Month: March, 2015

“Come to Jesus on HIS Terms”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

It’s truly amazing to me just how much information is available on a smartphone. A whole new world of communication and data gathering is available that we would never had guessed we would have enjoyed only 20 years ago. I’ve recently become a news junkie. It seems there is so much happening all the time and I don’t want to miss anything. The bad thing about that is that the more I read the news, the more frustrated I become. You’d think I’d learn a lesson and stop surfing my news apps, but I keep on reading, trying to make sense of it all.

One of the things that saddens me the most is the direction it appears that our country is taking. It seems that as the world becomes more volatile and our own infrastructure falls apart, our leaders focus more on their hate for one another then they do on fixing any of our problems.

When President Obama came on to the scene, he promised hope with the slogan, “yes, we can.” It seemed that his message gave many people optimism about the future and the needed change that he promised. His followers had an extraordinary amount of faith in him bordering on a Messiah complex and it seemed he could do no wrong. He promised bi-partisan cooperation and invited conservatives to join him to make our country a better place. Yes, every child would get an education and every person would get healthcare.

Then things began to change almost as soon as they had started. Instead of change, we found our country embroiled in the same petty bickering and back-stabbing we have come to know too well. The liberals don’t trust the conservatives and the conservatives don’t trust the liberals. No bi-partisanship, co cooperation, no change.

When President Obama came on the scene he was greeting with adoring crowds throughout the world and cheered everywhere he went. In many eyes he had the ability to be the greatest president in the history of the United States. He was viewed as an icon of hope.

Well, this cheering lasted only a few months and then it began to stop. His approval ratings continue to sink and he seems to be on the defensive. Though I have never been a President Obama supporter, he is still our president and it’s sad to see where this presidency is going.

History is filled with people who started out with promise and great popularity only to end their life in the spotlight in utter humility. Hopefully our president isn’t headed for a similar fate.

Today is Palm Sunday and at this time we see a man who entered Jerusalem to adoring and cheering crowds. Jesus, the son of a carpenter, a child of Nazareth, someone who had gained a following, one who was cheered and praised, but one who would soon be mocked, scorned and condemned by the same ones who did the cheering.

On that Palm Sunday as Jesus approached Jerusalem, He was aware of several things. He knew the conditions surrounding the people and he knew the conditions of their heart. He knew what they were expecting of him and he also knew how they would reject him.

Jews of this time found themselves under strict Roman rule and oppression. There were heavy taxes, restrictions and the threat of execution for anyone who would disobey. Jesus knew all these things but he also knew their heart.

The Jews were in search of someone to save them from all that they suffered through. They desired a king, a conqueror, someone to set them free. They had been witness to the mighty works of Jesus. They saw him give sight to the blind. They witnessed as he healed the lame. They were amazed when he fed a multitude with only a few loaves of bread and a few fish. They heard about him raising Lazarus from the dead and listened as he taught with authority. Surely, they thought to themselves, this is the man who will save us. So they began to cheer.

And the timing was perfect. It was approaching the Passover feast, the symbolic time for God to save his people just as he had saved the Israelites in Egypt. And now, just maybe, this Jesus would somehow lead them from the cruel treatment they were living under Roman rule.

Jesus knew their thoughts and He knew their hearts. The Romans knew something as well, they were aware of the frenzy of the people because it happened every year at this time. They knew that there would be skirmishes and violence because they had witnessed it all before during Passovers in the past.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him waving palm branches which were a symbol of Jewish nationalism. They shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” People were shouting and cheering their promised Messiah….but then something happened. The shouting stopped. Jesus didn’t assemble his troops. He wasn’t interested in leading any revolts. Instead, he drove the money changers out of the temple. He paid tribute to Caesar. He taught that giving out of poverty was greater than giving out of riches. He taught that to be great you must be a servant. Jesus did everything the cheering crowds didn’t expect or want. So the cheering stopped

Some things never change do they. Still today, when God does what we want, it’s easy to cheer Him.

But what about when He doesn’t do these things? What happens when we face trial and oppression? Too often, the cheering stops. Words of praise fade away as we are forced to face life how it really is.

But Jesus knew all along what he would face and I want to talk with you about three things that Jesus saw.

First, Jesus understood that they were not going to recognize His purpose. Luke 19:44 says that the crowd “did not know the time of your visitation.” The Greek here means to relieve. It’s ironic that the people sought relief but they failed to recognize it when it came.

Jesus is telling us that they didn’t understand His purpose. They were looking for the Kingdom of God and Jesus was telling them that it was now in their presence. They were aware of His claims to be the Son of God and they were witness to His miracles, but even with all this, they failed to understand His purpose. And they couldn’t see it because their eyes were focused on their immediate needs and wants instead of their current condition.

We are the same today. When we experience trials, we focus on our circumstances and that changes our focus to all that is bad with the world around us and when that happens, our prayer changes.

It goes from one place to another and it becomes, “Lord, deliver me, help me, fight for me, uplift me” instead of, “Lord, mold me, use me, grow me through my trials, change me.” Too often the desire is for God to change our circumstances, instead of changing us.

And sadly, it has an effect because in time, the cheering stops. We begin to lose sight of God and His purpose and we weaken our worship of Him. We begin to go through the motions and limit our praise to what we want Him to do, instead of praising Him for who He is and for what He has already done.

The Jews wanted deliverance from oppression but Jesus came to deliver them from their bigger problem of sin. In their struggle to escape from their current circumstances, to have their own idea of peace, they missed the fact that they walked in the very presence of the Prince of Peace.

Not only did they fail to see His purpose but they also refused to accept His teachings. Verse 42 of our Gospel lesson says, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Jesus had always been clear on His purpose. In Luke 14 He told His followers to “take up their cross and follow Him.” He was asking for them to trust in Him.

The people of Jerusalem wanted peace but were expecting to find it through conflict. Jesus was offering them peace from conflict.

