Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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17 Heaven’s joy our job – Part 2

Luke 15:11-12, 20-28

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons…..20 he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. 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.

When confronted with the contentious and condemning Pharisees Jesus uses three parables and three people to point to the problem of how pride and ritual righteousness blind us to our real calling. The first parable points the Pharisees to the position of a second class citizen, as Jesus calls them to become caring shepherds. Next Jesus challenges them further as he gives worth to a woman, they would have consider to be a third class citizen, as he points to her persistent search for what is precious.  Lastly He focuses on a Jewish Father which would have been a much more comfortable comparison. One that would have appealed to their picture of piety and righteousness until it was ruined by a Father who hikes up his robe to run.  For them no respectable father would ruin his reputation over a riotous son. It is here that we see not only who is lost but how and what they have lost.

  • Pleasure

For the prodigal he became preoccupied and lost in pleasure. This was more than curiosity, for he chase after the culture until he was covered in its carnal clothes. Sin didn’t just seduce him with sweet words it welcomed him with a smile. His passion became the promiscuous life, where he drank in the darkness, preferring its pungent perfume and endless parties. Sin has a stench but it’s hard to smell when your swimming in the sewer.  At first sin called and even cater to his conscience but it didn’t care for him it only consumed him. What seemed like a journey of joy turned into a highway of hurt. Instead of blessing there was baggage, instead of intimacy there was illness, instead of emotional significance there were scars, instead of belonging there was brokenness.  He ran toward riotous living and straight into ruin, it robbed him of true relationship, it didn’t satisfy it suffocated. He traded the Father and his family for the far away, a feel good from the next fix. He traded love for lust, truth for the temporary, security for stench, joy for junk. We will always loose our joy when we trade the Savior for self-satisfaction.  Pleasure is found in pursuing our real purpose; we were created for God’s pleasure not our own. Self-pleasure always leads to the pig pen not the palace.  All he could see was the satisfaction of sin and it took the pig pen to see the seriousness of sin. Sin didn’t lead to satisfaction it led to sorrow. There stained with the stench of sin he came to his senses and left. The journey to joy starts when we leave the place of sin and turn back to the Savior. The prodigal didn’t stay in the pig pen, he belonged to his Father not the filth. Imagine that a sheep and a pig are walking together and they both fall into a mud hole. The pig will wallow in it because that’s his nature. The sheep on the other hand will want out and will want to avoid it the next time. Are you more like the mud lover or the mud leaver? You don’t have to wallow in the world, and if you claim to be a Christian then come home. But if you care only for the carnal and still claim to be a believer know that your behavior begs to differ.  Repentance isn’t just turning from sin its returning to the Savior, it’s a radical redirection. Its more than just saying sorry for sin its saying I’m sick of sin. Its where our love for sin is replaced with a longing for the Savior. You don’t have to live in the garbage you can live with God.  Here is the reminder that we don’t have to live ruined lives, we can return if we take the road of repentance. At the start of his journey all he wanted from God was the gold by the end all that mattered was grace. There are painful consequences to sin but fruit of forgiveness frees us, he lost the gold but he gained God. Today many are consumed with chasing comfort, God is concerned with conforming character.  We crave happiness He calls us to holiness.

  • Pride

The older brother represents another side of sin, he became lost in pride and pouting. What at first seemed like a model son turned out to be a mess of sin.  He had the gold but he missed the grace, he had the land but not the love. He became bound by his bitterness instead of being free to forgive. When his brother ran toward riotous living he remained loyal. When his brother forsook the Father he remained faithful.  He looked good on the outside until his hidden heart was revealed. His decision to stay dedicated was based on self-benefit not the Savior. He did what the Father wanted while it fit his way and wants. He conformed as long as it catered to his cares. But the moment the Father invited him to partake in a plan contrary to his own, he protested and pouted. The danger with pride is that it is good at masquerading behind a mask of piety.  But God’s agenda will reveal your hidden heart attitude. Actions of righteousness or rebellion always get revealed in our attitudes.  The older brother wasn’t burdened by his brother’s brokenness but rather by the fact that his brother was back! He became lost in His emotions, a follower of feelings. Where the prodigal son cared more about a feel good that the Father, the older brother cared more about his feelings than the Father. He became more caught up in his rights than in what was right. Today many of us feel like we have a right to be angry, we believe in our bitterness, we hold on and hole up in our hurts. Our disappointments and disagreements dictate our direction more than our dad. We become engage in our emotions more than the eternal. We don’t just justify our feelings they become the jury that hands out our verdict of vengeance. We miss the party because of our pouting and we justify our poor attitude and lack of praise as pious behavior. But there is just one problem with this, messengers of God are not miserable.  They live a life of joy not jealousy, instead of holding a grudge they hand out grace, they are filled with mercy not meanness.   When we follow these feelings they fester and our lives produce puss. We become prisoners of pride instead of proclaimers of peace.  Like the Older brother we have all allowed our emotions to get the best of us. Getting angry because we were slighted and overlooked, disgusted because someone offended our sensibility. But as long as we hate we will never be whole. Proverbs 15:17 says “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred” The sad reality is that the Father offered both forgiveness and the fattened calf, love and laughter. But the older son refused to rejoice, he chose to fast from the Father and forsaking family. He chose to feast on pride instead of praise, letting pain festered instead of forgiveness. Many today are lost not in the far country not because of foolish lusts but because they follow their feelings.

