Saturday, March 24, 2012

Luke 19:28-44 – Honoring Christ!

Luke 19:28-44 – Honoring Christ!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2012 AM

The 82nd Airborne Division returned from Desert Storm. Their transport planes landed at Pope Air Force Base in front of a gathered crowd. Upon disembarking their aircraft, the troops marched before their commanding general. It was an impressive scene. The general spoke briefly. In essence he praised the troops for courageously facing the enemy and bringing a victory. Through bravery in battle, they had honored both their country and their commander. Theirs was a job well done.

In the Bible verses before us, Christ was on His way to Jerusalem to face the difficult circumstances that awaited Him there. He was following the Father’s direction in coming to the place of His rejection and crucifixion. Jesus lived a life of dedication that He was inviting His followers to live. We honor Him by following in His footsteps. As faithful Christian soldiers, we obey Jesus as Lord, praise Him as King, and share His concern regardless of life’s circumstances. Ours is a life of honoring Christ! Let’s discover how…

READ: Luke 19:28-44

The text begins with Jesus at the very gates of Jerusalem. Several times He had made reference to what awaited Him there—rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection. Jesus knew it was God’s will for Him to head toward the cross. His approach to the city was deliberate because His mission was essential. In spite of Jesus’ repeated teachings, however, the disciples remained clueless, yet we find two disciples ready and willing to do what their Master asked of them. Through their actions we discover that in honoring Christ, we are to…

I. Obey Jesus as our Lord! (Luke 19:28-32)
1. Defiance takes the easy path, obedience walks the rough road! -- Leeferism
1) At this point, approximately two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus sends a committee of two unknown disciples to find a young donkey in the village ahead. The unique detail about the donkey was that it was one “which no one has ever ridden.” The donkey’s uniqueness shows that the animal was reserved for special use. Upon finding the animal, the disciples were to untie it and bring it to Jesus. Jesus added that if someone asks “Why are you untying it?” the two disciples were to respond saying “The Lord needs it.” This statement was an authoritative claim. Jesus had a right to ride the animal because of whom He was. An unusual command was to be obeyed. It’s also important to know that the Mastermind of the universe knows the hairs on our heads, the sparrows that fall, and the location of a tied-up donkey. He pays attention to the little details and is never caught off guard. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is overlooked. Those who were sent followed Jesus’ instructions and accomplished their assignment. “Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them.” The disciples went to the town, found the young donkey tied where it was supposed to be, and proceeded to untie it. When questioned about their actions, they gave the answer Jesus had given them. They then brought the young donkey to Jesus. Mission accomplished! In honoring Christ, we are to obey Jesus as our Lord!
EXAMPLE: Five-year-old Jenna was not having a good start to her day. Every attempt to arrange the world according to her liking was having the opposite result. Arguing didn’t work. Pouting didn’t work. Crying didn’t work. Finally her mother reminded her of the Bible verse she had been learning: “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11) Apparently Jenna had been thinking about this verse, because she was quick to answer: “But Mom, it doesn’t say that I won’t sin; it says that I might not sin.” Often our willingness to obey God is like that, we look for the loophole whenever there is a command we do not want to obey. Have you done that lately? In honoring Christ, we are to obey Jesus as our Lord!

Genuine praise comes from the heart. Such praise filled the scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Excited feelings flowed freely. His was not the typical warhorse approach of earthly kings but the humble donkey approach of the Heavenly King. There would be a future time of the King of kings’ arrival as the conquering ruler, but for this time Jesus was the suffering Messiah. In previous situations, Jesus had silenced His disciples. However, Jesus went along with their enthusiasm and allowed the demonstration. In these actions we learn that in honoring Christ, we are to…

II. Praise Jesus as our King! (Luke 19:35-40)
1. The more time spent praising God is less time centered on self! -- Leeferism
1) Matthew recorded the Zechariah 9:9 prophecy that declared Israel’s King arriving on a donkey (Matthew 21:5). The disciples went into action. They threw their robes on the donkey and lifted the Lord up on its back. Just a few days later Jesus’ executioners would lift Him up on the cross. Luke tells us, “As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.” And in fact that, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen!” To the crowds, Jesus was “the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” The kind of King Jesus was would bring “Peace in heaven and (our praise) glory in the highest!” It is the glory of God in Jesus’ death and resurrection that brings peace that surpasses all our understanding! Matthew and Mark record the throwing of branches cut from the trees and fields (Matthew 21:8; Mark 11:8), and the Gospel of John records the palm branches (John 12:13). The red carpet greeting had all the trappings of Israel’s historical kings as they had made their way into Jerusalem. The coronation event was spontaneously coming together, and Jesus was not issuing any restraint. The people proclaimed that Jesus was the promised King, in the line of David, who had God’s authority and approval. But not all were pleased, the Pharisees were indignant and tell Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” Jesus replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Jesus was publically presenting Himself to the nation, and God was determined this fact would be acknowledged. If the people didn’t acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the stones would! In honoring Christ, we are to praise Jesus as our King!
EXAMPLE: Les Lamborn, for Our Daily Bread, wrote, “I used to view the worship service in church as a time for entertainment. Speaking of folks like me, Sören Kierkegaard said that we tend to think of church as a kind of theater: We sit in the audience, attentively watching the actors onstage. If we are sufficiently entertained, we show our gratitude with applause. Church, though, should be the opposite of the theater. God is the audience for our worship. What matters most takes place within the hearts of the congregation—not onstage. We should leave a worship service asking ourselves not ‘What did I get out of it?’ but rather ‘Was God pleased with what happened?’” Our praise, I think, should reflect the same kind of attitude. In honoring Christ, we are to praise Jesus as our King!

