Thursday, November 30, 2006

"One Stop Shopping" - God’s Equipping Word!

Sermon Notes from 2 Tim. 3:14-17

The sacred & singularly sufficient Scriptures are God’s sculpting tool used to shape His people for service. Believers are to learn & live in God’s word, allowing it to instruct, rebuke, correct & train us in righteousness so we may serve God. As times get hard, and they will, we must stay faithful to God’s word all the more, ala 2 Timothy 3.

When mentoring Timothy, Paul wrote letters to encourage, challenge, and instruct him. Timothy was urged to stay true to God’s Word. The last days would be tough, evil men would seek to mislead people. He needed to abide in God’s sure word, of which he had been convinced and committed. God’s sacred, Spirit-given truth would thoroughly prepare him to do the ministry he was called to fulfill. It will do the same for us. Let’s study & benefit from 2 Timothy 3.

* Dire Warnings: 1 "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days… 8 … so also these men oppose the truth

* Stark Contrasts: 10 "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life… 11 persecutions, sufferings… 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (NIV)

* The Command: Continue in the Word: 14 "You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them … NASV

God’s Scriptures Described & Deployed: (vs. 15-17)

* It is to be taught to Children: 15… from childhood you have known…
* It is Sacred, Holy, Different, Unique: the sacred writings
* Wisdom-Giving: are able to give you the wisdom… (Ps. 19; 119)
* The only source of knowledge of Salvation: wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
* God-breathed, from God: 16 All Scripture is inspired by God

* Profitable to Prepare God’s People to Serve:
and profitable…

* It uses a Powerful Process to Shape us:
and profitable

for teaching,

for reproof,

for correction,

for training in righteousness;

* It Produces a Prized Product:
17 so that the man of God

may be adequate, (i.e proficient, competent)

equipped for every good work. (NASV) (i.e stocked, fully outfitted)

How much do you value God’s word? Is it a first source for wisdom & guidance?

Do you continue in it: meditating upon, learning & obeying it (Ps. 1: Josh. 1:1-9)?

Are you using your training to serve others? Do you trust your readiness?

Wield the sword of truth (Eph. 6:17).

Trust God that He’s prepared you (2 Cor. 3:4-6).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Below is an imaginative tale based on a true story found in Luke’s gospel. I offer it as a Thanksgiving gift to each of us. Us? Yes, I
need its reminder too.

"Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:11-19 - NIV).

I guess I ask too many questions and speak without thinking. I never intended to hurt Grand Pa like that. I love him and would never seek to shame or embarrass him. But I did - and shamed myself even more! It just caught me by surprise and I needed to hear his side of the story.

From childhood I had always heard this great story - "Grand Pa's Story"! It was a family centerpiece, a source of pride and joy. Now, to hear new details, which I had never heard before - a part that changed The Story so much - well, it threw me off stride.

Everyone knows Grand Pa. Everyone has heard "The Story". Grand Pa used to be an outcast. He smelled, was ugly to look at, and scary to little kids. He was dying the slow, painful, lonely death of leprosy. As a leper, he had to move away from all his family and friends. He had to live outside of town with the other lepers.

Good friends now avoided him - understandably so. Family could only visit from a distance, often in secret lest people fear you too were "unclean".

Unclean: I hate that word. "Unclean! Unclean!" Grand Pa had to say it as he walked near anyone, or if they approached. It was if he was saying: "Avoid me, shun me, scorn me. I'm a dead man, I'll defile you. Run away! I am unclean."

But, praise God, that all changed the day Grand Pa had his encounter with Jesus. He and nine fellow lepers heard Jesus was coming. They knew Jesus could help them - if He would.

They went near the road He was traveling. When Jesus' entourage came in sight, they started yelling for Him at a distance, calling out: "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us". I've always thought it neat they stayed a respectful distance, for Jesus' and the peoples’ sake. That's my Grand Pa!

Hearing them, Jesus turned and looked for them. He surprised them by what He said and did. Really, He did nothing. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests, who had the job of declaring people clean or unclean.

These Ten had already done this more than once. When you think you have a skin illness, you ask the Priest. He says to come back in a week to be reexamined. If it has not cleared up, then come back again in another week. After a final check – a final chance - if it is still there, you hear the awful verdict: "Unclean." A death sentence.

Jesus said "Go and show yourselves to the priest." As they were going, it happened: New skin! No longer unclean! Ten ex-Lepers.

That's why Jesus sent them: so the priests could give them a clean bill of health, and send them home to their families. That's what happened too. The priest declared them clean, and we got Grand Pa back.

That's why everyone knows Grand Pa. Its not every village that has a man miraculously healed by Jesus. Besides, Grand Pa never got tired of telling the story of how Jesus had healed him.

I was always so proud. I still am, but its just that, I'm still working through what I learned.

The other day, I heard a Preacher reading in Public Square a book about Jesus. It told about His birth, teachings and miracles. It was the stories Luke the Physician investigated and wrote down. What an amazing man Jesus was, I mean, is! I already loved him for what He did for Grand Pa. Now, I love Him for what He did for me!

The Pastor read the part where Jesus healed a leper. At first I thought it was Grand Pa, but then I could tell it was about a different leper; one who Jesus healed right there on the spot and then sent to the Priests.

As he kept reading, there was Jesus’ encounter with the Ten Lepers - Grand Pa's Story! I was so excited! I nudged and elbowed everyone around me. They knew I was the proud grandson.

