Hope Personified

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE TV DAD?  WHY?

Who are your favorite TV dads? Here are those TV dads that bring me fond memories (not ranked in any order):

  1. Jim Anderson, “Father Knows Best” (Robert Young):Jim always had a solution for things when his wife and kids needed him. Everything got solved in 30 minutes! This show started on network radio on NBC and when television started growing, Young and his partner Gene Rodney took it to Columbia Pictures’ TV division and the show ran from 1953 to 1963, first on CBS and later NBC. Also ran in reruns in daytime on ABC.
  2. Ward Cleaver, “Leave It To Beaver” (Hugh Beaumont):Ward was a great father to Wally and The Beaver but you sure didn’t want to cross him! Beaumont in real life was a Methodist minister and a movie actor in the 1940s playing the role of Detective Michael Shayne. The Beaver show started on CBS in 1957 but moved to ABC and stayed there until 1963. Has been in syndication since!
  3. Cliff Huxtable, “The Cosby Show” (Bill Cosby): Nothing more needs to be said… remains one of the most successful shows in television history. Big hit when it ran on NBC and later in syndication.
  4. Ben Cartwright, “Bonanza” (Lorne Greene): Ben would do anything for Hoss, Little Joe, and Adam…. all born with different mothers that were married to Ben… ostensibly the women died giving childbirth. Airing on TV since 1959.
  5. Tim Taylor, “Home Improvement” (Tim Allen): In the 1990s, it was one of the most watched sitcoms in the American market, winning many awards. The series launched Tim Allen’s acting career and also was the start of the television career ofPamela Anderson, who was part of the recurring cast for the first two seasons.
  6. Charles Ingalls, “Little House On The Prairie” (Michael Landon):Father to four daughters, three adopted kids, and husband to Caroline, making a living during the 1800s. Based on books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Ran on NBC from 1974-1983.
  7. Andy Taylor, “The Andy Griffith Show” (Andy Griffith):This show was a spin off from “Make Room For Daddy” starring Danny Thomas. Thomas and Sheldon Leonard who were the producers created the Griffith show and as we all know this show became iconic with millions of Americans. After 50 years, the show still can be seen and in some areas of the country it is scheduled around local TV newcasts. Ran on CBS from 1961-1968.
  8. Mike Brady, “The Brady Bunch” (Robert Reed):Great TV father and husband. In real life, Reed clashed with the show’s producer Sherwood Schwartz over creative issues. Reed was a Shakespearean trained actor and thought that some of the stuff on “The Brady Bunch” was hokey, but Schwartz would have nothing to do with it. Ran on ABC from 1969-1974 and still airing today.
  9. Jed Clampett, “The Beverly Hillbillies” (Buddy Ebsen):Ebsen was a dancer by training and appeared in movies during the 1930s and 1940s. Television revived his career when producer Paul Henning cast him as the head of the Clampett family who strikes oil in the Ozarks and goes from rags to riches while trying to fit in Beverly Hills, California.
  10. Steve Douglas, “My Three Sons” (Fred MacMurray):MacMurray was a Hollywood movie actor starting in the 1930s, usually cast as a tough guy (“Double Indemnity”) but later was cast in movies produced by Disney in softer, comedic roles. MacMurray was one of the richest actors in Hollywood in his day, known around town as a tightwad! He was a great TV father on “My Three Sons,” but on the set he would come and do his part and leave, not very personable with the kids. Show ran on CBS from 1960-1972.

 

Everyone’s perception of God is colored to some degree by their attitude and relationship with their father.  Even those who never knew their father might see God as an absentee God or they will paint God as the type of father they wish they had.  Throughout the Bible, God is referred to as our Father.  Jesus used an illustration of a father to help us grasp the depth of God the Father’s love for us.

READ Luke 15:11-12

During this time, the religious leaders criticized Jesus, not because the tax collectors and sinners were coming to Him, but because he was welcoming them.  Jesus told three parables to illustrate lostness and the importance God places on recovering those who are lost.  The third one, His parable about the prodigal son, illustrates how a loving father welcomes any sinner who comes to Him. It increased the percentage loss from 1 out of 100 sheep to 1 out of 10 coins to 1 out of 2 sons.  However, the loss of a son rather than sheep or silver ramps up the devastation.  So the third parable clarified and complemented Jesus’ instruction concerning the rescue of a sinner through the gospel.  Each of the three stories shows the sinner’s repentance and return to God.