Luke 13:34 says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

And the city of Jerusalem, which, ironically enough means “founded in peace,” refused to listen to what Jesus was saying because it was intent on setting its own terms for peace. How often do we do the same things? We want peace and blessings, but at the same time, we want to do things our own way in order to get them.

We’re saying, “God, I want your peace and I certainly want your blessings and I’m going to do this, that and the other thing to get it because that’s how I choose to handle it. Your job is just to bless me when I do what I feel I need to do.”

There are many who want to set their own terms for salvation but Jesus was clear when he said, “I am the way and no man comes to the Father but by Him.” Time and time again, however, we refuse to listen to His terms. There is a way that seems right to man, but the end of it is destruction. The blood that was shed on the cross of Calvary is the only means whereby you can be forgiven of sin, and it is the righteousness obtained through Christ that allows you to be with Him for eternity.

The people failed to recognize His purpose and they refused to accept His terms and they failed to realize that their ignorance would bring judgment.

Luke 19:43 – 44 – “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus was describing Jerusalem’s future judgment. He was warning them. They knew the terms, they knew who Jesus was, but they refused to accept it and so it brought judgment. Over one million Jews were killed in 70 A.D. because they would only accept God’s purpose on their own terms.

So, how does this apply to us? We too cannot approach God on our own terms, we must come through Jesus, something the Jews in our lesson would have done well to understand.

We cannot come to God in our own terms, Jesus said, “no man comes to me unless the Father draws them.” When you come to Him you accept His claims that Jesus is the Son of God, the sacrifice for our sin, the Lord and Savior of us all.

If you refuse these things, you nail the coffin of opportunity shut. Your cheering has stopped and all that is left is destruction.

Maybe you find that your desires have been self-centered instead of God-centered. Maybe you’re saved, but you refuse to accept the terms of your salvation and, instead, are satisfied with your own path and your own strength. If that is the case, I invite you to learn what the Jews on that first Palm Sunday refused to learn. Trust in Jesus to lead you to the place you should go, listen to Him and recognize what He came here to do.

It’s tempting to think that God is somewhat stubborn, always wanting things His own way without being willing to compromise. Who can blame you if you want to make some of the decisions with your own life, after all, it’s your life. But for those of us who have found the better way of obedience, we have come to understand that God is this way because He loves us that much. He’s stubborn about us following His advice because He knows that, once followed, our way to salvation is clear. He’s tenacious because He longs for His children to be with Him forever in paradise. His holy will persevere because He knows that there is no better way under the sun to find true peace. He’s determined to lead us to victory, determined enough that He would send His only Son to pave the way to glory for us.

God has always had us in mind so when He bids us to follow Him we can be assured that it is because He is the only way to salvation.

On Palm Sunday, they had a different Jesus in mind, but it was because they didn’t understand their true enemy. They shouted praises to the one they hoped would lead them to a military victory and because of this they missed the opportunity to praise the only one who could provide them with a true victory, the victory over sin and death. I pray that your shouts of praise will ring out for all to hear because you know who Jesus really is and what He really came to do. Praise God for His love for us and praise Him that He would love us enough to die for that conviction. Amen.

Bible Study Questions – Luke 19:28-40

Bible Study Questions – Luke 19:28-40

What progression of moods do you see in this passage?

How did Jesus act?

Why is Bethpage important in the story of Christ? Luke 24:50-52

Why do you think there was no argument over the taking of the donkey?

What is the significance of the donkey? Zechariah 9:9-10

Why was it important it had never been ridden? Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7

In Zechariah, it is said that the righteous king “shall speak peace to the nations” (Vs. 10) and the donkey was only ridden by non-military people Numbers 22:21; Judges 10:4; 1 Samuel 25:20, though kings and noblemen did 2 Samuel 18:9; 19:26; 1 Kings 1:32-40. Why did they still expect a military Messiah?

What is the meaning in the laying down of their cloaks? 2 Kings 9:13

What is the crowd implying by declaring the words in verse 38? Psalm118:19-29

Do you think the Palm Sunday crowds fully understood that their singing of Psalm 118 pointed to God’s saving act in Jesus?

What did the Pharisees fear when they asked Jesus to rebuke His disciples?

What do you make of Jesus’ curious response in verse 40? Genesis 4:10; Joshua 24:27: Psalm 96:11; 98:7-9; 114:1-8; Isaiah 55:12; Habakkuk 2:11

Why had Jesus waited until now to so publically declare who He was? Luke 22:67; 23:3, 35, 38, 42; 24:26, 46

Is Palm Sunday a day of good news or bad news?

How does the crowds temporary joy over Jesus mirror our own times?

How do you feel about Palm Sunday?

What are we disciples to make of this triumphal entry?

“Follow The Leader”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

On Netflix, Cheryl and I have been avid watchers of a show called “The House of Cards.” It stars my favorite actor, Kevin Spacey and he plays the president of the United States. His character achieved the position of the President through the less then honorable means of intimidation and deceitfulness. He is drunk with power, uncaring about what others may have to suffer as long as he gets his way. He’s not afraid to take a life or ruin a reputation if it’ll give him what he wants and he relishes the opportunity to let people know that he is the top dog, especially those who dislike him, of which there are many. His mantra is “I’m in charge.”

There are several ways to become a leader. The President in this television series has chosen the path of coercion and carelessness. The only right things are the things that serve him. He puts on a mask of servanthood to the people but inward he’s all about himself.

Jesus chose another path to leadership. He didn’t step on people to make His way to the top. He didn’t use intimidation or threats.

You never once heard Him say, “I’m in charge,” because he always humbly deferred to the Father. He didn’t lead this way, because He didn’t have to. Rather, He chose to lead by His example motivated by love.

There was just something about Jesus that drew people to Him. Today we might call something like this the “it” factor, and Jesus Christ is its ultimate example. Something about Jesus made people KNOW He was a leader. The crowds followed Him because of it. The Pharisees were threatened by it and His disciples found their devotion for Him from it. Like a trusted Shepherd, the people, like sheep, found their safety and comfort in Him and they followed Him no matter what path He chose to take.

