In my view, anyone who elevates the Bible above all other literature, cultures, and morays is doing it a disservice. The Bible should be interpreted in context alongside all the other bodies of knowledge handed down through generations. Was the gospel Paul preached written prior to him preaching or did he claim a new Spirit revealed gospel? In the 1st century, he was labeled a heretic by the religious community. His gospel survived because he fashioned it to answer a dilemma regarding the salvation of Gentiles and their status with Jews. It was in his mind a new revelation and he suffered to give it Birth. We have such challenges to salvation in our time that need bold voices to speak and reveal what God is saying in our time. Anyone who lives by scripture and verse has not allowed the Spirit to speak. Even Paul cautions against such dogmatic positions. I’m sure Paul did not envision his letters being canonized in a book by an oppressive regime and given as the final Word of God in any matter. In fact, Paul urged people to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for understanding and deeper insight. Even the Law of Moses was not final for Jesus in many sermons reinterpreted it and issued a new edict based on a higher knowledge of God’s Intention. We should be students of the Word engaging our total being in a conversation with God and the Word people have shared regarding God’s Word revealed to them. The Holy Spirit empowers such boldness and I pray for more disciples like Paul who will take the steps to hear a fresh word from God in this season and not a stale cultural bread steeped in the past.
Text: Luke 21:5-19
Votes were cast November 8th; the polls closed across the nation between 7-8pm; people waited patiently for the results, but even after votes were in, the winner was too close to call. People held their breath in hopes that their candidate would win. Then early Wednesday morning, we heard President-Elect Donald Trump would be our 45th President come January 20, 2017.
Shock, amazement, jubilation, despair, anger and joy filled the atmosphere. Millennials began protesting in the streets across the nation. Prophets of doom are being hired to speak in churches; news pundits and broadcasters are telling Donald what he needs to do next, as if he will listen to those who counted him out just a few months prior.
The world is in shock. They never expected Americans to elect such a brute of a man to the presidency. But this my friends is not the end. This is not the time for us to panic. World situations will continue to confound.
Jesus in our text addresses an impatient, stressed out crowd just like those in America today. Jesus talks to his disciples; not those in the world, but his disciples. And I pray today that you and I are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and can glean from his wisdom about what to do in tough times.
His disciples’ questions about the future, reveal some impatience, some frustration about how they are going to make it in the coming days.
First, they are Impatient for Justice. They have suffered police brutality from the Roman Soldiers; been unfairly taxed to pay for government projects; incarcerated for minor infractions just for being Jewish; and murdered in the streets as if Jewish lives do not matter.
Second, they are impatient for validation. They know they are God’s children; people who have been blessed with gifts to help their people and the nation. Yet their dreams, hopes, and aspirations continue to be deferred.
Third, they are impatient for love. Hatred by the Romans is pervasive and can be evidenced by classism within the empire. Everyone has a place and moving up the social ladder outside their group is impossible. There is a place for the rich and a place for the poor within each ethnic and political group. No one can break out of the box that has been enforced upon them by the political powers of their community.
And so, they ask Jesus, the one anointed by God, to speak and lead them, “How much longer must we your disciples and God’s people contend with these unjust conditions?” They ask, “How can we stand in days like this?”
Jesus responds in a way they least expect. Rather than tell them what will happen to the Romans, Jesus begins to tell them what will happen among their own community. Jesus says in Luke 21:5-6 (read). The things that are sacred to you; the things you hold most dear will be destroyed before change will come against your enemies. Jesus says you think God is going to begin his revolution with destruction of the Roman Empire, but not so.
The signs of change will begin with more deception and violence among your own people. In effect Jesus says situations must occur that cause God’s children to put their trust in God and not this world’s system of finance, government, and religion. Lord, have mercy!
Jesus breaks it down in Luke 21:7-19. Listen to the areas that Jesus addresses as signs that change is coming:
• False Christ will show up (v.8). People will begin to declare that they are the Messiah returned to deliver God’s people from bondage.
• Wars and rumors of wars will spread throughout the media (v.9). CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, continue to predict increased involvement in war against ISIS, Syria, North Korea, and the like.
• Civil Unrest (v.10). When Jesus says, nation shall rise against nation, he is referring to tribes, people groups (ethnicities). He is saying cultures will collide each fighting for the seemingly scarce resources on the earth that they need to survive.
• Natural disasters (v.11). And don’t we see that today? Flooding, fires, earthquakes, pestilences (incurable illnesses), and hunger abound.
That notwithstanding, Jesus says in Luke 21:12-18 that before any of these world issues take center stage, the people of God will be singled out for harsh times.
Listen to what Jesus says (read verses 12-18). Jesus says the people of God should be aware that things will get worse for them before they get better but a change is coming. Lord, have mercy!