This coronation doesn’t end as it should. Jesus was not enthroned but crucified. The rejection, the suffering, the crucifixion and the resurrection came as predicted. One day He will return, and it will be a day of glory and honor. Yet, at this moment, we see Jesus approaching the city of Jerusalem and His emotions get the better of Him. Why? Jesus was never apathetic. He never said, “I don’t care.” His heart always reached out to people with love. His eyes saw what was there as well as what was going to be. In this poignant moment we realize that in honoring Christ, we are to…

III. Share Jesus’ concern! (Luke 19:41-44)
1. The ultimate fate of folks around you should give you pause! -- Leeferism
1) An overwhelming sadness stirred Christ’s emotions. Jesus saw a city so blinded by sin that it refused to receive the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus wept, is an action meaning “He burst into tears.” Surrounded by the praise of the disciples, Jesus cried. The fate of those who rejected Him broke His heart. Jesus’ words were given between sobs! “If you, even you, had only known” is a conditional statement left hanging. Jerusalem wrote Jesus off as its King and therefore forfeited its opportunity of peace with God, or salvation. In its unbelief, the city dismissed the Messiah, and its moment of salvation had come and gone. Now it was hidden from their eyes. When Jerusalem wrote Jesus off, it sealed its doom. Without the peace of God the judgment of sin does its work. In prophetic language—“the days will come upon you”—Jesus painted images of military conquest. His foresight was a product of His divine insight. The first future picture involved enemies building an embankment against Jerusalem. In a siege, embankments served as both a protection and a base of operation. The reference is to the palisade the Romans later would build around the city. The word surround denoted the wall the Romans would build around the city that would completely cut off all escape routes. That the attackers would hem the city in on every side refers to the relentless pressure of attacks. “They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.” What started as a battlefield would degenerate into a crime scene. The devastation would be so complete that Jerusalem would be leveled. Those who rejected Jesus would suffer the consequences of their actions! All of this occurred in A.D. 70 when Titus and his Roman legions laid Jerusalem to waste. This is why Jesus wept! In honoring Christ we are to share Jesus’ concern for those who reject Him!
EXAMPLE: I confess I like my self-made comfort zones. There is a certain security in the familiar; however, this can be dangerous in the life of the Christian. Longfellow wrote, “The vine still clings to the moldering wall, but at every gust the dead leaves fall.” Like that vine, many churches today cling to the crumbling wall of traditional programs, losing members like dead leaves carried away by the biting winds of our times. To put it another way: We refuse to leave our comfort zones. We like to stick to the familiar, the predictable, and the usual. It is time we honored Jesus more than our own personal comfort! In honoring Christ we are to share Jesus’ concern for those who reject Him!

Conclusion:
In honoring Christ, we are to obey Jesus as our Lord! In honoring Christ, we are to praise Jesus as our King! In honoring Christ we are to share Jesus’ concern for those who reject Him! How are you honoring Christ?
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Luke 15:1-7, 11-13, 22-24, 28-32 – When folks come to Christ!

Luke 15:1-7, 11-13, 22-24, 28-32 – When folks come to Christ!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 18, 2012 AM

The meeting grew quiet. Tension filled the air. The pastor had just shared his concern for the lost of the community. A deacon stood. “Pastor, if they want to come to our church, they know where it is. We need to take care of our own. I’m not sure they are our kind of people anyway.” The pastor took that deacon visiting, and he experienced the joy of seeing someone saved. The deacon now leads witnessing teams to experience what he has experienced. He changed from hindering evangelism to promoting and leading it in his church. Evangelism is taught, but it is also caught.

