Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Word For The Wise Is Sufficient

I grew up in the home of a state trooper. There was never any question about the reality of authority. There was never any argument about where it rested. There was never any greater wisdom that I learned than when I heard how the voice of authority told me to live and obeyed. Life was good then. There was never any more miserable state of being when I heard and rejected the authoritative word. It was a fool’s way to live.
Many are living foolishly today in our culture when wisdom is in short supply. Even the church is caught up in this pursuit to insulate us from the insanity that seems to be driving our political leaders. At the very least we are greatly affected by decisions based on man’s best thinking. And man’s best thinking is being revealed as insufficient to the challenges of life today. It is like being caught up and carried along in a parade of fools. I, for one, want to know how to step out of the parade.

Hear now the word of the Lord for us today:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall."
When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. (Matthew 7:24-8:13)

As we continue in our sermon series about the Cultural Relevance of a Biblical Worldview we consider the following truth: God reveals Himself in His word.
In Knowing God, the theologian J.I. Packer makes the claim that God reveals Himself in His word in four categories beginning in Genesis. His revelation includes command, testimony, promise or prohibition and his premise is that these categories continue to hold firm throughout the Scriptures. In our passage today we can see this revelation displayed for us in more than one way. Christ gives command, He reveals Himself in testimony, and He gives promise and prohibition to the people who hear His word. Central to God’s revelation in His word is the reality of His authority. Whether people recognize this truth does not negate it. His authority is relevant to our reality.


When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

The multitudes were amazed at His teaching and here is why: His teaching had the ring of authority to it. Have you ever been exposed to instruction without the teacher helping you see the relevance of it? What was the point of that, you may have asked after sitting through a boring lecture without understanding its application or learning why it matters. So what, you may have said to yourself or even to someone else. Here is the so what of the Sermon on the Mount. It comes down to a story that Jesus told about a wise man and a fool. They both are building houses and they both endure storms. The difference is not in what they build their lives with, although if we remember the three pigs’ story, it does matter what building materials are used in construction. Even a fable can teach a principle. Jesus is not teaching fables. But He is teaching principles. This so-what of the Word of God’s message on the side of a Galilean hill is all about the foundation. It matters what you base your life upon and how you make your decisions based upon that basis. Jesus said that wise people choose to order their lives on a foundational worldview that says God knows the right and wise way to live. It mattered to those people whether they heard the Word of God and did what the word said to do or heard the Word of God and ignored God’s direction. The Living Word of God was teaching as One who was different from the scribes. And listening to the scribes in that day was almost like hearing someone tell you that memorizing the Ten Commandments is all there was to learning how to live out God’s word. Jesus said that it wasn’t enough to know the word of God. A wise person learned how to live out the word of God.


When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him… And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him…

People are still clamoring and crowding around people and philosophies that promise the best way for people to live. Sadly some follow the next new fad into ruin. Why don’t we live the way God instructs us to live? Because we want the painless path. We want what we want. It still matters whether or not people do what the Word of God says. Their whole life is affected either way. The Chinese pastor Watchman Nee wrote that the main issue in the entire universe is authority…who has it and who recognizes it. Large crowds followed Him but we are told that two specific people came to Him. Not everyone in the crowd was seeking Jesus. Some were just in the midst of their journey. Along for the ride, or the walk, I might say. There is a difference in blending in with the crowd because that is what is expected of us or sincerely seeking Christ. These two were seeking the authority of God. And they found it. A leper…a person who was the living symbol of death and hopelessness came seeking Jesus. Symbolic in this language is how God came down from this mountain, this high ground, to encounter the need of this leper, one of the low-life of their day. The second person is met when Jesus comes into Capernaum, the center of His ministry with His disciples. We are told in the narrative that a Roman centurion, a military commander used to wielding his authority, was utterly helpless to help someone he cared deeply for. This is the Biblical God intervenes in man’s helpless and hopeless condition with compassionate desire. The brilliance of the Gospel writer demonstrates the mind of God revealed in the Word of God. He doesn’t just give us instruction in chapters 5 through 7; the writer tells how Jesus met men who wisely believed that God was willing and able to do something about their circumstances. God is still in the middle of our desperate and deadly world with a desire to help those who seek His authority. Perhaps you see yourself as a leper that no one can, or will, help. God is telling you today through this word that if you seek Him, if you acknowledge the authority of His word, He will make Himself available to you. Wise people still seek Jesus. And they know there is a way to approach Him.


And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

How differently people approach God today. People can read a passage of Scripture and interpret a promise out of context and they think that God is obligated to perform on demand and they are entitled to His blessing. It is almost like we have a view of God who is bound to His word for our benefit. He is certainly bound to His word but it is because He has a purpose in it. God told the prophet Jeremiah that He was watching over His word to perform it. God is still watching and doing His word. He invites us to join Him daily in the working out of His word in our lives. The leper bows down and approaches God. He does not demand that Jesus do anything for Him. He does not say you made me this way so you’re responsible to take care of me. He humbly makes a statement of faith about what he believes about God. If Jesus is willing, He can… How much our prayer life will change if we come to this place in our life. If God is willing, He can change our circumstance, He can make us whole. He can make us clean. He is God Almighty. Jesus tells the leper that He is willing and Be clean. This was a HUGE difference in what the leper had to say about himself in public so that others would hear and avoid him. UNCLEAN!!! He was forced to cry out. What powerful and power-filled words when Jesus said, Be cleansed. Show yourself to the priest…you will be a testimony to them!

But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Here is a man who understood that his own authority was insufficient to help his servant’s condition. With all the power of the government and its authority to back him up, the centurion was utterly helpless in this circumstance of life. When someone in authority acknowledges that he is under authority it is a humbling thing. The centurion had authority to put down rebellion and represent the interests of Caesar’s empire but did not have authority to heal his servant. But this pagan had enough wisdom to seek One who did. Perhaps you are in a place where all your resources and power are not enough for the task. Wise people humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. In our culture today, people who humble themselves are often maligned in a climate where there is a mentality where only the strong survive. Humility is not seen as a desirable virtue according to a secular worldview. Assertive people win, we are told, but biblically speaking…


Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel…”

There is a danger attached to growing up “in church” and around church people. Sometimes we tend to know the stories without knowing God as the Storyteller. People of faith can become so used to knowing about God without knowing God deeply. The great cry to God’s people today is for us to become more intimate with God than we ever have. How? Put yourself in a place where Jesus is passing by. He speaks through the word every day; He intervenes in our lives sometimes in miraculous ways. He reveals more of Himself to those who are serious about knowing Him intimately. Jesus tells those who were following Him that here is something they need to pay attention to because it got His attention. What caused God to marvel? This centurion, outcast from the Jewish community is living out faith whereas the sons of the kingdom will be content to think they will enter the kingdom because of the faith of their fathers. They will be the real outcasts. Sometimes we Christians are content to think that just knowing the right things to say and the right places to go will be enough to enter God’s Kingdom. We must know Christ as Christians. The response to the centurion is one that is relevant to us today: “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” What Jesus was saying was that the centurion had believed…or had faith in God…and God had acted upon that act of faith. What are you believing about Christ today? Do you have faith that God has the ability and the willingness to move in our culture? Today’s church as a whole does not operate as though we believe God because in a large measure we simply don’t know Him well enough. We will not trust those whom we do not know well. Do you have a high trust level in God? Do you know Him well enough?


The centurion’s declaration to Jesus can serve as our so what for today:

…but just say the word…

Our so what is a say so! Just say the word, Lord and it is so. There are far too many people declaring things in the name of Jesus without consulting Jesus. We need more people in God’s kingdom proclaiming the authority of the King. He has decreed for us words of life. We need more people saying “Thus says the Lord” because they know what the Lord has said. What He has said He is still saying. My cry today to the Lord is just say the word.

But just say the word…Lord…and my sin, which is really spiritual leprosy, is suddenly and completely cleansed. But just say the word…Lord and my powerless effort to help someone who is helpless is accomplished under Your authority. But just say the word…Lord and my hopelessness in believing that my marriage can be healed or my health can be restored or my future can be secure or my addictions can be overcome and it is so! Let’s just let the Word of God speak…and believe it…and live it.

