Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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24 The Pouting Prodigal – Part 1

Luke 15:22-32

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ 28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ 31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

So far the parable that Jesus has been sharing with the Pharisees has focused on the father and the prodigal son but now in verse 25 we are introduced to the older and seemingly more pious son. This is the son that the Pharisees would have approved of, he was responsible and hardworking, he was the son that followed the rules. Yet what we discover is that while he was good at following the rules he also had a rift in his relationship with the father. When confronted with the celebration over his brother’s return we discover that the pious older brother was really a pouting person. It’s the father’s party that reveals his real heart, and while we may be tempted to admire his hard work we also have to recognize his hard and unforgiving heart. At first it’s the prodigal son who appears to have the problem, but when we chose to look at the attitudes as well as the actions we quickly discover that both sons had a hard heart problem. While the younger son had a possession problem the older son had a pride problem. While the younger sons heart problem was lived out in a lifestyle of rebellion the older sons was seen in a self-righteousness attitude. The older son served the father faithfully his whole life, but it was out of a sense of duty not desire. He was driven by rules instead of relationship, obligation instead of a heart of obedience. Like many of us he made it about followed a list instead of loving the father. While he never left his home physically, it’s clear that he had a dysfunctional relationship with his father as well as his brother. The older son represents religious people, those who while they may not have sinned against God by running off to pursue a rebellious life are participating in a prideful and pouting life instead of a life of praise. These are the Pharisees who have reduced a righteous life to that of following the rules and warming a pew. Who when it comes to really celebrating what God is doing in the lives of others, refuse to rejoice. These are the party poopers, and I wonder what percentage of God’s family fall into this category? It’s easy to see the rebels but do we see the self-righteous? I am convinced that there are probably more critical “older brother” Christians in the church than there are those guilty of the younger son’s sin. It’s here in Luke 15 that we see two things:

  1. The Characteristics of a Pouting Son.

After working hard all day in the fields, the older brother arrived at his house to hear the sound of music and celebration. When he inquired as to what was going on he learns that the party was in celebration of his younger brother’s return. It’s at this point that he became angry and refused to join in the joy, choosing resentment over rejoicing. In his attitude and angry statements we see several common characteristics of a pouting prodigal starting first with:

  • An angry spirit of grumbling

Verse 28 tells us that he became angry, in fact the word used indicates that he flew into a rage. Instead of rejoicing with his brother he resented him, choosing instead to protest the party with an attitude of anger. But this was not righteous anger it was resentful anger. When his father came out to plead with him to participate in the party, he began to grumble and complain. Saying, “I’ve never left home and spent all my money on prostitutes, and you’ve never even killed a little goat for me!” It’s the pity party, poor me mentality. Why didn’t he join in the party, because his focus was on self not on the celebration. Instead of worship he chose whining, instead of joy he gave in to jealousy. It’s often easy to recognize the pious older son because when given the opportunity to praise they often pout, grumbling and gripping is their go to. They are slow to celebrate and quick to complain.  They usually begin a sentence, “Now I don’t mean to be critical but…” and then that’s exactly what they do, they criticize. Instead of celebrating and joining in the joy they get caught up in complaining. These are the grace grumblers and often they will use spiritual disciplines to communicate their disapproval, disciplines like prayer. Instead of using prayer as a means of connecting with the father they use it as a means to be critical, prayer becomes a way to piously point out other people’s problems. Their righteous life is really just a façade of faithfulness, because when the praise is not pointed at them they pout. Are you hiding behind a façade of holiness? It’s easy to get angry with these critical Christians but we need to remember that the Father loves them and we must too. The father loved both sons equally, and was willing to pursue both of their hard hearts. His response to the pouting son was to go and plead with him to join the party. Yet like many pouting prodigals he chose to be miserable and remain on the outside. What he really missed was the miracle of God’s mercy because he didn’t think he needed it. He chose to rely on the rules and missed resting in the relationship. I believe that one of the greatest challenges to the church is not the prodigals but the pouters. The ones who say things like, “Pastor, I don’t think we ought to clap and lift our hands in church, if we are not careful we’re going to become charismatic.” Yet the irony of their words is that often these are the same people who will go to a football game and lift their hands in the air and shout “Touchdown!” They are ok celebrating college football but not Christ. They are ok getting excited about sports but not the Savior, because somehow things are going to get out of hand if we celebrate in church. This is the son who was so afraid of going out on a limb that he never got near the tree. It’s not hard to spot the pouting prodigal, they are constantly complaining and seldom happy. Instead of responding with rejoicing they chose resentment and bitterness. What about you, do you celebrating or complaining over those who come home?  Are you celebrating Gods party or sitting on the pity potty?