Salvation is a joy like no other. The point of Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 is to teach us to invite people to Christ and welcome all who come to Him. Jesus’ stories should inflame our hearts for outreach and turn skeptics into joyful participants

READ: Luke 15:1-7, 11-13, 22-24, 28-32

In our Lord’s eyes, everyone is someone who matters. To Christ, there is no insignificant person. Red, yellow, black, or white, each one is precious in His sight. The parable of the lost sheep expresses Jesus’ concern. His compassion for lost people shows itself in heartfelt action. The shepherd goes on a search-and-find mission that should be the mission of every disciple. Shepherds search for lost sheep; believers search for lost people. When folks come to Christ believers should…

I. Manifest Compassion (Luke 15:1-7)
1. Compassion comes when we sacrifice our safety for the security of others! -- Leeferism
1) In response to the religious leaders’ attitude toward His actions, Jesus gave a package of three parables all designed to show how wrong the leaders were and how right He was. His defense began in the form of a question that suggested an agreeable answer, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Jesus described the sheep as lost from the flock, a word that portrays a life-threatening situation for a sheep. The number of safe sheep does not justify the shepherd ignoring the missing one. The right decision was to go after the lost one on a rescue mission! It became the highest priority even to the point of leaving the 99 in the open field! Certain risks and obstacles would have to be faced to mount the rescue! The “go after” mind-set of the shepherd is worth noting. In this case, the searching shepherd refuses to quit until he finds the one lost sheep. To go after ... until he finds should be the focus of every Christian. Lost people are a priority with a loving God. Whatever risks there are to bear, the disciple should never allow taking care of the “found” to replace exhaustive efforts to reach the “lost.” Notice what occurs after the one lost sheep is found, “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!’” This parable ended with Jesus’ words, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Heaven rejoices when the lost are found! God manifested His compassion on us “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Believers manifest compassion when they seek and win the lost!
EXAMPLE: I shook from fear the first time I shared my faith. Yet after I had shared with the young mother, she accepted Jesus as her Savior and Lord! Her husband later was saved and served as a deacon. She is still active in her church and all her children are saved as well. The adventure of outreach is a risky adventure. It will push a Christian to the edge of his or her courage. What is sacrificed in shrinking back from going out is the finder’s joy of seeing the lost coming in. This heavenly delight is more experienced than explained. To see a lost person receive Christ because of your witness is to experience the Father’s joy.

Jesus was facing religious experts who had more of an accusing finger and less of a forgiving heart. We can understand it by the misbehavior of the “tax collectors and the sinners” of His world. One ripped off honest people to line their pockets while the other led trashy lives. It was not a wholesome crowd. When it comes to forgiveness, however, all of us are in the category of “tax collectors and the sinners”. Too often, our Christian voice is raised more in accusation than in celebration. What should drive us more is the response of heaven—a chorus of hallelujahs! When folks are saved we should…

II. Celebrate Forgiveness (Luke 15:11-13, 22-24)
1. We will either hardly party or party hardy when someone comes to Christ! -- Leeferism
1) A man had two sons. The younger son approached the father with an arrogant attitude: “Father, give me my share of the estate.” What should have been a request was a demand. How often do we “demand” from our loving Father our “fair share” right now? The son was not patient enough to wait for his father’s death but wanted his share of the estate immediately. Jewish law would award the younger son a third of the estate at his father’s death (Deut. 21:17). The son, however, succumbed to his greed. We learn that “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” The younger son wasted no time he took his share and split. A rich son quickly became a broke son and another thrill ride came to a miserable end. He spends all he has and to make matters worse, there is a severe famine. In desperation the son has to hire himself out to a pig farmer, a disgrace to a Hebrew, and had to eat the pig’s food! In the midst of his misery he comes to his senses and decides to head home and ask his father for forgiveness. In the other parables, the shepherd searched, the woman searched, but here the father waited. Will the father forgive him? Will he love him again? After the son confesses that father’s response are orders to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate! For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” This celebration spared no expense and restoration would not be complete without a major celebration. “So they began to celebrate.” We should always celebrate forgiveness!
EXAMPLE: Too many evangelical churches have stopped having a response time at the end of their worship. The excuse is so they do not embarrass those who need to make a decision. Is it any wonder that the percentage of folks coming to Christ has diminished? The response time not only follows Jesus’ public asking his disciples to “come and follow me” and it is also a time of public congregational rejoicing! The body of Christ is to celebrate together when someone comes to Christ! Forgiveness is our greatest need and God’s greatest provision. The joy of our receiving it is only exceeded by God’s joy in giving it. The prodigal reminds us of how gracious God has been to all forgiven sinners. Regardless of the depth of sin, every Christian is a product of amazing grace. Therefore, as we join the forgiveness celebration we rejoice with the forgiven, but we also delight in the Forgiver. Join the party. When folks are forgiven, we are to celebrate!