Jesus says there is only one way for God’s people, his disciples to get through these turbulent times of testing. He says in Luke 21:19, “By your patience possess your souls.” It is not a suggestion, it is a direct command from our commander in chief, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Protests do not trump patience; fighting police and destroying property will not trump patience! Jesus says activate patience as a weapon against injustice. Jesus says exercise patience and don’t live your life in panic mode as if the world is coming to an end because it is not yet time for God’s judgment of the world, God is getting his people ready to inherit the kingdom of God. Hallelujah!
Patience in this text is referring to “trials incident to service in the gospel.” In other words, as we follow the Great Commission, that of making disciples, we will be tested. For this word patience derives from the Greek word “hupomone” which is translated, “an abiding under.” It means that as we live out our calling as disciples, as we obey the command of Jesus in Luke 21:12-18, the things we suffer will be overcome by our testimony. How? Because the Holy Spirit will continue to empower us to think feel, choose, and imagine how great life will be in the coming kingdom of God as opposed to the trials we endure in this life.
Beloved, our task is to continue to stand for Jesus in the face of proclamations of doom and destruction. Our task is to be a witness about our great God and His Christ. And Jesus says that as we continue to confess Jesus as Lord, we will be empowered to stand. In other words, our test will not defeat us. We won’t look like what we been through, hallelujah!
Listen beloved, the world is destined for destruction; religious systems will become bankrupt; political systems will crumble; economic systems will falter; and ethnic groups will be divided into classes with no power. But God’s people and God’s word will stand forever. God’s people Jesus says will be unharmed because we have eternal life in Jesus.
Yes, they will arrest some of you, but hold on. Yes, they will talk about you and your stand for Christ, but hold on. Yes, they will put some of you to death, but hold on. Yes, relatives, parents, and friends will betray you, but hold on. Be patient, a change is coming
Text: Luke 17:5-6
5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
The disciples when confronted with the necessity to forgive in a way that would transform their lives, said to Jesus, “Lord, Increase our faith.” When God challenges us to do a new thing we often find ourselves believing that the faith we have is incapable of achieving the goals God has set for us. Nonetheless, God continuously challenges us to reach higher, dig deeper, and go further than we think we can. It would be unfair of God to ask, if God did not know that we could achieve what God calls us to do. [Let me interject right here that when God asks you to accomplish a goal, he has already calculated his involvement in its completion.] Lord, have mercy!
Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are typically about 1 or 2 mm in diameter, larger than many plants such as poppy, columbine, potulaca and dandelion while relatively small compared to many others such as pumpkin, watermelon, apples, pine-cone or coconuts. Mustard seeds may be colored from yellowish white to black.
Mulberry trees are famous fruit treats tracing back to ancient civilizations. The most impressive aspect of the mulberry tree is that is can grow up to ten feet each year. White mulberries can reach 80 feet, and can also be pyramidal or weeping in form. Red mulberry trees may reach up to 70 feet. The black mulberry is much shorter, reaching only 30 feet, and unless trained tends to grow as a multi-stemmed shrub. The three species differ greatly in longevity. It is unusual for a red mulberry tree to survive more than 75 years, while a black mulberry may produce fruit for hundreds of years. In other words, a mulberry tree has deep roots and is not easily moved by humans or destroyed by disaster.
When outwardly compared to a mustard seed, the mulberry tree is much more formidable and awe inspiring. The mulberry tree relies on its vast network of roots for survival whereas the mustard seed relies on God’s grace to grow. One is not germinated while the other is fully grown and producing fruit.
Jesus insists that “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” What an awesome depiction of faith. If you start where you are, doing the will of God, before you know it, the faith you have will develop in such a way that you will be able to do things you thought impossible. Jesus says develop your faith by using your faith. You don’t get more faith by asking; you get more faith by doing. Lord, have mercy!
One day the great Michelangelo attracted a crowd of spectators as he worked. One child in particular was fascinated by the sight of chips flying and the sound of mallet on chisel. The master was shaping a large block of white marble. Unable to contain her curiosity, the little girl inquired, “What are you making?” He replied, “There is an angel in there and I must set it free.”
Every Christian begins his/her relationship with Christ with a measure of faith. This passage introduces us to a clear path to setting this measure of faith free. The faith God put in you is enough for you to enjoy all that God has in store for your life. Faith does not move your mountains, the God behind your faith moves the mountains. Faith does not set you free; the God behind your faith sets you free!
Jesus outlined three simple ways to release your faith. Three small steps to develop your faith.
