Archive for November, 2013

Horn of Plenty (5)

Posted in Scripture on November 28, 2013 by nmpreach

For those of you who have hung out all week, I’ve got some good news.¬† ūüôā¬† This is the last post on Horn of Plenty.¬† Thanks for hanging out!

We’ve looked at the text.¬† It’s appropriate, I think, to conclude this series of posts on Thanksgiving.¬† After all, Thanksgiving is more than football, family, and fellowship.¬† It’s really about a harvest, about blessings, about the goodness of God.¬† In Luke 1o, the harvest is bigger than fruits, nuts, and a wicker basket.¬† Jesus speaks of a harvest that will be realized for eternity.

Don’t you find it amazing that believers are allowed to participate in this particular harvest?¬† I mean, what gives us the right?¬† I know I could never offer a “heavy” resume.¬† I doubt you could either.¬† So why would God allow us to be a part of what He does?¬† Eventually, it must come down to love.¬† God allows us to participate to show us what faith must be, to display His goodness, and to offer hope to those who are without.¬† But, in the end, it comes down to love.¬† God created out of love.¬† He offers restoration out of love.

Our task is provide the invitation.¬† It’s God’s party.¬† And sometimes, the invitation will be refused.¬† Jesus offers a life lesson to the seventy that should impact the rest of their lives – AND FOR ETERNITY.¬† It’s¬†a picture of the Church.¬† There’s much to see in the Luke 10 text.¬† Relationships, offering peace, restoration, etc.¬† I pray you’ve been challenged, convicted, and choose to change what needs to change.¬† Once again, we’re blessed to bless!

Happy Harvest!

Advertisements

Horn of Plenty (4)

Posted in Scripture on November 27, 2013 by nmpreach

Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.¬† Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’¬† But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you.¬† Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’¬† I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.¬† Lk 10:8-12 ESV

Yesterday, we saw how Jesus said to speak peace.¬† The challenge was to define “peace” the way the original hearers would define peace – communal well-being, security, and plenty.¬† Scripture is clear that true peace can only come through Christ Jesus.¬† Therefore, the only way we can offer peace is via our relationship with Christ.¬† Notice verse 9 again.¬† Heal the sick… I’m reminded of a few texts in the Gospels.¬† People that were “less than whole” – blind, lame, etc. inquired of healing.¬† Remember what Jesus said?¬† What do you want me to do for you?

Is it safe to say that not everyone realizes they’re sick?¬† The last few days, I’ve been chewing on Romans 7.¬† Paul is struggling with the sin in his life.¬† Scholars debate as to what point of his life Paul is referring to.¬† Nevertheless, it’s evident that he recognizes he’s “sick.”¬† I’m convinced that we don’t recognize our illness because we compare ourselves to one another – especially to those we think we’re a bit “further ahead.”¬† But once we measure up against Jesus, we realize just how inept we really are.

Secondly, are there those that don’t want to be healed?¬† I think so.¬† The eyes have cataracts.¬† The ears are stopped.¬† The heart is fat.¬† I know people (you do as well) who choose to live blind, lame, or unwhole for their entire life.¬† If we don’t understand that, we’ll be sorely disappointed when they choose bondage over freedom, blindness over sight, the here and now over what’s to come, etc.

Jesus is clear that not all will receive the message.¬† And for those who refuse, what’s worse than the outcome of Sodom (Read Genesis 19)?¬† There comes a time when wickedness eliminates even the wooing of the Holy Spirit.¬† Arrogance and pride causes them to believe there’s no need for a physician.

What does all this have to do with peace?  Peace was in the Garden prior to the Fall.  Peace will be restored at the return of Christ.  Peace was what was intended all along.  Satan is interested in chaos.  Christ is about bringing peace.  We must choose!

Tomorrow, find some time after the turkey to read the conclusion of Horn of Plenty.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Horn of Plenty (3)

Posted in Scripture on November 26, 2013 by nmpreach

Continuing on in Luke 10.

Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.¬† Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.¬† But if not, it will return to you.¬† And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages.¬† Do¬†not go from house to house.

vss 4-7 ESV

Let me ask you this, when you travel do you typically pack what you need?¬† I can’t tell you how many times my wife and I have traveled somewhere only to learn I’d forgotten something crucial – underwear, shampoo, deodorant, etc.¬† We make a trip to the local Wal-Mart or Target and get what we (I) need.¬† By the way, I’m getting better as I “mature.”¬† ūüôā

I’m amazed at the faith Jesus speaks of, when He sends the seventy-two out to affect the world.¬† In other words, when He calls, He expects us to be ready.¬† There’s no time to pack, no time to plan an itinerary, no time to do anything except obey (See Lk 14:25-27).¬† As we go, we believe God will provide what we need.¬† There’s a time to plan and then there’s a time to act on faith.¬† All too often, churches and individuals alike get caught up in the planning and not acting.¬† Jesus is attempting to get His followers to understand God’s provisions.¬† Notice the text says not to greet one another on the road.¬† It’s not saying “Don’t be friendly.”¬† Jesus is making the point the mission is so important, you must remain focused.¬† Often, I joke (only halfway) that we all lack the ability to remain focused spiritually.¬† I say only halfway because if we’re not intentional, we fall into a default¬†mode of¬†chaos.¬† Think about this: Inclusion into a Divine Mission is huge!

