As Christians, we don’t have to make our lives extraordinary, we are extraordinary. Jesus Christ lives in us, and that makes us different. We are naturally supernatural and supernaturally natural. Every day, we have opportunities to show people how we are different. We turn the other cheek. We go the second mile. We pray for our enemies. We don’t have to act different, we are different.
Do you do sloppy, sub-par work? Do you only work hard when your boss or teacher is watching? God says that is the kind of attitude and behavior that will guarantee you fail in life. A lazy, sloppy employee brings shame to the name of Jesus. A Christian who is dedicated to enthusiastic excellence in everything he does presents a good testimony for Jesus. And in the same way, a Christian who is lazy and unreliable brings dishonor to the name of Jesus.
The story of Mary and the alabaster flask. Scholars speculate this bottle of perfume might have been part of Mary’s inheritance. Some suggest it was something she was saving it as part of her dowry in case she got married. It was probably the most valuable thing she owned—but she gave it all to Jesus.
Three important lessons we can learn about extravagant love offered to Jesus.
Remember I told you our students are trading up a tiny paper clip for something more and more valuable? When Aaron received his paper clip, he contacted one of the car dealers in town, asking if they would like to please trade him a car in return for a paper clip! But guess what? Because he had big faith in a Big God, he got one. That’s right, he got a great-running used car for his paper clip. I like that kind of faith! Even more, I like what that kind of faith says to everyone about the kind of God we serve—He’s BIG. And he wants us to not hold back when we come to him. The Bible says in James 4:2, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” People say you never know until you ask. I say you never know how big God really is until you ask Him to show you.
We are children of promise. God wants more children, and if we share God’s heart, we’ll have a passion to reach and disciple more and more people. On any given Sunday morning, within a thirty-minute drive, there are 60,000 people who don’t attend church. As a church, we cannot be content to limit God’s family to those of us who are already here. Jesus told His disciples, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35) He wasn’t talking about corn or wheat—Jesus was talking about people who needed to have a relationship with the Living God. God wants more children in His forever family.
Nobody said it would be easy being a mom or dad. God’s instructions for parents in Colossians 3:21 contains a warning against making your children bitter and discouraging them. There is a battle going on for the minds and hearts of your kids. This is not a time to retreat. This is not a time for passive parenting. You must be proactive in raising your kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Kid’s can drive their parents crazy sometimes—but for some of us, it’s not a very long drive to start with! In this section of the Bible, we’ve been seeing how God gives very practical advice on how we should live in relationship with others. In this passage, we find God’s directions for children and parents.
Marriage is the primary relationship on the planet. Before God created parents and children, He established marriage. Before there were nations, there was a marriage. Before there was the church, there was a marriage. Before there were friends, there was one man married to one woman: That was God’s first priority. If you are married, then loving your wife should be your first priority. You should love her more than your children, and your parents, and your friends.
Five years after 9/11 I am a man full of hope. Have you ever stopped to think if you had added up all the employees at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the capacity of those four jets that crashed, there was a minimum of 75,000 potential casualties? The final fatality count stands at a little less than 3,000 people. That means 96% of the potential casualties survived. Belying engineering logic, the two towers stood long enough for almost 20,000 people to escape. The section of the Pentagon attacked was the first of five sections newly rebuilt to stronger standards to resist terrorist attacks. Three of the four jets had only 25% of their passenger capacity and the fourth was only 1/3 full. When was the last time you flew in an airliner that was mostly empty? Even though it was a terrible day, I can see the hand of God there preventing it from being much worse.
Because we are so used to being entertained, it is easy to make the mistake of thinking a worship service is to entertain the audience. If you think it is like an opera, or a play where this is the stage and we’re the performers—you’ve got it all wrong. Here’s an important spiritual truth about worship: Worship is always for an audience of One. Every song, every prayer, every offering is to be directed to God Almighty. When we applaud, we really aren’t applauding the talents or efforts of the person or group singing. Our applause is to show appreciation to the audience of One who has filled our hearts with grace and made all this possible.
Is peace possible? Can there be peace in the Middle East? With God all things are possible. A more pressing question is, “Is peace possible for you?” In the midst of your pain and suffering, it may seem impossible. But with God all things are possible. As you read this passage of scripture there are three themes that rise to the surface. (1) The peace of Christ; (2) The word of Christ; and (3) The name of Christ.
In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul compared the Christian life to taking off old clothes and putting on new clothes.