First, forgiving those who repent. Christians live knowing that people will offend us. It is inevitable that somebody is going to offend you. Saints, you do not prepare to retaliate, Jesus says you prepare to forgive. Only through forgiveness can those who offend us receive God’s grace. Jesus says in Luke 17:3-4, “3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
Dr. F.B. Meyer tells of a meeting of a church which was seeking a revival. During the meeting an elder got up and said to the minister, “I don’t think there is going to be a revival here as long as Brother Jones and I don’t speak to each other.” He went across to Jones and said, “Brother, you and I haven’t spoken to each other in five years. Let’s bury the hatchet. Here’s my hand.” Shortly afterwards another elder got up and said, “Minister, I think there will be no revival here while I say nice things about you to your face and am disloyal to you behind your back. I want you to forgive me.” Soon others were on their feet settling old scores. Then says Meyer, God began to visit them. The meeting was crowded and a revival broke out that swept over the whole district. There was time for confession and an offer of forgiveness and healing. There could be no forgiveness without repentance and confession; no healing without recognizing the disease.
Second, believing God can change those who repent. Faith is acting on what we believe about God. Jesus does not ask us to look to our faith to forgive others. Jesus reminds us that how big or small our faith is does not determine the outcome. God is able to take those whose offense was huge and transform that person into a servant of his. God has a way of turning people around when you do what he commands you to do. In other words, God develops your faith as you exercise your faith.
In Luke 17:5-6 the disciples look at their limitations rather than God’s abilities. It reads, “5And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 6And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”
We have to believe in God’s ability to respond to the faith he has given us and act on that faith. Years ago, two young men with a long history of delinquency and crime robbed a YMCA on the lower east side of Manhattan. On their way out of the building, they saw a young man at a telephone switchboard. They were frightened and assumed that he was calling the police. They seized him and beat him savagely with brass knuckles and a black jack. Thinking him to be dead, they hid him behind a radiator near the swimming pool and escaped.
Later that evening Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, was walking by the pool. She slipped in the young man’s blood, screamed and then found Donald Tippet’s body. He was rushed to the hospital where he lingered for days between life and death. Eventually he lived but one eye was so badly damaged it could not be saved.
Meanwhile the two young men were apprehended and brought to trial. Their past records assured that they would both get long sentences. However Donald Tippet did an amazing thing. He requested that the judge allow the two young men to be paroled to his charge. He wanted to give the boys a chance to change.
One of the boys blew his opportunity. He committed another crime, was caught and sent to jail. The other boy, however, was responsive to Tippet’s kindness. He went to college and eventually to medical school. He became one of our nation’s leading surgeons – an eye surgeon.
When Everett Palmer wrote of Donald Tippet’s amazing story of forgiveness and this surgeon’s accomplishments, he added, “I wonder if he ever performed one of those delicate eye operations without thinking of that night in the YMCA.”
Third and finally, Seeing forgiveness as our Christian duty. Listen to verses 7-10 again. “7But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? 8And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? 9Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
This parable gives us two types of responses to offense. The first one appears when the disciples come to Jesus and ask him to increase their faith. They give evidence of a church that believes it is their faith that makes the difference in someone’s life. They value church membership and fellowship more than evangelism and outreach. This church is a little bit like the tavern called “Cheers” where everybody’s knows your name, and everybody’s glad you came, and everyone’s problems are all the same.
And this church likes it that way! There is a sense of community, a sense of belonging and caring, and we value it deeply. The prayer in this church is “God, give us greater faith, and greater blessings, and greater fellowship with our friends.” But God don’t ask us to forgive others as you have forgiven us! Don’t move us out of our comfort zone. If you want us to do this, God you have to provide us something that we don’t have because we’re not prepared to do this. Lord, have mercy!
The second response is dutiful forgiveness. What Jesus tells the disciples is that forgiveness is hard work. He uses the imagery of a slave serving his master. The servant has no right to demand anything of the master nor to expect to do anything but serve the master.
It’s not a comfortable image for Christian people, and perhaps that’s why this is not one of our most loved parables. We don’t like to think of ourselves as “worthless slaves;” we prefer to see ourselves as “special lambs.” But we cannot ignore the obvious expectation of Jesus in this parable; Jesus calls Christians to pack a lunch pail, put on a hardhat, and spend themselves by serving others.
Not just exhaust themselves in service, but do so without any recognition. It is amazing that in the church today, people have to be recognized in order to serve the Lord. Either pay me, applaud me, give me an award, or make me important. Servant leadership has taken a back seat to selfless service.
Jesus admonishes us not to look for better treatment from those we forgive, nor to look for God to shout our names from his throne. Jesus admonishes us to consider the act of forgiveness routine and to do so habitually simply because of what God has done for us. How many do you know that want forgive someone unless that person caters to their every whim or demand? How many people do you know that put requirements on their forgiveness?