The title of today’s message is A WORD FOR THE WISE IS SUFFICIENT. Usually we hear that a word to the wise is sufficient. This is true if one is already wise. A person will only be wise when they have heard God and believed Him. So this is a word for the church today. We cannot be wise if we trust in our own self-made plans and serve a self-centered purpose. We will be wise when we receive what God has given us today. Himself. His word. There is no greater resource available to us. And His word is sufficient. When the church believes this, God will be manifested greatly in our midst and impact our culture for His glory. Wise people do what God says. Be a doer of the word today. It will change your life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Image Of Our Maker

Lately I’ve been thinking about air-conditioning, Diet Coke, and artificial flowers. The power went out the night before last and the air conditioning wasn’t operating. As I lay in bed I wondered how long it would take for me to get used to the absence of air conditioning. I remember the first window air conditioner my family enjoyed when I was a boy. And we all had to get used to it. Diet Coke is something for which I never thought I would develop a taste. But upon discovering that I had Type 2 diabetes I found that I developed an almost instant desire for its taste. I can only attribute that change of desires to the grace of God. These days when I run out of my Diet Coke supply, I often pout around the kitchen, wondering what I have on hand that will quench my thirst. I wondered out loud the other day as I saw someone building an artificial flower arrangement, “What in the world is wrong with what God made?” There was a time when people lived without air conditioning, dependent upon the evaporation of perspiration to keep our bodies cool as God originally designed. And no matter how much I like Diet Coke, when I am rummaging around the kitchen and looking for a substitute I seem to be oblivious to the truth that we humans have not improved on the satisfying attributes of water. Some flavored drinks actually seem to make us thirstier. And no matter how much artificial flowers look like the real thing, they give out no sweet aroma, although I’ve heard you can get some floral scents to help them seem more real. We often go to great lengths to keep from admitting that God really knows what He is doing. Man’s attempts to improve on God’s creation are futile.
So what in the world is wrong with what God made, especially that creature which the Bible says was made in the image and likeness of God? Everything is wrong. All of Creation is damaged and marred by the presence and power of sin, especially man. That which was meant to live is destined for death in its natural state. Without the intervention of Someone outside of Creation then humanity is bound for destruction and is broken beyond human ability to restore. That is the bad news. But the good news is that although the image of God the Maker stamped upon humanity is certainly flawed, it is still intact. The humanist would say that man is basically good, and will not acknowledge that there is indeed a Maker to whom man will give an account. But we who know God can know a different philosophy or worldview. The Biblical worldview lays it out in Genesis 3 and beyond. Anyone who reads and hears the word of God can come away with a different revelation. God reveals to us in the Biblical narrative that there is one great story called redemption. Our Creator has done something and is doing something about restoring our brokenness. Our Creator became our Redeemer and Restorer.
Paul wrote to the Christian community at Colossae where a crossroads of culture existed and an arena of ideas, competing with Christian doctrine, were intermingling and compromising the gospel. The challenge for the Colossians was how to be godly around ungodly cultural influences. Two views of heresy were confronted and defended against. One was Gnosticism and another was legalism. Gnosticism promoted a “secret knowledge” above and beyond the gospel message. Spiritual gurus said that it wasn’t enough to know the message of Christ. People needed a deeper revelation. Angel worship, astrology, and age-old new age pagan thought was rampant. Legalism was a swing of the pendulum in the other direction. The legalist limited their engagement of the culture lest they be infected with secular ideas. They attempted to derail Christianity by imposing Jewish control over the Christian message. They rejected the gospel because men needed to earn righteousness by their own efforts by keeping the law in their opinion. These Colossian Christ followers were caught in the middle of this cultural war of ideas wondering which worldview was worthy to base their lives upon. Their dilemma was the same as it is for the church today. We have to wrestle with and discern the timely relevance of the timeless truth of the word of the living God. Although we are not Colossians, we can learn the principles that the divinely inspired Apostle Paul wrote about. Let’s hear the word of the Lord through the proclamation of the truth about the Cosmic Christ. God reveals Himself in Christ.
This truth is relevant to our culture because the work of Christ is God’s redemptive plan.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20)

God has revealed Himself through Christ in Creation, Redemption, and Restoration.


“Let Us make man in our image…” God gives Himself a directive in Genesis 1:26. Here is the beginning of the “God-made man.” It is humorous to hear someone described as a self-made man or self-made woman. Human beings may be described as movers and shakers, but they cannot be their own makers. God has made us in His image. This is what sets mankind apart from all other creatures. We live in a culture today which will grant extraordinary protection to the tiniest species of insect or rodent and kill unborn human life in the womb. How did we get to this point in this land that we love? The same way humans who think too highly of themselves often do. We deny the power of God because we do not think of Jesus as God. He is the image of the invisible God. This is only one of the passages that speak of the presence of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, as the Agent of Creation. This passage does not teach that Christ is a created being. It teaches that Jesus was the representative of perfect humanity and its Creator as well. He was the preeminent man, the first place man in all of creation. Prefall man was created good. Postfall man can become good again once he has been redeemed. For this to happen, God had to personally intervene and pay the price of man’s redemption. There had to be a postfall man superior to the prefall man. This man was the man Christ Jesus. Christ is the central figure in the revelation of Creation. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away and new things have come. Christ is still creating.


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

The time of the writing of the Colossian letter was probably no more than 30 years or so from the death of Jesus. The Gospel of John was written probably 50 to 60 years after the crucifixion. Where did they get their information about Christ as the Creating Word of God? From Moses, in the beginning, in Genesis 1. The mystery of the incarnation is a stumbling block to Jews, Moslems, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other world religions that balk at acknowledging that the Creator became a man. For to do that, this Man would have to be God. Exactly. And once this truth is appropriated, it gives us understanding of the precious value of the price of redemption. To believe that God became a person is necessary to understand what infinite value of Being was nailed to the cross.
At Christmastime we sing about the baby Jesus who is memorialized in the tune What Child is This? We often do not think much more about this mystery throughout the year. He did not remain an infant but grew up and is remembered in the disciples’ awestruck question in the midst of a storm at sea, What manner of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him? I think that I do not marvel and meditate upon this doctrine as much as I should. The foundational understanding of the gospel rests upon this truth. God Himself was manifested in the man Christ Jesus. Because He was both man and God, He could be the only sufficient price to rescue humanity from the curse of sin in that He became the curse Himself. Cursed is He, the Bible proclaims, who hangs on a tree…


For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross;

Once upon a tree, upon an old rugged, Roman cross, God died to save us from God. If we ask the unbeliever, the person who does not claim the name Christian, Are you saved?, it may elicit the response, Saved from what? I suggest to you that the average Christian, the Christ-follower, will say yes to the question when asked, Are you saved? And if you follow up with the question, Saved from what? you probably would not hear very many people say: I am saved from the wrath of God. The blood of the cross does not mean that the cross was bleeding. The blood of Christ is not primarily the body fluid we know that flows through the arteries and veins of human beings. When spoken of in the Bible the Blood of Jesus, the Blood of Christ is referring to His death. And only the Holy Death of God can satisfy the justice requirement of the Holy Wrath of God against all unrighteousness. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood, or the death, of Jesus. The death of Christ was no accident or unfortunate series of events that led up to an untimely circumstance. It was a death sentence to the power of death itself. The image of God is revealed at the cross.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)

Today we who hear these words can be saved from the wrath of God if we respond rightly to His call to repent and believe the gospel. Surrender your life to the God of life today. Without the incarnation of God as a man, the crucifixion has no value in offering a perfect substitute for us. Without the suffering death of a crucified God, we can never know the power of a resurrected One. Thanks be to God that He has made peace through the blood of His cross. And the story continues.


So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20:19-29)

Three times in this passage Jesus says to His disciples, “Peace be with you.” Significant that He said this to people who were at their emotional lowest station in life. This peace that the Word of God speaks to His disciples comes at a time when their lives were full of fearful turmoil and confusing chaos. It doesn’t get much worse than the backside of the cross. Some here today may be in a serious time of spiritual disarray. But take heart when you see Christ revealed to you as Lord of the Resurrection. God Himself is breathing the very breath of God into men who were as good as dead. Lifeless and hopeless is the man or woman without the Indwelling Spirit of God. Have you received the Holy Spirit? Just as God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, the resurrected Christ is a preview of what life is going to be like for those who have been created to live forever with God. We will once again wear an untarnished image of God. How are we wearing it now? Do others see the life of Christ in you? Do they see you following Him through all of life’s joys and sorrows?