The Pharisees repeatedly failed to realize what brings God contentment, satisfaction and joy.  The Pharisees and scribes grumbled about Jesus’ welcoming tax collectors and sinners in the first two verses of this chapter.  Dining with the crowd gave a silent affirmation and approval to them as persons, outraging the Pharisees and scribes who would never have socialized with such people.

WHO WAS THIS PARABLE REALLY ABOUT?  The father – not the prodigal son

Jesus began the parable with, “A man had two sons”.  The father symbolized God the Father.  The younger son typified a repentant sinner and the older son represented the self-righteous Pharisees.  The younger son demanded his share of the estate from his father to try to find a happy life in a distant country.  Judaism advised against granting such a request, but it could happen.  A son asking for his share of the estate showed disrespect by suggesting he could not wait for his father to die.  The demand communicated that his father no longer fit into his plans.  By demanding his inheritance, the son sowed seeds of discord in the family.

By the way, this (sowing discord) is one of the things God hates:

READ Proverbs 6:16-19

#1 – He had the freedom to choose

His actions harmed the father’s reputation, jeopardized his family’s financial security and fractured the family. The father, who did not refuse the son’s outrageous request, distributed the assets (to both sons).

DID THIS COST THE FATHER?  WHY DID HE DO IT?

READ Luke 15:13-19

After cashing in his share of the estate to bankroll his rebellion, the younger son headed off to a distant country.  Jesus reported ever so briefly that the son wasted all he had through poor choices.  All the money he could have could not provide what he was really looking for.  Having tried everything he could do on his own, he then chose to return to where he had all he needed to start with.

DOES THIS SOUND LIKE DOROTHY AFTER SHE WAKES UP IN THE WIZARD OF OZ?

Coming to his senses (you might too if you couldn’t even get the leftovers from pig’s food) and remembering how his father’s servants lived, he had to go back home.  His actions, more important than any emotional feelings of remorse, show the appropriate changes in thinking and behavior.  He accepted full responsibility for destroying the relationship with his father and sought reconciliation. BUT…

No respectable father in that time would have greeted a rebellious son if he would return.  It would break all Middle Eastern protocol.  The son’s outrageous and rebellious actions had brought dishonor upon his father and tarnished his family’s name.  The Pharisees and scribes would have expected the father to have refused to meet him, or to have forced him to sit outside the family gate in public view so the whole town could browbeat him with shame.  Furthermore, the son could expect to wait out certain period of time thoroughly humbling himself before his father.  Only then, would the father tell him with a measure of indifference how long the son would have to work to restore what had been squandered.  Only after the son had squared everything through the penances dictated by his father could he possibly hope to find some measure of favor again with his father.

OH, HOW IT IS WITH US – THIS IS OUR REACTION, NOT THAT OF OUR FATHER.

#2 God has the love that embraces

IT IS POSSIBLE TO GO HOME AGAIN?  IS IT YOU, SOMEONE YOU LOVE, OR KNOW? God yearns for us to return to Him, even if we have not rebelled like this.  How do I know this?  Check out the father’s response to seeing his son:

READ Luke 15:20-21

Jesus’ story blindsided His audience.  While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him.  At best, he could hope for a half-hearted welcome and perhaps some menial job working for his father.  Oh, but consider this father!  He must have waited daily; yearning to see his son return.  Finally, he caught a glimpse of his dejected and emaciated boy – and it melted his heart in compassion.  Throwing aside conventions of dignity, the father RAN with exuberance.  He went beyond normal forgiveness and cascaded his son with incredible love!

Even before the disgraced son could butter up his father with his well-rehearsed confession, his father threw his arms around the boy’s neck and kissed him.  Everything he did signaled his absolute affection and complete reconciliation.

The father’s demonstration of love and acceptance without the son paying for his transgressions shocked the scribes and the Pharisees.  Even today, many people have adopted a similar view of spiritual economy – making works the means of salvation rather than God’s free gift of grace through faith.

