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The Beginning

Skeptical worshipers. A commanding soldier. A demon-possessed woman. A religious seeker. A weeping disciple.

Fear. Control. Hopelessness. Confusion. Despair.

The cross appeared to be the end, but it was the beginning.

What if you find that your new beginning is at the lowest point in your life?

What if you find that your new beginning was the lowest point in Jesus’ life?

Afraid? Out of control? Hopeless? Confused? Defeated?

Sunday at Grace is for you. Join us at 9:30 or 11.

Why preachers preach and believers testify

That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  1 John 1:3

To some preaching seems old, out-dated, antiquated.  Why preach?  Why do people show up every week, sit in a seat (or a pew) and listen while preachers preach.  Isn’t there a better way?  Better yet, why should you go to your workplace and talk about the sermon and even invite somebody to come sit with you and listen to the preacher preach.

John sums it up in verse 3.  The linking phrase between the first part of the verse and the last is “so that you too.”  John preached at the cost of being exiled.  He preached at the cost of losing friends, family and his former standing in the community.  John preached when preaching wasn’t popular, when no-one could podcast him from Patmos.  Why?

First of all, John had heard, seen, looked upon and touched Jesus.  He loved Jesus.  Jesus loved him.  Preaching overflowed out of his relationship with the Jesus who had called him to follow him.  John was on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured right before their eyes.  He was in the boat when Jesus was shaken from his sleep by frantic disciples fearing for their lives.  He heard Jesus say, “Peace be still” and saw the wind and the waves calm down.

He preached out of his experience of knowing, loving, and walking with Jesus.  We as preachers do the same thing.  We love and preach Jesus.  You do the same thing.  As believers, you love Jesus and testify about him.

But why?

So that you too…

We preach and testify so that those who hear can hang out with us while we hang out with Jesus.  (I know that is a loose paraphrase of fellowship, but go with me on this one!)  We preach so that people can know Jesus like we know Jesus.  And when they know Jesus like we know Jesus, they will get to know us.

Preaching and testifying draws the circle wider.

Think about it.  Here at Grace, we give thousands of dollars every year to help people who are in dire straits.  But unless we proclaim Jesus while we do it, we may as well be doing social work.  Anybody can give money away.  Only people who have been with Jesus can talk about him.  Giving money keeps the power on.  That’s important…necessary.  Proclaiming Jesus can make the ones who hear the message friends for a lifetime, brothers and sisters in Christ, fellows in the ship (okay, that’s a poor attempt at the word fellowship).

Draw the circle wider.  Tell somebody what Jesus has done for you.  When you do, you’d better add a chair at the family table.  They may just decide to leave their old way of life and join you.

That’s fellowship.

That’s why preachers preach and believers testify.

The King’s Kids

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(Possible site of Jesus’ childhood–Nazareth)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

We know little of kingdoms in the United States.  We know much about presidents and senators.  We know little of pomp and circumstance.  We know much about politics and elections.  When Jesus told his weary, impoverished audience that “theirs was the kingdom of heaven,” he was making paupers into princes; turning the meager into majesty. This was a total change of thought.

The only kingdom they knew was Rome.  Rome oppressed.  Rome taxed.  Rome abused.

This kingdom would not oppress, but set free.  This kingdom would not tax, but relieve.  This kingdom would not abuse, but comfort.

How?

Little did Jesus’ audience know that the King was delivering his inaugural address.  Born in little known Bethlehem, raised a few miles north in Nazareth, Jesus did not wear the robes of a king.  He wore carpenter’s clothes.  Instead of a gavel, he swung a hammer.  Instead of a palace, he grew up in a cave.

Yet he declared in John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”  Jesus came to give life.  Life now–that’s the present aspect of the kingdom.  Life then–that’s the future.

That’s his promise to you.  You can live as a king’s kid now–enjoy peace when the world is unraveling; joy when the news is bad; contentment when your wants aren’t satisfied.  As a child of God, you have Jesus as your mediator, praying for you even now.  The Holy Spirit intercedes for you with “groanings that cannot be understood.” (Romans 8)

You will one day live in the King’s house, eat the King’s food with the rest of the King’s kids.  That’s the future kingdom.