I’ve always been interested in what comes next.¬† Jesus says to speak¬†peace on houses¬†where they go.¬† If the peace is received,¬†¬†it will return.¬† However, if it’s not, you know it’s time to move on.¬† Often, we read the text and simply move on.¬† But we miss something.¬†¬†The Greek word for peace is “eirene.”¬† But to think of what Jesus says as how we often define peace is to miss an important point.¬† We think of peace as the absence of war.¬† However, what peace then meant was much larger.¬† “Eirene” speaks of communal well-being, a certain security, or plenty.

…the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:26

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14 (emphasis mine)

So the idea of peace has a tremendous impact of what Jesus says in Luke 10.  As they are sent, they (eventually we) are to do what Christ did Рoffer peace.  More to say about this tomorrow.  But as we think about these verses, think about your faith.  Are you willing to do what Jesus says without hesitation?  Do you believe God will provide?  Then what about focus?  Are you so devoted to God and His will that you forego any desire or wish to follow His leading?  Pray about these things and determine what needs to be changed.

Horn of Plenty (2)

Posted in Scripture on November 25, 2013 by nmpreach

Yesterday, we began a discussion on the cornucopia or Horn of Plenty.  Our focus was to consider our blessings more than we consider our struggles.  Today, we continue that discussion.

Our text over the next few days will be from Luke 10.

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.¬† He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.¬† Go on your way.¬† See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.¬† vss 1-3 RSV

Once we understand our blessings are to be shared, it should change the way we live.¬† In reality, the struggle between living by the flesh versus living by the Spirit becomes evident here.¬† Our selfishness – our flesh – tempts us to receive God’s blessings but simply to horde them away for personal benefit.¬† The Apostle Paul might say, “My Brothers and Sisters, this should never be!”¬† We’re blessed to bless!

In the text Luke records, there are a few things I want to focus on:

1)  They were sent in pairs.

2) They were sent ahead of Jesus to prepare what He would eventually do.

3) They were to pray for other laborers.

4) They were described as lambs among wolves.

First of all, note Jesus sent them in pairs.¬† Other translations say “two by two.”¬† Luke’s attention to detail makes us pause and ask “Why?”¬† As much as we’ve talked about community, I’m sure you understand the necessity of relationships.¬† We need people to “walk beside us” in this world.¬† There will be times we can offer encouragement and then times we need encouragement.

Secondly, I find it reassuring that they were told to go to places Jesus would eventually go.¬† God knows where the harvest is to be done.¬† That takes a huge responsibility away from us.¬† You and I can’t change anybody.¬† Only God does that.¬† Yet He asks us to prepare those He will meet.

Thirdly, when we pray, do we pray for others who are affecting the harvest?  In other words, are our prayers focused more on our needs or on what God desires?  How we define prayer makes all the difference in the world Рliterally!

Finally, lambs and wolves typically don’t get along.¬† Wolves see a meal.¬† Lambs are weak.¬† Therefore, it often doesn’t work out.¬† Jesus uses the metaphor to describe those He sends.¬† There would be trouble.¬† People would give them grief.¬† But because they knew Jesus would come, they could rest assured in the success of the harvest.

These things are important as we discuss the Luke 10 text.  Luke is good about setting a foundation for us.  More tomorrow.

Horn Of Plenty (1)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2013 by nmpreach

A rare post on Sunday morning.¬† But because of the weather, we’re unable to meet as a church family.¬† Over the next week, I’m going to post a few thoughts from a sermon that was to be preached today.¬† I pray you’re challenged!

First of all, think about your blessings. 

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]

Those words were written by John Oatman in 1897.¬† But they ring true today as well.¬† Some of you were singing, weren’t you?

cornucopiaAre you familiar with the word “cornucopia”?¬† It’s from the Latin and describes what you see.¬† The basket is in the shape of a horn and when empty, is simply a basket.¬† However, when filled with a harvest, it becomes a “Horn of Plenty.”¬† The recognition of one’s blessings makes it easy to fill the basket.¬† Sadly, though, instead of focusing on our blessings, we often focus on our troubles.

At church every Sunday, you have an opportunity to offer praises before the prayer concerns.  Are you more concerned with your troubles or are you focusing more on your blessings?

