February 27, 2009

I Was There: Judas Iscariot - Feb 25, 2009

First Midweek Advent Service
February 25-26, 2009
Redemption/Lynnwood and Ascension/Tacoma

Matthew 27:3-5

Grace and Lenten peace be multiplied unto you, Amen. This day's text is found in the 27th chapter of Matthew, verses 3-5, as follows:

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!" 5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. Here ends our text.

In the Name of Christ, the Lamb of God for sinners slain, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Nothing is more powerful and convincing than an eyewitness to an event. This week, as we begin our meditation on Jesus' Passion, we've decided to enlist the aid of one of those who was most involved in the events that led up to Jesus' death. This week we bring one of the main players in Christ's Passion directly onto the stage to speak to us. Everything you will hear about him is based on Bible fact. It's our prayer that the Lord will work powerfully through His Word as we consider the words of:

I. My life is a dire warning!
II. My death was a needless tragedy!

Yes, my name is Judas Iscariot, and I was there. The story I have to tell you is a deeply tragic one. I was a man who lived close to heaven, but ended up in hell. Mine was a life of fantastic opportunity, that somehow ended in horrible disaster. Countless generations of Christians have cursed my name, and will continue to do so till the end of time. My very name, in fact, has become synonymous with betrayal and deceit.

I'm not asking for your forgiveness, just your understanding. For a moment, try and forget about that dark closing chapter of my life, and remember that I was human, like you. I acted like a human being. What I did any human is capable of doing, even you. And that's what makes my life such a dire warning for you!

I was born in the town of Kerioth. My parents had great hopes for my life, as witnessed by the name that they gave me. Judas means "Praise of God." As my mother and father stooped over my infant cradle, it would have broken their hearts if they could have heard the words Jesus would one day speak concerning me, "It had been better for that man if he had not been born."

I was raised like other boys in Judea. From an early age my parents taught me to know and believe in Jehovah, the God of our ancestors. By the time I became an adult, I had developed a deep interest in spiritual matters. Then came the greatest day of my life, the day on which that prophet from Nazareth extended His hand to me and said, "Come, follow Me." Now, that may puzzle you a bit. Why, you ask, would the Master choose someone like me to be His disciple? Well you'll pardon me for asking, but why would he choose someone like you? Did you ever think of that? We're both sinners. But "God would have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." With the best intentions, I left everything behind and followed Jesus.

What a time that was! For more than two years I lived with Jesus, traveled with Him, and took my meals with Him. The other disciples and I received extensive personal instruction from Him. Can you imagine having Jesus Christ Himself conduct a Bible class for you every day of the week? That's the privilege I had. With my own ears I heard His matchless sermons. With my own eyes I witnessed His incredible miracles. But when they killed Jesus and He left earth for heaven...I killed myself and went to hell.

Let me tell you how it happened. Pay attention, and you'll learn how a single sin can destroy a person's soul. It didn't happen quickly, like a bolt of lightning might strike down a huge oak tree in an instant. No, this sin took control of me slowly, gradually, almost imperceptibly, like a parasitic vine might wrap itself around that same oak tree and finally kill it over a long period of time. My downfall didn't come about suddenly on Maundy Thursday evening. Oh, no! It had already been taking place long before that.

My master passion? The single sin that led to my undoing? Yes, it was greed. And since I was the treasurer for our small group, temptation was there all the time. We didn't have much in the till, but one day some of it stuck to my fingers and fell into my pocket. As you count sin in your world, it was a small sin. I told myself you couldn't even really call it sin. Some day I was going to pay it back. Even if I didn't, the trifling amount I took was much less than I deserved for shouldering the duties of treasurer. Take my life as a dire warning! When you want to commit a sin, the devil will give you a thousand excuses - a thousand ways to conceal its wrongness and its danger even from yourself.

Looking back on it, I really wish I'd been caught the first time I took money. If I had, maybe there could have been a different outcome to my story. I'll give you some advice: when you get caught at a sin, thank God for it! Because it's the sins you get away with that can harden you and curse your life for years to come...and possibly for eternity! Those are the sins you try again, and again.

As time went on, of course, this pet sin of mine grew like...well, like cancer, just as the Bible says. The amounts I stole became larger and larger. Also, I noticed it bothered me a lot less. I think it's true what they say: we human beings live on an incline - a slanted surface where it is much easier to fall than to rise. The hypocrisy became easier and easier for me. One night I even had the nerve to protest indignantly when Mary anointed Jesus with some expensive perfume. "What a waste!" I said. "This should have been sold and the money given to the poor!" As if I really cared about the poor. As if Jesus couldn't tell that what I really wanted to line my own pockets with the money! It wasn't long after that that I went to the priests and made my despicable contract with them. They'd give me money - thirty pieces of silver. In exchange, I would betray Jesus into their hands.

