Hey Northwest Tampa folks! Watch this video, it goes with our lesson tomorrow morning. The song is “Dream for You” by the Casting Crowns. Enjoy – and come to church tomorrow ready to let God dream for you.
Hey Northwest Tampa folks! Watch this video, it goes with our lesson tomorrow morning. The song is “Dream for You” by the Casting Crowns. Enjoy – and come to church tomorrow ready to let God dream for you.
Tomorrow at the Granny White Pike Church of Christ, my lesson will be on what we are leaving behind for future generations. I will be using this poem at the end of my lesson – entitled “The Sculptor” – author unknown.
I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day
And as my fingers pressed it still,
It moved and yielded to my will
I came again when days were passed
The bit of clay was hard at last
The form I gave it, it still bore,
But I could change the form no more.
I took a piece of living clay
And gently formed it day by day,
And molded with my power and art
A young child’s soft and yielding heart
I came again when years were gone
It was a man I looked upon;
He still that early impress wore
And I could change him nevermore.
Our text for Sunday morning at the Granny White Pike Church of Christ:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one bodyand one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6
As we begin 2014 – are you ready to walk the walk? I hope you’ll join us Sunday morning as we consider how to take these steps.
The parable of the weeds has the potential to make us a bit uncomfortable. That’s because it tells us two very important things that we sometimes have a hard time understanding.
First, it tells us that whether we like it or not, no matter how good we are, we’ll be growing up with weeds.
Second, it reminds us that in the end, there will be a harvest. It goes like this (from Matthew 13:24-30):
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.
When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’
The parable of the weeds does a good job of explaining why evil exists. Have you ever wondered “Why does evil exist if God is a good God?” I believe the answer to that is found in this parable.
In Matthew, Jesus really demonstrates how He has brought the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. Once ruled by the evil one, the Kingdom is entering with Jesus, and Jesus has left that Kingdom with us.
But when Jesus brought the Kingdom, there were obstacles in the way, namely Satan and his weeds. The weeds mentioned here are known as “darnel” or false wheat. They look the same until the ears mature, and until harvest time you can’t tell them apart.
When the grain matures, you see the real wheat bend over from its weight. The false wheat, when it matures, shoots straight up and is darker in color.
While the darnel has been growing alongside the wheat, it has wrapped its roots around the real wheat, so pulling up the weeds would pull up the wheat. To add insult to this, the fruit of the false wheat is poisonous. If it got mixed in with the real wheat while making flour, it could make the whole batch of flour toxic.
This brings light to the topic of “why are bad things still happening if the Kingdom of God is here.” The answer to that is the only way evil can be completely wiped off the face of the earth is through the judgement and end of the world.
God delays in bringing judgement on this world though because he knows that the evil ones have wrapped their roots around all of us. Also, God’s delay in judgement is completely gracious on His part. He is giving more people time to repent and to come to Him. We’re reminded of that in 2 Peter 3:8,9
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
While the sin that has been brought into the world can be blamed on Satan, we need to remember that Scripture tells us that Satan’s activity never jeopardizes God’s sovereignty, and it also never removes the accountability that we have on our own. We only sin if WE choose to sin. I Corinthians 10:13 tells us
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
I’ve never really liked doing the old fashioned “hell fire and brimstone” type sermons – but you just can’t really avoid it in this parable. The truth of the matter is this: Heaven and Hell are both very real – and Jesus describes the two places here.
Hell – Jesus says – is reserved for everything that causes sin and all who do evil. What will happen to them? They will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Oh, but the righteous – he promises – get this – radiant glory. Those who do God’s will by becoming disciples of Christ.