#3 God has the grace that restores

This picture reveals God’s attitude and activity toward sinners:

READ Luke 15:7

While He longs to embrace and keep close those who rebel, just like the father in this parable, God will not force anyone to stay home.  The father, like our Heavenly Father, had a love that remained constant despite the hurt caused by the son’s departure.  His love did not stop at an embrace:

Read Luke 15:22-24

Despite the son’s actions, the father lavished on him the best gifts imaginable (still boggling the minds of the audience).

Bring out the best robe – either the master’s or the son’s to denote his place of love and honor in the family.

Put a ring on his finger – confirming the son’s return to a place of authority in the household

Put sandals on his feet – only the sons and the master wore shoes – full sonship

To completely restore a son who had shamed his father and blown through a third of the family’s assets (the older son was due a double portion according to the Jewish tradition) did not line up with their theology.  They would have demanded at least a waiting period or reentry time with limitations on family privileges.  NO – that is not the way our Heavenly Father works.  He waits – even searches – for us to come home to Him.

READ Luke 19:10 – Jesus came to SEEK and save the lost

When we repent from our sinfulness and turn to Him, like the father in the parable, He absorbs the hurt and the loss and He lavishes us with the blessing of a full relationship with Him.

By linking the three parables in this chapter – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son – Jesus gave a higher profile to the celebratory nature of the son’s return.  The shepherd and the woman invited their friends to rejoice with them, but when the father did it – it was the biggest deal anyone could imagine.

Did the son earn it? No!  Do WE deserve it? No! How great the love of our Father!

READ 1 John 3:1

We don’t have to hit rock bottom to decide to go home to our Father or to someone else.  Instead we can make the decision now.

What now?

  1. We can go home – if you have been keeping your distance from God, return to Him. Begin praying daily and reading your Bible.  God will show you the way back and looking for you to return.
  2. We can forgive generously – when was the last time you ran to forgive someone? Forgive even if it seems strange and shocking to everyone else around.  Forgive as God as forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).  Let that someone know you’ve forgiven them. Don’t be like the older son (remember he was the picture of the Pharisees) – vs. 25-32.
  3. We can invite someone home – engage in honest, but loving, conversation with a “prodigal” in your life. Patiently walk with the person as he or she finds the way to the Father.

Hope for a hopeless world

Early Edition was a popular television program in the 1990s that featured a young man who received the next day’s newspaper a day ahead of time. Because he always knew the future, this man’s task in each episode was to save people from a tragedy or problem he had read about in tomorrow’s paper. So if he knew a building was going to burn, he tried to keep people from entering it. Or if someone was going to be hurt by an act of violence or an accident he tried to prevent the encounter from taking place.

If you own a Bible, you have an “early edition” of future events. By reading God’s prophetic Word, you can know God’s plan for all eternity. It is worth noting that for every prophecy on the first coming of Christ when He was born as a babe in Bethlehem, there are eight prophecies on the second coming of Christ. This truth is central to the Word of God. Statisticians tell us there are 1,845 OT references to Christ’s return. A total of 17 books out of a possible 39 give it prominence. When we move across to the NT, the figures are no less impressive. Of the 260 chapters in the NT, there is a minimum of 318 references to Christ’s return. That comes out to about one verse for every 30 verses in the whole NT.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I’m not interested in prophecy and all that end times gobblygook.” To which I would reply, “Do you long to have hope?” By hope I mean absolute confidence and peace in your present and future circumstances. Hope is one of the great characteristics of Christian reality. At the start of the letter (1:3), Paul tells us that hope produces perseverance. If there is no hope in the church, there will be no perseverance, and no perseverance will mean the demise of local churches. Fortunately, there is good news: God provides hope in a hopeless world. In 1 Thess 4:13-18, Paul shares two convictions that we can count on.
1. Hope in your resurrection (4:13-16).
In this first section, Paul promises us that if we have placed our faith in Christ, we will one day be resurrected. In 4:13 Paul reveals a problem: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” The word “but” introduces a new subject but also connects to the previous paragraph. The restlessness of disorderly believers (4:11-12) was, in part, caused by an incomplete understanding of the resurrection of the body. The Thessalonians rightly understood that Christ was going to return; however, they had not considered the possibility that some of their loved ones and friends would die before it occurred. They, therefore, plunged into deep grief. Doubts filled their minds as to the status of these prematurely deceased believers. All sorts of questions were going through their minds: “What will happen to our loved ones who die before Christ returns? Will they miss out on the resurrection? What about those of us who are alive when Christ returns? Will we receive our resurrection bodies then or later?”

