I had the opportunity to take two of my daughters to see the total eclipse last Monday in Illinois. It was the first total eclipse I had ever seen and it was a phenomenal experience. As I reflected on the experience, I was surprised at how subtle the change in light was as the eclipse progressed. Even when the sun was 90% covered, it was still fully light around us with a full shadow being displayed under the trees. Ninety percent of the sun was blocked, but other than there being a slightly dulled effect to the light, things basically looked normal. But the instant the sun was totally blocked, everything changed. It was dark. The street lights came on, the bugs started chirping. We even had some bats fly by!
As I was thinking about this week's sermon, I was struck by how similarly sin affects us. Sin is so hideous because it seems to have so little effect on us. When the serpent told Adam and Eve that they really wouldn't die if they ate the fruit, it seemed reasonable to them. It seems reasonable to us too. Most sins we commit seem to make little difference in our lives. Others don't see it and after a short time, we don't either. Even as the sin progresses, we often see little difference and think it doesn't matter, but it does. It matters to God.
This Sunday I am going to be preaching from Joshua 7 about God's response to Achan's seemingly invisible and insignificant sin. Take the time to read through it carefully. It will seem shocking at first as the immensity of God's response washes over you. But do not be put off by it. Look deeper to try to understand why God's response is so severe. Also read Sunday's companion passage in James 1:12-18 to gain some insight into the subtle progression of sin in our lives. Pray that God will graciously reveal our sin to us, that we might see it for what it truly is, and that He would lead us to repentance.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Last week’s events in Charlottesville have been sad and disturbing on many levels. But one of the things I noticed was how people on both sides of the conflict assumed that God was on their side. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. Most people have always believed that in some fashion God is on their side. Most of the wars our country has been in are between peoples who both believed God was on their side. Even in our personal problems/disagreements, we generally assume that God is on our side and expect Him to resolve things in a way that is advantageous to us; and then become rather unhappy with God when He fails to do that. I think it is part of our sinful nature to assume that we are always right and that therefore God must be on our side.
This week as we look at Joshua 5:13-15 we discover some troubling truths. God reveals himself to Joshua in such a way that it removes any question as to whose side God is on, and the answer is one that none of us particularly want to hear. It’s just a few verses so read them carefully a couple of times and consider the following questions:
1. Who is in charge of my life?
2. What should my heart response be to this?
3. What does Jesus actually want from my life?
4. What needs to change in me if I am going to live the life Jesus wants me to live?
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
A missionary returned to his home city where he announced a collection for foreign missions. A good friend said to him, “Very well, Andrew, seeing it’s you, I’ll give $500.” “No”, said the missionary, “I can’t take the money since you give it, saying it’s because of me.” His friend saw the point immediately and said, “You’re right, Andrew. Here is $1000, seeing it’s because of the Lord Jesus.”
It’s axiomatic for any Christian seeking to give. The target of our gift is not ourselves or others, but the Lord Jesus. If you were here last week, or listened to the podcast, you know that we were in Luke 8:26-39 where we examined a perfect portrait of what Jesus calls every disciple to do in fulfilling His Great Commission. Not only does He take His disciples to a place that is quite foreign to them, He shows them how to proclaim the Gospel, make disciples, and instruct others in observing His commands. In short, He shows them how to make “little Christs”.
The best evidence that this formerly demonized man becomes a “little Christ” is what Jesus finds when He travels to this area later in Jesus’ ministry. (See Matthew 15:29-31.) A whole crowd of believers come out to meet Him and seek His help. How is it that they have come to believe? What agency has God used? This one man’s obedience to the charge of Jesus. He goes back home and tells everyone what Jesus has done for him. And in following Jesus’ charge, rather than following his own desires, he presents Jesus with a glorious gift of gratitude; the believing hearts of his countrymen.
