Tag Archives: blessed

Blessed to share Jesus’ blessings Mark 10: 17-22 First St Johns Oct 11, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who share God’s blessings with others said … AMEN!

Today’s reading should seem obvious to us, this is of course Mark’s take on the rich young ruler. To most of us today, we see charity as pretty much of a given, especially in the church. We do things here at First St Johns like the Food Bank, Panera Bread that we give to people on Monday mornings, helping people in job search, distributing clothing. A very few people give towards an “alms fund”, those funds are given to me and I use them to help people who are in genuine need. We do other things on a pretty regular basis. For the first century Jewish person, that kind of charity really wasn’t a given. There were those who were blessed because for some reason God obviously chose to give them great wealth and so they must have some virtue that they deserved to be especially blessed by God. Jesus makes His well known observation of the rich young ruler: “’Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19: 23-24) What was Jesus saying here? Today we kind of nod our head, in agreement, yea you go get him Jesus, those rich people who hoard all that money; George Soros, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Rockefellers, Bushes. Ya, the problem is that when we sit there and say that, we’re kind of being disingenuous. Jesus is identifying a very obvious issue here, this man is obviously wealthy and obviously devoted to His wealth. The Concordia Self-Study Bible notes: “In his listing of the commandments, Jesus omitted ‘Do not covet’. This was the rich man’s main problem and was preventing him from entering life.”[1]

Now do you think Jesus just forgot about that one? Or just wanted to give the rich young ruler a cursory overview of the commandments? … We are like little children to Jesus, the oldest and wisest of us, don’t even scratch the surface of the depth and breadth of what God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit know. Have you ever taught a little child to count … One, two, …. Three? Don’t you think Jesus was trying to get the rich young ruler to come up with his own answer. In Matthew’s version Jesus says: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” The rich young ruler replied “Which ones?” I have to interject my opinion as to Jesus’ reaction … What???? Are you somehow of the opinion that the commandments are some kind of smorgasbord? Pick from this one, don’t like that one. Have to tell you, that’s pretty much the consensus today. Ya, the commandments, some of them are good, some of them … nah, n/a, not applicable, at least not to me. Jesus leaves which commandment out that would apply? … Do not covet, number ten. Rather lengthy one too, seems that God wanted to make sure that we understood, we don’t covet anything. Yet here’s this guy who seems to come off as very devout, maybe expert on the commandments and he seems to have a very distorted view of them. Look around today’s world, it is clear the world has a very distorted view of the commandments, much like the young man. The world also seems to add some of their own commandments. One of course being “judge not lest ye be judged”. That seems to be a big favorite today. And other commandments, ya not so important; Have no idols, taking the Lord’s name in vain, Sabbath day, honoring mother and father, false witness, coveting? You can really see why the young ruler wanted to be clear on which ones, I would be willing to bet that first century Israel was much like 21st century America. Pick and choose, which one’s important, which one isn’t. They’re the Ten Commandments, not suggestions!