Secondly, a Horn of Plenty is meant to be shared.¬† In other words, it’s not just for you.¬† It’s for those around you.¬† Your blessings are meant to be shared with others.¬† After all, we are simply stewards of all God owns.¬† Are you willing to share what God has done for you?

More tomorrow.  Stay warm and safe.  Worship today.  And think about a Horn of Plenty.

Lord?

Posted in Sin on November 19, 2013 by nmpreach

So I’m reading through the Sermon on The Mount (Mt 5-7) this morning.¬† Have you read it recently?¬† I was struck (again) by 5:29-30 that reads, If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.¬† For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.¬† And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.¬† For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (ESV)

We don’t see many people without eyes do we?¬† Although I once had a man attempt to hand me his glass eye, that’s a story for another day.¬† I don’t see many one-handed¬†people walking around.¬† So what gives?¬† Was Jesus being literal here in the greatest sermon ever given?¬† What exactly did He mean?

Sin is definitely a “heart issue.”¬† So a blind man can lust.¬† A man without a hand can still be a thief.¬† But in the text, Jesus is using metaphors to make the point of taking drastic measures to avoid temptation.¬†¬†Sin leads to death (Rom 6:23).¬† Therefore, something drastic must be done.¬†¬†Sin that is allowed to exist leads to judgment.

So¬†I’m reflecting on what needs to be removed?¬† What¬†sin must be dismissed so genuine¬†peace might reign?¬† What am I willing to do away with?

Those are tough questions.¬† Sure, they’re easy to read.¬† But to honestly answer?¬† I’d rather do something else.¬† The fact of the matter is: Anything that is allowed to come¬†between a relationship with me and God is idolatry and must be destroyed.¬† Not being willing to do away with that sin points to what/who is truly Lord.

So what are you hanging on to?¬† What is it that you have held on to for so long that you believe defines you?¬† Maybe in and of itself, it’s a good thing.¬† But anything, ANYTHING that is more important than God must be dealt with.¬† Question:¬† Are you willing to do away with it?

Overreacting?

Posted in Church, Discipleship on November 15, 2013 by nmpreach

Recently, I had someone (I’ll call him John) visit with me about someone (let’s call this person Bob).¬† John wanted to “get (Bob) back into the Church.”¬† It seems that Bob had a horrible experience with a church and was using that as an excuse not to attend anywhere.¬† John was convinced of the necessity of community and attempted to communicate his conviction to Bob.¬† I appreciated the visit and knowing John was concerned for his new friend.

What struck me was what John said.¬† “Pastor, I have this friend who I’m hanging out with.¬† He’s kind of like my project.¬† Would you be willing to visit with him and alleviate any concerns he might have about the Church?”¬† What¬†infuriated me about what John said was how he described Bob.¬† A project?¬† Really?¬† So if we’re to make¬†disciples, does that mean we perceive them as projects?

The¬†Webster’s defines project as “something that is planned or devised.”¬†It almost sounds sneaky, right?¬† Don’t get me wrong.¬† I’m about making disciples.¬† I’ll be upfront about that!¬† But my concern is two-fold: 1) Did Jesus minister considering those around Him as projects?; and 2) What makes me think I can complete any “project” when it comes to discipleship?¬† After all, doesn’t God do the changing?

As I read about the public ministry of Jesus, it’s clear that He had goals in mind – first and foremost to love.¬† Jesus loved by speaking truth.¬† He spoke about man’s brokeness, God’s offer for redemption, and what He (Jesus) must do to restore all things.¬† After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples a task to do what He did.¬† But I never read about considering those ministered to as projects.¬† I never hear anything other than compassion, mercy, and grace.¬† If we’re to be about His business, maybe we should consider those around us more than just projects.

Secondly, when I think of projects that I have done, I have a sense of pride.¬† Accomplishments feel good.¬† And I celebrate the project not because of it, but because of me.¬† When it comes to people (side note: created in the image of God) and making disciples, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around considering them another project.¬† In fact, I think the Church has been all too often guilty of doing just that.¬† We get people to come to church, be baptized, etc. and then we’re on to something/someone else.¬† Project complete!¬† And the person doesn’t know up from down, left from right, etc.¬† It’s not their fault they go back to what they know.¬† After all, they were treated as a project.

I think it’s important to remember God does the changing in people.¬† Sure, He wants me to be involved.¬† But ultimately, the success belongs to God.¬† The only thing I have to celebrate is a person meeting Jesus.

You might think I’m making more of this than I should.¬† Maybe I am.¬† But I chose the word “infuriate” because that described what I feel.¬† If we treat people as projects, we have a long way to go.¬† Jesus didn’t die for projects.¬† He died for you and I!