This week we see the same outcome – a gift of gratitude to Jesus – in a fundamentally different way. In Luke 7:36-50, we see a delivered woman coming to Jesus herself to show Him the full extent of her gratitude. It’s an amazing contrast, and yet, at the core there’s a striking similarity. The product of Jesus’ grace in a life is always an outpouring of tangible gratitude.
Here’s a man I seldom quote – Ralph Waldo Emerson. But what he says in his essay, “Gifts”, is profoundly true and vividly on display in the life of this former prostitute (or as Luke puts it: “woman of the city, who was a sinner”). Emerson says:
“But our tokens of compliment and love are for the most part barbarous. Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore, the poet brings his poem; the shepherd his lamb; the farmer his corn; the miner his gem; the sailor his coral and shells; the painter his painting; the girl a handkerchief of her own sewing.”
That’s what we see in this woman’s gift to Jesus. As we will see, it’s not a gift given to gain anything. It’s a gift given to acknowledge a great gain already received.
The title of this week’s message is, “Guilt’s Only Remedy.” In all the pages of the New Testament there is no one pictured whose guilt is more public than this woman. And yet, in the presence of Jesus her guilt has evaporated into nothing but profound gratitude. Her story is the story of every self-aware believer. True giving is never the means of getting, but the product of having already gained more than you ever thought possible.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
- How widespread is guilt in your life?
- How do you deal with it?
- What’s the connection between Luke 7:18-35 and our text?
- Why would a Pharisee invite Jesus to his table?
- Why would this woman venture to come to Jesus’ feet in the home of a Pharisee?
- What five things does she do at Jesus’ feet?
- Where would she have earned enough money to buy such an extravagant gift?
- What’s the problem with Simon’s question in verse 39?
- What irony is expressed in Jesus’ question in verse 44?
- How has her “faith” saved her and enabled her to gain peace rather than guilt?
Thursday, August 3, 2017
It’s not often that I get a movie recommendation from a patient in the hospital, but today I did. Longtime Hebron member and friend, Ron Young, asked, “Have you seen Dunkirk yet? It’s worth every minute.” Funny, Barb indicated last night that Dunkirk is on the top of her “must see” list.
Frankly, I’ll take a hospital patient’s movie recommendation over those garish cinematic previews they expose you to before every feature film. For me, those Hollywood previews are a colossal disincentive to movie-going; I like the personal recommendations far more.
Well, this Sunday we are going to give you a preview of the coming preaching series this Fall – “A Charge to Keep”. Remember the “Great Commission” Jesus enunciates at the end of Matthew’s Gospel? Matthew tells us that Jesus is together with His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. It’s right before He ascends into heaven. He says to them:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now that’s how Matthew ends his Gospel. He’s the only Gospel-writer to end with this three-part Commission. Mark gets close, but Luke and John leave it out entirely. Now there are reasons for that that we will discuss in September; but the essence of the Fall series will be to “flesh out” the third part of the Commission: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
What’s that mean? What commands did He give us?
This Sunday we will preview the series, “A Charge to Keep” with an examination of an incident that occurs nearly two full years before Jesus issues the Great Commission. And the relevance is striking! As soon as He gets to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, He encounters a man who is in desperate need of Jesus. This man is a perfect candidate for the work of the Great Commission. And that’s exactly what He receives from Jesus. Here, nearly two years before He issues the charge to His disciples, Jesus shows them how to do it. Like a great movie preview He takes them into the reality of coming attractions! Come Sunday and see what I mean.
In preparation for Sunday’s preview you may wish to consider the following:
- How does the location of this incident set the stage for the Great Commission?
- How does this trip across the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore mirror Jesus’ life in Nazareth?
- What do we know about this area of the world?
- How does this demon-possessed man epitomize those to whom Jesus sends His disciples after the Ascension?
- Why does he fall at Jesus’ feet? (See Mark 5:6)
- Why does he beg Him not to torment him?
- What’s with his name? (verse 30)
- Why do the demons beg Jesus not to send them into the abyss?
- Why does Jesus allow the man to stay with Him?
- How is His command in verse 39 mirror the Great Commission?