The Bible lists seven positive characteristics we are to put on to replace those old clothes. But these aren’t just qualities we have to create ourselves. They all form a description of Jesus Christ. To put it simply, we just need to dress like Jesus. I’m not talking about his robe and sandals—but rather we should wear His personality.
In some ways, we’re like Lazarus. He was saved, but he still stunk. He was rescued but he was still reeking. He was energized, but he was still entrapped. He had life, but he wasn’t liberated. Jesus could have exercised His divine power and Poof! The grave clothes would have disappeared miraculously. But I think He wanted to involve the other people in what He was doing. Fortunately, there were people there who cared enough to get their hands dirty and obey the words of Jesus and help Lazarus remove those old grave clothes. And I’m quite certain there was someone standing by who quickly found a clean garment to put around Lazarus as well.
Things look a lot different when you’re up high. I’ve traveled the globe enough to know our planet is scooped out and piled up with valleys and mountains. But when you look at our world from outer space, the surface appears completely smooth. We know there are deep valleys and high mountains, but when you back away few thousand miles, it appears as smooth as a billiard ball. Life is the same way. Up close, the challenges of life may appear to be unclimbable or uncrossable, but when you look at problems from the perspective of being seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms, those problems don’t seem nearly as big and scary.
The trouble with doing things to impress God is it forces you to keep coming up with more and better things to do for God. For instance, if you really want God to bless you, then maybe you can do more than the average person to earn more of His favor. Throughout history people have become monks, fasted, or endured masochistic pain as religious acts of devotion. Paul refers to this in verse 23 when he writes about “harsh treatment of the body.” Those kinds of acts may appear valuable, but the Bible says they are worthless.
The Bible teaches that not only does the Creator want to have a personal relationship with you through Jesus Christ, but that God also chooses to have relationships with nations; and nations are accountable before God. I believe we as Americans are blessed more than any nation on the face of the planet and the reason we are so blessed is because God has blessed us. I just want to talk to you today as a friend; not really as a pastor—and of course not as a politician. I want to have a little “fireside chat” as a fellow patriot, somebody who loves America like you do, as someone who still gets a tear in my eye whenever I sing the National Anthem. I just want to share my heart with you.
Some grace-robbers today insist we should still obey obscure Old Testament rules and regulations, and have even substituted a whole new set of rules. Legalism is the attitude that I can establish or improve my standing before God by my activities. It’s not an act–it’s an attitude. If you think there is anything you can do to either establish a relationship or improve your relationship with God, you may have fallen into the trap of legalism. An introduction to three insidious grace-robbers.
In this age of computing, we have generated a new word: Multitasking. That means while you are working on one particular task, your computer can be working on two or three other processes simultaneously. You may think that’s neat, but God is the original Multitasker. He can ignite the mighty sun in the sky to hold the planets in orbit, and He can use that same sun to ripen your tomatoes as if He had nothing else to do. As I began to study this passage I realized there were several divine tasks occurring simultaneously at the Cross of Jesus. At the same moment Jesus Christ was being nailed to the cross, God was also nailing three other things to the cross.
Too many Christians are like tumbleweeds. We’ve all known Christians who got sucked into every new fad and fashion that comes along. A tumbleweed can become a big plant, but it lacks deep roots. Deep roots in people, as well as plants, create stability and security. The only kind of Christian who can survive periods of personal storms and emotional droughts are those who have sunk deep roots into the nourishment and stability that Jesus gives.
We live in an age of marvelous electronic connection, but it has only created miserable personal isolation. Today a person can sit in front of a computer monitor and feel like they have friends all over the world. There are dozens of websites facilitating social networking. To me, this trend demonstrates how hungry people are for genuine relationships. A Jesus church is a place where all different kinds of people can be united in love. A church is not a showcase for shiny saints, we are a hospital for sick sinners. We are to be a safe harbor for those whose lives have been shipwrecked.
Paul suffered more than most of us can imagine. By his own admission in 2 Corinthians he had been beaten eight times, shipwrecked three times, and once was stoned so badly they left him for dead. But rather than complaining about all his suffering, he boasted about them–he rejoiced in his suffering! He had uncovered a mystery that enabled him to deal with pain and adversity with a positive attitude.
Why are we alienated from God? Because of our evil thinking and behavior. We are all born with a sin problem. The reason we act evil is because our minds are evil. We are both mentally and morally bankrupt before God. How many of you have ever told a lie? Hold up your hand. Those of you who didn’t hold up your hand are lying right now! How many lies does it take to make a liar? Just one. We aren’t liars because we lie–we lie because we are liars. You can never become a Christian until you’re willing to admit you are a sinner who is separated from God.
