Archive | May, 2015

Jesus’ very difficult question – Luke 6:46-49

28 May

We so often call ourselves Christians. We look at that as our core identity. We see it as what we truly believe, and we bank on those beliefs as what will get us to heaven when we die. But are we doing what Jesus said we should do?

I am asking the question because Jesus asked the question. I am not the judge and jury. I cannot see into the depths of your heart. But because Jesus asked this question, we should ask the question as well, particularly asking the question to ourselves. And we should embrace the kind of evaluation that the question leads to. We should desire to have people in our lives ask this question of us.

So often we call ourselves Christians, but we do not do what he said. A Christian should have strong evidence in their lives of looking like Christ. That’s what a Christian is. A person who is a follower of Christ. Jesus is telling us that his followers, people who call him Lord, are his disciples who hear what he wants us to do and then does it.

The moral of Jesus’ parable about the two builders is that the person who hears Jesus’ words and obeys them has the kind of life that is honorable to him. So if we are to not only hear his words, but we are to actually do them, what did he say we should do? Here are a couple examples from a few of his most important teachings.

  1. Greatest Commands. Jesus said “Love God, Love Others.” Deny yourself and put others first. This is the essence of love. He said “take up your cross and follow me.” He said “love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”
  2. Great Commission. Be Disciples who Make Disciples. Most Christians know they should be disciples, but my observation is that most of us do not do what Jesus said when he told us to make more disciples.

So how do we apply this teaching on a regular basis? How do we become people who regularly hear the voice of the Lord and do what he says?

We need accountability. We need people in our lives that we can be totally honest with, and that they can be honest with us. Through the experiences of the last 15 years of my life, this is one of the most important concepts I have seen. It is precisely what Jesus is doing in this passage. He is honestly, bluntly confronting the disciples with the truth about their lives. He is holding them accountable. We should be people, as painful as it is to hear the truth about our lives, who seek the truth about ourselves. We should be people who invite honest, accountable feedback. And not just once, but over and over.

This is why the small group concept is something that is so powerful. Get together with a small group of people on a regular basis for discipleship accountability. And every time you get together with that small group you are asking the question Jesus asked: “You call him ‘Lord’, are you doing what he says?”

Read Scripture on a regular basis with a prayerful heart that says “Lord, I want to hear you today and I want to obey.” When you read the word, is there anything that emerges that God is saying “obey”?

As parents we know that children aren’t often thrilled when we say “obey because I said obey!” Is Jesus saying that?   No. He is saying if we call him Lord, we’ve put him in the position of leading us. He’s concerned that we’re saying he is Lord, but not living like it.

One of our past seminary presidents, Dennis Hollinger’s books is called Head, Heart, Hands. It is the idea that the knowledge we get into our heads should transform our hearts so that we do something with our hands.

If we believe Jesus’ way is the best way, then then we eagerly desire to know his way, to learn about it, read about it, see it in action, so that it gets inside us, transforms us, changes us so that his way, his Kingdom life is what comes out of us.

We not only know what he wants us to do, then, we have been transformed so that we can do it! And we will find the amazing joy that his way is the best way.

How to be wise or foolish

22 May

wise and foolish buildersYou remember that children’s song “the wise man built his house upon on the rock”? It is a classic that small children learn in Sunday School, but when you think about it, it’s kinda scary actually. Especially when you think about some of the major tragedies in the last decade or so. The song talks about two builders. One smart, the other not so smart. The smart one builds his house on a strong foundation of solid rock. The not-so-smart one builds his house on a bad foundation. A storm surge comes along and which one survives? Obviously the one built on the rock. We have seen this principle at work in real-life buildings in the tsunamis in Southeast Asia, Japan, and the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.  One element that elevated the death toll in those tragedies was poor construction.

Today Jesus finishes the long teaching section of Luke chapter six by using this illustration. If you want to get ready for Sunday check out Luke 6:46-49.

Jesus starts off with a provocative question in Verse 46: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” He is talking to his disciples and to the crowd that day. I wonder how much he directed this to the disciples. I wonder what would cause him to say this. What had he told them to do that they weren’t doing? Clearly they were pretty good about calling him “Lord”. But he tells them they weren’t so good at doing what he said. Or maybe he was mostly speaking to the crowd. He had a growing reputation as a rabbi, a teacher, and so the common appellation they would give him would be “Lord.” But maybe Jesus had noticed that people in the crowds liked his miracles, liked his teaching, but didn’t actually do what he said.

Does this relate to us? What if we call him “Lord” but don’t do what he says?  So what?  None of us does everything he says perfectly, right?

Join us on Sunday at Faith Church as we’ll talk about this further!