In light of these questions, Paul educates these believers about the status of their brothers and sisters who have passed away. In 4:13, he states the purpose of this entire passage with the phrase “so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” Is Paul being cruel and heartless here? No! It is not wrong to grieve over the death of a loved one. Jesus Himself grieved over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35) and He knew full well He was going to bring him back to life. Paul merely says that when death comes we should not grieve hopelessly but mourn with hope. Our attitude toward death is a distinguishing feature that witnesses to the reality of the gospel. This is yet another example of leading a “quiet life” (cf. 4:11).

We have lost a lot of family members in the past 15 years. There is a stark contrast in the difference between the way the world grieves and the way followers of Jesus grieve. As far as some of us know, some of us have family members in hell because they rejected Christ. On the other hand, I am confident that many of my family members are at home in heaven and will come back with Jesus someday.

For you see, when believers die it is not “goodbye,” but only “good night.” We will see them again when Jesus returns. God provides hope in a hopeless world.
Now I recognize that you may not want to think about death today. One of the things that Christians and non-Christians have in common is that we don’t like to think about death. 52% of unchurched adults say they never wonder if they will go to heaven after they die. Death is usually the last thing we want to talk about; it makes us squirm and feel uncomfortable. And yet, life being what it is, we cannot walk away from it. Where is your hope found? If it’s not found in Jesus Christ, you are without hope. You may have happiness, but you do not have hope. There is no hope apart from Christ. If you put your hope in your church, you will be disappointed. If you put your hope in your friends and family, they will fail you. If you place your hope in your job or your money, you will be disillusioned. Only Christ offers permanent, eternal hope. Today, at this very moment, will you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin? Will you stop trying to be “good enough” to please God? Instead, will you trust in the only One who can meet God’s expectations? The Lord Jesus Christ offers you eternal life as a free gift if you will simply ask Him for it. God provides hope in a hopeless world.

In 4:14, Paul gives his first reason why we can have hope. He writes, “For if [since] we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”

The death and resurrection of Jesus is the irreducible minimum of the gospel. A person cannot become a Christian without believing these two great truths (see Acts 2:23-24; 3:14-15; 5:30; Rom 4:25; 8:34; 14:9; 2 Cor 5:14-15; and Rev 1:8). The inevitable result of believing that Jesus died and rose is the hope that He will return. In other words, the return of Christ is as certain as His death and resurrection. Our hope for the future is grounded in the certainty of the past. This verse is also clear that those who have “fallen asleep in Jesus” will return with Him.

Paul has just said that dead believers are asleep. If they were simply buried in the ground awaiting the resurrection, how could Christ bring them back from heaven with Him when He returns? You can’t come back with someone unless you’re already with him. But Paul clearly said that sleeping things will come back with Jesus when He returns. The term “asleep” is a euphemism for death (4:13, 14, and 15). The Bible never uses the term “asleep” or “sleep” when referring to unbelievers—only the passing of believers. “Sleep” explains what happens to a Christian’s body at death, NOT his spirit or soul. The Bible never teaches that a Christian’s soul goes to sleep upon death. Soul-sleep is a false doctrine that is taught by Jehovah Witnesses or Seventh-day Adventists. The soul of the dead is unconscious in reference to this world but wide awake and fully conscious of the world to come. Stephen’s spirit went to be with the Lord, but his body fell asleep (Acts 7:60). After death, the thief on the cross was with Jesus in Paradise (Luke 23:43). When a believer dies, his or her spirit goes immediately into the presence of Christ. Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5:8 that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” The moment a Christian dies, that person’s spirit leaves the body and is immediately with the Lord. The body, not the soul, sleeps in death. This is why the New Testament writers use the term “sleep” or “asleep” for believers. If you are a Christian, you will not taste death for even a nanosecond. Before the doctor has a chance to pronounce you dead, you will be in the Lord’s presence. God provides hope in a hopeless world.