That’s the kind of leader I want to be and I know I’m not alone. I want to be someone who finds his best success in leading by the best example. I would love to be followed because I chose the right path, not because I led people through anger and threats down the wrong one. In a world where power is king, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to follow who always put your needs before their own? Yes, I desire to follow Jesus and to be the leader He is.

In a way, people who always bark, “I’m in charge,” are admitting that they really aren’t. Because they lack the proper tools of leadership they defer to our basest instincts and rule by darkness, fear and deceit.

But Jesus was different, He led by love and authority. Matthew 7:28-29 says, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished by His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus became a leader by taking on the responsibility of a servant. He knew that the leader who serves is the one who most effectively leads. In fact, one of the most consistent teachings of Christ was on our need to be servants first. Jesus made it clear in John 12:26 when He said, If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Jesus understood the important role of a servant and the power of providing a helping hand. In our Gospel lesson for this morning Jesus says beginning with verse 42, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” You’ll find that last verse on our sign outside because that defines who Jesus was. One who didn’t come to be served but to serve, and He paid the ultimate price as a servant by offering up His own life to those He served.

Our ultimate goal in leadership should be to unlock the power of God in our lives by taking on the role of serving others. By our example we should be able to make this world a much better place.

And the only way to be the kind of leader that Christ was and is, is to let Christ do His leading through you. Paul was such a leader. In Galatians 2:20 Paul tells the church in Galatia, “I have been crucified in Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Being the kind of leader Christ was can carry with itself a burden that many are not willing to take because it goes against the world view of always looking out for #1. It’s backwards to everything the world is teaching where might is right. When His disciples asked to sit by His side in heaven, he told them they didn’t understand what they were asking. To carry on that mantle for Christ would bring with it persecution and hardship because it goes against the world’s plan of leadership. To drink the cup that He drinks or to be Baptized with a Baptism like His is to invite the evilness of the world to rally against you. Before they could take on that role, they had much to learn from Jesus about what being a leader in faith really requires.

But, even knowing this, Jesus took on that responsibility for us by acting as a servant to the people He loved by laying down His life for us.

If we could all learn to lead like Jesus, we could solve a lot of the problems we find in the churches all through America and the world.

If we could effectively take on the role of servant to each other, the infighting and chasm’s we see so often in churches would be eliminated. If we were to lead by the example that Jesus Christ Himself gave us, our passions would turn from having to control to longing to help. If we chose the path that Jesus took, we would turn from our self-serving ways and make the choice to live by serving others.

 

But these choices are not easy ones to make and their even more difficult to live. One of the devil’s greatest tools is to convince us to think of ourselves first in all things. Serving ourselves first comes naturally to us, but always thinking of others first presents much more of a challenge.

To be the kind of leader Jesus was, takes a lot of courage and fortitude. It means taking risks in a world that will fight you every step of the way. It means daring to do the right thing even if it feels wrong according to the world’s version of righteousness.

 

 

 

 

In the series I spoke about in my opening, you see all the examples that the world uses to attain power, back room secrets and plots of revenge, late night strategies to overcome the opponent, shady deals done through bullying and extortion, promises made with no intention of keeping them. Basically, it’s reality TV. Though Jesus used none of these tactics, His style of leadership could be said to be every bit as dangerous.

The servant leader who leads like Christ knows that his role is formed by knowing the Savior and in understanding His ways. The servant leader can’t let others define who they are, they must go forth in Christ alone. It’s impossible to be the person everyone wants you to be. If you tried you’d go crazy because everyone has their own idea on what direction someone should take. As a pastor, it’s easy to get lost trying to make everyone happy, in fact that’s probably the greatest source of burnout for a pastor there is. Please pray that I always get my direction from Christ.

A servant leader knows their roles and is also aware of what they can and can’t do, they know their limits. You’ve heard the saying that 20% of the people do 80% of the work? Well in the best run operations you will find everyone working together in equal shares for the common good. That’s why we make such a big deal here when we ask everyone to do their part.

 

Jesus understood his roles. He didn’t try to become some powerful politician or mighty warrior because that is not what he was sent to do. He came with a better way, chosen by the Father for the benefit of us all. Even the Son of God had His roles, so He did what He was sent to do to the best of His ability.

But even Jesus knew when to say no. Sometimes He didn’t work miracles when asked. When they wanted to make Him king He refused. When He needed time to Himself with the Father, He took it.

Serving others can be very taxing because sometimes the more you serve the more those you are serving expect of you. Jesus kept a pace to His ministry that was both effective and comfortable. He didn’t run all over Israel trying to heal every sick person He could find but he made Himself available to those who came to Him in faith. When we read of Jesus we get the impression of a person who knew what He was sent to do and set His face on that goal alone.

Jesus was pro-active in His ministry. He saw the need and He fulfilled it. He defined the issues Himself and He took the initiative to answer the call and He accepted responsibility for His actions all the way to the cross.

 

Imagine this. The very Son of God, full of divine power and able to summon angels to do His bidding, instead took on the form of a servant because, in this way, He would also become the best leader.

He filled the role of the reformer who taught people to look beyond themselves to the greater role of helper. His role of Savior was the ultimate act of unselfish love. He humbly faced the cross willing to take on the sins of the whole world because he thought of us first.

As we watched the latest episode in this series about the president, we were shocked at the direction it is now beginning to take.

We were shocked because it now looks as if the president and his wife are starting to get some morals. It’s finally coming back to them, all the terrible things they have done to get where they are. The pressure they have made for themselves is becoming overwhelming because of all the damage they have done. It’s refreshing to see someone come to the knowledge that might is not always right.

