When we think of sermon preparation we envision the man, or woman, of God on their knees praying, "Father, for this group of people, for this time, in this place, what do You want to say?" Your image may include a study filled with volumes and volumes of Bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries, a Strong's Concordance along with a few others that only a professional Bible expositor would ever own. A more modern approach may include electronic tools such as Logos Bible Software utilizing thousands of resources at your fingertips in just a few keystrokes. Regardless of the specific image that this provokes in your head, my best guess is that image is an image of one. One man, or one women, in hours of preparation to deliver God's Word. For most of us, we place all the responsibility of sermon preparation on the one preaching the sermon, teaching the Bible Study, or delivering the Sunday School lesson.
This past Sunday we were studying the Parable of The Soils in Luke 8. I challenged the listener to try to hear the parable as if it were for the very first time. We often skip ahead, or jump ahead of the teacher, when we know how a story ends. The second thing I believe this section of the scriptures challenged us all on is our whole idea of sermon preparation. When we read verse 18 "Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him." - Luke 8:18 NKJV
That appears to make sermon preparation a shared responsibility!
Take heed how you hear! The listener owns some responsibility in how they hear. When is the last time you prepared, or took heed, on how you would hear a message from God's Holy Word? When is the last time you prayed the night before, or the morning of, for God's anointing on the sermon, on the pastor, that the environment, and your mind, would be freed from distractions so you could take heed on your hearing? This was a challenge to me and I hope it is to you as well. The verse goes on to say, "for whoever has, to him more will be given...." I believe more means more. That applies to both desire and understanding. When I have opportunity to be on the other side of the pulpit, I come with pen and pad in hand in expectation of hearing from God; and would encourage you to do the same.
Something else that stood out this time around that I think is easy to miss as it's mentioned before Jesus explains the parable. In verse 6 "Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture." - Luke 8:6 NKJV We usually look at this and assume the only problem was shallow soil. The seed sprang up quick, but had no depth of soil, so it withered away. But, here in verse 6 it says because it lacked moisture. Throughout the scriptures there are references to the Holy Spirit being that living water. Look at John 7:37-39 NKJV "37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
When we read the Parable of The Soils we usually put ourselves in one of the four conditions Jesus describes. The truth is however, each description is us at different times if we fail to take heed in how we hear. Do your own sermon prep! Ask in prayer ahead of time for God's anointing on the teaching and the teacher. Ask the Holy Spirit to give understanding and application in your life, that out of your heart would flow living water!
Grace and Peace
This morning we continued on in our study of Matthew 24, what is known as the Olivet Discourse. It is the second longest recorded sermon of Jesus, delivered to His disciples during His final week before going to the cross. I want to draw you attention to one small piece of what He said....
Matthew 24:36-42 NKJV 36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 "Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
Noah was a man of God. He preached a message of repentance, pleading with those around him to turn from their wicked ways and turn toward God. You can read more about "the days of Noah" in Genesis 6. At first people may have listened, been curious about what the old man was saying. Warning others to avoid the destruction of God. Building a boat, actually an Ark, because God was going to send rain and flood the entire earth. Wait a minute....rain? What in the world is that!?! See if you read the record, they had never had rain. The entire world was covered with water canopy, vegetation would be irrigated by a midst. Kind of a scary message, what if the old guy is right? Noah was a respected man. But then time went on. Days turned into weeks, then to months, and years upon years. In fact, from the Biblical record, Noah continued working on the ark for 100-120 years!
As time passed, people doubted. Fear subsided, and life went on as it had always been...."eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,.....in other words eating, drinking, and being merry, with no fear of God, no reverence of God, no love for God. Busy about their own business until that first raindrop struck their forehead! Have you ever considered how sobering that moment must have been for the people? This guy we mocked. This guy that tried to warn, invited us to join Him as we continued to ignore his message, drip, drip, drip, as the rain began to soak their hair, it's not that I didn't believe him, I just thought I had more time! The flood waters rose, and the judgement of God removed them from this earth.