It seems to me that if God wants His people to follow Him, we must be guided in that journey. And God has seen fit to give us this Holy Spirit to help us determine the direction for our lives in conjunction with and not apart from the Word of God. God’s Spirit will not lead us into a place that the Word of God says we shouldn’t be. That may be spirit-led. But it is of a different spirit. Our problem is that sometimes God leads us into the hard and dark places of life. We panic and think this is not of God when the Biblical record often demonstrates the contrary. Following Christ is not the easy road where many are traveling. It is the narrow way that is often lonely. It is here that many Christ-followers reject the path of hardship and opt out. The Christ-follower needs to examine the life of the One we are following. Consider the following excerpts from the book Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

“By every human standard of reckoning, the cross was a waste – the waste of a young life, a prophet’s influence, a leader’s potential. We know the secret of its meaning and achievement only from God’s own statements. Similarly the Christian’s guided life may appear as a waste…Sooner or later, God’s guidance, which brings us out of darkness into light, will also bring us out of light into darkness. It is part of the way of the cross….Guidance, like all God’s blessings under the covenant of grace, is a sovereign act. Not merely does God will to guide us in the sense of showing us His way, that we may tread it; He wills also to guide us in the more fundamental sense of ensuring that, whatever happens, whatever mistakes we may make, we shall come safely home. Slippings and strayings there will be, no doubt, but the everlasting arms are beneath us; we shall be caught, rescued, restored. This is God’s promise; this is how good He is.” (240-242)

Our “so what” of today’s message is:

When we do not conduct ourselves as “God-made” men before God, failing to “image” Him to a godless world, perhaps it is because we find ourselves being “self-made men” trying to do spiritual things while trying to relate to a “man-made” god.

He is the image of the invisible God. Seeing Christ as He is changes us in our culture.
Are you “imaging” God in the world today?

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, (Colossians 2:6)

The Majesty Of Our Maker

Many years ago, I was traveling with my son in the vicinity of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I had some business in a condominium development and had to drive past a local landmark. One of the golf course community developers had built an elevated water tower that looked like a golf ball sitting on top of a tee. As we left the development my young son looked at the water tower until it became impossible to see. A few miles down the road he asked me a question I remember to this day.
“Daddy, how big is God?” he asked.
“Son, I don’t really know. He’s bigger than anything we could ever imagine,” I said. How does one convey the magnitude of an infinite God to the finite mind of a little boy? Just as I was thinking about the challenge he floored me with what had occupied the thoughts of that little mind since the first time he laid eyes on that water tower.
“Then He’s big enough to knock that golf ball off that tee!” Oh, that we can catch a glimpse of the greatness of God. Often we receive that from the heart of a child. A child marvels at the wonder of life. Maybe they are small enough to think big about God.
Big enough and small enough. This is the God of the Bible. One who is so majestic it defies description and One who desires to be so intimate it defies reason. Today we come to another message about the cultural relevance of a biblical worldview. It is beneficial in our daily lives and is relevant in our culture for us to think rightly about God. If I can simultaneously understand that God is both majestic and personal it will benefit me in the way I make choices in life. We desperately need a revelation of God in our culture who is worthy to be called Majestic and yet Personal. One who is far grander than our situations and yet intimate enough to know us better than we know ourselves.
We will look at two portions of Scripture to give us a sense of this revelation. It is what God says about Himself, not what you or I think or feel. The culturally relevant biblical truth to explore today is a twin truth that is held in tension.

God Reveals Himself As Both Majestic And Personal.

Let’s look first at what the psalmist has to say about the majesty of God.

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God; depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, and Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalms 139)


Because God is without beginning, God is also without boundaries. The psalmist is rightly saying that there is some knowledge and understanding about God that is too much for us to take in. Who can fully understand the ways of God? Once I was asked by a young man trying to put all the pieces together of how God has revealed Himself. He asked me some questions about the mysteries of God and I had to confess that I didn’t know. He said that if I didn’t know then tell him where he could go to get the answers. I said that for some of his questions God did not reveal the answers to anyone. After he protested a bit he stopped when I told him that if he had all the answers to every question about God that no one else did, then he would be God…and perhaps that was his real struggle after all. We all want to know what God knows. And we never will. That knowledge is reserved for him. I agree with the psalmist. Such knowledge is too high…I cannot attain it. God is not boxed into our reality. Some people say that we put God in a box. That we limit His activity when we compartmentalize Him. I would go farther and say that God is without boundaries. And if we really think we have Him boxed in and can control Him we’ve really got the wrong God hemmed in. He is loose and unhindered in the universe. And just because we are limited in our understanding of Him does not mean He is diminished in His majesty. The mystery of this majesty is that we get an occasional glimpse of it when He reveals it to us. The revelation of how much He knows us is revealed when we come to know Him.
God saw the length of my life before it ever began. That source of knowledge is something the psychics on the hotline would love to be plugged into. Not only does God know the words I speak before I speak them He knows the days of my life before I began to live them. According to verse 16 my days have been numbered. Sounds like a lot of biblical truth expressed in the days of the old western movies. One gunman would tell another to say his prayers, his days were numbered, and he was going to meet His maker. Wow! Now that is a culturally relevant message from a biblical perspective for people in our time. But no one seems to be listening very well. But that does not negate the truth from God’s perspective. It behooves us to have this biblical worldview even if many in our nation do not.
This Creator is unlimited in His knowledge of creation even when His creatures are oblivious and rebellious toward Him. The popularity of the biblical worldview does not carry any weight towards its veracity. God is true even if none of us believe Him. But how much more should these things shape the believer’s life? This revelation of God to us changes the way we live when we rightly think about Him. We can know God. But the greater truth is He knows us.
God knows everything we try to hide from all others, even ourselves. Often our greatest obstacle to being free to worship God comes in our self deception. We pretend we are something we are not and build up defenses so we do not have to disclose ourselves to God. We can lie to ourselves and believe the lies that we are good enough to justify ourselves to God. The psalmist knew that God knew him deeper than he knew himself. God has thought of everything. If He wants us to be free from sin that we have believed is not sin, He can help us see that by the convicting presence of His Holy Spirit. God knows us intimately. And He is majestic in His omniscience.
This Christ we worship is the God who had no need to be told about the nature of man because He knew all men. Such is the teaching in chapter 2 of John’s gospel. Chapter 3 introduces us to someone who by all accounts of man’s standards of righteousness was presentable to God. Now there was a man…tells us of the teacher named Nicodemus. And He lacked something to help him see the kingdom of God. He needed to be born again. This is the heart of man. We need spiritual birth to access God.
Our Maker is informed and engaged in our lives. An earthly king can be seen as very powerful in that he may have unparalleled access and control over a subject’s life. He may have knowledge over the subject’s personal and public life due to the gathering of information. A powerful king has a multitude of resources. But these earthly kings are very seldom acquainted with the subject on a personal level. This is where the contrast in God as our King is stark. He is not only intimately informed, He is powerfully engaged. He knows our weaknesses hidden from others. And He is powerful enough to do something about it.
Christ-followers who know God as all-knowing and all-powerful can live in a much different way than those who do not follow Christ. It shapes the way we make decisions in a culture that is bent on the pursuit of knowledge. We live in an information age. Knowledge is power, we hear many times. But instead of wielding this advantage to knowing more about everything to gain power over others, God gives us wisdom to apply His power to our lives. He gives us power to say no to running the rat race that the rats are winning. He gives us the power to say yes to His ways.
We can live as though we actually believe that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The intricate design of the human being shows the intimate care and power of our Maker. And we worship Him for that. His nature is what sets His children apart from the children of men. And even the struggles in this life cannot cancel out the majesty of our Maker. Pain is real in this world. We are not called to deny it. We are called to bring our struggle to God.
The losses and crosses in our lives as members of Christ’s body are diminished under the dominion of God. Sometimes life hurts as we live it under God’s authority. We are challenged as we are told by those of no faith that if God cared about us we wouldn’t be suffering. Rebuke that lie. God knows our plight. And He knows us personally. And He can remove the thorns in our flesh or He can sustain us with His grace to endure them. He is good. He is more than good. He is great.
We have a Great King in the Kingdom of God. Wouldn’t it be a bummer if we found a king much like “the man behind the curtain” in the Wizard of Oz? I pitied him when I saw him pulling the levers that put forth the fire and smoke and images of the great and powerful Oz. We do not have a God we need to pity or apologize to the world on His behalf. We have a Great King worthy of our worship and worthy of our loyalty. God is much bigger than the men He has made.