 


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19. Courage at the Cross – Part 1

Luke 23:32-49

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. 47 When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow. 49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

As we have been journeying with Jesus to the cross we’ve seen Him cross paths with one who was blind, one that was bound up in his belongings, and one who was buried. Today as we journey with Jesus we come to the One who was broken. The first went from seeking to sight, the second went from seeking to sorrow, and the third from sorrow to serving, and now at the cross we see our Savior take us from sorrow to Salvation. It’s here in Luke 23 that we see first:

  1. The Reality of Christ’s Death

On Thursday night as Jesus finished the Passover meal with his closest followers, He looks at them and announces that one of them, one of his closest friends, is about to betray Him. Then they depart for the garden of Gethsemane where, as Jesus pleaded in pray, sweating great drops of blood, His disciples laid around and slept. Christ was then confronted by a crowd armed with swords and clubs who came to arrest Him. They rushed Him through a makeshift trial and condemned Him to die. Some begin to spit on Him. Others blindfold Him and hit Him with their fists; asking Jesus to guess who it is that is hitting Him. The guards then beat Him some more. Early on Friday morning, the religious leaders reach a decision to send Jesus to a governor named Pilate. Pilate is hesitant to do anything to Jesus, but then gives in to the clamor of the crowd, as they cry “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” The soldiers, strip Him of His clothes, tie Him to a post whipping Him with a cat of 9 tails that tears out His flesh with every lash. Bleeding profusely they then cover Him with a purple cloak and force a crown of thorns on His head to mimicking the wreath Caesar wore and a reed in his right hand to look like a scepter. They even kneel down before Him to mock Him as king, and as they get up from kneeling, they spit in His face. Then they take the scepter and begin to beat Him on the head while the rest beat Him in the face with their fists. Finally, they force Him to carry His cross as they start out toward Golgotha. Jesus is then stripped and nailed to the cross with spikes. As the cross is raised Jesus has to push against the spikes and raise Himself to breathe, with each breath He experiences the agony of the cross. The callous soldiers sit down, indifferent to His pain as they gamble for His clothes. But it’s not just the reality of His death but also:

  1. The Results of His Death

The Bible records two incidents that happened when Jesus died. The first has to do with His final cry and the second the temple curtain. Just before Jesus died John 19:30 tells us that He cried out, “It is Finished!” What is finished? What does this mean? The term Jesus used was a common phrase from the world of commerce, it would have been a very familiar word to anyone in finance and banking. When someone borrowed money they would incur a debt that they would have to pay back, and when it was paid the banker would use this term to declare that the debt had been paid off. Literally, it means, “Paid in Full.” At His death, Jesus declared that the payment had been made. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for our sins. He took our moral liabilities and stamped “Paid in Full” across the ledger sheet of our life. Because of our sin, we should be sentenced to death but because of Christ’s payment on the cross, our crimes can be forgiven. Sin requires a sacrifice, someone has to pay the price, that is why Jesus came to be our substitute. The first result of Christ’s death is that that we are:

Acquitted — our debt has been paid in full. When Jesus cried out it was not a cry of torment but one of triumph, Jesus was voicing the victory, he was declaring that the war had been won, that the debt had been paid and death had been defeated. His final cry from the cross was a cry of completion. It was the cry of the conquering hero. Matthew 27:51 tells us “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The temple is where people used to go to pray and offer sacrifices for their sin. It was divided into different parts with the holiest place called the holy of holies. A thick curtain, 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and over 2 inches thick separated this inner sanctuary from the rest of the temple. It was not an ordinary curtain, and it was said that it took 300 priests just to install it. Only one person, the high priest, was allowed to go behind the curtain and into the holy of holies and then only once a year to offer a major sacrifice for his people. When Jesus died, this 60 x 30-foot curtain was torn in two from top to bottom, signifying that it was God Himself who tore it in half. Now, instead of just the high priest having access to God once a year, the way to God stands wide open to everyone, on every day of the year. Not only are we acquitted but the second result is open

Access to God. Everything has been paid in full, not only have we been declared forgiven but now we have free access to God, an open avenue to God. Because Christ courageously faced and conquered the cross we can be forgiven and set free. What about you have you responded to God’s free gift of grace? Are you living in the finished work of the cross or the forever work of the culture?