Church Has Left The Building recap

20 May

On Sunday May 17, Faith Church left it’s building!  It was an incredible morning.  My group (below) went to Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services, the local social services organization started by area churches to provide free food and clothing to residents in need.  It is an awesome place sharing love in the name of Jesus.  We cleaned floors, bathrooms, shelves, clothing racks, sorted celery and potatoes, and had a blast throwing packs of paper products around!

Other groups were cleaning up the principal’s serenity garden at Smoketown Elementary School, mulching at East Lampeter Community Park…

Yes, that is a newborn in that pouch!


…washing East Lampeter Township Police vehicles at Highland Car Wash, taking a mini-worship service to one of our home-bound members, providing childcare at the church building, and finally we had a group doing food prep for our celebration lunch afterward.  It was a great day of worshiping by serving!

It is so fascinating how we tend to compartmentalize worship as something that happens in the sanctuary (room) of our church building.  Usually it includes singing songs, preaching, giving and prayer.  But this past Sunday we truly worshiped by serving the community.  That’s a reminder that God wants to transform us into people who have hearts of worship 24-7.

How to change a foul mouth to a good one – Luke 6:43-45

13 May

foul-language-660x440Do you have a foul mouth?

Has it ever gotten you into trouble?

Have you wished you could change?

In our ongoing study of Luke, this past Sunday we looked at Luke 6:43-45 where Jesus mentions “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”.

All of us have times when we have allowed a lot of junk to come out of our mouths. We need to ask forgiveness for that. We also need to forgive ourselves. God has forgiven us. We need to move on.  Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut believing we’ll never change.  Or “that’s just the way I am”.  Jesus, however, says that if we put the good things of God in our lives something amazing can happen.

It is possible to change!  In Jesus’ teaching he says that we can transform from being bad trees with bad fruit to becoming good trees that bear good fruit.  In other words, we can change those dirty mouths into good ones.  To do that we need store good things in our lives, in our hearts.

If what we store in the heart is what comes out, then it is vital for us to be people who get God’s good things in our hearts! Two questions arise: What are God’s good things? And how do we get them in our hearts?

First, what are the good things? The Spirit of God and the word of God are the best good things, and as we talk about the next question, I think you’ll see why they are good things.

The next question is how do we get them in there?  There are many ways.  Here are just a few:

1. It starts with deciding to follow Jesus.  When we decide to become Jesus’ disciples, that begins a relationship with him.  It is a relationship that is based on seeing his ways as the best possible way to live.  Thus we actively seek to make his ways our ways.  He also promises to give us his Spirit to live with us.  Becoming a follower of Jesus, then, radically opens the possibility for our inner life to be transformed!  And when our inner lives change, the change in our outer life will follow.

2. Next practice humility and teachability to recognize the Climate and Culture we live in. We’re like fish in water. Fish are not aware of the water because it constantly surrounds them. Like the air we breathe, most of our life we have little idea about how our culture is affecting us. We are accustomed to it. But we need to be people who can accurately point out how, when, where and why our culture might be like that weed killer I talked about last week. Can you accurately evaluate culture? Are you able to watch a TV commercial or listen to a song (even if it has awesome music) and figure out if it is influencing you? Are you able to watch a TV show, read a book, or a video online and honestly say “yeah, that’s weed killer”? If you’re pouring weed killer into your life, stop!  Stop pouring the bad things into your life. I get that this is hard because it is such a huge part of our culture to consume all kinds of media. I personally struggle with where to draw the line as far as what is good for me and what is bad for me.  I would encourage you to use a resource like CPYU’s 3-D Guide to help you learn to make these kinds of decisions.

3. In addition to removing the negative influences in our lives, we need to get the good things into our lives. I encourage you to start with prayer. Maybe start your day with prayer. Or join us on Wednesdays at 7pm at Faith Church for prayer meeting. Another great idea is to practice the presence of God!

4. Add Meditation on Scripture. You might hear that word “meditation” and think of yoga or Buddhism, but there is a big difference between eastern meditation and biblical meditation. In eastern meditation, you are emptying your mind. In biblical meditation you fill your mind with God’s word. You read it, you think about it deeply. You pray about it, you ask God to help you to understand it and apply it to your life.  In your personal bible study, I urge you to go beyond the Daily Bread and start to meditate on Scripture.  If you aren’t sure how to do that, let me know, and I’d be glad to help you learn.  Maybe add Scripture memory. See Psalm 119:9-11 for how powerful scripture memory is. Get involved in study groups. At Faith Church we have Care Groups and Sunday classes we’d love to invite you to!