Let’s look at the Amos reading, we need to be a little fair here. It has almost become accepted today that if someone is wealthy, they had to have done it by either receiving it, or through dishonesty. I got mine honestly, but that guy with the bigger house, bigger car, bigger big screen TV, he must have taken advantage of someone to get all that. No, that is not true, I prefer to believe that most have done it through hard work, sacrifice, being smart. Are there people who achieve wealth in a way that lacks integrity? Yes! In the Prophet Amos’ reading, Amos is certainly saying on God’s behalf that many, seems even most, are acquiring wealth dishonestly: “For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins, you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.” (Amos 5:12) At this time in history, Israel/Judah, the kingdom has been divided by then, has become very corrupt. That is what prophets like Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah are warning the people about. God is not going to continue to tolerate this. And yet there is the recognition of the fact by Amos: “They hate him who reproves at the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.” (Amos 5:10). The men of a town would gather at the gate to the city where people would bring law suits or accuse someone of breaking the law. It was where people expected justice. For those who did act justly, according to God’s will, they were not appreciated, especially by those who held some level of wealth and power. They expected those who were judges to just roll over for them. They would cheat someone, be accused and the judge was supposed to turn a blind eye, that is why Amos refers to those who “afflict the righteous, who take a bribe.” I have to play by the rules, but apparently the guy who has money and power, he doesn’t, he gets his way regardless. I have to believe that while the rich young ruler talked a good game, which we see many today do, he really didn’t play by the rules. Remember Zaccheus, with Jesus? He offered, without prompting to repay any he might have not dealt fairly with. The rich young ruler didn’t. Much like people today and then, he seemed to have bought into this belief that because of his wealth that was his golden ticket in. That was not what Jesus was about. “Jesus looking at him, loved him…” I think Jesus felt compassion and pity. Jesus knew that the rich young ruler was too tied to his riches and while he said the right things, they were not where his heart was. He had bought into the world’s view that wealth meant he was blessed and had a stairway to heaven. Referring to the Led Zepplin song, clearly even in the 1960s and I think as much if not more so now, “there’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.” Peter doubts Jesus’ words too, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”(Matt19: 27) Jesus replied: I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, [the resurrection] when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt 20: 28-29) Oh Peter, because of your faithfulness and the faithfulness of all who will follow, what that man has will look like petty cash compared to what you will receive, paraphrasing Jesus.

Jesus gave up the glory of heaven to live life as a man on earth. He sacrificed to be one of us and more than that, He sacrificed all He had in the torture of the cross, His very life, God the Son, perfect and holy, sacrificed to pay for our sins. God gives us what we need, we pray for our daily bread and He faithfully provides for what we need to live the life that He wants for us. That does not mean that we ignore His will and go out and grab for all that we can, to dishonestly enrich ourselves. For that matter He wants us to use some of the gifts He has given us for those who are in need, to provide for His church so that collectively we can reach and provide for those who are in physical need, and so they can also hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To not just live in the world today, but hear the promise of life and life more abundant in the eternal, perfect world of the resurrection. So, yes, take out that journal, take time in prayer. Are we too much about the world’s message? Or are we about the message of the Gospel. Do we believe that because we have much in the world, that God has blessed us to wealth, and yes, pretty much all of us here are pretty wealthy compared to the standards of Jesus’ time and of the rest of the world’s standards today. Do we live the life that Jesus wants for us by sharing our abundance? Or do we live the deluded life of the world that says our life should be plentiful here and also buys us a stairway to heaven?

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Concordia Self Study Bible p 1477

God gives us Barnabases

I have been feeling kind of beat down lately. Things have been going, been interesting, combined with the liturgical season though, it’s been kind of a beat down. I can see where God really does provide, just the right people at the right time. I’m not going to name names. But when the meeting is getting a little hectic, when that one person pops up and quietly assures “keep doing what you’re doing”, that is absolutely priceless.  When it’s seemed that the joy is getting kind of beat down and someone comes along and tells you how joyful and another tells you how encouraging, it is truly beyond meaure.

This may sound a little goofy, but I know these are from God, because the comments pop up out of no where and often from a most unexpected person.

There certainly is a time and place for that same friend or certainly another friend with different gifts, to come along and encourage by telling you: “That’s not working” or “Jim you have to change this or that about yourself.” That is encouraging too, because you know that someone has “your six” and they’re watching out for you. I am very grateful that people have been there to encourage and redirect. It takes effort on their part and I am very grateful that they (and I’m hope they all know who they are from this blog) will exert their time and effort to spend it on me encouraging and guiding.  It certainly is a mark of friendship, the Jonathan and David kind to invest that in someone else. That’s also why men’s groups are so important. They do give guys the mutual encouragement and strength to go back out and deal with their world.  You can do that when you know another strong brother has your six.  Thanks to those guys who have mine at First St Johns they have no idea how much they have blessed me. In probably none of those cases has it been a situation where I or they have felt compelled to be friends.  But They were put there by God, they saw the need and what God was leading them to do. I saw what God was doing and was blessed to receive it.