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16 Heaven’s joy our job – Part 1

Luke 15:1-15:7

15 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Jesus parable like the crowd he was speaking to is a story of sharp contrasts.  Surrounding the Savior we see polar opposite people, the religious and the riffraff, seemingly so radically different and yet both suffering from the same sickness of sin. It’s the contrast between the crowd of obvious sinners and oblivious ones.  It’s a story of separation between the joyful and the jealous, the pouters and the partiers, the grumpy and the glad. Between those who are lost and those who are looking.  Between those who are filled with pride and those filled with praise. Between those bound by bitterness and those bearing blessing. Between an attitude of anger and one of awe. Between a disposition of displeasure and those dancing in delight.  As Jesus shares the story of the sheep separated from the shepherd, He is showing us what really matters to the Master. He is sharing about God’s love for the lost, because both the religious and the riffraff need Jesus. The only difference between the two is some knew they were sinners and the rest thought they were saints. The religious rarely recognize their need for redemption because their path is blocked by pride. When you see yourself as pious you don’t see your need for Gods good news. So Jesus begins the story of the Lost Sheep by saying , “Suppose one of you..?” Literally He is saying suppose you were a shepherd. As Jesus deals with the devoutly religious, He deals directly with their attitude of assent, and the way they see themselves as superior. In their day being a shepherd was a lowly trade not a looked up to one. Shepherds were second class subordinate citizens not superior and seen as special. That is why its amazing that God’s proclamation of peace, the birth of His Son, was announced by the Angels first to the shepherds and not the superior. Jesus knows what these men think of shepherds, and this is more than a story to get their attention it’s a story that attacks their attitude. Superior people want to be in the spotlight, that’s why today we call them stars, because they set themselves up to be seen. Yet here Jesus says that the star of the show is the smelly shepherd. Jesus elevates the lowly raising them from the level of second class to servant of God. To emphasis this point He says that the star in His next parable is a woman, who these men would have seen as a third class citizen. As we continue looking at the story of the lost sheep Jesus starts by asks them a question about doing something they would never do:“Which of you, being a shepherd…” immediately all of them know the answer, “none of us would do what you’re suggesting because none of us would ever stoop so low as to become shepherds. If we had sheep, we’d hire someone to watch them for us.” Today we want to serve the sheep we just don’t want to smell them. We like the idea of ministry we just don’t like the mess. We are ok with helping as long as some else gets their hands dirty. But its here Jesus throws His first wrench into the works of religion by reminding us that we are saved to serve. Imagine their shock as Jesus not only calls them to shepherd but saddles them with the responsibility of actually looking for the sheep: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them?” Yet however hard this is to hear Jesus is not done dismantling their religious attitudes. While they are still trying to get over the hurdle of herding sheep He tells them about a shepherd who loves sheep. The first wrench of truth that is thrown into the works of religion is that we are not superior we are servants. You will never serve if you see yourself as superior. The second deals with the source of serving, we are to look for the lost out of love, this is not a job it’s a joy.  Religion wants to promote people to positions of power, Jesus wants to promote us to positions of piety. Religion looks down from a position of pride instead of looking up from a position of piety. Religion makes life revolve around me instead of the message, so that instead of living passionate lives pursuing God’s plan we live passive ones. Religion elevates us to lead empty lives were evangelism elevates the lost to positions of priority. Jesus came to rescue us from religion and return us to relationship. The result was that not only was the shepherd happy because the sheep was home but there was great rejoicing in heaven. Can you imagine what it must be like when heaven is happy? The chorus of Cherubim the Seraphim singing, the anthem of angels and the smile of the Savior. Why so much joy, because a heart is once again in the hands of the Father. Because what causes the heart of God to sing is a sinner that comes home, home to His healing peace and forgiving favor. Returning to relationship means a life of renewed purpose. There is forgiveness in the fold and wholeness in the herd. Do you realize that the rejoicing of heaven could come through you? Today many have lost their joy because they are no longer looking for the lost. Why do we sacrifice the joy of heaven for the junk of this world? Why do we live self-serving lives when we could be living significant lives? How many more selfish moments will I spend on me when I could be searching for the missing? Are you loving self or seeking the lost? Engaging in evangelism means evicting self so we can seek the lost. Compassion leaves the comfortable to comfort those in chaos. Today what are you willing to leave to reach the lost? Looking for the lost sometimes means letting go of much, the shepherd had to leave the 99 to look for the 1. There is always a cost to caring but the reward of rejoicing will always be worth it. What if we really engaged in eternity and stopped wasting time on the temporary? Are you experiencing the joy of heaven in your heart or have you lost your love for the lost?