Our second passage of scripture to explore today leads up to the popular “eagles’ wings” passage that for thousands of years have encouraged God’s people. The secret of mounting up with wings like eagles is learning how to apply the knowledge of a great and intimate God to life when it presses in and bears down upon us. Hear the word of the Lord revealed to us through the prophet Isaiah.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver. He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; he seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble.
“To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God?” Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:12-31)

God has always revealed Himself as powerful and personal to people in times of despair. Desperate times require desperate measures, the old saying goes. Desperate times require a Majestic Measurer. God had the times of Isaiah and the times we live under His sovereign control. This great passage tells me that anytime I am struggling with the struggles in life and weary beyond my capacity, I need to consider and compare my circumstances to this incomparable God. There is none like Him.
People who lived in the time of Moses, Gideon, and Isaiah were despondent much like the people today…when God was compared to cultural adversity and hardship. Life is getting increasingly harder for the believer in America. It seems that the prosperity we have lived with is dissipating and the false faith of easy-believism is fading away. But real faith considers the circumstance and compares it with the God of the circumstance. For believers, hard times reveal the character of a rock-solid God.
Life is hard for the person who does not follow Christ because they are trying to live outside the authority of the Life-Giver. The Bible tells us that the way of the transgressor is hard. They want to enjoy life without the joy of the Lord, live in the Garden of God without the Gardener, and the Kingdom of God without the King. They want to do life on their own. This is man living outside of his purpose. The one who lives and struggles with the natural world in natural ways will not overcome. It has only been granted to those who surrender to Christ to be overcomers. Are you weary of being overwhelmed and desire to be an overcomer? Surrender your life to the authority of Christ today. He is King.
So You are a king? This is the mocking question posed to Jesus by the Roman governor Pilate just before Jesus completed His work on the cross. Jesus responded, My kingdom is not of this world…and …for this I have been born… Jesus was born to die so that we may be born to live. Are you living your life according to the pattern that Christ left for us to follow? Are you working for the King?
We cannot do the work of Christ but we can get to work with Christ. By this I mean that His work on the cross was His and His alone to do. That was His purpose. My purpose is to know Him and serve Him. And I must join Him in His work of redemption. First of all I must not resist what He is working out in me. He is conforming me to His image. This means I must be in a constant mode of repentance and change. When I find myself serving myself, I must say no to me and yes to Christ. We have worked long enough trying to make a name for ourselves rather than exalting the name of Christ. We must be clear in our culture as to who it is we follow for our following to be relevant. Christianity without following Christ is meaningless.
The church is the Body of Christ no matter who is president of our nation or no matter who is leader of any other nation. This passage tells us that God sets these people in place and the nations are as drops of water in a bucket. Does God care about the lives of men? Yes. But He is first and foremost concerned about His glorious name. It will be exalted in the earth. All will come to know He is God and there is no other. There are no other gods who have any power. Idols are teeterers and totterers in the scheme of things. Idols fall and idolaters stumble.
Today the church is God’s chosen spiritual army no matter who has access to nuclear missiles. The threats of world leaders to wield this horrendous sword are not a factor in the waging of spiritual warfare. Is global nuclear war a serious threat? You bet it is. But the greater threat is the loss of the souls of men and women and boys and girls who are too focused on the potential of calamity to give thought to their Personal Creator. Church, are we making much of this majestic and intimate God? If we don’t, where in the world will the world hear of such a Being?
The church of the Living God has all the resources of God no matter whose bank is bankrupt. Do we testify by our words and actions that we believe that God is able to sustain His people in these uncertain and perilous times? Do we act in faith by living out a faithful lifestyle before a watching world? Do we encourage our brothers and sisters who are struggling financially and help when we see a need? This Great God has placed His name upon His church. This is our greatest resource. The name of Jesus.

Our So What today comes to us in the form of three questions God asks in the Isaiah passage. To continually ask these three questions to ourselves is to help give us application in living out the days ahead of us.

To whom then will you compare God? (verse 18) Because we are flawed and fail, we imagine this about God. Here is where we err in our thinking! He is incomparable in His ability and compassion.

Why do you think I’ve abandoned you? (verse 27) Repent from this mindset that thinks God does not care about His people. The cross sends a different message. This kind of thinking dishonors God and diminishes His sacrifice.

Haven’t you heard about who I am? (verse 28) God is God Almighty; He gives strength to the weary, hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless. Believe the gospel…God’s good news about man’s bad condition.

After we have compared the incomparable God to our circumstance in life, we can mount up with wings like eagles. Wait on the Lord. He will come and help His people. He is that powerful. And He is that personal.

We can love a God like that.

Purpose Driven Living

Today we begin a series on The Cultural Relevance of a Biblical Worldview. Human beings are meaning makers. There is always an interpretation of our experiences in life and the circumstances of life. We betray that desire to interpret life by our questions we ask ourselves and others. Why did this thing happen?, What do these things mean?, Why am I here?, and What is my purpose? are only a few of the thoughts that plague us and cry out for answers. The last question is one that contains our purpose today as we seek to gain some insight into the answer to the question: What is my purpose?
It makes a difference in the way we live when we know why we live. And the desire for multitudes of people to nail down the purpose of their lives is prevalent in our culture today. We live in a culture where the cultural institutions are failing us in their provision and protection. That which we have come to depend upon is becoming more and more disappointing. The people we have trusted to lead us have shown themselves to be people who are different from the person we thought we knew. The time is approaching, and is now here, where we as a nation are seeking guidance from a source we can trust. For us, as the people of God to understand our purpose for which we have been created, it must be revealed from a trustworthy source, none other than God Himself. This brings us to another one of those questions. Can God really be known? For until we settle that question, we will never truly know our purpose.

A Culturally Relevant Biblical Truth for our examination today is God Can Be Known.
In our pursuit to know God and discover our purpose we turn to two passages of Scripture today. The first one comes from the book of Genesis, the book of beginnings.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)


Created things have a beginning but not so with the Creator. Pondering the phrase in the beginning can provoke a question in my mind. In the beginning of what? It surely wasn’t God’s beginning for we find Him already there, the active agent in Creation’s story. So what is the scripture talking about? The beginning that is referred to here is the beginning of creation’s relationship with its Creator. God created something when there was nothing. This is amazing enough. But when we understand that the Person of God was existing before the existence of Creation it puts things in the right perspective. There was Someone before there was something.
Creatures who have a beginning with naturally end with and ending. In the beginning God created things. And everything He created had a purpose. That purpose was to sustain and promote life. Very early in Creation’s account these living things began to be affected by the curse of sin and death brought living things to an ending. This should trouble the human creatures known as man. But people seem to live as though they give little thought to the fact that their physical earthly lives will come to an end. God is the only Being that has no beginning and therefore no ending.
Christ had a beginning as a man but was in the beginning as God. The unique Being of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, is wrapped up in the phrase “the only begotten”. Christ was not born in the sense of being a creation of the Creator. He is not and has never been a creature. In fact He is contrasted as the Creator. Christ is not only God the Creator, He is Man. Christ was born when God became a man. He had a beginning but was also in the beginning as God. He was God’s perfect man and man’s perfect God. We can only know this by faith. Reason seems to fail to explain this mystery. And the only reason we can know it by faith is that the Word of God tells us that it is so.
The quality and extent of our knowledge of Christ depends primarily upon His revelation. As in any personal relationship, you only know someone as much as they want you to know them. A dog or a horse can be known in a relatively short period of time. But in the case of knowing God, it will take an eternity. But even now, we can begin to know Him as He reveals Himself to us. Our part in this privilege is to place ourselves in the place where God can reveal Himself to us. Intimacy with God allows Him to reveal more of Himself with us.
Church membership has a beginning with knowing the Beginner. The application of this truth to the church becomes apparent with the condition that the church manifests today. In many cases the church lacks the power of God and is often no more than an institution for social gatherings instead of the Living Body of Christ. To what do we attribute this malady? I believe it can be traced to what we see as an unregenerate church. This is the church where you can be a member without being a part of Christ. You can satisfy church membership requirements without being born again. For the church to be a source of the power of God it must be connected to God. The church will have its beginning only after she knows the Beginner. Only then will the church make an eternal impact on people’s lives.