In 4:15-16, Paul shares the second reason why we can have hope. In 4:15 he writes, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” Most likely this “word of the Lord” was given in one of Christ’s appearances to Paul (cf. Acts 18:9-10). Paul states that those believers who make up the church of Jesus Christ will rise together when Jesus returns. Those who are asleep will meet up with their spirits, while those who are alive will rise and be given a new glorified body. The bottom line is this: We all are simultaneously given new bodies. I like to think of it like this: Those who are asleep in Jesus have caught an earlier train to their final destination of glory. Today we are standing on the station platform, and who knows, we may be on the next one!

Paul explains himself further in 4:16 where he discloses the details of Christ’s return: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” The return of Jesus will occur with three sounds: Christ’s shout, the archangel’s voice, and the trumpet of God. The word “shout” is a military expression and it indicates a command or an order that is given. It is as if the troops are standing at ease and the command issued is, “Come to attention!” This voice will wake the dead. We don’t know the specific content of the command; however, in biblical times whenever the king was coming to a village, the town crier ran ahead and shouted, “The king is coming! The king is coming!” In the same way, the King of Kings will make His entrance known to the entire world.

The second sound is the archangel’s voice. Daniel 10:13 implies several archangels, but the Bible only mentions one, Michael (Jude 9). Michael is most likely the leader of the holy angels. Since he and the other angels have been commissioned to protect God’s people (Dan 12:1; Heb 1:14), it may be that he is present to protect God’s people from Satan and his forces as they pass through his domain.

The final sound is the trumpet of God. The archangel and trumpet of God are united by the conjunction “and” so that the archangel is represented as sounding God’s trumpet. Since the days when Israel was camped down at Mount Sinai, trumpets were used to call God’s people together for assembly (Num 10:2). This trumpet blast summons the church to gather in heaven (cf. 1 Cor 15:52).

There are two different views regarding these sounds: One is that these sounds are only heard by believers; another view suggests that these sounds are heard by everyone. I prefer the latter view because I think this makes it more difficult for Oprah and others to explain away the rapture. Seriously, these three descriptions sound rather public, don’t they? It is likely that unbelievers will be aware that something unique, supernatural, and amazing is taking place; however, they will not understand its meaning and significance.

Paul is clear that dead believers will rise before living believers (cf. 1 Cor 15:52). Yet, not just any person will rise from the dead but only those who are “in Christ.” The Bible never claims that Old Testament saints are “in Christ.” The “dead in Christ” refers only to those believers who have died since the ascension of Christ. Paul is addressing Christians who have died in the church age. Dan 12:1-2 predicts the resurrection of the righteous dead of OT times as well as the righteous martyrs of the Tribulation at the second coming of Christ (Rev 20:4-6). Believers of the church age will already have been changed and raised at the Rapture. The unsaved dead are left in their graves. They will be raised at the Great White Throne judgment 1000 years later, see Rev. 20:5).He was comforting those Thessalonians who had lost loved ones by saying, “Death is not as final as it seems. Your loved ones have not missed out on the coming of the Lord. In fact, they will be the first ones to receive their brand-new bodies.” This answers the Thessalonians’ concerns. No one who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ will in any way miss out on His return. God provides hope in a hopeless world.
[Why should you hope in your resurrection? Why should you have confidence that God will raise your loved ones who have believed in Christ? God’s Word authoritatively says so!]
2. Hope in your reunion (4:17-18).
In this second section, Paul says we can be certain that Christ will come for us and we will be reunited with Him and our fellow believers. In 4:17 he writes, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” This verse teaches there is a Christian generation that will not experience death. Like Enoch and Elijah in the Old Testament, some believers will bypass death and be taken directly to heaven. The phrase “caught up” comes from the Greek verb harpazo, which means “to grab or seize suddenly.” This word is used of Paul being taken into heaven (2 Cor 12:2, 4). It is also used of Phillip being snatched after baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:39). This word is also where we get the term “rapture.” When the New Testament was translated into Latin (i.e., the Vulgate), the scholars rendered harpazo as the Latin verb rapturo. It is just a short step then from the noun form raptura to the English word “rapture.” While the word “rapture” does not occur in our English translations of the Bible, the sense of the word is surely there. The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible either, yet no informed Christian denies its truth.