The harvest is coming. I can’t stop that, nor do I want to stop that. One day, Jesus will come and bring together all the good wheat, those who have dedicated to living their lives for Him, and take us all home to be with Him – for eternity – and Jesus promises us radiant glory. I know I can’t be alone in saying that sounds so much better than what is reserved for the weeds –
Sunday, we began our new series on the study of the parables. We began with the “Power” parables from Matthew 13, the first of which is the parable of “The Sower.” It goes like this, from Matthew 13:1-9 –
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
What a great way to start this chapter. I can easily envision Jesus sitting down on the boat, with no notes at all, looking out in the fields and seeing a farmer doing the very thing he speaks about. No machines, no tractors, just a bag of seed and a farmer, spreading the seed around his beloved fields.
The farmer is Jesus – and one thing that I quickly notice is that he did not discriminate where the seed was thrown. If we are to be sowers like Jesus, we need to realize first and foremost that it is not our responsibility to determine whether or not the soil is fertile. We just need to plant the seeds.
There is a lot of power in a seed. Such a small item can grow to produce might trees, taller than buildings, stronger than man made items, that produce life and fruit. There is no problem in the seed that is being thrown, nor in the one sowing the seed.
The problem lies in the soil.
Many of us as Christians automatically assume since we’ve given our lives to Christ, that we must indeed be the good soil, but I don’t necessarily think that is true. I believe all of us at one point or another in our lives have evidence of there being a layer of hard soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, and the good soil.
The hard soil is a soil that has been packed down, worn as people and animals have walked on it over an over again. The seed lands on it, but has no chance at all to dig and grab hold of anything. Before it has a chance, its taken away by the evil one.
The rocky soil is perplexing. It looks like normal, good soil. However, a few inches below lies the rocky layer. A seed can begin to grow, and even become a sizable plant, but its roots never fully plunge beneath the surface. We have some woods in our back yard, and the other day I was able to pull an eight foot tall tree right out of the ground, roots and all. It looked like a tree that was developing, but really, it was just growing on the surface. It had no chance to survive.
The thorny soil (or weeds) also pose an interesting dilemma for us. All of us worry about things – but many of us allow the worry to choke out the spiritual. We let the worry of where our next mortgage payment will come from choke out the blessings that God promised us. In Matthew 6, Jesus reminded us that if God will take care of the birds and the flowers, will He not take care of us as well?
And finally – the good soil. We can’t just assume because we’re going to church and living a Christian life that it means we’re automatically part of this good soil. Good soil allows a seed to grow, take root, and produce fruit. If we look at the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control), and we’re not producing these things, maybe we’re not quite the good soil we think we are.
Lord, make all of our hearts good soil!
The best way to grow a relationship with anyone is through a conversation, and that’s what we emphasized yesterday, is to have a conversation with God. I issued a 30 day challenge to the family of GW. Here are the details :
Find a time during the day when you can talk and listen to God.
Start by praying – saying hey to God, acknowledging Him as your creator, your Father, your Friend. Spend time thanking Him for all He has done and continues to do –
Then, grab a blank journal, and pray “God, I am here for You – Please show me who You are.”
Open up your Bible to the Psalms, one of the greatest places to really get to know who God is, and begin to read.
The goal is not massive marathon reading – but quality reading. You may just need one or two verses to stop and focus on –
But as you read – look for an attribute of God that really grabs you. You’re simply looking for something that’s true about God. A part of what He is. A part of His heart. One of His names.
Maybe you’ll learn more about His mercy, or His love, or His holiness.
Maybe you’ll learn more about how He wants to be Your Shepherd.
Or how He wants to protect you.
And when something really captures you – write it down in that notebook, and write the verse down as well.
And then I simply want you to think about that part of God’s character, and what it means to you.
And after you think about that for a while, write your thoughts back to God. Maybe its time for you to write a new Psalm to God. Or it could just be a random gathering of words and sentences directed from your heart to His.
Or maybe it reminds you of a song, from the Hymn book, or a devotional, or the radio – write the words to that down as well.
Whatever you do – make it personal. Make it intimate.
There’s no right or wrong way to make this happen. You might write two words. You might write two pages. You might draw a picture. What you’ve just done is had a conversation with God. Now carry that conversation with you for the rest of the day – keep it going. – and by doing this you’ll grow in getting to know God better.