5. A another way to get God’s good things into your life is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever heard the phrase “Your body is the temple, and God’s Spirit lives in you”?  In Ephesians 5:17-21, Paul says we can be filled with the Spirit. Hearing that you might question if I already said that when we become followers of Christ that God’s Spirit already lives in us? Yes, but there is a difference between having the Spirit in your life and being filled with the Spirit.

Let me explain this way. In Acts 4:23-31 the disciples prayed for the filling of the Spirit. The Spirit had already come to them in Acts 2:1-4.   But they wanted more of the Spirit. We can be a follower of Jesus and have the Spirit in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we are completely filled with the Spirit. We can be blocking off parts of our lives, not allowing the Spirit to have access to those parts of our lives. You can be rejoicing in the Spirit on Sunday morning, but soaking up pornography Sunday night.

This is why Paul says in Galatians 5:16-25 that we should seek to walk in step with the Spirit (obey!) and his fruit will come out of your life.  If you’re filled with the Spirit, his fruit will come out of your life.  So perhaps you need to be filled with the Spirit.  Would you start by asking him to fill you?  Then follow through by obeying his wishes for your life.

6. Finally, allow God’s good things to enter your life in Worship.  I’m specifically thinking about musical worship.  Is there a kind of music that you find helps you worship the Lord?  Would you consider playing that music more often?  I have found that when I’m driving or washing the dishes that worship music really encourages me.  A few years when training for a half-marathon, I had to do a ten-mile run.  The skies were looking gloomy, so I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill. Ten miles is a long time to be on a treadmill, so I listened to my Pandora worship station via my smartphone.  At one point a powerful song came on and I had a worship moment I’ll never forget…right there in the gym, pounding it out on the treadmill!

What will you start doing to deposit God’s good things into your life?  Take in his good things in and watch him transform your life!

How to kill a tree

8 May

stump-e1427848848696Have you ever cut down a tree or bush, but it kept growing back shoots?  My father-in-law is a wood-cutting master, and he and a friend helped us cut down a tree a couple years ago at my house, and we left a stump about two feet high. That thing grows little bush-like branches all through the growing season and I have to trim it regularly.

I was talking with our church secretary, Jim, recently about yard work. He mentioned that his family had been doing some removal of bushes along their shed. He hooked up his truck and pulled some out rather easily. But there was one kind of bush that was very difficult to uproot. Even the truck and chain wasn’t working.

So they looked it up online, and found that those bushes have an extensive root system making them very tough to pull out. The recommendation was to cut them off at the ground.

Jim didn’t want his bushes to grow back though.  If you just cut them off at the ground, they’re almost certain to keep growing shoots and you’ll be right back where you started in a couple years.  How do you completely kill a bush if you can’t pull it out roots and all?  Is there a way to do this without having to go to the expense of a stump grinder?  They followed more online instructions which said to drill holes in the stump, and pour weed killer into the hole. This video explains it.  Be sure to watch the follow-up video of two years later.

The bushes never grew back.

So there’s your lawn and garden tip for the day!  Cut off a bush at the ground, drill holes in the stump and pour in weed killer.  But this story is also related to the next teaching that Jesus gives us in his Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6. In this story, though, you are the tree!  If you want to see what Jesus had to say, check out Luke 6:43-45, and you are most welcome to be our guest at Faith Church this coming Sunday.

How to transform an over-opinionated, judgmental spirit? THE 10th MAN! – Luke 6:37-42

6 May

tenthmanLast week I introduced Jesus’ next crazy Upside-Down Kingdom teaching.  Simply put, he gave us two negatives that should be transformed into to two positives. “Do not judge and do not condemn” should change to “forgive and give.” Instead of being negative-minded about people, we need to be generous toward them, forgiving them.

So in place of negative judging and condemning, we should forgive and give. But how? It is so easy to say this stuff. “Oh yeah, I shouldn’t judge and condemn. I should forgive and give.” But in reality, it can be super hard. We judge so much. We have tons of opinions. They often come fast and furious without us even really thinking about it.

So how do we stop judging and condemning? Is it possible? How do we start forgiving and giving when we feel angry and upset?  I think Jesus gives us a clue in two little, somewhat cryptic parables.  Actually many of his parables can seem difficult to understand at first glance!  So let’s take a look.

In Luke 6:39-40 he first refers to the blind leading the blind, which is a common analogy in our culture. Why do we use this phrase? It refers to one person lacking understanding acting like they can help someone else who also lacks understanding. We would call that ridiculous!

The second mini-parable says that a student is not above his teacher.  A student is in lower position than his teacher. A student is unlearned. But he can get there. You have to go through training!  Further, you need to think about who your teacher is, because you will become like them. This was said in a culture of apprenticeship. If you were apprenticed to a person who was bad at farming, you would learn bad farming techniques.