Not all is happiness in the family, however. The older brother is the poster child of self-righteousness. He reflects the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day and sadly some believers today. The eldest son had been off stage while the younger brother had been restored. Coming in from the fields, he heard the music and asked for an explanation. The news of his brother’s return and the fattened calf being slaughtered stopped him in his tracks. In all three parables of chapter 15 everybody experienced joy except the elder brother. We learn that when folks are forgiven we must…

III. Reject Self-Righteousness (Luke 15:28-32)
1. We can be right, we can be correct, and yet be oh so wrong! -- Leeferism
1) The news about his brother’s return and the ongoing party made the older son angry. You would think he would be happy not resentful and sullen. Anger for the wrong reasons can be destructive. He refused to be part of the celebration; he didn’t want to go, not even to speak to his brother. So the father had to take the initiative to restore the relationship. He went to his son. The father’s discussion with his firstborn was not an in-your-face speech. He “pleaded” with him repeatedly in an effort to change his attitude. The son accuses, “Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” It all seemed so unfair! Perhaps the father had preferred the arrogant younger brother. The elder blames his father, “But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” The father responds in the only way he can, in love, “My son.” The father gently reminds him, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours!” The acceptance and forgiveness of the younger brother did not mean the rejection and dismissal of the elder brother. The father loved them both! The father desired his son reject his self-righteousness, “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” The older brother just didn’t get it. The issue was not him, not his father, not even his brother. The issue was that his brother had been dead and lost to them but now was found! When folks are forgiven we are to reject self-righteousness.
EXAMPLE: “You don’t know him like I do!” he declared to me. He was angry that his friend who had betrayed him with a girlfriend had just accepted Christ. I reminded him, “That is true, but God knows him even better than both of us. Do not allow your anger to get in the way of what God has done.” When folks are forgiven we are to reject self-righteousness. The parable ends on an open-ended note. We are left not knowing the response of the elder brother. The appeal, however, moves beyond the parable occasion to reach out to the self-righteous of every age. Each of us is challenged to break the gridlock of our own elder brother attitude. Rejoicing with the Father is far better than nursing the coldness of self-righteousness. It is the difference between stagnation and celebration. When folks are forgiven we are to reject self-righteousness!

Conclusion:
When folks come to Christ believers should manifest compassion, celebrate forgiveness, and reject their own self-righteousness! What about you? What do you do when folks come to Christ?
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Keep on praying! – Luke 11:1-13

Keep on praying! – Luke 11:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 11, 2012 AM

It was a dark night. The traveler had a flat tire on a seldom used road. To complicate matters, he could not find his tire jack. The only solution lay in appealing to unknown persons in the dark farm house down the road. As he approached the house, the traveler thought to himself, “I’m sure that the farmer will be angry if I wake him and he will probably respond angrily to me. If he gives me anything at all, it will probably be out of total annoyance. The sleepy farmer came to the door and asked the traveler, “What can I do for you?” “Keep your old tire jack,” growled the traveler, “I didn’t want it anyway!” He stomped off, leaving a perplexed farmer scratching his head. Here was a needy person who returned to his needy situation without a needed solution. His approach only brought him frustration, not satisfaction. Sadly, many Christians have the same results with their prayer lives.

Jesus gave the disciples the resource of prayer to be overcomers in a hostile world. The model is Jesus’ own pattern designed to match the cross-bearing lifestyle. It has a proven track record, used by Christ who faced life’s worst and gave it his all. Take your seat in the Lord’s classroom of prayer. Learn to pray from the Master and see the form of prayer taught become a force of prayer caught.

READ: Luke 11:1-13

Jesus had a persistent prayer life. The Gospel of Luke mentions his praying more than any other Gospel writer (see 3:21; 6:12; 9:18, 28; 22:32, 40-45; 23:46). Luke 5:16 relates that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” The Greek verbs are present participles showing that Jesus had a habit of praying and can be translated something like “He was often withdrawing to lonely places and praying.” And here in Luke 11 the scene is Jesus on his knees again praying! By his example and by his teaching Jesus tells us that we should…

I. Pray Intentionally! (Luke 11:1-4)
1. Shoulda, woulda, coulda has never gotten out of the starting gate! -- Leeferism
1) The disciples, listening to Jesus pray requested, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Apparently, Jesus’ frequent praying alerted them to the importance of prayer and made them feel the inadequacy of their praying. Notice that Jesus tells them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name.” “Father” is both a respectful and intimate title. Believers are to address God as their Father as Jesus did (Luke 10:21), showing the same wonderful relationship. “Hallowed”, holy is the Lord because his name represents who he is: A holy God who is our only hope to be rescued from a sinful world. God’s “kingdom come” is a wonderful condition of great blessing of the rule of God in our lives. Therefore it is a request for God to reign in people’s hearts. “The coming of the kingdom is an act of grace to an undeserving race.” The third request is for bread as the petitioner looks to God to satisfy their hunger. The request is in the form of the imperative—give—which infers daily sustenance. The next part of the prayer is a request for pardon, for God to “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” “For we also” introduces the prerequisite for receiving forgiveness, we are to forgive others as God forgives us; if we do not forgive, he does not forgive. The final petition is to “lead us not into temptation.” This is a request for divine protection. Jesus was speaking of a heart desire to avoid the danger and pain sin causes. So we pray to our loving Heavenly Father for protection and deliverance. To be effective in our prayer life, we should pray intentionally, praising God, seeking his kingdom, and petitioning God for daily needs, for forgiveness, and for deliverance from temptation.
EXAMPLE: The teenage boy, when asked if had done a certain task, defiantly told his father, “I will get to it!” His father immediately went and quietly sat down beside the teen and remarked, “Being “willing” is far different than actually doing.” Jesus shared a similar story: “There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (Matthew 21:28-31 NIV) Of course the answer is the son who at first said “No” and then went. The same is true for us and our prayer. We can say we will pray, we can think we should pray, but if we do not actually pray, it isn’t praying! We are to pray intentionally!