Greed! How it has ruined me! And don't think I wasn't warned, either. I was. And often. Thinking back, the many admonitions of Jesus sound as clear to me as the blast of a trumpet on a still summer night. For instance, there was the time he said to us, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. ...Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." Lk 12:1-2, 15. Another time Jesus asked, "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" It felt like His warnings were all aimed directly at me, and everybody else knew about it. Never say God doesn't warn you in your sin. You may ignore the warnings, but the warnings are always there. I just hope you never have to look back on those tragic, unheeded warnings the way I must now do for the rest of eternity!

I recall the meal in the upper room that Maundy Thursday evening. I was there. I, and the black plans I kept hidden in my heart. Still Jesus was warning me: "One of you who are eating with Me will betray Me," He said. The other disciples were immediately concerned. "Is it I?" they asked, one after another. And of course, I chimed in with a hypocritical "Is it I?" And still Jesus was loving and considerate. He didn't point an accusing finger. He didn't shout a harsh rebuke. He replied, "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." He dipped the bread, and handed it to me. My fellow-disciple John wrote, He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night. John 13:30.

It was indeed night. Nighttime for my soul, too, for in my heart lay a plan of blackest treachery. As you know, I played my part quickly. I led the squad of soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane. I knew very well that Jesus would be there. Then I identified Him - I shudder to think! - with a kiss. I betrayed the Son of God with a kiss. He was arrested and taken away prisoner.

With that, my world crashed. A horror swept over me that I pray you may never know. The enormity of my sin confronted me in all its hideous blackness. I was in such despair that I - yes I! Greedy Judas! - tried to give back the thirty pieces of silver. I should have known better. My friends, be warned: you can't take back a sin once you've committed it! You can't cast it from you, and you can't make up for it.

Obviously, my story - the story of Judas Iscariot - will always serve chiefly as a warning about how thoroughly sin can overpower a person and destroy his soul. But if you look closely, you may also find a strange encouragement for you in my story. True, my death was a tragedy...but mark well it was a needless tragedy! I needn't have gone to hell.

1 Peter didn't! In two weeks you'll hear my fellow-disciple's story from his own lips. Peter's was a sin nearly as black as mine. You'll hear how he denied Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest, and how he went out and wept bitter tears over his sin. Well, what about me? You think I didn't cry? I cried an ocean! Like Peter I was truly sorry for what I'd done. Unfortunately, that's where the similarity ends because, unlike Peter, I never went back to ask Jesus for pardon. Peter returned to His Savior and found the peace of forgiveness. I didn't find it. Not because God refused me, but because I didn't ask for it. I didn't believe in it. Peter turned back to Jesus, I turned away. His road led to peace, mine led to a tree in the valley - a hanging tree. There I took my own life, and with that last unrepented sin of murder on my soul, I delivered myself to Satan's doorstep in hell.

I'm here today to tell you one thing: you need not follow me there. Rejoice that, for you, the time of grace has not run out! You still have time to identify those pet sins you've been nursing in your life. Eradicate them before they gain control of you. You still have the privilege - blessed privilege I'll never know again! - of returning to your Savior to seek His pardon. See with what loving words he calls you - "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Mat 11:28-30. Listen to me: answer that call! Heed that blessed invitation. For me the invitation no longer applies.

Yes, my death was a needless tragedy. Jesus loved me, sought me to the end. But like a fool, I threw away my chance at eternal life, like a drowning man who refuses to grab onto a rope. You be smart! You take the rope! No matter how great your sin is, the Lord Jesus has promised you pardon. How foolish I was not to trust Him! What a different outcome there might have been if I had only trusted the eternal Word of God! Doesn't the Bible say, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool."? Isa 1:18. I didn't believe those words; with Spirit-inspired faith you still can. On the cross of Calvary - that cursed cross to which I, Judas, betrayed Him - the Lord Jesus atoned for your sins. His broad shoulders bore the weight of each of your transgressions, each of your deceits, each of your betrayals. Wonderful Good News - that although you have been unfaithful to your Lord time and again, He remains faithful to you. His blood covers your sin completely. He has forgiven you for everything in your past, and will continue to forgive you in the future. His mercy really does endure forever. Because I doubted that, my torment here in hell will endure forever.

My friends, be not faithless, but believing. Trust in the forgiving heart of your Savior. Trust the love that drove Him even to the cross...for you. Cast off - while you still can - the filthy garment of your own righteousness, and take on the robe of righteousness purchased with His blood. The offer is there, and I advise you to take it. I didn't, and I'll spend an eternity of condemnation regretting it. Heed God's Word, place all your confidence in Christ, and you'll spend your eternity in heaven with Him. AMEN.

February 22, 2009

Time is Running Out - Feb 22, 2009


Our Epiphany time is running out.

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent and the end of Epiphany. During Epiphany we’ve considered how Jesus showed people that He was the Son of God. During Lent we’ll ponder the details concerning how Jesus obtained forgiveness and life for all sinners.

Today, Jesus helps us to see that it isn’t just Epiphany that is running out. Our time of living on this planet is running out too. We pray that the Holy Spirit would open our ears to hear Jesus’ voice and truly trust in Him, while there’s still time.


At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the people were curious about Him. He was a miracle worker. He taught with authority. But as time passed, the novelty of Jesus wore off. Those who didn’t believe He was the Christ began to oppose Him more sharply.