In both mini-parables, it seems to me that Jesus is talking about people who do not have a healthy self-awareness.  If you’re blind, to successfully navigate life, you need to know your limitations.  If you’re a student, to successfully learn, you need to know you’re not as learned as your teacher.

I say that because in verses 41-42 he explains his point very clearly. Examine yourself first! Have you ever been surprised to find out that the very thing you were so hard on someone else about, is something that you struggle with too? I coach my son’s U12 soccer team, and the other day we were working with the boys on taking shots on goal. One particular kind of shot is called a volley where you kick the ball while it is still in the air. It is difficult because it requires good timing and form. If you don’t hit the ball just right, you either send it way over the goal, miss it completely, or flub it like a foul ball in baseball. They were missing everything, so I decided to demonstrate for them. And what do you think happened? I sent it way over the goal, over the fence, and into the high school stadium adjacent to our field.  That meant I had to take a run of shame way around the fence to go get the ball.  A healthy sense of self-awareness for me would be the realization that my soccer skills are really rusty.

Jesus is talking about is the absolutely necessity of having a healthy self-awareness.  This reminds me of my Old Testament professor Dave Dorsey who once said that at 19 he knew a lot more than he did at 60! And what happened in his life during the years since he was 19? He had earned his doctorate, got a teaching position at the seminary, wrote books and went on to be a world-renowned OT authority. How could he possibly have learned less?

He actually didn’t. He gained more knowledge, tons of facts and information, but in the process he also grew an important sense of how much he didn’t know. It was humbling, he said.

So here are some tips that can help us have a healthy self-awareness:

  1. Remember that we are all made in the image of God. All equally loved by God. All just people. Even our heroes. Even the people that we look up to are just people like us.
  2. Always leave the door open to the possibility of seeing things from a different angle.

In the movie World War Z, Brad Pitt’s character is attempting to find the source of the infection that is turning people into zombies.  He travels to Jerusalem because they had built a giant wall around the city to keep the infection out.  He asks the Israeli leader how they had the foresight to build the wall when the rest of the world was unprepared and thus devastated by the apocalypse.  The Israeli leader shares with him what he calls the 10th Man Rule:

We need to apply the 10th Man Rule in our lives.  Allow God’s Spirit to convict you.  Read his word. Have a trusted accountability partner.  Have a healthy self-awareness that includes self-doubt.  All of these things can be our 10th Man.

We need to guard our hearts and minds because we can allow ourselves to get very, very stuck into a way of thinking that is very, very negative about people. There is always much more to people that we could ever imagine.

Have you ever read an email negatively, going down a road of final judgment (condemning as guilty from verse 37)? And then when you sit down and talk with that person, you realize they meant something very different?  We need to apply the 10th man principle!

Use that vital Fruit of the Spirit called Self-control. Before passing judgment, assume that you are not fully understanding them. Strive hard to find the good motivation that could be there. Meet with them face to face to talk it over. Don’t talk with other people about them. Talk with them. And look hard at yourself. Are you actually guilty too?

Let us be a people that are aware of ourselves first!

Are you opinionated?

2 May

opinionated_people1256328679-copyOpinions. We have lots of them, don’t we?

Some of us seem to have more opinions than others!

Have you ever thought of that? Why do some people have more opinions than others? And why do some people have strong opinions while others have weak opinions?   Some people seem to have strong opinions about almost everything.   Know anyone like that? I do.

I think the reality is that we all have opinions. We all have feelings about things, but some of us are more vocal about it than others!

Did you ever know someone who is really opinionated, but they had no idea that they were opinionated? Maybe you know someone like that. What I’m getting at is that it can sometimes be very hard to see the truth about ourselves.

How do you see yourself? Are you opinionated? Are you judgmental?

How many judgments have you made today?

None? Or maybe a lot?

As we continue our series through Luke 6, Jesus has been introducing us to his upside-down way of looking at the world. In fact, some people have called it his Upside Down Kingdom. The normal values of our culture do not apply here.

In Jesus’ Upside Down Kingdom, the poor are considered blessed, and the wealthy are considered to be in a horrible situation.

In the Upside Down Kingdom, when you are hungry and mistreated and people hate you, you are blessed. But when you are well-fed and popular you are in a horrible situation.

In the Upside Down Kingdom, you love your enemies. You do not retaliate when mistreated. Instead you give, and you generously.

We saw last week that one of the cardinal rules of the Upside Down Kingdom is that you do to others what you would have them do to you.

Today Jesus teaches us more about how his disciples will live and act in his Upside Down Kingdom.

So we would love for you to be our guest at Faith Church tomorrow.  If you want to prepare, considering reading Luke 6:37-42.