Blessed are the poor in spirit…for they are the king’s kids.

Drawing the Circle Wider

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Sea of Galilee at Sunrise (Has nothing to do with the blog…just wanted to share!)

He drew a circle that shut me out, heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.  But love and I had the will to win; we drew a circle that took him in.

Remember using compasses?  Sharp point on one end, short pencil on the other.  A small move of the pencil made the circle much larger.  This is important to remember.  When I preached Sunday about drawing the circle wider, most likely you thought of making sweeping changes.  However, you probably don’t need to make drastic changes.  You’re surrounded by people who need to be “let into” your circle.  They’re the people you buy gas from, the waitress who brings your water, the stylist who cuts your hair.

The problem is that your circle has been so small that you haven’t thought to include them.  You may be assuming that someone else will tell them of the hope you have in Jesus.  Don’t ever assume that.

Some of you know immediately whom you’ve shut out.  They shut you out first, you let the door close behind you and never tried to open it again.  All of a sudden the Spirit won’t leave you alone.  That’s good.  God loves you…and them…and will most likely use you in ways you never thought possible.

Have the will to win.  Don’t give up.  Make a simple goal for 2013…to see (fill in the blank) come to know Jesus Christ, walk through the waters of baptism, and into a brand new life he or she never dreamed possible!

 

4. When you were preaching I was moved. I know I need to respond. What do I need to do?

You need to pray…to talk to God about what is going on inside you.  The Holy Spirit is moving you to receive the same Jesus who changed Mary Magdalene’s life.  As you pray, admit your sin.  Apart from Jesus, you are hopelessly lost in sin.  Believe that God sent Jesus to die for you—for all your sins.  Put your trust in Jesus Christ.  Tell Him that you receive Him as your Savior and are ready for him to call the shots in your life.

Tell us.  Let me know through this blog.  Email me at jerry@graceforall.org.

Why was Jesus recognized by some and not by others?

I think the answer lies in the kind of body Jesus had.  His post-resurrection body had qualities that, I believe, our bodies will have when we are in heaven.  Once Jesus resurrected, he was in “ascension mode.”  Jesus lived with a mission.  Before the cross, he focused on the cross.  Once he was resurrected, he focused on his ascension.

His body possessed the ability to enter a room with a closed door, yet he allowed Thomas to touch him, and showed Thomas his scar in his side.  Jesus was not recognized by the fishing disciples, but then recognized once he caught some fish.  He and Peter ate fish together.  He had a real body with the spiritual capacity to transcend spatial limitations.

One point of reference is oddly enough the angel of the Lord in the OT, specifically in his appearance to Samson’s parents.  If you want to study further, Judges 13 gives the account.  Not the similarities of Jesus’ conversation with Mary Magdalene and his (yes I think this was Jesus talking with Samson’s parents) conversation there.

Breaking Down Walls…Brick by Brick

“We cannot separate the Great Commission to make disciples from the Great Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.”–Rich Nathan, Leadership Journal

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said 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.”
(Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)

The Great Commission is enclosed with a declaration and a promise.  The declaration:  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Our authority is not ours, but Jesus’.  When we go, when we share, when we love, we do it based on the authority of Jesus Christ.  Intimidation should not be a factor.  Then Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Not only do we have the promise of His power, we have the promise of His presence.  Isolation should not be a factor–we are never alone.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)

Love God.  Love others.  The Old Testament hinges on those two commands.  So does the effectiveness of our witness.  The Great Commission without the Great Commandment is like a marriage without love, college roommates without a relationship, a team without camaraderie.  It’s empty religion.

The Great Commandment without the Great Commission is like a dating relationship with no future, a dark today with no bright tomorrow.  It’s empty sentimentalism.

Lee Strobel, who at the time was an ‘adamant atheist’, upon observing the Salvation Army at work for weeks said, “Watching them express God’s grace to hurting people had started to dismantle, brick by brick, the wall surrounding my heart.”

The Gospel preached in loving action breaks down walls, penetrates hearts, and changes lives.

Preach today–not just through your words–but through your actions.  Say the right thing.  Do the right thing.  Watch the walls come down.