(ideas are adapted from Louie Giglio’s book “The Air I Breathe”)
On Sunday, my sermon was on Matthew 6:9-13, which many people call “The Lord’s Prayer”. After reading it and looking at the context, it might be better described as “The Disciple’s Prayer”, for this is an example of how we should pray.
Before the sermon, I showed this little video clip –
If you’re like me, I struggle with my prayer life. When do I need to pray? How long do I pray? What do I say when I pray (in the verses right before the Disciple’s Prayer, Jesus says “The Father already knows exactly what you need before you ask Him!!”.
There are 6 petitions made in this prayer.
1. Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name: We need to treat God with highest honors, and set Him apart as Holy. We must show adoration for God.
The word used for Father is the word “Abba”, which was the everyday language used by Jesus. It was the word used by Jewish children when they spoke to their fathers, but it was also the same word adults used when addressing their fathers. In a sense, it means “daddy”, but in another way it conveys authority, warmth, and intimacy of a loving father’s care. We are invited to share in the intimacy that God the Father had with God the Son, and that’s really cool.
This also addresses where God is located, in Heaven. That’s what sets him apart from your earthly Father. He has sovereign rule over all things. It also reminds us that He is holy, sanctified, and set apart. We need to begin our prayers acknowledging who He is and what He is.
2. The second petition is “Your Kingdom Come”. Christians are called to pray and work for the continual advance of God’s kingdom. It refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of not only believers, but in his body, which is the church. We must increasingly reflect his love, obey his laws, honor him, do good and proclaim good news.
3. The third petition is “Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. This probably refers to God’s revealed will, which involves conduct that is pleasing to him as revealed in Scripture. Psalm 40:8 says “I desire todo your will, your law is within my heart”. We must desire to act in accordance to his will by obeying his commands.
The first three petitions are giving us the priorities in prayer, so we are less likely to pray selfishly or frivolously. The next three are more personal.
4. The fourth petition is “Give us this day our daily bread”. This first of the personal petitions reminds us of our needs, and that we get those needs from God. By implication, this does not just refer to bread, but all our physical needs that we require.
5. The fifth petition is “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. The word debt here is interchangeable with the word sin. When we sin, we create an obligation to God that can never repay.
6. The sixth petition is “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil”. Since God does not tempt us (James 1:13), this implies that we are to pray for relief from testing. Trials and hardships will come to all believers. James 1:2-4 tells us that believers should count it all joy when trials come for we will be strengthened by them.
We also must be aware there is a spiritual battle going on every day in our lives. Satan does his best to win us over, and we must remember to ask God for protection from Satan.
Jesus ends with reminding us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We must always remember there is direct relationship between having been forgiven by God and the forgiveness that we extend others.
So, pray to God, remembering to acknowledge who and what He is, and then and only then take your requests before Him. May we all do a better job in communicating with our God!
– Noah’s Ark and the Flood
– The Captivity and Exile of the Israelites
– The Walls of Jericho
– The Herculean Samson
– David and Goliath
– Jonah and the Big Fish
Aside from the description and accounts of the Life and Death of Jesus, no other story sticks out in my head like the one of Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego.
I believe the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is so powerful, that I believe you could pull this one story out of the Bible and encapsulate every aspect of who God is, and every aspect of who we as Christians should be in our service to Him.
In a nutshell, King Nebuchadnezzar builds a giant statue and tells everyone that when the band plays, everyone of any race, creed, or color must bow down and worship the image. If you did not bow, you would be thrown into a fiery furnace to be destroyed. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 3 Jewish men who were in Babylon due to the captivity of Israel, refuse. These men have already been mentioned in the first chapter under different names, but they were promoted and honored in the land to positions of authority.