The eternal realm has always existed because of the reality of the Eternal One. Sin is the permeating poison of creation. It causes us to turn away from thinking with an eternal perspective and teaches us to focus on the here and the now. This present world is the one in which we are living out our existence…at least for now. These words in the beginning grabs our attention like the beginning of a great story. How many of us would rather be seated in the movie theater before the feature begins? I don’t like to walk into the middle of the story. I spend too much time trying to guess at what things were like when the movie began. In God’s great story we don’t have to wonder when the beginning was or what was happening. We must begin with God. Eternity. Then the beginning began. This is where the story of man’s interaction with God began. When God created the heavens and the earth.
Self-centered human beings think of themselves as the center of the universe. Contrary to popular thought, our history did not begin when we were born. Eternity has always existed because God has always existed. Self-centered living teaches us that nothing was before we were. But that is a false assumption. We are not the center of the universe. We don’t even know where that is. That is knowledge left for God to reveal.
The presence of Christ in our world is our hope that we are connected to Eternity. In this eternal drama Christ emerges as the Eternal One willingly becoming bound to temporariness. Although Christ was equal with God because He was God He became Man to bridge the connection that was severed between God and man. Knowing Christ is our connection to the God of Eternity.
Living with an eternal worldview shapes our decision making. Consider how my life changes when I think first of all how my words build others up or tear others down. If the God of Eternity is witness to how I speak to others I should think about how I say what I say. Thinking eternally before I speak requires that I think. As I am thinking about eternity I come to discover that every action is at first a thought. And every thought is because I think. We make decisions based upon what we believe about life. If I believe I am accountable in eternity for my life in this temporary place it gives me cause to be cautious about sinful choices and abandoned in joy for godly decisions.
Church life should be focused on living in an Eternal Kingdom. All that takes place of any eternal nature in the church will be because we are living in accordance with the eternal foundation that is in place. Do we care more about business meetings we conduct than conducting our Father’s business? Church life should be about building lives based upon the principles of the Kingdom of God. Things we expend our time, talent and treasure upon should be those things that are invested in building up Kingdom People. Only then will we as God’s People live out our purpose.


Sometimes we are given a real treat when we can look into the Bible and read where God is talking to Himself. As we look into John’s Gospel we see such a time recorded for us. Jesus is in communion with the Father in what is commonly called the High Priestly Prayer. Without taking the time to deal with all that He prays we can gain some insight in the first three verses as we learn to live out our purpose in life.

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:1-3)

What matters more than I know God is that God knows me. Far greater than knowing God is the knowledge that our God knows us. People will say that they know God if they know a little about God. But they have nothing to say as to whether they are known by God. This is the testimony of God Himself where the Spirit of God testifies that we are children of God. How can I know if I am known by God? I can know the Spirit of God that testifies and instructs us in the truth.
Without a knowledge of eternal life given to us by the Eternal One, life has no meaning and purpose. It is sad to waste a life without the assurance that Christ has given us life. We bounce from one self serving attempt at assurance after another and never rest in this knowledge. If we are unsure about our eternal destiny it will affect how we live our lives in this culture. We will go along to get along and will not stand up for the truth of God when inundated with lies. We will chase every promise of peace without ever finding it because Christ is the Prince of Peace. This passage tells us that this peace is our purpose. Eternal life brings peace in the soul.
Christ is the one and only authorized agent who can grant eternal life. If I desire to receive something authentic I want to go to the authorized source. If I want to receive something relevant, I want to get it from someone who knows the proper usage for the thing I receive. Christ is the Person that knows why I am given eternal life. Without eternal life I can never know an Eternal God. Here is our purpose in life.
The Christian’s eternal purpose is to know God, to make Him known, and to be known by Him. Too many American Christians want to look like they are godly with all the trappings of the world we live in. For example we want the same things and enjoy these temporary creature comforts that our culture abounds in. We get caught up chasing the temporary and yearning for the eternal. No wonder so many of us are wandering and wondering if we are living our purpose.
Mount Olivet can reap eternal benefits when we are investing our time, talent, and
treasure towards eternity. Let us begin today with a fresh vision of our purpose.

Our So What? of today’s message is this:
The knowledge of the Eternal Nature of God is foundational to our biblical worldview.
This knowledge is relevant because it gives purpose to life in a culture of death.
Without the knowledge of God in the Person of Christ Jesus, life has no purpose in eternity.
Life matters to the God of Eternity.
Your life matters to you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lord Of The Storm

When I was growing up in South Carolina I thought there was only one Great Lake and it was in the middle of South Carolina and its name was Lake Marion. It was indeed a great lake. At least I thought so every time my daddy would wake me up to go fishing. I would leap out of bed, already dressed because he had told me the night before to be ready to go early. We would leave home while it was still dark and stop for eggs and grits along the way. When the sun came up we were usually headed out on the lake in the boat for wherever he thought fishing might be the most productive. Most of the time we would leave the lake around noontime with our legal limit of crappie or at least a respectable catch for the day. Rarely did we go and not catch anything. It was during this season in my life that I first heard the phrase, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.” I don’t remember if it was my daddy that said it or someone at the boat landing or one of the folks that gathered before daylight in a southern restaurant. But one day we went fishing and I believe that my daddy would have rather been working. I know that day I would have preferred to have been cutting grass, washing cars, or delivering papers. That day was the day of the storm. It was the worst storm I had ever seen or heard tell of. It was the ultimate potentially bad day of fishing. We were overtaken by the most perfect granddaddy storm I had ever encountered. Storms on that lake often came unannounced but not altogether unexpected for some. Storms on the lake were part and parcel to life on the lake.
My daddy’s boat was a 14 foot aluminum water craft equipped with a small horsepower Evinrude outboard motor. It was a very small boat and could not compare to the high powered and custom equipped bass boats of today. There was no electronic sonar or high tech fish finders on board. Our fish finder was called Daddy! As I remember the fish were biting pretty good late in the morning and I didn’t notice the change in the weather. When my daddy told me to put away the fishing pole it didn’t make sense to me until I looked toward the other side of the lake. Black clouds had covered the area of the boat landing and the wind began to blow really hard. I was instructed to turn around in the boat and face him as he began to try to outrun the storm. I usually sat in the front of the boat and looked ahead to where we were going. This day he told me to look at him and hold on tight. So I did. I kept looking at him while the hail began to rain down upon our heads and the waves broke over the front of the boat and water began to swirl around my feet. That little boat became like a roller coaster as it rode the waves and several times the motor came all the way out of the water. I didn’t know how fearful and fierce the storm was because I was too busy watching my daddy’s face as he guided the boat to the other side of the lake. As the boat ran aground on the sandy shore, he scooped me up and we sat the storm out under the shelter of somebody’s lake house porch. As you can tell, I survived the storm. And I learned that the best way to survive when you’re in the midst of a storm is to focus on someone you can trust that can help you through it. Storms in life are part of life.
Mark’s Gospel is focused on chronicling the established authority of Jesus in these first four chapters. His authority is demonstrated to the disciples who followed Him, the multitudes who encountered Him, and these principles are preserved for Christ followers of all time. Let’s hear the word of the Lord for today:

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him? (Mark 4:35-41)

Sometimes it takes a perfect storm to recognize the Lord of the Storm.


…He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.”