John tells us that Jesus stayed out of Judea (the southern part of Palestine around the city of Jerusalem) because He knew that the Jews there were plotting to murder Him.

For a while Jesus taught the people in the northern districts surrounding Galilee. But when the time came to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus could no longer stay away from Jerusalem.

The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the Feast of Ingathering. It was a harvest festival, a thanksgiving of sorts. People coming to this religious festival lived in “tents” or “tabernacles” for the seven days of the festival. On the eighth day, a special worship service was held at the Temple.

It has been said that the Feast of the Tabernacles was the greatest of all Jewish festivals. Jerusalem was no doubt filled with “tents” and filled with worshippers.

Jesus could not stay away. He must go and hold out forgiveness and life to all who would receive it.

About halfway through the week, Jesus began teaching in the Temple courts. When the unbelieving Jews heard of it, they sent Temple guards to arrest Him. Perhaps those guards were nearby as Jesus spoke these words:

John 7:33-39 (NIV)

33Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
35The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.


In the book of Ecclesiastes it says,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV).

Jesus told the Jews who didn’t trust in Him that now was the time for listening to His words. He wouldn’t be around forever.

Furthermore, Jesus told them that when He was gone, they would not be able to find him. In saying this He prophesied about His death and resurrection. In the days to come they would look for His dead body in the tomb where it had been laid. But they would not find Him there.

Lastly, Jesus told them that they could not follow Him to where He would be going. After He was crucified and raised back to life, Jesus was lifted bodily from the earth. He was taken up into heaven. As long as these people refused to accept Jesus as their Savior, they could not follow Him.

Jesus words are clear. To the unbelieving Jews He says, 1) Listen to me while I’m with you. 2) When I disappear and you can’t find me, remember that I predicted this very thing. 3) Know that so long as you push me away you cannot enter heaven. Believe in me instead, and live.

The crowd didn’t understand what Jesus was telling them. We hope that later some of them remembered Jesus’ words and seek out His disciples.

What Jesus says here reminds us that each person born into this world has a limited amount of time in which to know and trust in Jesus. We call this the “time of Grace”. The Bible says,

“…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27 NKJV).

There is no reincarnation. The Bible speaks of no after death opportunity to come to faith. This life is our time of Grace.

I once saw a sample hanging above someone’s kitchen sink that said, “Each day is a gift, that’s why they call it the present”. Each day is a precious gift. Hours and seconds for the faithful to praise God. Hours and seconds in which the faithless might come to trust in His promises.


In our sermon reading Jesus is talking to unbelievers. He speaks to them with a tone of urgent warning.

When Jesus later told His followers the same thing, He used a tone of hope and comfort instead. In the upper room, on the night that Jesus was finally arrested, Jesus said to His disciples…

John 14:1-6 (NIV)

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus says, “I’m going away – but I’m going away to get things ready for you!

When I’m gone, don’t search for me – I promise I’ll come back for you.

When I’m gone, don’t lose hope – you know the way to the place where I’m going. I am the way – to forgiveness and life and reunion with God.

For the unbeliever, time is almost up.

For the follower of Christ, the wait is nearly over.

Those are two very different things.

To the unbelieving, the time of grace is ticking away. May the Holy Spirit fill their hearts with fear, so that they might hear the Spirit’s plea and step off the tracks before the train of Judgment Day arrives.

To the followers of Christ, the time of sorrow is ticking away. Will all of us still be here in ten years? What about twenty, or thirty?

Our time is slipping away. But for the Christian who sees things through Spirit focused eyes, our exit from this life is nothing to be dreaded. Now we are separated from fully seeing and feeling God. Now we battle daily with sin. Now is our time of pain. Now our struggle with the spiritual powers that wish to tear us from Christ. Now is our time of sorrow.

But when our time here is up, then we live. Then we learn what a real party is like. Then we experience audibly, visually, completely what God has promised in His Word. Then we see Him, and see sin and guilt and suffering no longer.

Our time is almost up. Praise be to God.


Let’s look at Jesus’ last words in this section once more. Starting with verse 37 Jesus shows us that one more kind of time is running out. The time for quietness.

John 7:37-39 (NIV)

37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

The time for quiet teaching was over.

On the greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stood up, perhaps in the middle of the great worship service , most definitely at the best time that He could stand up. With a loud voice He drew the attention of all to Himself.

Imagine if a person from our congregation were to stand up in the middle of our Easter worship service and say, “I’ve got all the answers! If anyone will come to be now, as the Bible says, miracles will happen through that person.”

Jesus was the only person who could stand up like this and have it not be blasphemy. He was the Son of God. The Hero sent from Heaven. The promised Christ come to destroy the devil’s work and free mankind from sin forever.

When Jesus had spoken to the woman at the well He had told her that as a person believes in Him, eternal life wells up in that person like an artesian spring.

Here Jesus says those who would trust in Him would have “streams of living water” flow out from this inner spring.

After Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit would caused Jesus’ followers to share the Good News of Jesus in languages they had never learned. This happened on the day of Pentecost. When crowds of worshippers were gathered in Jerusalem for another Jewish festival, streams of living water flowed out from the disciples of Jesus. They proclaimed the Good News that Jesus had suffered the sinner’s punishment and set us right with God through His willing death.

From city to city the same thing would take place among the small congregations of new Christians. The Holy Spirit would cause miracles to flow out from them, trumpeting to the world that this Jesus really was the Son of God.

Remember, these “streams of living” water, these gifts of the Spirit, were not just for show. They were used to communicate the message that Jesus took away the sins of the world when He died on the cross. These signs shouted, “Believe in Jesus and live!”

Yes, the time to stay away from Jerusalem had come to an end. The time to teach quietly in Galilee had run out. Now it was time for Jesus to speak with a loud voice before He would speak with the louder voice of His willing suffering and death.

In the years to come the time for the disciples of Christ to follow quietly would end too. They would take up the work of giving the Savior to the world. And the early church would do the same.

Our time to be quiet has come to an end also. The time for sitting back while the world goes to hell around us is over. What is it time for us to say? The same thing that Jesus’ church has always said. We’re damned sinners. He’s the all forgiving Savior. Trust in Him. Talk to Him. Live in Him.

Our message is the Law that reveals sin. Our message is the Gospel that reveals our Savior. Our message is every teaching that our Creator has laid out for our blessing in the pages of His Holy Word.

Take in the living water for yourself, and be prepared to distribute that water to others.

Your unbelieving neighbor will not live forever.

Time is running out.

Your work in this world may be done soon.

Time is running out.

Drink now, while the water’s here. Then you’ll be ready to speak.

PRAYER: Jesus, we believe You are God’s Son, our one and only, all sufficient, promise keeping Savior. May our best be done to Your glory. May our worst be lost in your love. May our lives be lived always in faith, counting on You. Give us life in this life, Jesus. Give others life through us, in You.

LENT WEDNESDAY WORSHIP: This Wednesday at 6pm we’ll be having a soup supper before worship at 7pm. Soup supper and midweek worship will be held for the next six weeks.

Please make the time to join us. Come ready to learn from God’s Word. Come ready to be equipped to tell of His love, by hearing of it for yourself. Come to praise Him with your time and your hearts.

February 15, 2009

Moses' Prophet and the Bread of LIfe - Feb 15, 2009


Over a thousand years before Jesus was born, Moses told the people...

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15 NIV).

When Jesus began performing miracles people wondered, “Is this the Moses-like Prophet that was foretold?” Today we hear how Jesus showed the people that He was indeed The Prophet, but not the kind of the Prophet that the people had grown to expect.


John 6:30-36 (NIV)

30So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.

“Don’t Try to Use Him”

When Jesus fed 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and two small fish, the people who saw it were convinced: this was the Prophet whom Moses had predicted. (John 6:14)

Moses had said that the Prophet would be like Him, and sure enough, just as Moses had fed the children of Israel with Manna in the desert, Jesus had fed the 5,000 with five loaves of barley bread, in the deserted lands near the sea of Galilee. (Exodus 16)

Surely, this was the beginning of a new age. An age of plenty. An age of rest under the Great Prophet and supplier of miracle Bread. Or so the people might have thought.

The morning after the feeding of the 5,000 the people woke to disappointment. Jesus was nowhere to be found. And more disappointing, there was no fresh Manna on the ground. No new barley loaves to fill their bellies either Perhaps this Jesus was not the Prophet who Moses had promised after all. But, He had fed them. That much was certain. And so the people hurried to catch up with Jesus.

When they found Him in the city of Capernaum. Jesus was not happy to see them. That seems strange, doesn’t it? Doesn’t Jesus want people to come to Him? Sure He does. But these people didn’t want Jesus the Savior. They wanted Jesus the baker. They ran after Him not because they believed in Him, but because they wanted a handout. Jesus said to those who trailed Him to Capernaum:

“…I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval" (John 6:26-27 NIV).

They wanted the Prophet to conform to their expectations. They wanted the Prophet to give them bread that didn’t need to be grow, threshed, ground, kneaded and baked.

I imagine if Jesus had given in, their next demand wouldn’t have been far away. Hey, Jesus, if you’re like Moses, then how about kicking these Romans out of our land? How about having them leave all their stuff when they go?

They wanted to manipulate Jesus so that He would meet their own expectations and carry out their own agendas.

And you know, people try to do the same thing today. Right here at Redemption Church even.

On the phone a while back I explained to a man that we’re a small church and we don’t have a fund that I could just give him money out of. He didn’t believe it, and toward the end of the phone conversation he said, “Well then what do you do with all that money that you leech off the people?” Needless to say, that was the end of our conversation.

You’d be surprised at how many calls I get from people who believe that churches exist to distribute hotel vouchers, meal tickets, free gas and (let’s not forget) cold hard cash.

They want to manipulate Jesus’ people with His words. Didn’t Jesus say to help the poor? Okay, gimme some money. Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Okay, stop telling me about this “sinner/savior” stuff. And by the way, can I get some free bread?