All they really needed to do to understand what true leadership was, was to read of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. In Scripture they would have seen a leader who led by love, willing to do whatever He had to do to best serve those He came to save. They would have seen a leader who so changed the world that to take all the accomplishments in all the world that were done apart from Him, it would not begin to touch those things accomplished in His name. They would have seen a leader who’s face was so set on accomplishing His task that He was willing to die to make it happen.

And still today, Jesus leads. Still today we can go to our Savior in prayer and know that He will hear us. Still today we hold the promise that he died to give. Still today, we have a Savior who thinks of us first, even though we are wrapped in sin and selfishness.

God thought enough to send His son to lead us to everlasting life and he asks you here today to make the choice to follow Him.

He doesn’t promise the road won’t get a little bumpy, nor does He promise that life will be filled with roses, but he does promise us the greatest of things if we choose to follow Him. He promises that one day, we will be with Him forever, far removed from a world that preaches that might is right. Together, we can do the impossible if we choose to be a servant for Christ and to lead by His example. In this Lenten season, remember what it means to you to have Christ in your life and as we make our way to the Easter celebration, we can rejoice in the fact that Christ’s death was given because He loved us enough and was willing to serve His role as the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. His death was also our death and His resurrection sealed the deal towards our own salvation. Amen.

 

“What If?”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

I wonder how many times each one of us has said something in our worship service and not really thought about what it is we are saying. I’d venture to guess that the answer would be, more often than we would care to admit. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t mean what we say, I’m just saying that we often recite the word’s but miss the deeper meaning in them. For instance, how many times have you said the Lord’s Prayer but have caught yourself thinking of something else when you do. How many of us have ever said one of the Creed’s we recite here each Sunday and have simply gone through the motions without really taking in the meaning of what we are confessing. I would guess that none of us has been perfect.

A part of our Gospel lesson this morning often suffers the same fate. When most of us were young, we learned the word’s to John 3:16. Let’s do it from memory together, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Now, some of us do the King James version while some recite another version, but most of us know the word’s without having to look them up. It’s a verse we have each heard many times. Even many none Christians know it. But just what does it mean?

This particular verse has been called the Gospel in miniature. It contains the whole Gospel message condensed in a few beautiful words. They are word’s that incite passion and comfort, but what if they weren’t true? Where would we be if these words had no cause to exist?

These section of Scripture finds Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus speaking in the dead of night so that Nicodemus might not be noticed by those who would not see kindly to him talking so intimately with the enemy. Nicodemus has seen what Jesus has done and he’s intrigued. He wants to see what make this rebel rabbi tick. What is He telling people to get them so riled up? What is different about this man?

And just as Jesus does for us, He tries to open up the mind of one who should know better. Nicodemus is a religious man. He knows all the words, he does his best to obey every law, but he is still falling short of what God would have of him. He still needs to be saved. Jesus said he must be born again into God’s family.

 

He still needed to know the full extent of God’s love

So, let me ask again. What if the words of John 3:16 were not true? What if these words that we know so well were only folly, words without meaning, words without substance? Then where would we be?

What if God had not loved the world? What if God were just a God of anger as some portray Him to be or a God that is gone from the world as some modern philosophers have surmised?

Where would we be if life was only an exercise without true meaning or purpose, with a God only interested in us a test subjects or case studies? Where would we be without the love of God to give us hope and peace, simply hurtling through space with no heaven to look forward to?

I shudder at the thought. When you put it in those terms, it’s so great that the word’s hold truth. God does love the world, he shows it every day. Jesus is our hope and no greater love was ever shown then when He laid down His life for us so that we could be free. We have a future beyond the grave because God loved us enough to provide for us eternal life with Him. God’s love is shown in that He gave us His Son.

Romans 8: 37-39 reminds us of God’s love when it tells us that, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But what if God had never given us His Son Jesus Christ? What if, instead of giving us His Son, He gave us what we truly deserved? What if instead of sending us a Savior, God simply sent us to hell to pay the price for our sins on our own? It’s almost too awful to consider.

But, praise be to God, He did have that kind of love for us and He was willing to save us from the damnation we deserved by sending His only Son to pay the price. Without Christ there would be no hope. Without Christ the payment for sins could never had been paid because the price would have been too steep. Without Christ, our hope would only reside in what we could do to earn our own salvation and in that there is no hope. Without Christ there would be no Calvary to come to our rescue from sin and death. “But God shows us His love in that while we were still sinner’s, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

What if God had not given us His son, His most treasured possession? Then we would not know God and we would still be lost without the confidence to overcome the hopelessness, a meaningless existence without expectation. But He did send His Son to win for us our salvation and for that we will praise Him forever more.

We can rejoice in the gift of Christ for all people, but what if God’s salvation was not for everyone? What if God’s love did not extend to whosoever?

Suppose God only picked those who were rich enough, wise enough or pretty enough. What if God saw worth like the world does? How many of us would have a chance? All you who are living pay check to pay check, no hope for you. All of you without super model looks, ta-ta. All of you without PHD’s, there’s no heaven in your future. What if heaven were only offered to the most pious people or the most law abiding or the hardest workers? Where would we fit in then? I think it would be safe to say that heaven would be a lonely place. None of us would have a Hope to see Jesus. The Bible says, there is no one good, no not one.

But God’s promise to us is much greater than that because He promises heaven to whosoever. Whosoever believes will see Christ after death. Whosoever puts their faith and trust in Christ will dine with Him at the great banquet. Whosoever surrenders their life to Christ will live with Him in glory forever and ever amen.

God doesn’t save us after we have done all we can do. He doesn’t save us after we’ve cleaned up our act and sin no more.

God doesn’t save us when we have measured up. He saves us in our sins. He forgives us in our weakness and He provides everlasting life to all who come to Him in repentance. That’s the kind of God we have. The God of whosoever.

Finally, what if faith were not the only prerequisite to heaven? What if whosoever believed in Him still had to worry that their faith would not be enough to save them?