I’m glad that God says if you forgive, I can use you to move mountains in people’s lives. People want somebody to forgive them and to understand them. People want someone who will offer them the unconditional love of God. People have made so many mistakes, done so many wrong things in their lives, that when they come to church, they need somebody who will forgive them and offer them God’s grace and mercy to start again.
God wants somebody who will forgive the person who offends them. God wants somebody who will allow him to change that person, and God wants somebody who will do so without any thought to compensation or reward. Forgiveness given in this fashion can be the one avenue that God can use to transform a sinner’s life. Forgiveness offered as a pardon for sins and offenses paves the way for “the goodness of God to cause a sinner to repent.
If you are here this morning and you stand in need of forgiveness, be bid you come. If you have offense against someone and would like to repent before God, we bid you come. If you want God to forgive you and to allow you his grace to begin again, we bid you come. Jesus died for your sins and he stands ready to forgive you! Will you come today?
Hope Is the Belief That Anything Is Possible!
Put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a minute. You’re in your room late at night when an angel appears out of nowhere and tells you you’re going to get pregnant (without having sex) and that your son will reign like a king.
To say this is hard to believe would be an understatement. But after receiving this mind-blowing news, Mary does not question God’s fulfillment of His promises. Her only question is a practical one: “How will this be…since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Instead of getting caught up in questions like “Why me?” or “Are you sure?”, Mary’s response is, “OK. How’s this going to work?”
In this moment, Mary shows us what it means to live in hope. Living in hope is realizing that nothing is impossible with God. The same God who made a way for a virgin to give birth wants to do the impossible in our lives today. The wayward child who leaves you sleepless night after night is within God’s reach. The cancer that threatens a loved one’s life is not beyond God’s ability to heal.
Living in hope, Mary believed God and pursued the sign He gave her. For us, living in hope looks exactly the same—believing that nothing is impossible with God and doing what God has put on our hearts to do. We may not know how all the details will work out, but God always does what He says He’ll do.
Jesus, give me the faith to believe that nothing is impossible and the courage to face what’s before me today. Even though I may not understand how this will all come together, I put my hope in You.
Is there a longing God placed on your heart that seems impossible to fulfill? How can you take a step today to put action to your faith?
(From Bible App Reading Plan “Hope Is”)
There is a distinct difference between the definition of hope used from an ordinary human standpoint, and the definition of hope we find in the pages of Scripture. It is pretty common to hope, right? We hope we get a job. We hope our kids are well behaved. We hope we make enough money to pay our bills. But our human hope implies a degree of uncertainty, things are not sure, they are possibilities but not certainties. In Scripture, however, hope is void of uncertainty. In fact, certainty is at its core, because it rests in the stability of God, His character and His will, which are unwavering. Biblical hope, then, can be defined as, “the confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.”
We also see in Scripture the close connection between hope and faith. In Hebrews 6:11-12, the writer of Hebrews uses the term, “full assurance of hope”. This phrase is also used in Hebrews 10:22 and translated, “full assurance of faith”. Faith defined for us in Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is both the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. So hope is an element of faith looking specifically toward the future, while faith encompasses a belief and trust in God for our past, our present, and our future. This distinction is critical to understanding the confidence that lies in a biblically defined hope. Hope is essential to our faith.
As a result of working with me, clients refuse to stay paralyzed. They move forward with that they can achieve higher goals in life. One such person improved …his ability to connect while speaking publicly and his audience increased and his opportunities greatly improved. Another person discovered that she was beautiful inside and out and decided to show her potential to those from whom she once hid. She received better compensation and more opportunities in her career field. Another gentleman gained enough personal skills to overcome his introvert tendencies and mix and mingle at networking opportunities which benefited his company prospects.
My clients felt better, looked better, and did better. They learned that they could Win Again. They learned that a failure in life does not have to be a death sentence. They took the strategies they learned, applied them to their situations and came out of a situation of despair into a future of hope. That’s the kind of results I want for you. Join with me in the next couple of weeks to explore how you can also experience more again, more fun, more money, more opportunities, more confidence, and more challenges. You can Win Again! The power is still within you, let me help you strengthen your spirit and bring it out where you can employ your power to gain what you truly desire in life. As Les Brown says, “You Deserve; There is Greatness Within You!” I believe that and I know I can help you.
Join me in this transformation process; let me walk alongside you as you get the results you desire. This program works because when you’re ready to work it; doors open in your spirit and mind and whey you’re ready doors open in the world. The world is waiting on you to want it. I’m waiting on you to want it! Let’s do this together. Inbox me, call me, email me, just reach out to me; there is nothing to fear, but fear itself. So I say again, “Do it afraid!” Now is the time for you; You Can Win Again!