Monday, March 18, 2019

The Cost of Being a Disciple

Each of the gospel writers had his own style. They all tell the same story. But they don’t tell it the same way. Each brings to light different nuances of Jesus’ life. Each was written to a different group of people in a different time. We tend to think of the 1st century as one time period. But think of our own past century. Think of the differences in our own society. The differences between the 1960’s & the 1990’s! The gospel writers framed the material to meet the needs of each new era.

Mark wrote to a group of Christians who stood at the brink of the destruction of Jerusalem. You can hear the language of war. You can feel the tension in his words.

John wrote at the turn of the century when the Christians needed hope and reassurance that Jesus really was God!

The Gospel of Luke has its own emphases. One interesting thing about Luke’s gospel is that it has a very definite and deliberate structure. In the first half of his gospel, which centers in Galilee, Jesus is the hero! He could do no wrong! He was raising little girls to life. He was healing people. A large crowd was gathering behind him—building momentum! But about half way through the gospel, a noticeable shift takes place. And I can tell you exactly where it happens.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Who Will Be the Greatest?

Once upon a time there was a king who wanted to build a church that would honor him. He would personally supervise the work and only he would provide the money for its completion. The glory was to be his.

It was intended that by this means his name would be revered and remembered by successive generations. In due course the church was finished. Upon its completion he commanded that a tablet be placed on the side of the building. On this tablet, his name would be carved. Also, they would carve the information that he was the sole builder and benefactor.

The church was opened with great pomp and ceremony. The king retired that night well pleased with himself. But that night he dreamed that an angel came down from heaven. The angel erased his name from the tablet and instead put in its place the name of a poor woman.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The So-Called "Good Confession"

Let’s begin with an easy question this morning: “Who is Jesus?” For people living in Jesus’ time, that was not an easy question. Was Jesus Elijah? (Some thought so). David? The Messiah? Just another wanna-be prophet! In fact, for centuries, people have been trying to figure out who Jesus was.

Some of you may have heard of a group called “The Jesus Seminar.” This is a group of Christian scholars and teachers who set out to “find the real, historical Jesus.” Apart from myth, apart from legend. What’s interesting, though, is that the Jesus they consistently find looks a lot like them. Scholarly, void of emotion, a boring college professor type. If you ever have occasion to read any of their material, it’s actually quite comical. They think they are the cutting, edge brilliant scholars. But the methods they use to come to their conclusions are really absurd!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Seeing and Hearing God

It’s almost frightening to be favored by God. I’m confident that the people of Israel uttered those words, or at least thought those words, on more than one occasion. I think of the people leaving Egypt and sure, God rescued them. Sure, God brought them out of slavery. But once they got into the desert, these people began to understand who it was they were dealing with. When the pillar of fire showed up and when the glory of God changed the appearance of Moses, I’m sure many of those people who witnessed these things uttered those words, “It’s almost frightening to be favored by God.” 

I think of the crowds of Israelites who helped escort the Ark of the Covenant from Baalah back to Jerusalem. Remember, the Ark had been out place—away from the people of God. Now, with David on the throne, the people were proclaiming in one voice, “We want God among us.” They were claiming their rightful title as “The People of God!” But when Uzzah reached out to stabilize that Ark… And when he died on the spot as a result…Well, I have to imagine there were some onlookers who thought…”It’s almost frightening to be favored by God.”

But here is something else: Sure, God’s power sometimes frightens His people. But even more, sometimes God’s people are left speechless because of a very important truism. The best way I know how to say it is to repeat the well-known phrase: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” You see, God expects more of God’s people than God does of others, and sometimes that thought alone is…frightening! We see a clear example of this truth by once again bearing witness to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Cost of the Journey

What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever purchased? For most of us, the most expensive thing we will ever purchase will be our house. Some of you, however, may have purchased something even more expensive: A business? Large parcel of land? Maybe even a large boat, a yacht! (If you have access to a yacht, I want to visit later!)

Before we make a purchase like these, we have seriously to consider if we are willing to pay all that money. Is it worth it? Do I really need that pool or that extra space in the garage? How much would you pay to get exactly what you want? Would you pay with your life?

Setting Our Eyes Toward Jerusalem

This morning, I want you to set out with me on a journey. But in order for us to begin this trek, we need to reorient our minds. Imagine for the next few moments that you are not surrounded by brick and mortar. You are not sitting next to others in their nicest clothes. You are not situated in comfortable pews in an air-conditioned building. Forget for a moment that you are in this worship center. You are not in Tyler, TX or even America! In fact, you are of a different time!

Imagine that you are with the son of Joseph and Mary as He approached a tiny Samaritan village. Smell the scents of the Palestinian countryside…The sheep, the goats, the fig trees. Look around, and see the sites of first-century Samaria…The arid, dry landscape, The rocky plains, and Jesus.

You have followed this wandering rabbi for some time now. You’ve seen water turned to wine. You’ve seen this man raise a little girl from the dead. And most recently, you were with Jesus as He ascended a mountain and was transfigured before your very eyes. He didn’t look “human” anymore. He looked almost like an angel, or even a god.

As you awoke this morning, you didn’t realize it, but something was different! The demeanor of this Man was different. He has made a decision. A decision that will change not only His life…Not only your life…But the life of every creature of creation.

This morning, as Jesus awoke, He set out on a final journey! A journey that would lead Him toward death. But a journey that would also lead Him and you to life. On this morning, Jesus set out on a journey toward Jerusalem.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Encountering the Canaanite Woman

When I was a child, my favorite television show was Sesame Street. I remember falling in love with all of those wonderful characters: Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird and his mysterious friend, Snuffaluffagus, Bert & Ernie.

There was one regular segment on Sesame Street that always caught my attention. And now, 35 years later, I can still remember it vividly. Each episode of the show had this segment that featured the song: “One of These Things is Not Like the Others.”

Do you remember that song?

One of these things is not like the others.
One of these things just doesn’t belong.
Can you guess which thing is not like the others?
By the time I finish my song…

From an early age, I guess those adults wanted us to learn to appreciate “things that don’t seem to belong.”

As I’ve grown, I’ve realized just how important that lesson was to learn. Because this world is full of things that seem out of place. A stream in the middle of the desert. I’ve seen a picture of Tim Oliver (a 6’8 elder at Broadway) standing with the Ketchuan people in Peru—a giant in their midst! I think it is important that we, as human beings, learn to recognize and appreciate the “things that don’t seem to belong” in our world.