What if our salvation also depended on our good works? Would we ever know if we had done enough? If our hope lied in our own abilities, would we have a chance? How does one even begin to make themselves worthy? Isaiah 64:6 says, We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

What if eternal life depended not on just faith but also our religiosity. What if only a few got in that happened to make the right choice? Would we want to be in a heaven that only allowed in pious LCMS Lutherans? I know some think that’s what they’ll find but praise God they are wrong. What if only the people who didn’t miss a week of church or who always gave the proper tithe were admitted. Is that a heaven based on God’s love?

What if our redemption was based on how well we fulfilled the law? I can tell you right now I would be a little worried. What if only those who were the most perfect obeyers were admitted? Praise God it is not based on anything we can do on our own.

Galatians 3:10 says, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” What if God had not given us His Son to take that curse away?

I was talking last week in our Bible study about Calvary. Have you ever thought it odd that Jesus was sacrificed between two criminals? Why make them such an important part of the story? Why give them any credit at all?

I think it’s because on each side of Christ was a representation of the world. On the one side is the criminal who lashes out at God and on the other is the criminal who crys out for mercy. I think it was shown this way because Christ died for all of us, even those who cursed Him and to those who reach out He offers paradise. He doesn’t wait for us to be perfect because he knows how faulty sin has made us. He just offers us salvation in the asking. No what if’s.

On one side was a thief who had lived a shady life, always taking. His whole life up to this point had probably been lived in dishonesty and vice. He probably never had what anyone would consider a good life and I’m sure he cared little about God’s commandments.

He had never celebrated communion and most think he was probably never baptized though we can never know for sure. He probably never tithed or ever went to a church service yet, based on His faith alone Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Yes, thanks be to God that He did love us enough to send us His only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. The dying thief was given the promise of everlasting life and so are you, even though your less than perfect, even though there are others more qualified than you.

Today is the day to come to Christ in faith, assured of your salvation by the promise of a God who loved enough to send His Son. You no longer have to rely on what you can do. Now is the time to rejoice in all that has already been done. This message of grace is offered to all who come to God in faith and trust.

Don’t wait to come until your sinless enough or dedicated enough or selfless enough. God can work with you just the way you are. If you allow Him, he will guide you to greater things by transforming you into the person He created you to be.

Praise God in heaven that John 3:16 is true, born out of God’s grace by faith alone instilled by His Holy Spirit. What if we could finally make the decision to follow Jesus? What if we believe in Him? “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Amen

Bible Study Questions – John 3:14-21

Bible Study Questions – John 3:14-21

How does this text reveal our sin (self-centeredness) and how we do not live as God desires?

What incident is John referring to in verse 14-15? Numbers 21:4-9

What has one to do with the other? What is Jesus talking about? Is it about more than Jesus on the Cross? Isaiah 45:22; John 8:28, 12:32; Acts 2:33

What are the differences?

Is there a double meaning to the words “lifted up?”

Why is John 3:16 referred to by Luther as the Gospel in miniature?

What does it mean when Jesus says that God so loved the world?

Why is it that the person who does not believe in Christ is condemned? Verse 18, Acts 4:11-12

Was it Jesus’ mission to condemn? Explain

How about those who have never heard of Jesus? Romans 1:18-25

Why do people have troubling believing in Jesus? Verses 19-20

What does it mean to love the darkness?

How do you think Nicodemus felt as he left Jesus that night?

What do we know of Nicodemus after this encounter? John 7:45-52, 18:38-39 What does this possibly tell you of their encounter?

What are some present day examples of how God loves the world?

What would life be like now if God had not sent His Son? Discuss

The Seven Wonders of John 3:16. Discuss each element.

God The Almighty Authority
So loved the world The Mightiest Motive
That He gave His only begotten Son The Greatest Gift
That whoever The Widest Welcome
Believes in Him The Easiest Escape
Should not perish The Divine Deliverance
But have everlasting life The Priceless Possession

 

“The Foolishness of God”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

There are many things that I have done in my life that others may have seen as foolish. When I was young and fresh out of High School, there were many who thought that my first step would be to enroll into pre-seminary. In fact, it was so much a belief that our church LWML group had worked on raising money for my tuition and had raised enough that I wouldn’t have to worry. A man I had always admired got me to be a member of the local Junior Toastmasters organization to hone my public speaking skills. Our pastor made no secret of what a great pastor he thought I would be one day. They even had me convinced for a while that this was the course that God had chosen for me. But then I turned it all down. At first glance, that was probably a very foolish thing to do.

At 18, I fell in love with a beautiful 17 year old girl. We dated for a while and decided early that God had sent us each other, so we were wed before she even turned 20. People said it was too young and I look at my beautiful daughter who is almost 18 and I can’t imagine her being married within two years myself. Some thought we were foolish, and maybe we were.

At 48, I decided to finally enter seminary. My wife had a great job she loved.

My daughter had friends she had cherished her whole life. Our finances were tapped and we had to move to the big city of St. Louis and hope everything would go according to plan. I had a job I loved already doing what I would be going to school to do. It sounds foolish and I would probably think the same had it been someone else.

But by the grace of God, everything worked out. I became the pastor many in my home church thought I would be. I’m still in love and married to my teenage sweetheart and had I not gone to seminary, I wouldn’t be speaking to you today. What had seemed foolish happened to work out somehow.

There was once a man that was considered the town fool. The townsfolk would play a game to show how foolish he was. They would approach him with a dime in one hand and a quarter in the other. The towns-person would hold out both hands, open them and offer the town fool his choice of the coins. The man would always choose the dime, much to the amusement of everyone watching.

One day a newcomer to the town asked him, “Why do you always take the dime when you could take the quarter? Don’t you know that a quarter is worth more than a dime?

The man replied, “I understand the value of the coins, but if I take the quarter, people would stop playing the game.

So, what is a fool? Is it someone who lives outside the norms of society? Is it someone who dares to do something different, even when the risk seems insurmountable? Is it the person who does the unexpected and unaccepted? Just who is a fool?