Let’s make sure that we never find ourselves twisting Jesus’ words to further our own agendas. Conveniently forgetting the Bible passages that interfere with our plans. Manipulating Jesus, using Him for our purposes, whatever they might be. For a time it might work, but God will not be used.

“7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:7-10 NIV).

Instead of using Jesus we want to lay ourselves before Him and say, “Jesus, dear Savior, use us. You are beyond our expectations. Your way is better than our pitiful agenda. Use us.”

“Consider His Source”

When the people found Jesus at Capernaum, they asked Him again for barley bread. Jesus told them to seek something better. Verse 32…

“…I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32a-33 NIV)

Jesus reminds them it wasn’t the man Moses who fed the old ones with Manna, it was God.

And God had much more to offer than food and drink. In ancient times and in modern times God has provided food for people on this planet. But, better than that, from ancient times to modern times God has also provided the world with life for the spirit. He has offered a relationship with the Creator, through faith the Creator’s promise of salvation.

The people who came to Jesus for bread needed to consider the source. Man can only provide things that last in this life. But God is not limited to earthly things in His gift giving. God gives us far more than barley bread.

God is a richer source than those people imagined. He gives us Jesus, the Bread of Life. Jesus, the bread that doesn’t just sustain body-life, the Bread that makes the dead soul alive and equips a person for an eternal union with God.

They had their priorities completely backwards. Remember what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount?

“…do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV).

They were seeking first food and drink, at the expense of things eternal. I pray that God would teach us all to order our lives with Jesus at the pinnacle. Jesus at the foundation. Jesus as the beginning of our every day. Jesus at the end and throughout all. Jesus as our first priority in life. For in Him is forgiveness for our daily sins and life that lasts forever.

If God gives us the Bread of Life for free, why do we expect that He won’t give us the things that we really need in life. The things we need to live our lives to Him?

We’ve got to consider the source too. God is both the source of bread, and the source of forgiveness. Let’s continue to come to Jesus, asking Him for forgiveness for our sins, I guarantee that the Father will make sure we have everything else we need too.

“Take What God is Serving”

They were some seriously stubborn people.

Jesus told them that the bread that God continually gives to the world is the PERSON who came from heaven to give life to everyone!

Their response: Bread? Did He say bread? Yeah, give us some more of that barley bread. Verse 34…

“34“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:34-36 NIV).

I’d point your attention back to the sermon on the mount just for a moment. Near the beginning of that sermon, Jesus says,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6 NIV).

Jesus wanted to fill these sinners up with His righteousness. He knew that in the future, He would drain away God’s wrath over their sins by suffering the agony that those sins had earned them. Right now Jesus wanted nothing more than for these people to trust in Him so that they could be righteous before God the Father.

But all they wanted was barley bread.

They didn’t hunger and thirst for righteousness. Maybe they didn’t even see that they needed it. Like the way a malnutrition or dehydrated person can suffer for days on end, never knowing what’s missing.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. You sit here today, member of this congregation because Your have seen Him in the pages of Scripture and by the Spirit’s power You believe in Him. You have taken in the Bread of Life. He nourishes you from inside and feeds you from His Word.

Dear Christians, we’ll never starve for righteousness, because Jesus fills us with His perfect life. We’ll never thirst for righteousness because Jesus pours out all His goodness over us in Baptism, and comes to us every time we take Communion, and every time we take in and digest His Holy Word.

Don’t run after the dirt bread that this world offers. Take what God is serving. Take the Bread of Life. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of sinners like you and me.

I invite you to pray with me.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, with the minds that you have given us, we can imagine wonderful things. We write great stories. We build magnificent machines. But the more we know, the more questions we have. And no matter how wise we think we are, without You, we cannot be whole. We cannot be full. We cannot know and be one with You, our Creator. Fill our hearts and minds with your thoughts. With Your truth. Make us wise for salvation through Christ Jesus. Make us wise to know You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

February 8, 2009

What's at the Core? - Feb 8, 2009


In the book of John, the apostle tells us that there were many miracles that Jesus performed that weren’t recorded in the Bible. But John did record a good number of miracles in his Gospel, and he tells us why in chapter 20:

“…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31 NIV).

Today we’ll be studying John chapter 5. There we’ll see that the whole Bible from, start to finish, points to the Christ so that sinners may repent and believe in the One who gives forgiveness and eternal life.


I had always wondered what was really at the earth’s core. And now I new.

I was in my father’s basement workshop sifting through boxes of old treasures. In the shadows of the apple box I was pawing through I found a bunch of ragged, dog-eared paper back novels. Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

In school they said the earth’s core was a molten, liquid iron and nickel ball under extreme pressures. But Edgar Rice Burroughs revealed that the earth’s core was actually hollow. It held the prehistoric and dinosaur filled world called Pellucidar and could be accessed by airship through a polar opening at the top of the earth. Or, at least that’s the imaginative explanation Burroughs writes in “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core”, circa 1929.

Things that are hidden from our sight make us curious. We want to know what it’s like in the secretive deeps of the earth. We want to know what thoughts lie hidden in the minds of the people around us. Sometimes we even search into ourselves, seeking to find who we really are when all the masks and cosmetic layers are stripped away.

