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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1. Courage in the Chaos – Part 1

Matthew 14:22-33

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Here in Matthew 14, we come to the famous story of Peter walking on water. But in order to really understand the story we need to back up and look at the background context to the story. Jesus had just been told that John the Baptist, a close relative of his had been beheaded by Herod. When Jesus heard the news he got into a boat and left for a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. When Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped out of the boat he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Because it was getting late, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the people away, but Jesus had other plans and he miraculously fed over 5000 people with only 5 barley loaves and two fish. John 6:14 tells us that the people were very excited and said, “Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world.” Verse 15 reveals that Jesus knew they wanted to stage a coup and make him king by force. They wanted a Messiah who would turn the nation of Israel into a world power. It’s here that we see first

  • The courage of Christ in the chaos

We see this demonstrated in at least four ways, first

  1. He Calls and Commands.

Verse 22 says: “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd.” Jesus took charge and commanded his disciples to get into the boat. This word means to “compel by force.” The disciples didn’t want to leave this celebration because they didn’t want to miss out on what was about to happen. But Jesus knew that they would be influenced by all this flattery and so he got them out of there right away. Jesus recognizes that the people’s motives weren’t right and He knew that the disciples were not mature enough in their faith to handle all this attention. He had the courage to make a tough call to walk away from the flattery and attention, to step out of the unhealthy spotlight. He did this not only for Himself but also to protect His disciples from the poison of peer pressure. So let me ask you, what is your response to Christ’s commands?  Sometimes Jesus commands don’t seem to make sense but will we follow them by faith and obey instead of object? Jesus called them away from the party for their own protection. Sometimes following Christ’s commands don’t seem very fun, but Jesus cares more about our faith than fun. It’s in these moments when His commands don’t seem to make sense that we need to obey by faith. Second:

  1. He prays.

Verse 23 tells us that the next thing Jesus did was to pray. I think He prayed for two reasons. First He was facing the same temptation He encountered with Satan in the wilderness when He was tempted to use His miraculous power to gain followers. So He called on His Father and reaffirmed His mission and marching orders. Second I believe He prays for his disciples because even after experiencing His miracles they were still in danger of missing the whole point. He also knew the storm they were sailing into. Hebrews 7:25 reminds us that Jesus is still interceding for His followers today: “He always lives to intercede for them.” Jesus knows the trials and temptations facing you, he knows all about the tempest that is trying to toss you around so that you will throw in the towel, and He is interceding for you so that you don’t flounder in your faith. When it feels like Jesus isn’t doing anything faith reminds us that he is faithfully interceding on our behalf. We can live courageous lives because we know that Christ is interceding powerfully in prayer. Third:

  1. He cares.

Verse 24 describes the boat being several miles from shore as it was buffeted by the wind and waves. The Greek word here literally means that they were “tormented” by the waves. This storm was so bad that the disciples, many of whom were professional sailors, were not only fearful but were fighting for their lives. Now Mark 6:48 gives us a powerful glimpse not only into the deity of Christ but also His care for His sheep. It says Jesus “saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.” Now I want to remind you of a difficult fact, it was Jesus who commanded them to climb into the boat and sent them out into the storm. And we may be tempted to complain and ask what kind of a Savior sends His sheep into a storm, but let me ask you if He had left them on the shore would they have survived the pounding storm of popularity and pride? Or would they have floundered and fallen away? Sometimes we get angry with the Almighty and we wonder why He would let us go through these severe storms, but if He had left you where you were you would have been swallowed up and you would have drowned on dry ground. We may not like the sea storms that Jesus sends us into and we may be tempted to think that we would be safe on the shore, but sometimes the deadliest storms are where we think we are the safest. There are at least two kinds of storms that you will face in the Christian life.

  • Storms of correction. Like Jonah, sometimes the storms of life are meant to get our attention and call our rebellious heart to repentance.
  • Storms of perfection. Like the disciples, God allows these types of storms to build our character and to cause us to deepen our dependence upon Him so that we can flourish in faithfulness. If you let Him God will use the storms to strengthen your faith. Look there are only 2 outcomes either storms will strengthen or they will shatter your faith.