In our passage this morning Jesus warns us to be ready! To be prepared for his eminent return that could happen at any moment. He gives a grave warning at the end of the chapter for those that blow this off.....Matthew 24:50-51 NKJV - 50 "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
By His grace and mercy He has given you an opportunity to turn to Him.
John 14:6 NKJV - 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 3:16-18, 36 NKJV - 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ... 36 "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
So, the question to the reader is are you ready for His return? The biggest lie of Satan is not that there is no God, it's that you have plenty of time. That you can sow your oats, ask forgiveness on your deathbed, that there is no hurry. Just as in the days of Noah as the rain drops began to fall, there will be a time in all of our lives that we will answer to God. Are you ready?
Mat 23:25-28 NKJV - 25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew chapter 23 begins with the last public sermon of Jesus just days before He went to the cross. He told His disciples that when they went to Jerusalem He would be put to death, so He clearly knew the end was near. It's interesting to me that after a three year ministry that was filled with love, grace, mercy, healing, and forgiveness, this final address , is one of judgement. Speaking to the multitudes and His disciples (notice the distinguishment the scripture makes in verse one. A disciple is a follower of Jesus, while the multitudes are made up of the curious, the spectator, the fans and the foes, but they are not followers. So why this message of judgement? First, as a warning. To tell His disciples, and the multitudes, when it comes to the pharisees to do as they say, not as they do. To no longer be deceived by these hypocrites.
Jesus also delivered this message to warn the religious leaders that they were just blowing it and to give them opportunity to repent. The opening scriptures to this reflection describe them as putting on a show. Presenting themselves as something they were not. Inside they were filthy, rotten, but their outward appearance was all about convincing others how righteous they were. It's so easy for us to look at them and condemn.
What about us? Do we lack authenticity? Do we walk the walk, or are our lives really all talk? If people could see your heart would they be surprised? Would it lead them closer to Jesus, or would it lead to your shame? Are you a disciple or do you stand with the multitudes? Following Jesus means our inside matches our outside. Evangelize with and without words. Let the way you live your life be the evidence of a changed heart. Be a true disciple!
This morning we experienced a moving of the Holy Spirit that was amazing! First we read in Matthew 22 about our Father's desire for us to all be apart of the wedding feast for His Son. As Jesus answered the interrogation of the religious leaders of the day He spoke to them in parables. Earthly stories laid alongside heavenly truths.
Here He spoke of a certain King that was preparing for the wedding of His Son. He sent servants out to invite the chosen guest, but they were not willing to come. An absurd response to an invitation to a royal wedding. Just as absurd as rejecting our invitation to come to Jesus. Other invites went out, "But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. (Matt 22:5 NKJV) They were too busy with other things. Others seized the servants, treated them spitefully, and even killed others. It would be understandable if the wedding was cancelled, or changed to a small family event, but the King, not willing for the wedding hall to be empty, continued to invite....[Mat 22:9-10 NKJV] 9 'Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' 10 "So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding [hall] was filled with guests.
How faithful are we in extending the invitation for others to come to Jesus? How quick are we to give up? When at first they're not willing? When an excuse is given about work or being too busy? Our God continues to invite you today. But the parable ends in verse 24 where it says, "For many are called, but few [are] chosen." Matt 22:24 NKJV The invitation goes out to all, but not all are chosen. In verses 12 and 13 Jesus tells us that The Father, the King in the parable, examined the guests and one was found without a wedding garment. When he had his chance to "make his case" before the King He was speechless. When faced with the righteousness of God, with the rightness of his justice, he had nothing to say, he didn't give him a piece of his mind, didn't work out his own deal, but rather, [Mat 22:13 NKJV] 13 "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast [him] into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Many are called, but few are chosen. Rather than debate sovereignty of God vs. free will of man, just read the scriptures, the Bible says both. If you want to know if YOU are chosen, just chose Him friend. I assure you that you won't be rejected. You will have a place at the wedding feast that He has prepared. It's not a potluck, He's done the work. You are invited.