Paul writes that we will be raptured or “caught up” with the Lord and His people in the clouds. This is one of the primary differences between the rapture and the Second Coming. At the rapture, Christ never sets foot on the earth; at the second coming, “His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east” (Zech 14:4).When you look up into the sky and see the clouds, what do you think of? If you’re like me, you instantaneously think of the fact that Jesus could crack the sky and return at any moment. Whenever we look up into the sky and see clouds, we should be reminded of the reality of Christ’s return. Interestingly, “clouds” are often used figuratively in the Bible to refer to the presence and glory of God. It is best in this passage to understand the clouds as referring to the visible presence and glory of the Lord. Thus, at the rapture, it is the glorious Lord Jesus who appears and brings the saints into the presence of His glory. God provides hope in a hopeless world.
How will the rapture happen? 1 Cor 15:51 teaches that the rapture will take place “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” The Greek word for moment is the word from which we get the English word “atom.” For years, the atom was thought to be the smallest, most irreducible part of matter. They’ve now split the atom, but the point is still made that the time it will take for Christ to rapture His church is infinitesimally small.
The twinkling of an eye is the time it takes for your eye to catch light, which is a lot faster than a blink. We will be changed and given our new bodies instantly. Stop for just a moment and blink your eyelid. The return of Christ will be quicker than that! One moment you’re baking cookies, the next moment you’re flying like Superman. One second you’re eating pizza, the next you’re in the air. One minute you’re in the shower, the next you’re being blown dry at 30,000 feet. Just like that. We will be here one moment and gone the next. Paul then says we shall be with the Lord forever…and ever…and ever. God provides hope in a hopeless world.

As I have implied, this passage suggests that Paul believes Christ could return at any moment. Theologians call this the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ. “Imminent” means that it can happen at any moment. As Christians, we do not look for signs, nor must any special events transpire before the Lord can return. In other words, there are no other signs that need to be fulfilled before Christ returns. This view is often called the pre-tribulation rapture (i.e., before the tribulation). In brief summary, the pre-tribulation position believes that Jesus Christ could rapture His church into heaven at any time. Immediately following this event, the judgment seat of Christ will take place. While this is going on in heaven, the tribulation will begin on earth. This will last for a period of seven years. At the conclusion of the seven years, Christ will return in power and glory and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem for a thousand years (i.e., the millennium).

During this time He will fulfill the Old Testament promises He made to Israel. Once this is complete, the eternal state will be ushered in. This view is certainly not held by all Christians, yet at this time in my study, I believe this view is the best position. Although there are problems with the pre-trib position and every other position, I believe the pre-trib position has the least amount of problems. Practically speaking, the pre-trib position allows me to expect Jesus Christ to return at any moment. This motivates me to be holy because I never know when my Master will return. However, I am also humble enough to recognize that I could easily be wrong in my interpretation of Scripture. The longer I teach this subject, the more I realize how little I know. The danger with the end times is many people know just enough to be dangerous. Thus, we must all be careful not to become proud and divisive in our understanding of the end times. We must hold our eschatological views loosely.

As Yogi Berra once said, “Predictions are tricky—especially when they involve the future.” Even though I am pre-trib, I am preparing to endure tribulation. You could say that this is playing the end against the middle, but I see it as the wisest way to live the Christian life. Expect Jesus Christ to return at any moment, but be prepared to suffer greatly before He comes.

Verse 18 is the main point of this passage. Paul concludes this passage with this command: “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Notice what Paul doesn’t say:
He doesn’t say, “Therefore, make charts based on these words,” or
“Write theology books based on these words.”
He doesn’t say, “Set dates, sell your possessions, run to the hills, and form a Christian militia.”
Nor does he suggest that we should go our merry way without paying any further regard to these future events.
God didn’t reveal these things to satisfy our curiosity to solve puzzles, but to help us follow Jesus confidently. The important thing is that we should be ready when Jesus comes. Rather, Paul commands us to “encourage one another.” Most English versions prefer the translation “encourage” (NET, ESV, HSB, NIV) over “comfort” (NASB, NKJV). I opt for this rendering as well. “Comfort” is an aspect of the overarching word “encourage.” We are to encourage one another with the reality of our future resurrection and reunion.

