Tuesday, November 25, 2003

This comes from today's edition of the e-mailed inspirations of Pastor Glen VanderKloot, OnLine with Faith.


A Thought for the Day

Someone has said:

'Thanks' is an encouraging word when you say it.
It's an inspiring word when you hear it.
It's a magic word when you mean it.

Let's inspire and make magic!

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Bible Verse
Psalm 9:1
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

New Revised Standard Version

Lord, help me to remember to say thanks
daily to you and to those around me. Make
me a thankful person with a grateful heart. Amen.

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THOUGHT STRETCHERS...Quotes from prominent people, related words from the Scriptures

"Fantasies are more than substitutes for unpleasant reality; they are also dress rehearsals, plans. All acts performed in the world begin in the imagination." (Barbara Grizzuti Harrison,
Author and Publicist)

Jesus says: "...what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person..." (Matthew 15:18-20)

The Jesus-follower Paul writes: "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no help at all." (Dale Carnegie, 1888-1955, Author and Trainer)

Jesus-follower Paul talks about continuing to faithfully follow Christ in spite of the obstacles, knowing that life forever with God belongs to those who remain 'pursuers of Jesus.' Eternal life and being right with God--righteousness--is the prize for those with faith in Jesus. "Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal," Paul writes, "but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)

"To win, you have to risk loss." (Jean Claude Killy, Olympic Gold Medalist in skiing)

"As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and He said to him, 'Follow Me." And he got up and followed Him." (Matthew 9:9)

"Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young." (Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790, Scientist, Publisher, and Diplomat)

Jesus tells His followers: "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

"There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness." (Josh Billings, 1815-1885, Humorist and Lecturer)

"Then Peter came and said to [Jesus], 'Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to Him, 'Not seven times, but I tell you seventy-seven times.'" (Matthew 18:21-22)

What's important to remember in all these quotes is that...

to think rightly,

to persevere in the face of challenges or the evil in us and around us,

to risk loss for a great end,

to love others unconditionally,

and to forgive without limit...

are all laudable goals. Very few, except perhaps those given over totally to evil or those not in their right minds, would argue with the propriety of living the kind of life pointed to in the quotes above.

But here's what I have learned: We can't live these ways with any degree of consistency without help!

In the New Testament portion of the Bible, Paul said he knew what was right, but found it hard to live rightly. He would have agreed with what all the non-Biblical persons quoted above had to say about right living. But when he tried to resolve to live rightly, he couldn't do it!

"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand," he writes. "For I delight in the law of God...but I see...another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in [me]...Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!...There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Jesus Christ sets us free to move toward becoming the people we know--and which the wisdom of the ages, written on our hearts by God confirms--to be the best way to live. After we turn from sin and receive Jesus Christ as the absolute ruler of our lives, He gives us His Holy Spirit to live as we yearn to live...as God made us to live. That's pretty cool stuff!

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Christ, Our King
Consecration Sunday
John 8:33-37

[shared with the people of Friendship Church, November 23, 2003]

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church Year. Next week will bring us to Advent, the season that comes at the beginning of a new Church Year and that falls just before Christmas.

Today is also Friendship’s annual Consecration Sunday. In just a few moments, I’m going to ask all of you who are part of Friendship to bring your commitments of time, talents, and financial resources toward God’s work through Friendship Church in the year 2004 up to the Lord’s Table.

Father Myke, the fire department chaplain who died in the September 11 attacks, used to tell people, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him what you’re going to do tomorrow.” Only God knows what will happen in our lives in the coming year. But on Consecration Sunday, we try to tell Jesus Christ our King what the intentions of our hearts are, no matter the uncertainties of life. We owe that to our King.

There’s a story I’ve heard many times. I may have even told it a time or two. It’s about the King of Denmark during World War Two. It’s said that the Nazis had come into that country and as they’d done in other places, they ordered the Jews to wear arm bands bearing the Star of David, identifying themselves to everyone as Jews. The Danes, it’s said, understood what this meant. They had seen the way Jews were being exterminated in mass numbers in other countries occupied by the Nazis. The Danish king saw this as well. And so, although he was a Lutheran Christian, the king donned a Star of David arm band as well. “All the Danes are my people,” he said, “and so, if any Dane is targeted for death, my life must be taken too.”

It’s a beautiful story. The only problem with it is that it isn’t true. It never happened. Yet, I have heard it and read it told by countless people who thought that it was true.

What gives such a big fib such a long life? I think it’s because deep down we all would like to think that there are kings and presidents, judges and legislators who so love their people that they’d be willing to lay down their lives for them. Through the centuries of course, there have been kings and leaders like that. But they’re rare. And the rarest kind of king of all is the King Who willingly dies in the place of people He knows to be guilty. That is the kind of King that Jesus is. The New Testament book of Romans has this fantastic passage:

"...God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us...if while we were [God’s] enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, we will be saved by His life..."

Jesus, God the Son, came to earth to do more than bear a symbol on an armband. He went to a cross and bore the weight of all our sin, died in our places, and rose from the dead so that He can offer forgiveness, the constant presence of God in our daily lives, and everlasting life to all who turn away from sin and let Jesus reign over them.