In response to the disciple’s request, Jesus tells them what to pray. In a follow-up parable he gave them incentive to pray. It is an encouraging revelation about God contrasting him to a reluctant neighbor. It motivates believers to pray in spite of no immediate answer. In doing so, the story addresses the feeling we may have that prayer is useless because God does not often answer our prayers as we expect. The main point of the parable is that believers should persist in prayer because God responds graciously to his children’s needs. Therefore we are to…

II. Pray Persistently! (Luke 11:5-10)
1. Persistence is the strength of mind to keep on keeping on even when you feel weak! -- Leeferism
1) Jesus loved using parables. Jesus relates about a petitioner who in desperation came to the house of a friend in the middle of the night. The petitioner needed three loaves of bread for a hungry unexpected visitor: “A friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.” Initially, the neighbor was annoyed, saying “Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.” It’s understandable that he felt this way. But the knocker would not be denied; he kept on knocking even though his friend had expressed annoyance about being disturbed! We discover that his persistence pays off! “I tell you” is Jesus’ transitional statement that moves us to the teaching. The lock clicked, the door squeaked open just a bit, and a hand reached out into the dark night with three loaves of bread and gave him as much as he needed. Jesus was not comparing God with the friend’s attitude. He was contrasting God with the friend’s attitude. The contrast is the point of verses 9-10. The annoyed neighbor’s attitude is the opposite of God’s attitude! Jesus was not saying persistence is unimportant, but if persistence worked with a friend, how much more then will our Heavenly Father help us! This is why we are to ask and it will be given to us; seek and we will find the answer; and knock and it will be opened to us! Some Christians might whine, “I asked but did not receive, I searched and knocked, but God remained silent to me!” The strength of Jesus’ words is in his promise: “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” It encourages us to believe him even if circumstances suggest otherwise. We are to pray persistently!
EXAMPLE: We live in a world whereby we have been brainwashed into thinking we are beaten-down, down-trodden, and never given any opportunities in life. Instead we should demand justice from another’s success and make them pay for our laziness instead! Persistence in life is not nagging, begging, or whining, it is a dogged determination that sets its face toward a goal and heads for it. Kind of like that old song about an ant and a rubber tree! Everyone knows that an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant! Our prayers are more than high hopes, they are our godly persistence in the face of a sin-fallen world to rely on the unseen rather than the seen and to trust when everyone and everything else falters. We are to pray persistently!

The previous parable emphasized the persistent asking of the one who prays. One could almost assume that prayer is a persistent asking overcoming a reluctant giver. However, Jesus’ words in verses 11-13 bring home the point that God is a loving giver who desires to meet the needs of his children. A disciple in prayer can expect to be heard not by a distant deity with arms folded, but by a caring Father with arms outstretched. Verses 11-13 are a series of three rhetorical questions. The first two expect a no answer while the third anticipates a yes answer. We are to…

III. Pray Expectantly! (Luke 11:11-13)
1. The difference between baited breath and bated breath is one stinks and the other is steadfast! -- Leeferism
1) The two examples of a father in verses 11-12 enforce Jesus’ teaching! God will hear our prayers and will respond to us with kindness. Since God is our Heavenly Father, we can expect him to do not less but even more than an earthly father! Even a good father does not give his son a snake or a scorpion when he asks for a fish or an egg. In fact, to do so is cruel and deceptive rather than loving. Then in dramatic fashion Jesus drew a climactic conclusion, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” God, who is holy, will always do more than any sinful father will do. He will give the best and greatest gift—the Holy Spirit! Believers today do not need to ask God for the Holy Spirit because he gives each believer the Spirit when he or she trusts Christ (Romans 8:9). The point is still true, however. God gives and he out-gives all givers! It helps us understand why God does not give us everything we ask for even things we think are good. God gives us what we ask of him only when those gifts are good for us! God is goodness at its very best. Expectant prayer sees him as a trustworthy Father who gives perfect gifts (James 1:17). His answers match our life situations and enable us to live our moments. Often we may have said in hindsight: “That may not be what I wanted, but it was exactly what I needed.” Thank God for His wisdom in answering our expectant prayers!
EXAMPLE: No loving father would give a scorpion or a snake to his hungry son if he asked for a piece of bread or a fish. Jesus used the absurdity of that analogy in Luke to underscore the heavenly Father’s readiness to give good things to his children when they ask him. An unknown author expressed it this way:

I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked God for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn to obey.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power and the praise of men;
I was given weakness to sense my need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for but everything I hoped for;
In spite of myself, my prayers were answered—
I am among all men most richly blessed.