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18. Courage in the Crisis – Part 3

John 11:28-44

28 Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” 29 So Mary immediately went to him. 30 Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. 31 When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. 32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” 38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” 40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

It’s here in John 11 that we see not only the sorrow of the two sisters but also the sorrow of the:

  1. Savior

“Jesus wept” is the most condensed verse in the bible but it’s one of the most comforting.  Jesus took time for tears, because he understands our hearts and our hurts. Do you believe that Christ cares about you, do you believe that he not only hears your hurts but wants to heal them? You see when it came to Christ’s care the crowd was divided. Some people saw Christ as compassionate while others saw him as calloused and uncaring. Instead of believing they chose to blame. What side are you on, are you a believer or a blamer? Are you amazed at God or angry with God? One of the challenging questions that confronts our hearts with here is what are we crying over? Are we crying over the loss of stuff or the loss of souls? Am I burdened about the things that break the heart of God? When was the last time you wept over the brokenness of humanity? Is your heart heavy because of the hurts you see around you? Where is the church at today, are we crying like Christ or have we become so comfortably complacent or worse calloused to the cares? It’s here in the midst of the heartache that we hear Christs:

  1. Call

Christ commands them to roll back the stone. To the crowd this would have come across as a very uncaring command. But Jesus wanted to remove anything that would have prevented the people from witnessing the wonder of the resurrection. So let me ask you what are the stones in your life that cause you to miss the miracles? What is it that’s blocking the blessings? What is it that needs to be rolled away in your life so you can witness God’s wonder? For Martha it was her fear, she was reluctant to roll the stone away because she didn’t believe. Faith follows God and obeys but fear will cause us to falter and focus on the obstacle. But belief is not just an attitude it’s an action, belief should cause us to boldly obey. You will either agree with God and obey or argue with God and object. While Lazarus was bound by death, the disciples were bound by doubt. So Jesus reminds them of the goal, God’s glory. Rolling the stone away comes down to whether you believe in rotting or in raising. Jesus was giving them a glimpse of what was to come on that Easter morning just around the corner. The simplest meaning of Easter is that we are living in a world in which God has the last word. On Friday it seemed like wickedness was winning but on Sunday we see God triumph over the grave. But what about Saturday, that in-between time of uncertainty, sandwiched between disaster and deliverance? Are you going to believe or are you going to bail? As they remove the obstacle to belief Jesus gives the order for Lazarus to live. Why does the Savior shout the command, because He is in charge. This is the miraculous moment when Jesus defied death and they discovered that death can’t separate us from the Savior. It is here that we see despite all the obstacles Lazarus rise in obedience. But it wasn’t just Lazarus that was commanded to obey, Jesus invites the disciples to join Him in the joy of freeing Lazarus from his grave clothes. Jesus invites us to join Him in the privilege of partnering with God. How do you think they felt about getting to unwrap Lazarus? Do you think they were merry or mad? Partnering with Jesus is a privilege not a pain. Look Jesus has done all the work, He paid the price we just get to unwrap the present. If you have responded to salvation, and have gone from being dead in your sins to saved then you can’t keep wearing you grave clothes. Sadly many Christians today look more like Lazarus as he came out of the grave bound up in his grave clothes. They have life but not liberty; they have forgiveness but not freedom because they want to keep on wearing their old grave clothes. It’s time to strip of the old clothes of death and exchange them for Christ’s clothes of life.  To stop being defined by death and start being defined by deliverance. What about you have you responded to Christs call to come out of the grave and live for God, or are you still stuck in the dead life of serving self instead of the Savior? Sadly many Christians today instead of dressing to serve dress to show off. But Christians don’t dress to impress, they dress to express the Glory of God.