Our Bible lesson for this morning records part of Jesus’ interchange with a man named Pilate on the day before Jesus went to the cross to die. Pilate was the governor appointed by the Roman Empire to oversee the occupation of Jesus’ homeland, Judea. The religious leaders of Jesus’ fellow Jews saw Jesus as a threat. They wanted Him dead and so brought Jesus before Pilate to be condemned. Pilate didn’t care about the religious squabbles of the Jews. But he did seem concerned about the threat Jesus might pose to his governing authority. The first thing Pilate asks Jesus is, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

We know that Jesus came not to be just the King of the Jews, but to be the King of kings. But that brings us to even more important questions than Pilate asked: Is Jesus our King? Have we totally consecrated ourselves, that is totally committed ourselves, to following Jesus today and forever? I ask myself these questions all the time.

An enthusiastic young evangelist once approached a farmer and asked whether he had been saved and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. The farmer replied, “Why do you ask me such a thing? I could tell you anything. Here are the names of my banker, my grocer, and my farm hands. Ask them if I’ve been saved!”

None of us is perfect, of course. The Bible tells us that we all fall short of God’s glory and we sin. It also tells us that even after we have received the forgiveness and new life that God offers to us through Jesus Christ, we see heaven and God’s way for us only dimly. Like the rest of the human race, followers of Jesus make mistakes and sin. But there is a new direction and purpose evident in the lives of those who follow Jesus. Over the long haul, others are able to see that Jesus-followers no longer are ruled by selfishness, or greed, or status, or power, or sex, or the approval of others. Jesus says that His people will be known by their fruits. That means that people will be able to see that Jesus is the King of people’s lives; He will affect the things that His followers say and do, the judgments they make, the paths they follow. Jesus-followers won’t be perfect, but like that farmer, those around them will see that they’ve committed themselves to following the King Who totally committed His life to them on the cross.

Back in my atheist days, one of the reasons I didn’t want to follow Jesus is that I hated the very notion of someone being bigger or more important than me. I hated the idea of following a king! I doubt that I’m the only one to ever feel that way.

Carol Noren is a pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church. She once told the story of an English friend who regularly railed against the very idea of royalty. He spoke of what a waste of money and time the British royal family was. So, when this man’s name appeared on the Queen’s honors list one year, Noren wondered what this friend would do. To receive his award, like others on the honors list, the man would have to go to Buckingham Palace and meet the Queen. In fact, the man did make the trip to London. At the right time during the ceremony, he bowed to the queen. As Noren puts it, “All doubts and cynicism were put aside, and in meeting and acknowledging [the Queen] as sovereign, he received the reward that only she could give.”

In today’s Bible lesson, Pilate didn’t want to acknowledge Jesus as King. Jesus tells Pilate that He isn’t the King of all the things people allow to rule them in this world. “My kingdom is not of this world,” He says. Then we’re told:

"Pilate asked [Jesus], 'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.'”

Followers of Jesus aren’t better than anyone else. Followers of Jesus are people who have heard Jesus’ call: all who are weary and heavy laden, come to Me, and I will give you rest. Followers of Jesus are people who, by hearing Jesus' voice, have become acquainted with some basic truths.

Truths like: We need God and God is bigger than we are.

Things like: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him won’t perish, but live with God forever.

Followers of Jesus are people who have put their doubt and cynicism aside and in meeting and acknowledging Jesus as their King and sovereign receive the undeserved awards–forgiveness, everlasting relationship with God, and never-ending hope–that only Jesus can give.

Followers of Jesus have committed or consecrated their whole lives to Him.

Fred is a man I’ve talked about before. Following a major surgery in his late-forties, Fred became addicted first of all, to pain medication, and then, to alcohol. Years of his life turned into a living hell for him and his family. Fred’s wife had almost given up hope when a group of people from their church formed an intervention team. Because of their love for Fred, they prayerfully decided to confront Fred with his need for help. He needed to admit his need of God’s power in helping him to overcome an addiction that was killing him and all of his relationships. He needed the God we know through our King and Savior Jesus. Fred got into a treatment program and later became part of Alcoholics Anonymous. By the time I knew him, it was clear that Jesus was Fred’s King...and Savior and Best Friend. I remember on Good Friday when I read the account of Jesus’ arrest and death on the cross, I looked at Fred and saw him weeping tears of joy. He knew what Jesus had done for him. He knew that Jesus had delivered him from his slavery to pills and booze and sin. He was grateful and totally committed to following Jesus the King!

On this Consecration Sunday, I want to challenge you to commit or re-commit yourself to following Jesus the King Who loved you all the way to the cross. Consecrate your time, your abilities, and your treasures to God’s purposes in the coming year. Our King Jesus deserves nothing less. The King Who awards us with everlasting life when we believe in Him deserves our whole lives. I ask you to share your statements of commitment at the Lord’s Table now.

[The correction about the story of the Danish king, which I had previously believed, appears in a sermon by e-sermons.com. Pastor Brian Stoffregen tells the story of the farmer in his e-mailed commentary on John 8:33-37. Pastor Carol Noren, a faculty member at North Park Theological Seminary told the story of her English friend in a sermon which appears in The Abingdon Preaching Annual, 2000 Edition.]