God always gives us what’s best for us. We need to pray expectantly!

Conclusion:
Christ’s followers grow in spiritual effectiveness as they follow Jesus’ teachings on prayer. We are to pray intentionally, persistently, and expectantly!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33 -- Put Christ first!

Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33 -- Put Christ first!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 4, 2012 AM

We would not think of taking a trip without counting the cost. Yet there are folks who do not think twice about spending money they do not have by placing their purchases on credit. Jesus related, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28-30 NIV) Defaults on home mortgages are at an all time high, bankruptcies the same, and when a financial planner was asked recently if it was economy he replied, “Yes and no. “Yes”, the economy has left some of these folks in dire straits, but “No” because for the majority they simply were spending more than they brought in. They did not count the cost.”

For disciples, the journey was not just about where Jesus was going but more about what they were becoming. In his teaching Jesus clearly drove home the point that he demanded first place in the lives of his followers. Often it is not the outright evil we do that replaces Jesus in our lives but rather the good that becomes bad when it keeps us from the best— Jesus. Jesus was straightforward in not accommodating anything less than complete devotion to him. Jesus demanded loyalty, personal sacrifice, and commitment to him alone. A superficial, flippant decision will not do, because in following Jesus one must first count the cost. This morning let’s discover how…

READ: Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33

Americans spend more than any other nation on their personal comfort. Recently a study was done on the poorest in our nation. It was learned that 60% have cable/satellite TV and cell phones, 40% own computers while 30% have personal Internet access. Is it any wonder then that it is a tough sell to American Christians in asking them to personally sacrifice in serving Christ? Jesus relates that we count the cost of following Christ when we place...

I. Christ above our personal comfort! (Luke 9:57-58)
1. “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth...” – C. S. Lewis
1) A man approached and wanted to follow Jesus and his disciples where they were going. Jesus’ response is very interesting. He related that a person desiring to follow him must give up what others consider necessities in life, security and a roof to sleep under! In our nation we voice our concern when we think our perceived “rights” are infringed upon and many of us think our personal comfort is a guaranteed divine right! Notice, however, what Jesus tells him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus literally tells him that he and his followers had no home to rest in or a place to find security and refuge! Lest you forget, I want you to remember, they were on their way to Jerusalem where Jesus would be illegally tried and put to death! Far too often we are very quick to say we will follow Jesus wherever he may lead, but we forget that being a disciple of Christ demands we are ready and willing to give up that which we consider our own personal comfort!
EXAMPLE: Recently we bought a new mattress, but before we did the one we slept on was awful. I would often wake up multiple times during the night with a myriad of aches and pains. In the midst of looking for a new mattress to sleep on, I came across these verses of Scripture. They kind of humbled me, not because I was looking for a new mattress, but it made me think anew about what I see as my own personal spiritual comfort and what Jesus willingly physically sacrificed for me so that I could enjoy what I do today! What personal comfort was I willing to give up for the cause of Christ? Being a disciple of Christ demands we are ready and willing to give up that which we consider our own personal comfort!

Jesus continued his case for his disciples putting him above all else. Family ties are the strongest and closest of earthly ties. The Bible affirms responsibilities to family members (Ex. 20:12). Nevertheless, when it comes to a decision of priority, the choice should be Jesus. Jesus invited another—someone different from the previous person—to be his disciple. Personal comfort is one thing, but family loyalty takes discipleship demand to a higher level. We count the cost of following Christ when we place…

II. Christ above our family loyalty! (Luke 9:59-62; 14:25-26)
1. If blood is thicker than water, then the blood of Christ is thicker than all! -- Leeferism
1) Jesus called the next man with the same words of follow me he had called his disciples with (Luke 5:27). The man’s replies that he first wanted to go and bury his father. Perhaps the man’s father was already dead, except then he would have already been engaged in the burial procedure of mourning. More than likely the man’s father was ready to die or near death. He then was asking Jesus to wait just a little while before following him. Maybe the man wanted to receive an inheritance from his father’s estate, yet, Jesus’ response, “Let the dead bury their own dead”, implies that the spiritually dead can bury the physically dead! Was Jesus being intentionally cruel? No! Proclaiming the kingdom of God cannot wait. The third man simply wanted to go home and say good-by to his family. These men had to make up their minds because “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” In fact, later, Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NIV) Therefore the implication is that the disciple must make a radical commitment that often demands Christ above our family loyalty!
EXAMPLE: In the movie The Godfather, which was about the mafia’s rise to power in the United States, we hear the main characters saying over and over that family loyalty is the most important thing. This notion was based on the misguided notion that even if a family member was involved in crime, their family should be loyal. In our day and age family does not have as strong as an influence as it once did because of the dysfunctional aspects of so many, yet there still is the misguided notion that family ties should be stronger than our loyalty to Christ. This simply is not true. The reason: Families are made up of if sinful folks! The message of the cross cuts across all family ties. The blood of Christ calls us to a higher commitment that demands Christ above our family loyalty!