Yet, some parts he read did not sound familiar. There were new details I’d never heard. The story spoke of one of the lepers who had gone back to praise and thank Jesus. Confused and excited, I ran to tell Grand Pa and ask about the new parts to the story.

Finding Grand Pa, I told him what I heard. In my excitement - without thinking - I asked why he had never told us about that Samaritan, the man Jesus praised for returning to thank Him. Then, I asked why he did not return and thank Jesus.

As soon as I asked, I saw the hurt in Grand Pa's face and realized what I had said. I did not mean to shame or embarrass Grand Pa, I simply spoke without thinking. Suddenly, I felt like an outcast, I felt unclean.

Reflecting on and recovering from what happened, both then and now, I'm asking myself some hard questions. Would I have done any different from Grand Pa? Do I thank Jesus for what He's done for me? I've never had leprosy, but Jesus has cleansed me too, the spiritually unclean. Do I thank and praise Jesus for His love towards me, or only ask for favors? Am I too only telling half the story?

Seeing my hurt and embarrassment, Grand Pa said he forgave my thoughtlessness, just as Jesus forgave his thanklessness. He knew how I felt. He knew that healed Samaritan went back. But he also knew Jesus' forgiveness and now thanked Him often.

Do yourself a favor, learn a lesson or two from Grand Pa and me: Think before you talk and thank God before you walk. Shalom!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Are you Qualified? ? ?

Qualified to Share in God’s Inheritance

Ed McMahon, who awards the sweepstakes millions, has never shown up on my doorstep. You met him? Returning the entry form might help, but only so much (though I did win $5 as a kid like that!). At the end of the day, to receive the prize, you must qualify for it.

Shhhh. Pssstttt. Come here. I have a hot tip, some qualifying news you’ll want to hear. It involves immeasurable riches, perks and spiritual blessings. Once you get in on this scoop, you will want to thank God.

A life that pleases God includes thankfulness. An aid to gratitude is remembering what God has done for us. Thus, I submit to you thanks-giving Pilgrims Colossians 1:12-14 and its insider news about getting in on a boatload of an inheritance. Here’s the fine print:

"…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (NIV).

Better than a random drawing for mere millions, God has made it possible to share in what He gives as an inheritance to His children. Now there’s a Will to get in. He went to no small trouble to qualify us for this heavenly haul.

As the passage says, He rescued and relocated us. Not satisfied with that, He purchased us from slavery and released us from our sin-debt. How is that for being qualified? This prize package, secured by God for us, is incredible.

A brief word about this text’s context. Paul prayed that the Colossians would be filled with knowledge of God’s will so they will live in it: walking in ways worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects. Such a life bears fruit in every good work, increases in the knowledge of God, is strengthened with all power by God and joyously gives thanks to the Father.

Elaborating on thankfulness, we are given a gargantuan reason for gratitude: God Himself has qualified us to share in the saints’ inheritance! We get a portion with God’s people, a divvy of the divine dole. What does that entail? How did He pull that off?

First, we learn of a rescue / relocation mission: "He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." Chuck Norris and Jack Bauer are wimps compared to the mission God sent His Son on. Going deep behind enemy lines to slaves ensnared in the dominion of darkness, Jesus yanked our sinful, spiritually dead rumps to safety (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Not one to leave us in "no man’s land," God "brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." Ex-POW’s are now citizens of Jesus’ kingdom, enjoying all His provisions and protections. To qualify for the inheritance God has for His kids, you need to be one of His kids.

By leaving heaven, dying for our sins, and kicking in Satan’s teeth, He has made us fit to be family. "This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

As they say in some commercials: "but wait, there is more." Rescued and relocated, we were also redeemed. We came into His kingdom with baggage. Slaves to sin, we needed to be purchased and set free - redeemed. Like the old saying: "We owed a debt we could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe" (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

For entertainment, rich Romans used to go to the slave market, buy slaves and set them free. Just for the pleasure of blessing another and the fun of watching their genuine joyous surprise. "You bought me and are doing what? I am free? Is this a joke!"

All our outstanding debts to God have been paid by Jesus. All our offenses taken care of: "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." To forgive is to release from a debt. It is to not seek revenge or require pay-back. It is to forget – choose to not hold against someone - what cannot be forgotten.

In a Chicago museum, there is a round, wooden table – mahogany. It is where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, which led to the freedom of slaves. Outside Jerusalem, there was another piece of wood where slaves were set free - the cross of Christ. Give thanks! Jesus qualified us by releasing us from our sin debt. He forgives us freely, fully and fantastically (Psalms 51 & 32; 1 John 1:5-2:2).

Because God rescued me, I'm free in Christ and Satan’s grip has been broken (John 8:28-36; Galatians 5). Since the Father settled us to His Son’s realm of rule, we are safe in Him (1 Peter 1; Ephesians 1). As has been said, "When Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future."

Being bought out of slavery, redeemed, we are His now and can enjoy fellowship with Christ (1 John 3:1-3, 8; 1 Peter 1:18-21). Released from our sins through forgiveness, we are no longer condemned (Romans 5:1-12). By His grace and His doing, we are qualified to share in the saints’ inheritance.

Use this as a prompt this Thanksgiving. Also, don’t keep this good news to yourself. Others in bondage need freedom too (2 Corinthians 5; Romans 10:10-17). Finally, beware of "plantation living," staying under your old master’s reign. You have been emancipated. Live out your freedom as slaves to Christ (Romans 6:1-8:39).

Give thanks! In Christ we are qualified to share in the saints’ inheritance! Why? How? Because He has rescued and relocated us, redeemed and released us (i.e. forgiven us). Rejoice!