Today, in our reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus peels back the layers of mystery and reveals the core of the matter in a number of areas. He shows us what lies at the center of Bible teaching. He reveals the Pharisee’s deepest desire. He gives us a peek at what inhabits the innermost place of the Christian’s heart.


Holy Spirit, You inhabit all places in a way we can believe, but cannot fully understand. The farthest reaches of our galaxy, You know. The innermost rooms of our hearts, You know. Reach now into those rooms. Unlock them. Let your Word penetrate to the depths of our person, and pour in eternal life. Increase our trust in Jesus our Great Savior-King. Amen.

To the legalistic Jews Jesus said…

John 5:39-47 (NIV)

39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
41“I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
45“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

“The Core of the Bible – Christ”

The Jewish people were incredibly careful with the Old Testament of the Bible. They didn’t even touch it when they read it. They kept their place in the Hebrew scroll with a long pointer stick made of silver called a “Yad”.

When they made new scrolls of the Bible they would count words and letters to ensure that they had not left anything out or added anything in their copying. Scribes could tell you which word and which letter was at the very center of each book.

It was completely fitting that they were this careful. This was God’s own message. The Bible was and is the way in which God communicates to mankind.

Jesus said that the Jews diligently studied the Scriptures. That was good.

Jesus said they believe that the Scriptures could give them eternal life. That was true.

What they missed was that the Scriptures all relate to the Christ. The whole Old Testament pointed God’s people to believe that Christ was coming. The whole New Testament would later reveal the details of how God’s eternal Son became human, died in the sinner’s place and was brought back to life, so that all who trust in Him might also live forever.

Sadly, many of the Jews who lived during the ministry of Jesus had lost sight of the Savior in the Old Testament Scrolls. When He finally began to preach and teach, they didn’t recognize Him. Even though He was born of the virgin, born in Bethlehem, preached in Galilee, was preceded by the Elijah-like John the Baptist – all things that the Old Testament had predicted.

The Core of the Old Testament Bible, is Christ. But they missed Him. If you cut the Christ out of the Bible, you don’t have much left. Sure you can learn a lot of things from a Christ-less Bible. The Proverbs are full of wisdom. The history gives us a reliable record of the ancient world. The many stories have life lessons to convey. But if you have a Savior-less Bible, than all that it amounts to is a book of laws and lessons that are only good for this life - if they’re any good at all.

Paul said it like this,

“19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NIV).

Thankfully God’s Word is not Christ-less, and is not only beneficial as a book of life lessons. The Bible is Christocentric. Pointing us to our Savior at every turn.

Remember this principle when you read the Bible for yourself: All Scripture relates to Christ. When you’ve identified the main teaching that God is expressing in a section, then also ask, “Now, how does this truth relate to Jesus and my salvation?” That way you will not lose sight of the point of all that is written in the Bible.

“The Inmost Desire of the Pharisee – Human Approval.”

Jesus taught that the core of the Bible was the message of eternal life through the Christ. But He also revealed what was the innermost desire of the unbelieving Jews. Verse 41…

41“I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? (John 5:41-44 NIV).

These Pharisees desired human approval more than God’s approval. Their true religion was self-worship. More than anything else, they wanted their peers to give them praise. Oh, you’re so learned, Rabbi! You follow the worship Laws so closely. You are truly a follower of Moses, and of God!

The worship laws that they followed were given by God, but they followed them not to glorify Him, but to glorify themselves. Jesus called them, “Whitewashed Tombs” beautiful on the outside, but dead inside.

Christians, we need to watch out for same trap that caught the Pharisees. When we are with our peers. Our family. Our fellow Christians. We can easily let our desire for their approval overshadow our desire to do what our God wants us to do. We can pat each other on the back and say, “Yep, that’s the right thing to do” when it is not. We can depend on our peers to validate our ways and words instead of truly seeking out God’s will in a matter.

Too far down that road and we’ll find ourselves where the Pharisees were: too busy seeking the approval of each other to pay attention to what truly pleases God.

Don’t think it can happen to you? It happened to Peter. Peter who had denied Jesus and had been reinstated after the resurrection. He had been sent out by the resurrected Jesus Himself to tend the flock of God’s people. Peter was considered a “pillar” in the Christian church at Jerusalem.

But when he travelled to Antioch to spend some time there, he began to withdraw from the Gentile Christians who there as if they were less Christian than the Jewish born followers of Jesus. Peter began to bow to his own culture instead of bowing to the God who had forgiven him through Christ’s cross.

The apostle Paul corrected Peter sharply in front of everyone, teaching us an important lesson. We all desire the approval of others, whether we admit it or not, but above all, followers of Christ must seek the Father’s approval.

The Christians seeks to do what the Father approves of. Christians seeks to speak what the Father would smile at. Christians even seeks to please the Father with the very thoughts of their mind. And above all, the Christian seeks the Father’s approval by taking refuge under Christ. With every sin we curl up under the forgiving wing of Jesus our Savior, knowing that He loves us and forgives us. And we know that with His forgiveness comes the Holy Spirit who will help us to revolutionize our hearts. The Holy Spirit who will teach us how to turn from each sin and live the Christian life under Christ’s all covering umbrella of forgiveness.