In addition to putting Christ above family, Jesus added a second requirement for discipleship. The disciple must put Christ above self. Specifically, the stipulation is to bear one’s own cross, a requirement that pictures the crucifixion. In fact, a crucifixion victim carried his own cross beam to the place of death. It was the death Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem to face. Discipleship is not a picnic. Yet if anyone does not put Jesus above any cost, Jesus said he or she cannot be His disciple. We count the cost of following Christ when we place…

III. Christ above any price! (Luke 14:27-33)
1. The footprints we leave behind in life for others to follow are defined by our faithfulness and sacrifice! -- Leeferism
1) When Rome crucified someone, the victim was often forced to carry his cross part of the way to their crucifixion! Carrying the means of their death through the city was a tacit admission Rome was right in their death sentence. So when Jesus encouraged his followers to carry their crosses and follow him, he was referring to a public display before others that he was right and that the disciples were to follow him even to their deaths! Then, using two illustrations, Jesus teaches that discipleship must include planning and sacrifice. Discipleship is not done on a whim. The first concerned building a tower. Before building one should be sure they can pay the full cost of the project! Jesus’ followers must also be sure they are willing to pay the full price of discipleship. The second illustration concerned a king who went to battle. The king should be willing to sacrifice victory if he knows he is unable to win. Jesus relates, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Those who follow Jesus must be willing to give up “anything” because the message of the cross is the most important thing in all of Creation! We count the cost of following Christ when we place Christ above any price!
EXAMPLE: Rumors of the execution of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani were leaked this week after a source close to one of his lawyers contacted international media, informing them that a lower court had signed Nadarkhani’s execution papers and that his death sentence would be carried out soon, sources told Compass Direct News. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is facing execution in Iran. His crimes? He is an apostate who abandoned Islam. He was convicted of practicing Christianity, trying to register home churches, and the mandatory Islamic religious education of his children. The pastor was given an option. Recant his faith and he can live. His faith is his life. He refused. He is condemned to be lynched. Persecution, even martyrdom, has been the cost of discipleship for Christians down through the centuries. In many lands believers still suffer imprisonment and death for their uncompromising devotion to their Savior. Even in nations that supposedly have religious freedom, as Iran claims to have, a person with a bold witness for the Lord may become the target of ridicule or more. We count the cost of following Christ when we place Christ above any price!

Conclusion:
When we put Christ first we willingly place Christ above our personal comfort, we place Christ above our family loyalty, and we place Christ above any price!
---
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33 -- Put Christ first!

Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33 -- Put Christ first!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 4, 2012 AM

We would not think of taking a trip without counting the cost. Yet there are folks who do not think twice about spending money they do not have by placing their purchases on credit. Jesus related, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28-30 NIV) Defaults on home mortgages are at an all time high, bankruptcies the same, and when a financial planner was asked recently if it was economy he replied, “Yes and no. “Yes”, the economy has left some of these folks in dire straits, but “No” because for the majority they simply were spending more than they brought in. They did not count the cost.”

For disciples, the journey was not just about where Jesus was going but more about what they were becoming. In his teaching Jesus clearly drove home the point that he demanded first place in the lives of his followers. Often it is not the outright evil we do that replaces Jesus in our lives but rather the good that becomes bad when it keeps us from the best— Jesus. Jesus was straightforward in not accommodating anything less than complete devotion to him. Jesus demanded loyalty, personal sacrifice, and commitment to him alone. A superficial, flippant decision will not do, because in following Jesus one must first count the cost. This morning let’s discover how…

READ: Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33

Americans spend more than any other nation on their personal comfort. Recently a study was done on the poorest in our nation. It was learned that 60% have cable/satellite TV and cell phones, 40% own computers while 30% have personal Internet access. Is it any wonder then that it is a tough sell to American Christians in asking them to personally sacrifice in serving Christ? Jesus relates that we count the cost of following Christ when we place...

I. Christ above our personal comfort! (Luke 9:57-58)
1. “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth...” – C. S. Lewis
1) A man approached and wanted to follow Jesus and his disciples where they were going. Jesus’ response is very interesting. He related that a person desiring to follow him must give up what others consider necessities in life, security and a roof to sleep under! In our nation we voice our concern when we think our perceived “rights” are infringed upon and many of us think our personal comfort is a guaranteed divine right! Notice, however, what Jesus tells him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus literally tells him that he and his followers had no home to rest in or a place to find security and refuge! Lest you forget, I want you to remember, they were on their way to Jerusalem where Jesus would be illegally tried and put to death! Far too often we are very quick to say we will follow Jesus wherever he may lead, but we forget that being a disciple of Christ demands we are ready and willing to give up that which we consider our own personal comfort!
EXAMPLE: Recently we bought a new mattress, but before we did the one we slept on was awful. I would often wake up multiple times during the night with a myriad of aches and pains. In the midst of looking for a new mattress to sleep on, I came across these verses of Scripture. They kind of humbled me, not because I was looking for a new mattress, but it made me think anew about what I see as my own personal spiritual comfort and what Jesus willingly physically sacrificed for me so that I could enjoy what I do today! What personal comfort was I willing to give up for the cause of Christ? Being a disciple of Christ demands we are ready and willing to give up that which we consider our own personal comfort!