I began this mentioning a powerful work of the Holy Spirit this morning. It began during our morning prayer before the service, continued on through our worship in song, and concluded with several receiving freedom and victory as God destroyed the chains of fear that were holding several in bondage. You can listen to our morning service in its entirety under our recent teaching section under the media tab above. Grace and Peace!
This morning we covered familiar ground, the Triumphal entry of Christ in Matthew chapter 21. Have you ever stopped to consider how much of the gospels cover the final week of the 33 years Christ dwelt among us? They all vary in length. John devotes nearly half, Mark a third, in total if you add all of the chapters of the gospels together the passion week covers a third. It is a point of emphasis.
It is so important to consider the mindset of Jesus as he rode humbly into Jerusalem. In the previous chapter, he tells his disciples, what was soon to unfold. [Mat 20:17-19 NKJV] 17 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, 18 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 "and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again."
This was no ordinary passover. Jesus, following the will of His Father, was laying His life down to pay the price for your sins and mine. As He entered the city, he saw what men had turned what belonged to His Father into. Mat 21:12-13 NKJV - 12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "
If you're familiar with the scriptures, you may remember that this was not the first time that Jesus cleaned house at the temple. In John chapter 2, just three years prior, we read of a similar scene. Jesus made a whip of chords, and drove the money changers and thieves out of the temple. He poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. As dramatic as this may have been at the time, in our chapter today we see that just a short time later, they had set up shop again. No matter how big of an impact Jesus had had on them one day in the past, they were no longer following His instructions as the tables had once again been set up!
It's easy for us to look upon them and judge or criticise. How could they claim for themselves what belonged to God? How could they so blatantly disregard His desire for His temple? Or so quickly forget HIs commands?
What about us? Have we forgotten the same things? Have we mistaken the building in which we worship for the Temple of God? Consider the words of Paul to the Corinthian church....1Co 3:16-17 NKJV - 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
We are the temple. So the challenge gang is this: How would Jesus respond to an inspection of you, His temple? Have you allowed "tables" to be set up that would be displeasing to Him, or bring dishonor? Is there a table of bitterness in your heart? A table of self indulgence or a table of pride? What tables would He desire to overturn in you, His temple, for your good? Tables that are getting in the way of His best for you, His will for you?
As we continue to go through His Word together, allow His Word to go through you. Ask God to reveal the tables He would overturn and let Him cleanse you, that your life would bring Him glory!
Grace and Peace.
Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to raise the Son of God? To never to have to deal with the "terrible two's," at least with your oldest? In Luke 1:48 in the NLT, Mary describes herself as lowly. "For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed." That was Mary. Up until the point that the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she was just a young girl in the shadows, probably no more than 14 or 15 years old, by all practical purposes in this world, she was a nobody. In an instant, her life changed for all of eternity.
Reflecting on Mother's Day this year, I began to wonder about what Mary knew and when she knew it. She knew Jesus was special, that he was miraculously conceived through the Holy Spirit, but did she know he would have to die for the sins of the world, your sins, my sins, and even her own?
What did she think after she and Joseph took their eight day old son to the temple to be circumcised? Remember the old man Simeon lifted their boy up and prophesied over Him? Near the end of his declaration, he said these ominous words referring to Mary, "...a sword will pierce through your own soul....." Luke 2:35 NKJV. How many times did she ponder that? Did she ever ask her Son what the old man meant? Did those words flash back into her mind as she saw her boy and her Savior hung on the cross? There’s no greater pain than a parent having to bury one of their own children. Mary knew He was special, knew He was the Son of God, but did she know that He lived as a man, so that He could die?
In the words of Mark Lowry’s song, Mary Did You Know?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
What did Mary know and when?
We should honor Mary as God has honored her, though we should not worship her. Likewise, we should honor our own mothers for their decision to partner with God in giving us life. Giving us the opportunity to love and to learn of our Savior Jesus, to be forgiven and have a personal relationship with our Lord. Happy Mother Day to all the Mom's out there, both physical and spiritual, for your nurture, love, and grace. God Bless.