“The Heart of God’s Followers – Christ”

Jesus once said,

“21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Mathew 7:21 NIV).

In the Lutheran Church we recognize that we cannot read the hearts of individuals. To determine whether a person is a follower of Christ we must look to what they say, and also to how they live. Confession and practice.

But though we are limited to such things, God is not. He recognizes the confession which is a lie. He views the deeds which are hidden. He reads the innermost heart, and judges according to that.

The Jews whom Jesus was talking to claimed that they were followers of Moses. But they were not. They may have followed many of the worship laws that Moses had written down. They may have confessed to be disciples of Moses with great pride. But when it came down to it, Moses was a Christian before the word Christian existed. He trusted that God would keep His promises, most importantly the promise to send the Christ. The Jews who rejected Christ, were not followers Christ, and therefore could not be followers of Moses.

Jesus says that Moses wrote about Him. You probably remember that it was Moses who wrote the first five books of the Bible at the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

In Genesis 3 we hear the first promise of the Savior (Genesis 3:15). In Genesis 22 we hear of the ram that was sacrificed in Isaac’s place on the mountain where Abraham’s faith was tested. A picture of Christ sacrificed in the sinner’s place (Genesis 22).

In Exodus we learn of the Passover Lambs whose blood protected the families of Israel from the angel of death. A picture of our salvation through Christ’s blood (Exodus 12).

In Deuteronomy Moses writes about Christ, calling Him a prophet who must be listened too.

“17The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account” (Deuteronomy 18:17-19 NIV)

The book of Acts tells us that this prophet that Moses spoke of what Jesus (Acts 3:22, 7:37). You can’t claim to follow the true God without confessing that you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Confessing our faith is important, but faith is not merely words spoken. It is a heart convinced. A heart with Christ at it’s core.

The earth’s core is roughly 4,000 miles straight down from us right now. Man has never drilled deeper than 7.5 miles. With only scant scientific data scientists are only able to make educated guess as to what is truly at the core of the earth.

Thank God that His Word is not so mysterious. Christ is at the core of the Bible. Eternal life surrounding Him. And that’s what we find at the core of the Christian heart. Christ. Comforting our guilty consciences with the truth that by His blood we are forgiven. Changing us from within as we look to His Word, and truly believe it. I invite you to pray with me.


Jesus, we believe. You are the Christ. You have made us clean in the Father’s sight. You alone deserve the glory. This we believe, but in our sinners hearts we sometimes doubt You. Pour out Your Holy Spirit on us through the Holy Scriptures. Testify to our innermost hearts. Drive out our unbelief, and live in us always. Amen.

February 1, 2009

The Effect of Jesus' Word Validates His Claim - Feb 1, 2009


In his letter to the Roman Christians Paul writes,

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)

It is the Good News of Jesus, the Gospel, that creates faith and keeps it alive. Today we examine the fourth chapter of John and see how the effect of Jesus’ words on people testifies that He is the Son of God.


May our Creator and Savior bless your hearts with a childlike faith. A faith that trusts in the Father simply because He is the Father. A faith that yearns to follow Jesus with every step. A faith which the Holy Spirit may use to declare His love to sinners we know. Amen.

How come Second Maccabees isn’t part of the Old Testament? How come the Gospel of Thomas doesn’t have a place in the New?

The short answer is – they weren’t authored by the Holy Spirit, so He didn’t include them in His completed work.

When I was in Seminary I looked forward to the class on Canon and Text. The class that would explain how the books of the Bible found their way into the Bible. Some of these books were written hundreds of years apart. Others, more than a thousand years apart.

I had always assumed that there was some special Christian council that was convened which selected the right ones and declared, “These are the books of the Bible”.

But I was wrong.

The Word of God didn’t need the validation of the councils of men because the Holy Spirit remained with His Word. After inspiring men to write His Word, the Holy Spirit stayed with it, preserving it and working in the hearts of those who read it.

Over time, Christians recognized the Holy Spirit’s stamp of approval and the books which were His began to be published together.

Only after the Holy Spirit had convinced Christ’s followers which books were God’s Word did any councils come along with their stamp of approval.

If you want proof that this is God’s book, you gotta read it. Its effect on people proves that it is the Word of God.

The same is true of Jesus. If you want proof that He is the Son of God, you have to hear His words. His effect on people proves that He is the Son of God.


Jesus, we are here because You love us and have shown us that You are our Great God and Savior. Bless us with clear vision to see our own sins. Bless us with honest and repentant hearts to confess those sins to you. Forgive us and bless us with on-going encouragement and guidance from Your Holy Bible. Amen.

John 4:39-42 (NIV)

39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers.
42They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”


Perhaps no two apostles were more different and opposed to each other than Matthew and Simon the Zealot.

You remember Matthew. He was the tax collector. He was Jewish born, but his occupation was collecting taxes from his own countrymen - for Rome. Many of his fellow citizens would have considered him a traitor.