Was Noah a fool to build a huge ship in the middle of a desert? The people all around him sure thought so, maybe even his family at times. Was Moses a fool for going back to mighty Pharoah for his people? Many thought he was including Moses himself. Was Ezekiel the fool for challenging the 450 prophets of Baal? King Ahab and his wife Jezebel thought he was. Was Jesus a fool to enter the temple with a whip and chase out the money-changers? You can bet more thought Him a fool then didn’t. Sometimes what looks foolish is the sanest thing of all.

Most of the time it is to our greater advantage to avoid foolishness. But in our New Testament letter today in 1 Corinthians we learn that there is a time and place for foolishness. As Christians we are warned in verse 18 that “The Word of God is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” People find foolish what they don’t understand. It was true in Jesus’ day and it’s still true today.

People say we are foolish to put our hope into something we have never seen. They say we are crazy to love a God who out there somewhere. People call us idiotic for investing so much of our time, treasures and talents into what they consider a fantasy. But sometimes what people find foolish can be the sanest thing of all. The foolishness of God is such a thing.

A first glance, many of the things that God had His people do look foolish. In fact, many of us have experienced those times when we ask God, “Are you absolutely sure this is what you want?” We even give Him time to think about it don’t we, until we finally commit. But what might seem foolish, we find out later, is filled with wisdom. That’s what God means when He says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” Those things that seem foolish to us are not necessarily foolish to God.

In 1 Corinthians Paul is contrasting two groups, the Jews and the Greeks and by Greeks he means mostly Romans, both unbelievers in Christ who find anything Christian to be foolish. The thought that an executed carpenter from Nazareth being the Savior of mankind seemed downright idiotic. What are these Christians thinking? How could they let their faith stray so far from reality?

They lived in a society that worshipped the achievements of man and the potential of man.

They followed man’s rules and lived in manly ways. They respected those who were wise or strong or powerful, how could they come to respect this simple laborer from a nowhere town?

The rule of the day was that might was right. The mighty ruled over the weak and the scholars looked down on the uneducated. To accept that an apparent act of weakness such as being executed by hanging on a tree could be then somehow transformed into the greatest of powers of salvation for all mankind could not be believed by those who thought they knew better, including the Jewish religious leaders.

This was a time of “high thinking.” People were deeply involved in philosophical discussions and reason. This was a time for studying Plato, Socrates and Cicero. To think that Christ’s sacrifice is what the Jews had been waiting for, for thousands of years, was just irrational. It just didn’t measure up to the pictures in their minds they had formed of the Messiah. They were waiting for a mighty warrior king to save them from the heavy hands of the Romans, not for some small town Rabbi preaching a message of peace. To think otherwise would be foolish.

The Jews were looking for someone to shake things up in a way that was equal to the world’s idea of power. They considered themselves to be the wisest race in the world and they were more than willing to tell you why. Surly salvation would come through military might.

They just could not reconcile the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to what they expected from the coming Messiah. They considered His death a failed attempt at fooling the people, just another charlatan who professed to be something He was not. How foolish do they think we are??

What neither group, the Jews or the Greeks, was ready to see is that God’s ways are not our ways. God works in ways that the world considers foolish and weak. He picks flawed people to do mighty things. He accepts the poor, the weak and the disenfranchised. He eats with sinners, He heals lepers and reaches out to beggars. He brings the chance of salvation to all people no matter their position in life, warts and all.

Christ’s sacrifice went right to the root of the problem the world was facing. It grabbed them where they suffered most. It addressed their sinful nature past, present and future. His war was not with the Romans, it was with sin. He attacked the root of all the world’s dilemma’s – evil, rebellion and deceit, and in doing so, he allowed people to experience what true freedom really is. The freedom from sin and all its trappings, the freedom from the evil that encumbered them, and He did it out of His love for us and not His hate for the Romans. Finally the light was to show in the darkness.

He didn’t come to fight a temporary foe but to concur, once and for all, the wicked darkness that had plagued mankind since Adam and Eve. The foolishness of God brought sin its death blow, allowing us to be free.

So, were those who decided to follow Jesus foolish? We know now they weren’t but when it was happening I’m sure they even felt sorry for Jesus’ disciples wondering how they could fall so far from reality as to believe the words of this simple man.

Furthermore, it seemed that those who were responding to this man were the outcasts of society with nothing else to grasp onto then the words of a man who thought He was God. They were the undesirables who others had cast off. “That’s fine, He can have them,” they would say, “no one else seems to want them.”

What they failed to understand about God is that he doesn’t play favorites. They failed to understand that God can use all people, no matter their perceived weakness, to do mighty things in the world.

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only a pot and a half of water to his master’s house. Of course, the townspeople laughed every time they saw the old man spilling water all the way home

The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. It felt even worse that the water bearer was mocked for its own inadequacy.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself,” it said, “and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”

“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack on my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all the work, and still suffer such mockery from the others,” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill towards the masters house, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.

But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “I hear the laughter of the others, but I want you to notice something. Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while I walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them.

For two years I have been able to pick these flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have that beauty to grace his house.

It might seem foolish to us that God would choose us to do anything let alone influence others. It might seem foolish that God would use such flawed people as us to spread His good news when in His infinite power He could have found a better way. It might seem foolish that God would send His only Son to be executed in such a terrible way so that we might gain freedom from sin, but God’s ways are not our ways and He has shown us more than a few examples of how His way in the best way.

Mankind likes to tell God that they can handle it and they even try to coach Him on how to do things.

A week ago last Wednesday we heard how Peter thought he knew better so he saw fit to chastise Christ. Today we look at our own lives and can see examples how we continue to do the same things by our thoughts and actions.

Despite the scorn God gets, He continues to do things His way and we can thank Him for that. Those who are like the Romans of Christ’s day, seek salvation through their own terms, but, just as in Jesus’ time, they will be very disappointed at the results. Because their faith is put in things apart from God, that is where they will ultimately end, apart from God.