The instruction of Jesus to His disciples is more than a desire for a boat ride. He was revealing the plan of God. Jesus was on mission, moving from one place to another. In most of chapter four, Christ has been teaching about the nature of the Kingdom of God. Now these kingdom principles were going to be put into practice. The King was going somewhere. The Kingdom of God is like a man sowing seed. The seed had been sown in the hearts of these men. On the lake with Him they would respond to life according to the faith that was growing within them. When disciples go with God they can reasonably expect they will be tested. The Kingdom of God is like a lamp that is lit, Jesus had said. The Kingdom of Light invades the Kingdom of Darkness. They were launching out onto the lake and into the dark. They were going to the other side. Jesus had an appointment with a representative of this dark and demonic realm. And darkness would not prevail. It is helpful to read the first verse of chapter 5 along with this directive to get a sense of the purpose of our Lord. …He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” and …They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. All that transpires between these two parts of the narrative tells us that Jesus had a plan to go to the other side of the lake and nothing was going to keep that from happening. When God says Let us go over to the other side, He is going over to the other side! And if He says “Let us go…” He is talking to His disciples of that day and this day. He wants us to go with Him and He is going with us.
God’s plan is to be our Companion to the other side of life. This is a part of another chapter of redemption’s story. God’s original intent of unhindered and full fellowship between God and man is still His plan. Storms and darkness are major deterrents for man’s pursuit and plans of perfection. But God has a plan in spite of the storms of life. This day we can learn a lesson from the actions of His first disciples: … they took Him along with them in the boat just as He was;

If God is to be our companion in life we have to take Him “as is”, not like we want Him to be. The first thing we have to realize in our journey on this great sea of life is that we don’t take Him along and then change Him into our image. Here is the error in the disciples thinking. They thought they took Him along. In reality, they are the ones along for the ride. Just as we are. One of the most heretical bumper stickers or license plates that I see on people’s cars is: God is my co-pilot. Really? I want to stop the driver and say: If you are going with God, He is the pilot, you are the passenger. This is your journey, but it’s His plan. He is the captain. We are the sailors. And storms will come. When you’re going with God, the question is not if there are storms, but when they will come. Are you prepared for the storms of life?
God doesn’t alter his plan around the storm. His plan is to go through the storm! A disciple’s life is not like modern day mariners and fishermen who have the benefit of GPS systems and satellite imagery of major storms. They can steer clear of their projected course. Storms that we have ample warning of are easier to avoid. But the storms like this one brewing on this lake at night come up suddenly and without warning. This is our lives as disciples. Often you can’t avoid the sudden storm. But you can prepare for it.
Are you wondering how to prepare for the sudden storm that comes without warning? Sudden and serious marital conflict can bring massive confusion and fear and helplessness and hopelessness. Drastic economic downturns that result in the loss of job and the loss of financial security cause many to doubt the institutions that we all thought we could trust with our treasure. The teenager that shares with her parents that she is pregnant can suddenly bring about a storm that sucks the wind right out of our lungs. The parable of the soils teaches us that the seed of the kingdom will grow on soil that has been prepared. The growth will survive the hard times when we have taken the time to take Jesus “just as He is”. This Jesus in the boat is the same Jesus we can know today. He is Lord. He is Lord of the storm. Before, during, and after the wind blows... He is Lord.


…and the waves were breaking … the boat was already filling up.”

The disciples had weathered storms before. The Sea of Galilee was known for its potential for sudden storms. But this storm frightened these fishermen. When a fisherman is fearful, when a sailor is terrified, it is a significant and a very perilous condition. When the boat is full of water, it will no longer serve as a boat. It will sink. This storm was a threat to their lives. But it was also a threat to their faith. Would what they knew about Jesus be enough to sustain them? Is it enough for us?
Storms can be a threat to our faith because of our fear. Where there is fear, faith cannot thrive. Where there is faith, fear must flee. Humans are fearful creatures. And here once again the Lord is on mission. Fear is a by product of man’s sinful humanity. All through the Bible, people are given this comforting message, no matter what they were threatened by: Fear not…God is with you. Perhaps these disciples had not come to this understanding of the nature of God. Maybe they were too fearful to be very faithful. Sometimes we can find ourselves in this predicament. The nature of fearful disciples can bring us to a point where we begin to think wrongly about the nature of God. This wrong-headed thinking drives the disciples’ question: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Fear asks that question and faith answers back. Fear speaks from the hearts of the disciples. In much the same way fear screams today, If God really cared, why am I in so much trouble? Why do I have so much sorrow? Why didn’t God come through with what I need? Doesn’t He care? Perhaps a better question would have been, Lord, don’t you know the danger we are in? To that we can give the answer. The text gives the answer. He does not try to reason them back to reality. Of course He cares. He just acts and the disciples can know that God is aware of the peril within the storm! God is aware and God does care! He is in their boat to go over to the other side. He has chosen them to be with Him in this moment.
The perfect storm is a perfect place to work out what we believe about God. Perhaps you are questioning God’s integrity because of your storm’s intensity. When the serpent insinuated in the Garden that God did not really care about His people, they believed the lie. This is the essence of sin. And we inherited it. If you really know God today you will know that He does really care…and He is calling us to trust Him when we really don’t understand all that is happening. God cares. Keep your eyes on Christ today. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. God can make a way.


He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea…be still.”

Jesus speaks during the storm. He does not speak to His disciples. People in crisis often cannot hear God speak. The Lord of the Storm is in full crisis management here. He speaks to the storm. In our lives God speaks to storms that are raging. The storm will rage until Jesus speaks. How do we apply this to our storm-tossed lives? Consider changing your petition from Lord, don’t you care that we are perishing to this prayer: Lord help me. I am helpless in this storm. I turn to you and away from my ineffective way of restoration. I trust that you are able to save me. Have mercy on me.
The One who made the wind and sea can change them with His word. The One who holds the world together is able to restore order from chaos. Jesus can tell the wind to stop blowing, because He made the wind. Jesus can tell the sea to stop churning because He made the sea. Do we really believe that this man in the boat was more than a good teacher and a great prophet and a model of morality? Do we really believe that He was God Himself, Creator and Sustainer? If we do then tell me, what circumstance is out of control in your life that Jesus can’t handle?
God makes provision to survive the storm when we submit to His authority. This is the teaching. He is Lord of the Storm. He is Lord of our lives. He is Lord. Jesus knows about human suffering because He is man. Jesus knows how to do something about it because He is God. The Living word is alive and well during the storm. And He has a word for His disciples in the aftermath.


“Why are you afraid?… How is it that you have no faith?”

How Jesus speaks after the storm is instructive. Do you find it strange that Jesus doesn’t say to His disciples, Whew! That was almost a disaster! I’m sorry you were so afraid. You should have awakened me earlier. It’s strange that He does not comfort them as much as confront them. Why? Perhaps it was time that they learned to trust in the truth of His teaching. They were citizens in the kingdom of God and the King was in the boat. This is a revelation to me. We all are in the same boat together. No coincidence that God uses an ark in Noah’s day to preserve His people. Don’t we have enough knowledge about the character of God to trust Him more than ever? Does our prayer life consist of petitions that God help us become holy? The storms of life are used by God to build our faith and not increase our fear.
Our lives are secure when Jesus is with us. Is He with you today? Are you strangely stirred in this moment that you are more fearful than faithful? There is good news. The safest place on earth can be in the eye of the storm with our eyes on the Savior. Safest... but not totally safe. There is pain and trouble and loss in this life. We take great hope to know as Christ followers we will see trouble in this world. It is not a safe place. But with Christ, and in Christ, we are eternally secure. Are you “in Christ”?
During the storm, disciples gain new perspective on God, self, fear, and faith. Stunned at the sudden calm, they reacted to the event in a new way. This is how the holiness of God is often manifested. Sudden and complete stillness and silence can accompany His commanding presence. What is there left to say when you witness the awesome power of a holy God?
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Sometimes it takes a perfect storm to gain a perspective of the perfect Christ.
Jesus spoke before the storm, during the storm, and after the storm. The disciples once feared the storm and now they feared the Lord of the Storm. Do you fear Him? Are you reverent in your interaction with God? Does God’s awesome power of God cause you to hold your breath at times and marvel at His majestic and sovereign authority? Sometimes it takes a perfect storm to recognize our imperfections and His perfect plan.
God’s plan is unchanged. He’s going to the other side. Will you go with Him?
God’s perspective has not changed. He takes us just as we are. We can take Him just as He is. He will not change to accommodate our comfort or convenience. That is a good thing. We have an unchanging God in a rapidly changing world.
God’s not as concerned with the problems of the storm as the people who are caught in them. He cares more about our holiness than our happiness. Remember where they were going. Into the darkness. On mission. At war. If you want to live in the Kingdom of God, warfare is a part. Storms are coming.

Our so what teaching of the day:

Get your eyes off the storm and fix them upon your Savior.
We can trust our captain.
Let us go over to the other side.

Jesus is Lord and has authority over the storms in our lives. He is Lord of the Storm.