We can have courage in the midst of the chaos because we have a Savior who calls, intercedes, and cares.  What about you, are you focused on the Savior or on the storm? Our courage is not based on the absence of chaos but because of Christ’s presence in the chaos.

 


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31 Living in the Power of the Lords Light – Part 3

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:1-10

Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 2 We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. 3 If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. 5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

Not only does God’s light have the power to supersede the darkest night, and shine after the strongest storm but it will also shine

  1. After the Blackest Eclipse.

We have just gone through eclipse mania where people traveled for many miles to witness the incredible phenomenon of a solar eclipse. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks (“eclipses”) the Sun. When that happens day is turned to darkness, nocturnal animals come out, cicada’s start to sing, the temperature drops and strange things start to take place. But the same thing can happen spiritually where people experience a “Soular Eclipse”. This is what is being described in verse 4 where, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News” Satan the prince of darkness blinds the minds of unbelieving people so that they stumble around in the darkness. Now consider this amazing fact, that while the Sun is roughly 400 times bigger than the Moon, it is also about 400 times farther away from the earth, which is why they often appear to be the same size. While the Moon is tiny compared to the huge Sun it can still blots out the Sun, one because it stands between the Sun and us, and second because it is closer to us. The same is true for us often we let small things get in between God and us so that His light becomes limited in our lives. Now while I do not advise you to do this you can actually create your own eclipse simply by holding a quarter very close to your eye. Even as small as it is, a simple quarter can block out the Sun. In reality, it doesn’t block out the Sun it blocks out your sight of the Sun. So let me ask you what things are you allowing to get in between you and God so as to eclipse Him? What are you focusing on that blots out your vision of God? What is it that eclipses His light in your life? Is it some secret sin that is crippling your sight, are you focused on fear so that you fail to see the Father, or are you so worked up over worry that you fail to worship ? Sometimes the occlusion is inside us. There are many people who because of cataracts are for all practical purposes, blind. Cataracs eclipsed the light, but when they undergo surgery to have those cataracts removed the eclipse is gone and their sight is restored. The things around them didn’t disappear they were just eclipsed. The same is true of God, He is still there you just don’t realize it because you have lost your spiritual sight. I want to challenge you to take time and look inside your heart and mind and ask yourself if there are any spiritual, moral or mental cataracts that are eclipsing God’s light in your life? His light still shines behind the eclipse but it’s not until we deal with the cataract that everything that blocks our vision of God is removed, the eclipse comes to an end and we can see His light shining brightly again. While there are many reasons why God’s light can get blocked in our life here are several common causes of spiritual SOULAR eclipses.

  • As a result of the love of money and material possessions.
  • Because of unforgiveness and a desire to get even with someone who has wronged you.
  • It may be because of some poisonous passion, a desire and lust for some forbidden fruit.
  • Because of a consuming desire for popularity, power, prestige or position.
  • It may be the result of a self-righteousness spirit that refuses to acknowledge our need of forgiveness and salvation through Christ.
  • It may be pride, arrogance or conceit or a sense of superiority.

Whatever it is that stands between you and God will eclipse your view of His glorious light. Are you experiencing a”SOULAR Eclipse.?” Recognize what is blocking your view of Him and repent, turn to Him and He will return your sight. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 107:10-14, “Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. …. ‘LORD, help!’ they cried in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; He snapped their chains.” No matter how deep the darkness that you find yourself in, cry out to God for help and He will lead you out of darkness and into the light. As David declared in Psalm 139:11-12, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,’ Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.” We serve a God who spoke this world into existence and He started first by speaking into the darkness and saying  “Let there be light” and there was. He has also sent the light of His Son, Jesus Christ into the chaos and darkness of this world to light up our lives. As John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” Just as God sent John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. So we also have the privilege of being witness that reflect His light to a watching world. But we can’t reflect Jesus as long as there is junk in our lives that is eclipsing the Lord’s light.