If you’ve regarded the work of God foolish in the past, hopefully now you see that His way is the only way toward salvation. Only through the sacrifice of Christ have we won the battle over evil and sin. I encourage you to put your trust in the wisdom of God and not in the foolishness of men. I encourage you to re-examine your relationship with Jesus Christ and experience the true wisdom and love of the Savior who knew exactly what He was doing when He so willingly faced the cross.

God has great plans for all of us and He has great plans for Redeemer as well. At times it might not come about in ways we might see as wise, but that’s ok because God is in control. He invites you to place your whole trust in Him because, someday we will come to understand His ways, even those ways we thought at one time to be foolish.

He wants you, no matter your faults, your shortcomings or your dilemma’s. His kingdom has plenty of room for all believers, even us cracked pots. Amen

 

 

Bible Study Questions – 1 Corinthians: 18-31

Bible Study Questions – 1 Corinthians: 18-31

Who are “those who are perishing”?

How can people hear the message of Christ differently?

 

How does the message of the Cross contrast with what most people consider wise?

 

How does the cross destroy the wisdom of men and why does God want to destroy it? How does verse 24 fit in with this verse?

Give current day examples of the wise, the scribe and the debater of this age.

What are some examples of the wisdom of the world (wise)? What are some of the popular Philosophies of our day?

What role do you think the media (news, television shows, movies, etc.) play in influencing us to trust the wisdom and advice of the world?

 

How does prayer help us combat the wisdom of the world?

 

Why is Christ crucified a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks? Why the different words?

What does it mean the “foolishness of God”? Can you think of any examples of this in the Bible?

Why does God express His power and wisdom through “foolish,” “weak,” and “lowly” means?

 

What makes the difference with those who are called? Why is it wisdom to us and not others? Are we just smarter?

Verse 27: why? This verse seems to say that Christianity is against rational thinking. Is it?

What does it mean “the things that are not, so that he may bring to nothing (the things) that are”?

How can we boast in the Lord?

Why do some refuse to believe?

How does the wisdom of man conflict with God’s design?

The end of this chapter (vs 26-31) has two interwoven messages. They are closely related but significantly different and it is important that we understand both of them:
A) the source of our righteousness, i.e., being right with God and
B) the key Christian quality of humility.
What do these mean to you personally?

“Commit Yourself”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

It seems that the church goes from one season to another pretty quickly. In all the hustle and bustle going from the Advent season to the Lent season, I find that, as a Pastor, it’s kind of easy to lose the meaning of the seasons because of all the pressures involved in the increased work load.

And this is how I had found myself lately, more focused on proper time management to accomplish all my tasks rather then on what this time of year really means. So, after taking a step back, I find that I really enjoy this time more when I focus on the right things. Its better, I find, to take advantage of the time the church has given us to refocus, to meditate on the real significance of the season.

The LCMS website has this to say about the significance of Lent: “Early in the Church’s history, the major events in Christ’s life were observed with special observances, such as His birth, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension. As these observances developed, a period of time was set aside prior to the major events of Jesus’ birth and resurrection as a time of preparation.

During Lent, the Church’s worship assumes a more penitential character. The color for the season is purple, a color often associated with penitence.

The “Hymn of Praise” is omitted from the liturgy. The word “Alleluia” is usually omitted as well. By not using the alleluia–a joyful expression meaning “Praise the Lord”–until Easter, the Lenten season is clearly set apart as a distinct time from the rest of the year. Additionally, it forms a powerful contrast with the festive celebration of Jesus’ resurrection when our alleluias ring loud and clear.

Finally, the penitential character of Lent is not its sole purpose. In the ancient Church, the weeks leading up to Easter were a time of intensive preparation of the candidates who were to be baptized at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday. This time in the Church’s calendar was seen as an especially appropriate time for Baptism because of the relationship between Christ’s death and resurrection and our own in Holy Baptism. This focus would suggest that the season of Lent serves not only as a time to meditate on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf but also as an opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and what it means to live as a child of God.”

 

Though the season is more penitential, it’s also a time of healing as we remember the spiritual healing won for us by the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It causes us to more clearly define our relationship with Jesus and works to strengthen our commitment to Him in mind, body and spirit.

It shows us that our relationship with Christ should be so much more than what many have made it out to be and that we need this time to make a change in our attitude towards our calling as Christians.

I saw a cartoon while looking for some good info that showed a church building with a billboard in front that read: “Welcome to the Lite Church; 24% fewer commitments, home of the 7 ½% tithe, 10 minute sermons, 45 minute services, we only have 8 commandments – your choice and we have a 800 year millennium. Everything you’ve wanted in a church – and less.”

I’m afraid far too many people have this kind of relationship with the Lord. Their relationships can be defined with three words: casual, convenient & comfortable.

 

 

Casual in that its occasional, coming to church once in a while, reading your bible if you feel guilty enough, showing little interest in church affairs or activities, and/or never allowing oneself to become to intimate or close to anything overtly “Christian.”

Convenient in that one only does what is comfortable or what fills a certain want or need that one perceives they might have. Too many people have a faith that is based on convenience, one that fails when it is challenged too much.

Comfortable in that we must have everything a certain way. We’ll come to church if we weren’t up to late the night before or if it isn’t raining or if we don’t have too much to do that day. We only want sermons that will make us feel good and we don’t want people to ask us to do anything because we simply don’t have the time or desire and it makes us feel uncomfortable if we have to say “no.”

There is nothing casual, convenient or comfortable about true discipleship. Verse 34 of our Gospel lesson in the original Greek means that we should, keep on denying ourselves, keep on taking up our cross, and keep on following Jesus.” This is not a decision for the moment but one that is supposed to last a lifetime.

Jesus said in Mark 8:35: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake & the Gospel’s will save it.”