Jesus continued his case for his disciples putting him above all else. Family ties are the strongest and closest of earthly ties. The Bible affirms responsibilities to family members (Ex. 20:12). Nevertheless, when it comes to a decision of priority, the choice should be Jesus. Jesus invited another—someone different from the previous person—to be his disciple. Personal comfort is one thing, but family loyalty takes discipleship demand to a higher level. We count the cost of following Christ when we place…

II. Christ above our family loyalty! (Luke 9:59-62; 14:25-26)
1. If blood is thicker than water, then the blood of Christ is thicker than all! -- Leeferism
1) Jesus called the next man with the same words of follow me he had called his disciples with (Luke 5:27). The man’s replies that he first wanted to go and bury his father. Perhaps the man’s father was already dead, except then he would have already been engaged in the burial procedure of mourning. More than likely the man’s father was ready to die or near death. He then was asking Jesus to wait just a little while before following him. Maybe the man wanted to receive an inheritance from his father’s estate, yet, Jesus’ response, “Let the dead bury their own dead”, implies that the spiritually dead can bury the physically dead! Was Jesus being intentionally cruel? No! Proclaiming the kingdom of God cannot wait. The third man simply wanted to go home and say good-by to his family. These men had to make up their minds because “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” In fact, later, Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NIV) Therefore the implication is that the disciple must make a radical commitment that often demands Christ above our family loyalty!
EXAMPLE: In the movie The Godfather, which was about the mafia’s rise to power in the United States, we hear the main characters saying over and over that family loyalty is the most important thing. This notion was based on the misguided notion that even if a family member was involved in crime, their family should be loyal. In our day and age family does not have as strong as an influence as it once did because of the dysfunctional aspects of so many, yet there still is the misguided notion that family ties should be stronger than our loyalty to Christ. This simply is not true. The reason: Families are made up of if sinful folks! The message of the cross cuts across all family ties. The blood of Christ calls us to a higher commitment that demands Christ above our family loyalty!

In addition to putting Christ above family, Jesus added a second requirement for discipleship. The disciple must put Christ above self. Specifically, the stipulation is to bear one’s own cross, a requirement that pictures the crucifixion. In fact, a crucifixion victim carried his own cross beam to the place of death. It was the death Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem to face. Discipleship is not a picnic. Yet if anyone does not put Jesus above any cost, Jesus said he or she cannot be His disciple. We count the cost of following Christ when we place…

III. Christ above any price! (Luke 14:27-33)
1. The footprints we leave behind in life for others to follow are defined by our faithfulness and sacrifice! -- Leeferism
1) When Rome crucified someone, the victim was often forced to carry his cross part of the way to their crucifixion! Carrying the means of their death through the city was a tacit admission Rome was right in their death sentence. So when Jesus encouraged his followers to carry their crosses and follow him, he was referring to a public display before others that he was right and that the disciples were to follow him even to their deaths! Then, using two illustrations, Jesus teaches that discipleship must include planning and sacrifice. Discipleship is not done on a whim. The first concerned building a tower. Before building one should be sure they can pay the full cost of the project! Jesus’ followers must also be sure they are willing to pay the full price of discipleship. The second illustration concerned a king who went to battle. The king should be willing to sacrifice victory if he knows he is unable to win. Jesus relates, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Those who follow Jesus must be willing to give up “anything” because the message of the cross is the most important thing in all of Creation! We count the cost of following Christ when we place Christ above any price!
EXAMPLE: Rumors of the execution of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani were leaked this week after a source close to one of his lawyers contacted international media, informing them that a lower court had signed Nadarkhani’s execution papers and that his death sentence would be carried out soon, sources told Compass Direct News. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is facing execution in Iran. His crimes? He is an apostate who abandoned Islam. He was convicted of practicing Christianity, trying to register home churches, and the mandatory Islamic religious education of his children. The pastor was given an option. Recant his faith and he can live. His faith is his life. He refused. He is condemned to be lynched. Persecution, even martyrdom, has been the cost of discipleship for Christians down through the centuries. In many lands believers still suffer imprisonment and death for their uncompromising devotion to their Savior. Even in nations that supposedly have religious freedom, as Iran claims to have, a person with a bold witness for the Lord may become the target of ridicule or more. We count the cost of following Christ when we place Christ above any price!

Conclusion:
When we put Christ first we willingly place Christ above our personal comfort, we place Christ above our family loyalty, and we place Christ above any price!
---
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.