A Father's Story

Sometimes I am careless in the way I respond to an invitation. Often I don’t respond at all. Or I say I’ll come if I can…let me check my schedule. But there are those invitations that have the initials R.S.V.P. at the end. Here that the person who is inviting me desires that I respond with one of the following responses: Yes, I will attend or No, with regrets, I am unable to be there. On some occasions, the person who extends an invitation to me may wonder if I actually received the invitation, or did I ignore it if I received it, or if I just forgot because after all, we all are really busy. I don’t think that I am alone in my cavalier manner in the way I interact with an invitation. A lot of people in this culture act the same way. And often the one who is inviting us has the attitude of “Come if you can and if you don’t I’ll understand.” But in other parts of the world, it is considered rude if you do not at least acknowledge the invitation because it shows a lack of respect for the host. And in some cultures today it is considered an insult if we do not come. After all, we are invited. And invitations are special.

Today we look at an old familiar story in the Bible concerning Abraham.
God speaks to Abraham at the high point of his life, giving him an invitation, so to speak, for Abraham to obey His command to sacrifice his son Isaac. God does not communicate with him in the form of a request or gives Abraham any other option. This is the pattern of the God of the Bible. When He speaks to a human being and tells them what He wants them to do, this communication is an invitation. It is no less so today, even in our culture.
God never wonders if we got the invitation. To Him invitations are special and He still speaks to His people. He sends the invitation personally because the invitation is not only special, it is important to Him, to us, and future generations of God’s people.

Let’s read the scripture referred to in the Jewish tradition as The Binding. It is a reference to the binding of Isaac to the sacrificial altar by his father Abraham. It is a father’s story. Abraham’s story can teach us how to respond to God in times where He invites us to go to a place we don’t want to go and do something we don’t want to do. Everything that had taken place in Abraham’s life was leading up to this crucial test. How would he respond to this invitation from God?

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.
Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”

God invites you to become involved in His work…our response to God will determine our experience with God today and for the rest of our lives.

God’s invitation to Abraham included three aspects: Examination, Revelation, and Declaration.


Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham (Gen 22:1)

Like a Master Craftsman, God continually tests what He is working on. He does not call us to follow Him and leave us to wander aimlessly and without direction. God was actively involved over the period of Abraham’s life since He called him to leave his ancestral home and go to a place he did not know. Abraham’s life was shaped by a series of choices that he made over time as to whether he trusted himself and his own ability more than he trusted in the promises of God. God was building a fruitful father from a faithful follower. This is God’s plan. He calls us to follow Him. And He examines our faithfulness to follow.

God requires us to offer completely that which is most precious. In the manner consistent with the sacrificial system, God has told Abraham to offer his son as a burnt offering. The method of a burnt offering consisted of a total sacrifice of the most prized specimen such as a bull or lamb. God wanted Abraham to be willing to surrender his son, his only son Isaac, the one that he loved to God. This was the ultimate test of his life. God presses in on him and Abraham is out of options. He can obey or not. But in this was a teaching moment, for both father and son.

We cannot teach our children how to follow God unless we follow God. We will not be an example to the next generation if we do not exemplify obedience to God. Our lives as fathers will not bear fruit unless we are faithfully following God. When we respond obediently, God reveals where He is working.


There was a revelation to Abraham and for Abraham. He was called to trust God. Trust requires a test. In this extreme test, God is the ultimate test administrator. He desires that the subject of the test receives a greater revelation of the ability of God to provide the resources needed for obedience. In other words, God wanted Abraham to learn that God can be trusted with our test. He is there to help us be obedient.

There was a revelation to Isaac and for Isaac. Isaac trusted his father. But he must learn to trust God more. He trusted Abraham. His language suggests this. He calls him “my father”, a personal term of the utmost respect. His attitude of obedience in “the binding” tells me he was submitted to his father’s will. After all, Isaac, at least a teenager by this time, could have probably overpowered this aged man who was well over 100 years old. Because he trusted Abraham and was obedient to his directive, God would indeed reveal more to him. This is the way of God. He reveals more when we obey more. Another revelation for Isaac is the revelation of God’s provision. “Where is the lamb?” was Isaac’s question to Abraham. “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering,” was Abraham’s answer. Isaac’s substitutionary sacrifice, the ram caught in the thicket, is a type that points to Christ on the cross, offered as the Lamb of God for God and to God as a total sacrifice for our sin in our place. Isaac was bound to the altar just as surely as we were bound to the cross in the sacrificial death of Christ. Isaac was spared by God’s provision. So were we. What a revelation.

There was a revelation in the world around them. Child sacrifice was common to the pagan culture around them. It is common in our world today. Children are sacrificed because people do not live as though they trust and love God. Their innocence and youth are squandered because of parental pursuit of personal pleasure. Even in our culture, people do not often see God’s people loving God more than pagans love their gods. Abraham was to be seen by the pagan culture around him that he loved and obeyed his God at least as much as the idolaters loved their idols. The culture we are surrounded by today needs to see a revelation of God’s people loving God more than the non-Christian loves their functional gods.

There was a revelation of God Himself. Here is what God desired that the Canaanite people see about the God of Abraham. He wanted them to see a God that is unique, a one-of-a- kind God. It is what God desires that people in our culture see today. This God is different. He desires obedience and not sacrifice. The people of God should reflect that our God is different and demands radical obedience rather than unreasonable sacrifice. The offering of Christ on the cross was more than sufficient to atone for our sin and to effect our salvation.
When God reveals Himself in a personal way, it is a message we can declare.


“God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (8)
Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.” (14)

God always provides the means for what He requires. We are able because God enables. We can be obedient because God desire that we obey. And He makes a way for us to obey. This was a story that no doubt this father and son would relate to future generations. The whole point to this story is that we can trust God will provide for Himself what He requires of us.
Abraham would not die until His grandson Jacob was a teenager. Do you think Jacob ever heard the story? Jacob would do his own faith-wrestling with God. Jacob would have to trust God and could not rely on what God had done in the life of Isaac and Abraham. But the story that a father tells his son and grandson about God can surely shape our faith.

Sometimes the next generation needs to hear a faith-building story. My grandfather died a few years ago in his nineties. At his funeral his former pastor told a story about an event I remembered as a young boy. The details about this personal story were hidden from me. I would have loved to have heard the story from my grandfather or even my father. The story unfolded at the funeral told of a time when my father’s younger brother, my grandfather’s youngest son, was serving his second combat tour in Vietnam. My grandparents received a message from the Marine Corps that he was missing in action and feared that he was dead. This pastor related that my grandfather called him and asked him to meet with him and a couple of other men at the church building to pray. When the pastor arrived, there was only my grandfather’s car in the parking lot. When the pastor stepped out of his car he could hear the sound of a man crying out in prayer to his God from inside the building. As he entered the sanctuary, the praying never stopped. When the other men got there, they prayed into the night for hours and hours. Finally, my grandfather stopped praying and stood up. He said that he believed he could trust God with this trial. The next day the Marine Corps notified my grandparents that their son had been found. God can indeed be trusted with our trials. And when you think about it, God entrusts the trial to us as well. His invitation always includes a decision to trust Him.

God includes examination, revelation, and declaration in His invitation. He does this so there will be communication about Him throughout the next generation. It is our privilege to share our story and how it is woven in God’s story. God is still building a people of faith. He is still testing what He is making.

Here is the so what of today’s message: Do you have a story about God’s faithfulness to tell to the next generation? Are you faithfully telling it and living like it makes a difference to you in your life?

God invites you to become involved in His work…our response to God will determine our experience with God today and for the rest of our lives for future generations.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Share Cropping

Sharecropping has a long history. It’s history is not only unique in American agriculture but in other parts of the world as well. The term sharecropping describes a system of agricultural production in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crop produced on the land. Historically, this kind of arrangement went on in many different cultures and was in effect in Biblical times. You can see this arrangement described in some of the stories that Jesus told. For example, He told a parable about a man who planted a vineyard, rented it out to others, and went on a journey. At harvest time the owner of the vineyard sent a slave to receive some of the produce. His slave was beaten and sent away empty-handed. He sent many other slaves who were treated in much the same way, some of them beaten, and some were killed. Finally he sent his son, who he hoped would be respected. But they killed him in order to steal the inheritance of the vineyard. The point of the parable is that the owner of the vineyard would take drastic action to protect his investment and his inheritance. He would take the vineyard from the ones who were not honorable and give it to others because he cared about the harvest. And he cared about the vineyard.
The kingdom of God is planted by a planter and a planner. God cares about His kingdom and He cares about the harvest. In our message today we get a sense of what is on the heart of God as Jesus continues in the Gospel of Mark to illustrate the teaching of the Sower who came to sow. We learned that the seed of the gospel will bear fruit in a life that has been prepared to receive God’s word. That life will look like a lamp that shines forth wherever it is placed in the darkness. Today’s lesson teaches us that if we have received the gospel we not only have a responsibility to shine, we have a privilege to share. We share in the planting and harvesting that God Himself is bringing about. Listen to the word of the Lord.