Nebuchadnezzar brings them in and asks them to bow down when the band plays. He reveals his true egotistical self in the statement: “What god will be able to rescue you from my hand”. Here, Nebuchadnezzar asserts his own power above all gods. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego give an answer at this point that reminds of the devotion that one would expect find in a great love story: “We don’t need to defend ourselves before you in this matter”, OR – Your threats mean nothing to us.
They then go on to show their true faith in their God. They talk of if you throw us into the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from it, or anything else you throw at us. BUT IF NOT, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O King. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship your statue. This obviously makes the King mad, and he orders the furnaces 7 times hotter, and the men thrown in to the blaze. They were bound, wearing all of their clothing, and thrown in. The men who threw them in were killed from the intensity of the heat.
The King looks up at the furnace and notices they are walking around, unbound, and there is a 4th person in the fire with them. He recognizes this person as a son of the gods, later to recognize the person as God.
Here are 5 points I was able to pull from the story to apply to us today.
Interesting to note that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s names were originally something else: Hananiah is a Hebrew name that means “Yahweh who is gracious”. Misha’el means “Who is like Yahweh?” and it also means “to feed” or “to provide” as in how a husband provides for his family. The Hebrew name Azariah appropriately means “Yahweh has helped”. God certainly did all of those things for these men in this challenging time.
In Jeremiah 29:10-14, we read a story of a group of people who had everything going for them, and then their lives got turned upside down and shaken up over and over as well.
We’ve heard it said that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. It’s easy to agree when we like the plan. But sometimes, things in our lives take a turn.
The same thing is true of the Jewish people in Jeremiah 29. The year is 597 BC. God is judging the nation of Judah because of their unfaithfulness. The Babylonians have attacked Jerusalem. They’ve taken 3000 prisoners back to Babylon, including the king, the court officials, and the craftsmen. And the Jews are saying “This isn’t supposed to happen to us! We’re the chosen people! We’re the apple of God’s eye! What is going on?”
The Babylonians invade the land of Judah in 597 BC, the captives are probably thinking, “This isn’t going to last long. God is going to come through for us like He always does! The prophet Hananiah said in Jeremiah 28 that in two years, God will break the yoke of the king of Babylon, and we will be free! We’re coming back home! Praise God!”
But in Jeremiah 29:1-6, Jeremiah writes a letter to the captives in Babylon. And basically, he says “You’re not coming home for a while. Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. Be fruitful and multiply.” In other words, ‘You’re not ready to go home because I have plans for you right here in Babylon.”
And then in verse seven, Jeremiah says, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
And the Jews would have been thinking, “You want us to pray for the community that carried us into captivity? Jeremiah, have you lost your mind? These people are the enemies of God! These are the people who ransacked the city of Jerusalem! How can you ask us to pray for these people?”
And then down in verse ten, God says something else that would have gotten the Jews riled up. He says “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.”
The Jews had to be thinking, “You mean we gotta live in this rotten country for the next 70 years? Most of us are going to be dead by then! What kind of a plan is this, God?”
But if you look at the Old Testament, you will see that God accomplished great things in the lives of His people during those seventy years.
Number one: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three of the captives that were taken to Babylon. They went on to become three of the best administrators that the country ever had.
Number two: Daniel was another one of the captives that was taken to Babylon. And because Daniel was able to interpret the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, he was made ruler over the entire province of Babylon.
Number three: With Daniel’s help, Nebuchadnezzar becomes a believer in God. In Daniel 4:37, he says, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” This beautiful moment in the king’s life would probably not have happened if it weren’t for the presence of the Jewish people in the land of Babylon.
Number four: Because the Jewish people were able to live in peace under the leadership of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, they had time to write some of the greatest books of the Old Testament. 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Psalm 137 were all written during this seventy year period.
Number five: Most important of all, during this 70 year period, the Jewish people were beginning to realize that they needed to get right with the Lord! They were beginning to see that they needed to apologize for the mistakes of the past. Jeremiah 4:18 says that “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you.”
