of God. These two women chose to obey the will of God even at the cost of disappointing man! And, for that reason, these women are not only an influence upon us, but they are also an inspiration to all of us – there will be times when serving the will of God will require us to disappoint man.

If you wish, have a listen to the full message!

On the Road to the Cross – Simon of Cyrene

9781501822643The fourth message in the series On the Road to the Cross introduces us to Simon of Cyrene.

Simon of Cyrene was entering the city of Jerusalem just as Jesus and the other criminals to be crucified were led out of the city.

Simon had his own reason for entering the city on that day.

But, as he approached the city gate, a man carrying a cross fell before him. The soldier dragooned him to place the man’s cross on his back and follow the man to Golgatha.

Simon consented. He dropped whatever burden or possibility he was carrying into the city that day so that he could pick up the cross of Jesus. He turned and left in the opposite direction  as he followed Jesus to Golgotha.

Simon encountered Jesus…in need. Unlike any other person, Simon would be able to offer strength to Jesus when Jesus was at his weakest. He let go of his plans, gave away his possibilities, and forgot about his problems. By following Jesus with the cross on his back, Simon received a new direction that would carry him into a newness of life.

If you have a moment, have a listen to the full message!

Note – This sermon series is influenced by Rob Burkhart’s recent publication, On the Road to the Cross: Experience Easter with Those who were There. The book is a great read during the Season of Lent. I fully recommend you add this book to your library!!

On the Road to the Cross – The Servant Girl

9781501822643How might your “convenient abandonment” of Jesus withhold the gospel from those individuals most in need of discovering God’s love?

The third message in our series, On the Road to the Cross, continues our theme of reading the narrative of the passion of Jesus from the perspective of the minor characters encountered along the way.

Our message for this week reinforces our realization that while while their may be minor characters, no one plays an insignificant role within God’s story of salvation.

The third message of the series has us considering Matthew 26:69-75, which is often referred to as the denial of Peter. Our reading of this event, however, has us consider the greater consequence of peter’s denial. While Peter’s denial is certainly a refusal to honor Jesus, his failure to share the good news of Jesus Christ with his confronters, the first of which was a young servant-girl.

The role of this unidentified young girl is so easily missed upon our reading of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Consider the risk the young girl assumed by approaching Peter with a loaded question?! Somewhere along the way the young girl must have witnessed the teaching, preaching, or healing ministry of Jesus. She would have seen Peter with the mysterious and miraculous Messiah!

The scene was pretty tense. Peter was standing outside of Caiaphas’ house (in the courtyard) when the young servant-girl approached him. On just the other side of the wall, a judgement was being placed upon Jesus. Amid the chaos of the night,  as elders and scribes gathered to try the man from nazareth, as soldiers huddled around fires, a young servant girl (who’s task was to open a door), approached a man with a bold claim: “You were with him!”

Peter does not let her finish…though. Peter was with Jesus when? When did she see him? What was she so desperate to hear from Peter that would have caused her to assume the risk of apply a claim to a unknown man in the midst of a very tense and chaotic environment.

The point? Peter does not only deny Jesus! Peter denies the young servant-girl access to the most amazing and liberating message of God’s love! Peter withholds the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ from the one individual present in the courtyard most desperately in need of hearing of God’s love for her!

How do you deny Jesus? But also, to whom do you deny access to the amazement of the love of God when you withhold the good news of Jesus Christ?

If you want to hear more, have a listen to this week’s message!

Note – This sermon series is influenced by Rob Burkhart’s recent publication, On the Road to the Cross: Experience Easter with Those who were There. The book is a great read during the Season of Lent. I fully recommend you add this book to your library!!