This is a hard thing for guys, we have to be self-sufficient.  Well that’s the world talking. The smart guy remembers God’s word in Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron. So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” So guys who is God putting you with for mutual strength and encouragement? Who is your Barnabases? (Refer to Acts 4:37, 9:26-28, 11:25-26).

Some thoughts on thankfulness that you can share this coming Thanksgiving.

I reblogged Dr Hamilton’s post about why gratitude is good for you, certainly there are positive physical effects when we are grateful. Too often we are not just ungrateful, we are envious and resentful of what others have. The ninth commandment is quite specific about coveting what others have.

With just a few days before Thanksgiving we should also discuss being thankful and also how we are blessed. Henry Blackaby gives a good definition as to how a Christian should be thankful: “Thankfulness is foundational to the Christian life. Thankfulness is a conscious response that comes from looking beyond our blessings to their source. As Christians, we have been forgiven, saved from death and adopted as God’s children. There could be no better reason for a grateful heart!” (Henry and Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Day by Day” p 324). I might add that not only are we saved to eternity which is huge by itself, this gives us the hope that we are living for a purpose, that even in suffering we know that God sustains us, He provides for us, He is watching over us and even in the “worse case”, death, for those who are saved in Jesus, death delivers us to be in His presence. But we shouldn’t just skim over what God does provide for us, that we are kept safe. Sure there are times where we have less than others, there are times when we are sick, injured and even seriously incapacitated. But when you think of the possibilities it is remarkable that for the most part we are kept so healthy and capable.

I often point out that the Book of Revelation tells us that at some point in the end times, God does remove His protective hand. If we think there is evil now, just imagine what it will be like when God takes His restraining hand away and the evil that is unleashed. Blackabys write: “We, too, have been healed and made whole by the Savior. We are free to enjoy the abundant life the Savior has graciously given us. Could we, like the nine lepers, rush off so quickly to glory in our blessings without stopping to thank our Redeemer. … Our worship, prayers, service and daily life ought to be saturated with thanksgiving to God (Phil 4:6) (Ibid p 324)

Blackaby goes on to point out that we should also remember our blessings and I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to say that I faithfully recount my blessings and remember what God did for me. I’d like to say that … One way I try to be pro-active is to record in my journal the circumstances that brought on my need, the way God responded and the way that my situation is worked out by God. Even now I have a tough time thinking of specific incidents, but I know that there have been so many times and each time I often sit back in amazement and I always think “wow, I would never have seen this working out that way. Glory to God for His greatness, His wisdom and His mercy.” Even when things don’t play the way  I think they should or that does cause me loss, I still always understand what God is doing and that it is ultimately for my own good.

The Blackabys point out that our blessings often come in what seem to be “ordinary” ways and our attitude is “gee, that was nice, glad things worked out” and don’t really take time to see God’s hand. Our Gospel reading for Thanksgiving this year is about the ten lepers. Jesus healed them all, how many came to tell Jesus how grateful they were? One, one out of ten. Today, even for us in the church, even ten percent is probably a high percentage. Appreciation in the form of telling others  how much you appreciate them and offering them encouragement. I get encouragement once in awhile and often won’t really appreciate what was done. I know that I need to show more appreciation, encouragement and blessing for those around me, that I minister to. But I too often fail to do that. It does not seem hard to understand that when we bless others we show gratitude to what God does for us, and what others do for us, but most importantly be grateful to God.

We need to show gratitude, we need to show it in public, grateful to God and to those that God has put in our life. In addition, yea, we should break out that journal and write about how God has blessed us, what happened and what God did in response. We should take some time to be in wonder of what God did, what He does, and the promises of what He will do. We should go back through our journals and re-remember what God did, I should be a lot better about relating in my sermons how God has blessed me. Too often we skim over the blessings and spend too much time whining and complaining about what we think we should have, what we feel we’re entitled to.  In this time of Thanksgiving let’s focus on being grateful for the things that we often take for granted and let go of what we think we are entitled to.

Happy Thanksgiving (again don’t call it Turkey Day or I will snap). Have a great time with family and friends and take some real time to tell them what you are grateful for, especially our Lord and the family and friends He’s given us.