On the complete other end of the spectrum is Simon the Zealot. Zealots were the nationalists of Israel. The patriots. The Zealots staged violent rebellions in an attempt to overthrow the authorities of Rome. They wanted nothing more than to drive Rome out of their country.

I don’t have to tell you that Matthew probably didn’t sit next to Simon the Zealot at first.

But these men weren’t selected to be on Jesus’ bowling team. They weren’t gathered together because they had the same interests or the same qualities. Jesus Had brought these men together to learn from Him.

For three years they would follow Him. They would hear His sermons. He would teach them privately. They would see and be part of His miracles. Jesus would change them. His message would change them.

He would bring them together not just by teaching them to know one another. He would bring them together by removing their sins through His cross.

By joining them in loving relationship with God the Father, they would then be able to enjoy a good relationship with each other. He would join them together as one, through their common faith in Him, their Savior from sin.

Jesus would bring a tax-collector and a Zealot together and out of them He would make brothers in Christ.

In the years to come Jesus would break down the barrier that stood between ethnic Jews and Gentiles. They hated each other fiercely. But in Christ’s church they would become one. As the Savior’s apostle says,

“28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV).

Jesus’ ministry was primarily to the Jewish people because they were the ones who had the Old Testament Bible and could recognize the Christ most easily. But since all people needed the Savior, Jesus sought to serve Samaritans too.

It might not seem like such a big deal for Jesus to speak to a Samaritan woman. But we didn’t live in those times. The Jews often avoided travelling through Samaritan land if they could. They hated each other. We saw it in the woman’s question to Jesus, “How can you ask ME for a drink? You’re a Jew.”

It didn’t take long for Jesus to change this woman’s perception though. She went to the well with distain for Jews. She left with the purpose of telling her village that she had found the Christ, and He was a Jew.

His word changed her. He told her that He was the Christ, and she believed.

But it isn’t just the direct speaking of Jesus that holds power. His word is powerful, no matter who speaks it.

It doesn’t take much reading in the Bible to find out that the people that God concerns Himself with are not remarkable people. Often they are guilty of sins that we would look down upon with a self-righteous eye.

Jacob was a liar and a thief. Moses a murderer. King David a fornicator. Peter was a racist. Paul persecuted people violently because of their religion.

God didn’t choose these people to be His own to be His people because their souls were shinier than the souls of others. Christianity isn’t about remarkable people sought out and found by God like hidden pearls in a sin dirties world. Christianity is about sinners made remarkable by the cleansing blood of God’s own Son.

It’s been said, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” We don’t come to Him clean, we come dirty. Sinful. Doomed. He takes our sin away. He declares us clean by His Son’s sacrifice. And then He begins to actually clean up the messes of sin in our lives.

The Samaritan woman didn’t have a great reputation in her village. Jesus pointed out her sins to her quite strongly. No doubt others knew of them also. But it was she who left her water jar by the well and went to bring others to His feet.

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29 NIV).

She carried the word of Jesus to the village. She did. And they believed.

39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did” (John 4:39 NIV).

Before they ever met Jesus, they believed because she had carried His message to them. You could say, they met Jesus, before they met Jesus.

It makes me think of what Jesus said to doubting Thomas after he finally believed,

“…Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29 NIV).

The people of Sychar were indeed blessed. Blessed with faith because of the Word of God. The Samaritan woman had gone out to fetch some water, but had returned without her water jar and carrying the water of life.

In his letter to the Roman Christians Paul writes,

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)

It is the word of Jesus, the Gospel, that creates faith and keeps it alive.

When the citizens of Sychar reached Jesus, they made Him stay with them for a couple days. And as we would expect, He preached and taught to them. And His word continued to produce faith in the hearts of His hearers.

To those that had already believed, His preaching was spiritual food for the strengthening of their faith.

They told the woman,

“…We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42 NIV).

They told her the message in return.

They told her what she already knew. This is the Christ. It was a simple thing to say, but it was a miracle all the same. They had come to trust that Jesus was their Savior, and they were already seeking to share that message. If not with new people, then with their fellow believers. If not to create new faith, then to strengthen and build up those who believe already.

They pointed the woman from the well to the Savior, and to the source of their new, joint life. All that He was. All that He would do. All that He means for the sinner.

So, what does this all mean for us today?

If His Word changes hearts, then lets make sure to be in His Word so that our hearts are being renewed every day. Molded by His powerful voice.

If His Word has power no matter who speaks it, then let’s speak it and rescue this world.

If His Word sustains faith, then lets tell it back to each other.

If we believe Paul’s Words. If we believe Jesus’ Words. Then let’s not be ashamed of the Gospel. Let’s plug into its power, and share it’s light.

I invite you to pray with me.


Dearest Jesus, we know your voice. You tell us we are sinners, and You tell us we are covered by Your life. Bring our hearts before you in true repentance. Bring life to our souls by Your invigorating message of free forgiveness and eternal life through Your blood. Teach us to walk in your ways. Teach us to speak only your truth. Teach us to be your sons and daughters. Amen.