And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

Growth in the Kingdom of God is a partnership venture.


…the Kingdom of God…

The Kingdom of God Originates with God. God owns the field. God supplies the seed. Nothing is sown of an eternal nature until God provides the place for the harvest and the seed that grows. The seed comes from a supplier that can be trusted. Man does not supply it. He is only given seed to sow. Kingdom seeds come from the King and we become partners in the venture when God grants us the privilege to share in His work. We do not choose to share in the planting. God does the choosing.


…is like a man who casts seed upon the soil…

God gives the seed to the sower. The work of the sower is to sow the seed. God chooses us to be about the business of sowing in the Kingdom of God. The man that casts seed upon the soil of the kingdom knows that he is not responsible for its growth. He is only invited to be a part of the experience. Nothing is grown that is not sown. Planting with a hope for the harvest is the best we can do. Sometimes we plant with expectation but are often disappointed. Other creatures can steal the seed or eat the plants or the weather can be our nemesis. Often we can be the biggest threat to the growth of what is planted by our carelessness, ignorance, or neglect. So we sow with a hope for the harvest. But when God is in control of kingdom growth He has an expectation beyond our hope. God is planning for His kingdom to come to fruition. God expects the harvest to come because He is in control of the growth.


…and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, the seed sprouts up and grows…how, he himself does not know…

The sower cannot explain how the seed grows. He only knows that it does. The sower knows that it is nothing he is doing makes the seed grow. He lives out his life after sowing. He goes about the business of sleeping and waking. And the fruit grows even at night in growing season. Often we don’t know what we have sown until we see the fruit. Faithful sowers are faithful to sow. He has done all he could and all that he should. Faithful Growers grow. God is a faithful grower. It is God who appoints the seed to grow in a specific place and time. Growing season for Kingdom growth depends on the seasons that God ordains in God’s timing. Unplanted seed does not grow. The best place for growth is in prepared soil. It doesn’t matter that I have seed stored away for emergencies. Unless it is planted it will not grow. The word of God is planted in our lives for the need yet unforeseen. The kingdom growth that bears fruit is foreseen by God. Satan demanded permission to sift Peter like wheat. But Jesus had foreseen this kind of testing and the faith of Peter would prevail. You may be here today relatively unscathed by the troubles and trials that come upon some of us. Thank the Lord for His mercy. And thank Him that the word of God will not be wasted and He knew when you would need His word of comfort and courage the most. The seed must be placed in fertile ground. We who are sowing the seed of the kingdom do not know how it grows. We only know that it does.
God expects a harvest. Remember, the Planter is a Planner. He does not plant without purpose. God knows what harvest is coming and where it is planted and He is looking for fruit. He expects to see it. God expects fruitful disciples to make fruitful disciples. Do you expect a great harvest here at Mount Olivet? Can any good fruit come from here? God has an eye on the harvest. Are growing and sowing? God expects a harvest. And He will not be disappointed.


…the soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.

Good ground produces good growth. The soil that is prepared makes the difference in the growth. Just because an onion is labeled Vidalia Onion does not mean it is a Vidalia onion. True Vidalia onions grow within a certain area mandated by Georgia state law in the vicinity of Vidalia, Georgia. It is something about the soil in that region that makes the onion unique and gives it its sweet flavor. In much the same way kingdom people can only grow in certain locations. They must be grown in God’s kingdom. You will be hindered from bearing kingdom fruit while you are living in unholy places, rooted in unholiness. Just because we call ourselves Christian does not mean we are kingdom people. Just because we are church members does not mean we are truly kingdom people. We are the fruit of the gospel. We are the plants of the kingdom that are fruit bearing and are to be reproducing as disciples. For us to have the kingdom growing within us we must have roots in the kingdom. We cannot have our lives rooted in adulterous relationships and claim to be faithful to our spouse. Evil fruit will grow from evil roots. Kingdom growth comes from kingdom ground. Good ground is sown by a good God. God grows good fruit.
A receptive and redeemed heart is the fertile ground of God’s kingdom.
After the sowing, the soil controls the growing. Our hearts will control whether a reproductive harvest is possible. In the right kind of heart and in the right kind of season the harvest manifests itself. It creates a desire for others to be a part of and share in this harvest. When our hearts receive God’s word, we are transformed into people who want to share God’s love. This transformation often comes by stages; the blade, the head the mature grain in the head like the crop that is being produced. The growth is progressive. Our growth as disciples is progressive as well. This is our burden. To share what has grown in us.


But when the crop permits he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

Kingdom harvest is dependent upon the crop condition and the instruments of harvest. Man plays a significant part in the harvest. But he must wait on the time of the crop and the proper method of harvest. The crop has something to say about the timing of the harvest. Crops have a way of letting you know it is time to harvest. When I have someone ask me about spiritual things I know it is because something is growing there. I must be prepared to engage them and be a part in the planting of the seed of the gospel of the kingdom of God. And I must be ready to know the season of the harvest. I must know how to reap when the crop is ready. The gospel is not a fuzzy series of multiple choice questions where people are giving painless options to follow Jesus and His teachings when they decide the time is right for them. Listen, harvest time is now! The gospel is confrontational. We need to present it in such a way that people are clear that when they decide not to surrender their lives to Christ, they will never bear the fruit of the Kingdom of God in their lives. They will not be a part of God’s harvest. They will be harvested in the kingdom of darkness. The contrast is light and dark. Life and death.
Without God growing His harvest in you, there is something else growing there. Jesus told a parable about end-time harvest. In Matthew 13 He illustrated the teaching of the sower and the seeds with the parable about the wheat and the tares, or the wheat and the weeds. He said the kingdom of God could be compared to a man who sowed wheat in his field and while he was sleeping, the enemy of the kingdom of God sowed weeds. When the weeds were seen growing alongside the wheat the slaves of the landowner wanted to know if they should pull up the weeds. The landowner said no and that the harvest would solve the problem. Both the tares and the wheat would be harvested. But the final destination of both would be different. The weeds were to be bound and burned. The wheat would be gathered to the barn of the owner of the field. Are you wheat or weed in the evidence of what God is growing in you? Do you think and act more like Christ today or more like what the world is growing? There is a harvest coming. We are part of the harvest and we have a part in the harvest.
What makes us a partner is that we have a part. Our part in God’s harvest is living our part. If you are a part of the kingdom, if you are a child of God, God will use you to reach other children of God. Our part is to live like Christ. He is our model. He did not openly sin and encourage others to sin. He said go and sin no more. Stop sinning. It grows things other that godliness. And its end is death of the soul. Bound and burned. Our part is to live like Christ. God allows us to be a partner in the planting and in the reaping. The growth is up to Him.
We share in the benefits of the harvest. First of all, a godly life is a blessed life. To live as a kingdom citizen is to know the blessing of God even in this sinful world. The benefits I have to serve in the planting and reaping of God’s harvest is that I am in partnership with the best partner a man could ever have. I benefit from having a partner I can trust. He will not lie or cheat or keep me in bondage. He sets me free to worship and serve Him. Another benefit of that harvest is to see the miraculous way that God sets people free. He grows the seed of the gospel within them and gives them a new desire for Him and His harvest. He shares the fruits of godliness with us. The world has nothing like these to compare. Listen to what we share in God’s kingdom harvest, otherwise known as the fruits of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
This passage says that if we belong to Christ Jesus these fruits are not only a part of what God is growing in our lives, they are also beneficial to us and others. This kind of character mirrors what life in God’s kingdom looks like. We look like God. We “image” Him. Now pay attention to the first word of the passage. The word “But” signals a contrast of something we should be looking for. This Holy Spirit fruit is contrasted with something else. It’s a manifestation of our flesh. It’s what grows out of the natural human being, not the supernatural one. It’s what the world produces. Take a look at the following passage:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Which kingdom is growing in you? Which harvest will you share?