How many of you have ever had someone say, “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you?” I probably heard that a million times as a child growing up. But there are times when we need to hear it. And this time, the Jewish people need to hear it. Because for years, they have been under the impression that because they are the chosen people, and because they are the guardians of the temple of the Lord, they can live their lives any way they please. And God says in Jeremiah 7:4, “Do not trust in deceptive words. If you reform your ways and change your actions, I will let you stay in the land.” But they didn’t listen. And God is using these seventy years of exile to show the Jewish people where they went wrong. And what they need to do to make things right.
So when you look at the big picture, you can see that God is working behind the scenes in the hearts and in the lives of the Jewish people. Even though they can’t see it.
God’s plan isn’t always what we thought it was going to be. But God’s plan is always best. Even if we don’t understand it at the time. Even if we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if we would never have chosen this path for ourselves.
And that brings us to Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” And then Jeremiah says that “God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you.”
When I talk about God prospering us, I’m not talking about everyone in church winning the Powerball jackpot (as appealing as that may sound). I’m talking about enjoying the everyday blessings of God that are mentioned in verses 4-6. The blessings of a place to live, food to eat, families to love, and communities to pray for. All of these things are a sign that we are experiencing God’s plans to prosper us and not to harm us.
Then Jeremiah says that God has ‘plans to give you a hope and a future.’ For the Jewish people, that meant going back to the promised land. But for us, it means going UP to the Promised Land.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have a hope and a future that goes far beyond the parameters of this life. You have a hope and a future where you will be living in eternity with God himself. You have the hope that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. You have the hope that God will someday be finished with the work He’s doing in your life, and that you will reign with Christ forever and ever! You have a certain hope that God’s promises in your life will come true.
In fact, the whole message of Jeremiah is that the word of the Lord always comes true. In the first 25 chapters of Jeremiah, God says over and over again, “I am going to judge the nation of Judah because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.” And that’s what happened. Because the word of the Lord always comes true.
And in Jeremiah chapter 30:3, God says “The days are coming, when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,’ says the LORD.” 50 years later, the Medes and the Persians conquered the kingdom of Babylon. And the Jews were allowed to go back home. Because the word of the Lord always comes true.
And in Jeremiah 31:31, the Lord says “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. With this covenant, No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ’Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
630 years later, God ratified this new covenant when He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. And because of what Jesus Christ did for us on that cross, we all have an opportunity to know the Lord for ourselves. We all have an opportunity to be forgiven! This helped prove once and for all that the word of the Lord always come true.
And because the word of the Lord is coming true in our lives, we need to reach out to the God who makes His word come true. Jeremiah 29:12-14 says “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which carried you into exile.”
It is clear that based upon verses 11-14, that God wants us to prosper, he wants to take care of us. But I want you to look closely at the condition of them being able to re-occupy the lands they were taken from…
In order for the Jews to get their lands back, they had to obey. They had heard God, but now they had to obey. How did they obey in this situation? They had to call on him, come to him, and pray to him. And they had to do it with all of their heart. THEN, they would find God, and THEN they would bring them back from captivity.
I don’t know what is holding you captive in your life today, but if God is not first in your life, and if you are not earnestly seeking after HIM, then you can’t expect to find your new beginning. Today, will you seek him? Will you search for him with all of your heart? God wants to release us from the captivity that has hold of us, and help us prosper…but He can only do that when we look for God before we look for anything else.
Our Senior minister and I just had a long discussion about sermon length.
Some thoughts from the meeting:
1. Some of the larger denominational churches that are rapidly growing often have ministers/pastors that speak for upwards of 40-45 minutes.
2. The human mind doesn’t comprehend much past 20-25 minutes in one time frame.
3. In order to get deep into the word, you sometimes have to preach a lot longer.
4. People who get distracted/fall asleep/etc. are going to do that in a 10 minute sermon or a 50 minute sermon.
Please take a moment to vote in the poll, and leave a comment if you’d like about why you chose that, or add something new. Thanks!