First let’s talk about self-denial. Self-denial is the heart of discipleship. When Jesus speaks of denying oneself, He is not only speaking of denying some pleasure and comforts in life like so many do during Lent. It goes much deeper then that. Jesus is telling us that we can no longer be the most important things in our lives. He’s not concerned about what we do as much as he is about who we are. He’s not talking about giving up luxuries or necessities, but about denying yourself, which is entirely different. He would much rather you give up yourself for Lent.

Denying self means that we surrender ourselves; our perceived right to run our own lives; to find its direction on our own and to dictate where we are going.

When it’s put like that it sounds outrageous doesn’t it. It strikes a bad cord in our earthly lives. The one thing that we covet, value and protect above everything else is the right to make our own decisions in our lives. After all, that’s what freedom is all about isn’t it? We have been taught by our world to refuse to be under anything or anybody and that we should only be satisfied by getting ourselves to the top. Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6?

“You are not your own, you have been bought with a price.” If you truly want to follow Jesus, you must be willing to surrender any claim you think you have to your life.

Martin Luther said, “Self-denial is to follow Christ no matter what cost is involved. A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing and suffers nothing and is worth nothing.”

A mother was preparing pancakes for her two sons and the boys began to argue over who would get the first cake. Their mother saw this as a teaching opportunity and said, “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait. Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Okay Toby, you be Jesus!”

That’s the real problem isn’t it? We want everyone else to deny themselves but Christ calls us to a life of self-denial and self-denial is never easy. We all have things we want. We all have goals we would like to accomplish and now we hear that you can’t always do what you want to do. This means that you will have to face tough, life-changing decisions that need to be made in the shadow of the cross and not by the desires of the heart. Of course this doesn’t mean that you will be deprived of joy and happiness, in fact it means just the opposite, only in ways you may have never known before. It means that you will find fulfillment and joy and happiness through your dedication to Christ. Denying yourself puts you in the hands of God at all times, no matter where His hands might take you.

Next we must take up our cross. When Jesus said, “Take up your cross,” the cross wasn’t the symbol of hope that it is today. It was a big, ugly device of torture that conveyed a message of shame, suffering and agonizing death.

So what does it mean to take up your cross? Let’s first discuss what it doesn’t mean. When people face a difficult situation they often say, “Well, I guess that’s the cross I have to bear.” When people speak of it this way they are talking about situations they wouldn’t choose for themselves to be in.

When we suffer from things like sickness, discouragement, nosey neighbors or difficult children it’s a horrible misfortune, but it’s not bearing the cross.

Bearing the cross is a choice. It’s voluntary. It’s someone making a sacrificial commitment to obedience that connects us with Jesus. Bearing our cross is something we deliberately take up and bear. We don’t usually like things like this. It’s so much easier to wear a cross then to bear a cross.

Committed followers are cross-bearers but casual followers seek the easy way. Committed followers seek holiness but casual followers seek happiness. Committed followers seek a relationship with Jesus, casual followers seek an emotional lift. Committed followers say, “how can I help in ministry?” while casual followers ask, “what’s in it for me?”

Finally Jesus said, “follow me.” Ghandi was once asked, “If you admire Christ so much, why don’t you become a Christian?” He replied. “When I meet a Christian who is a follower of Christ, I may consider it.”

It’s real easy to call yourself a Christian with no real effort in following Christ. As followers we are set apart to be examples of His love, grace, mercy and compassion. For committed followers it is the pursuit of a relationship with Christ, a passion to follow the Son of God.

For committed Christians, our relationship with Christ defines us and drives all we do. Its more then rules and programs, that would be boring.

It’s a lot like marriage. We don’t find joy in the institution of marriage. It’s in the relationship that we find our true joy. If you think a certain form of Christianity is better than all the rest, then you’re most likely too focused on rules and programs, not in the relationship you have with Jesus. You’re attentive only to a system, not in a Savior.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why should I do all this?” Denial, surrender and death are not exactly motivators. The answer is really quite simple….. because He did it for you. Jesus denied His own powers, He gave up His rights and he died an agonizing death on a cross because of the will of His Father so that we might live. Jesus, himself, is the model for our own self-denial.

What is it that motivates someone to live a life of self-denial to follow Jesus? Is it the promise of rewards? Is it the fear of Hell? No, though these things are present, it should not be these things. We should be motivated for what Christ did for us. Jesus asks us as he shows us His nail-pierced hands, “This I have done for you, now what are you willing to do for me?” We should be moved by our love for Jesus.

What motivates you? Do you have a casual faith or a committed faith? Base your life on following Jesus. Understand what he did to win that faith because people who are won by that love….. will never stop following Christ. Amen

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Mark 8:27-38

Bible Study Questions – Mark 8:27-38

(Many question are from Intervarsity Press)

Why do some people think Jesus is John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets of old?  What would lead them to think this?

Why does Jesus ask for their thoughts about His identity, instead of just telling them who He is?

Why is the question asked in verse 29 the most important question in the world?

Instead of only asking His disciples what they thought, why does Jesus first ask what others are saying?

How do people answer this question today?

What does it mean that Jesus is “the Christ”?

How does Jesus respond to Peter’s confession and why?

Why didn’t He want anyone to know who He truly was?

How must Christ’s prediction of His suffering and death have sounded to His disciples?       Isaiah 53; Daniel 7:13

How could Peter rebuke the one he had just called “the Christ”?

Why was Jesus so harsh with Peter, calling him “Satan” in front of the other disciples?

How do verses 34-38 expound on what Jesus has just said about His suffering[v. 31]?

What does it mean to deny self and carry the cross? How would that have sounded to Jesus’ disciples?

What paradox does Jesus give us in verse 35? What does He mean?

Let’s reread verses 36-37. What does Jesus teach here about the value of one’s soul?

What cause and effect does Jesus promise in verse 38?

How do we see signs of this happening today?

Who do you say Jesus is? If people were to see you, would your answer be obvious by how you live your life?

Why is it so difficult for us to follow God’s Word and will?