If the corpse of Jesus was stolen and hidden, either His enemies did it, or His friends did it. If His enemies took the body, when the message of the resurrection started spreading, all they had to do was produce the body and the movement would have died quickly and quietly. And suppose for argument’s sake, that the disciples took the body of Jesus, and then they made up the legend of the resurrection. If they were deceitful enough to do that, surely they would have had a selfish motive leading to some personal benefit for them. So what did the disciples receive? History tells us all of them were abused and tortured; and except for John, they all died by execution. Surely, one or more of them would have recanted their story in the face of the death–but all of them went to their deaths with unshakable profession that Jesus rose from the dead. Would dishonest men be willing to die for a lie?
If I were to ask you what you were doing last year, you may try to remember. At least that would be a valid question, because you were doing something a year ago. But if I asked you what you were doing a thousand years ago, you couldn’t answer that. You weren’t doing anything because you didn’t exist!
Jesus was in existence long before the world came to be. We find His own supporting testimony of this when He said, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58)
Redemption is a lot like catch and release. He is the Fisher of Men. Salvation is all about Jesus. Jesus sought you, caught you, brought you, bought you, and taught you; then He released you into this world to live a life worthy of that kind of love. And when you stand before God, He won’t ask you, “Have you lived a good life?” He will ask you what you did in relation to His son Jesus. And if you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus, you can kneel before God and hear Him say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)
Our world still defines success as living in a big house, driving a new car, or having a lot of money. But in the midst of this lust for financial success, people aren’t satisfied. They are hungry for someone to tell them about God’s purpose for their lives. If you define success as finding and following God’s purpose, then God wants you to be success-full beyond your wildest dreams.
It’s not a question of whether you have faith, because everyone has faith. When you mail a letter you’re putting faith in the postal system. When you drive over a bridge you’re putting trust in the architect and builders of that bridge. The key question is: In what (or whom) are you placing your ultimate faith?
Caleb had been promised a piece of property 45 years earlier. Since that promise, he spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness with a bunch of dissatisfied, unfaithful, whining people. Then under Joshua’s leadership, Caleb spent five years fighting as a soldier against the Canaanite kingdoms. Even after 45 years, he still held onto God’s promise. “I remember God’s promise to me; now give me this hill country!” He never let go of that promise–that’s what the Bible calls persistence.
You may think your sin only affects your life, but it always affects others. Your sins are like a pebble dropped in a pool of water–the ripples always spread out and touch those around you. Because of Achan’s sin, 36 soldiers died. Because of Achan’s sin, his entire family died. Sometimes people try to justify sin by saying, “It’s my life, as long as what I’m doing doesn’t hurt anybody else what’s wrong with it?” The problem with that is that none of us lives in a vacuum. We are connected to other people and our sins always hurt those we love.
Can you honestly say that you have daily victory over worry, fear, depression, bitterness, anger, and greed? As a Christian, you must understand that you don’t fight FOR victory. You fight FROM victory. Jesus has already won the battle, and we fight on the basis of His victory of sin, death, and hell. Victory is our birthright as God’s children. If you aren’t experiencing much victory, this message is for you. In the story of the battle of Jericho there are three important keys we can learn about how to have victory in Jesus:
Do you know what the Israelites ate for 40 years? Manna. God supernaturally fed them with little white wafers that appeared on the ground every morning. When they first saw it they called it manhu, which means “What is it?” Based on the description in the Bible, the closest food we have to it today is Corn Flakes. Corn Flakes are okay, but can you imagine eating corn flakes every meal–for 40 years? It got so bad they longed for the food they ate back in Egypt. Many of the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt, where they had been slaves. When you are living in the wilderness, you find yourself longing for the life you had before you were a Christian.
God took Rahab from the House of Shame to the Hall of Fame. God can change a lady of the night into a lady of the light. He can change a woman of ill repute into a woman of illustrious reputation. God can turn a harlot into a heroine. And in this message we’re going to examine just how He changes a prostitute into a princess.
The book of Joshua is one of the most exciting books in all of the Bible. It reads like an action novel. But it is much more than an historical record of Israel’s military conquest of Canaan. It is a powerful picture of how every follower of Jesus can experience victory. In order to understand this exciting truth, it’s important to study the book of Joshua in its historical context. It’s a story of a group of people who moved from Egypt to the Promised Land.