So how can we encourage one another today?
o Encourage believers in the face of death. When you interact with believers who are fearful of death, reassure them that the moment their heart stops beating they will be in the presence of Jesus. In the midst of sin, suffering and grief, encourage one another. Don’t give pat theological answers. Feel the other person’s pain. Wrestle with their questions and doubt. But in the end, encourage them with the return of Christ.
o Encourage biblical stewardship. When a fellow believer makes sacrifices for the kingdom, seek to affirm this brother or sister. Let this person know how much you respect his or her decisions. Affirm their sacrificial use of time, talents, and treasure. When a believer gives of his or her finances, encourage that person that they are laying up treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19-21). If a believer prioritizes serving in the local church, remind that person that their labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58).
o Encourage reaching out to the lost. If time is short and hell is hot, we have a responsibility to share Jesus Christ with those who need Him. When you see or hear about a brother or sister sharing Christ, build up that believer. Remind that person that there are only two things that are eternal: God’s Word and people’s souls. Let them know that they may be used by God to bring an eternal soul to glory.
o Encourage worship. Many Christians assume that a lifestyle of worship is only for those who are the sensitive, sappy types. Yet, the truth is believers will be worshiping Christ for all eternity. Therefore, it is wise for us to start practicing now. Those that worship God NOW will be more at home in eternity. And those who worship God now will find that all of these other activities naturally take care of themselves.

The return of Jesus Christ is sure, it’s wonderful, and it could happen anytime. It’s like a telephone answering machine that tells you, “I’m not home now, but when I return I will call you.” If the person we have called is reliable, we can expect a return call even though we don’t know whether it will be five minutes or five hours before it comes. Jesus is coming back! It could happen at any moment. Whatever you are going through right now, as painful as it may be, it is only temporary. In a very short while, you and I will be resurrected and reunited with Christ and our loved ones. In the midst of battles with sin, suffering, and Satan, God provides hope in a hopeless world. May we hope in this promise because it is our only hope.

Hope Renewed

Hope Renewed
Small group, MBC, July 13, 2014
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT WAYS PEOPLE RESPOND TO FAILURE?
We fail, but Jesus gives us hope. We often kick ourselves when we are down. “If I were a real Christian, I wouldn’t do that!” Peter knew something of failure – HIS BIGGEST? Denying Jesus three times. Our failures may not get THAT kind of attention (thankfully), but we need to experience that grace every time we fail.
The same grace we need for salvation is what we need to live out the Christian life. The hope we have in Jesus is grounded in grace – and that is what we need every day. It is a grace that picks us up when we fall.
DO YOU REMEMBER LEARNING TO RIDE A BIKE? Who taught you? Did you use training wheels? What did you do when you fell? How long before you tried again?
HOW IS THIS LIKE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE? We will all fall and need others to help us up. Failure is painful. The question is not IF we are going to fall, but what we will do WHEN we fall. I am thankful that I can learn from Peter.
When we consider the life and ministry of Peter, we see a common, hard-working man who by God’s grace came to know and follow Jesus. But, like us, he had some difficulties to overcome. The Holy Spirit did not give up on Peter – and He will not give up on us either.
READ John 18:15-18 and 25-27
Do you remember how Peter met Jesus?
READ John 1:35-42
Jesus identified Peter as “rock” – an appropriate name for Simon after his conversion. Later, Jesus came by the Sea of Galilee and called Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John to follow Him.
When Jesus asked who the disciples said He was, it was Peter who said – “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus commended him and promised to build His church on that truth. Later, Peter (with James and John) witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration as He talked to Moses and Elijah. They heard a voice from Heaven – “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5).
Jesus also prepared Peter and the other disciples for His death and resurrection – but I suspect that was hard to grasp. Going from a royal reception for His arrival in Jerusalem to being arrested not too long after no doubt shook up everyone in their group. This is the same Peter who even refused Jesus’ washing his feet – he did not want to accept the Servant Leadership Jesus came to demonstrate. But Jesus did tell him that he would be “sifted” by Satan and that Peter would deny Jesus three times.
Nonetheless, Jesus took Peter, James and John to the garden of Gethsemane. WHO WAS IT THAT TOOK OUT HIS KNIFE TO DEFEND JESUS? Peter, of course.
SO, HOW COULD PETER BE SO AFRAID OF BEING IDENTIFIED WITH JESUS?
We tend to see the men and women of Scripture as bigger than life. Their encounters with God, both their victories and their failures, seem so far beyond what we experience today. We might be tempted to say, “I would never fail Jesus like that” – but that is exactly what Peter said too, and he did it three times!
HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THE SHAME OF FAILING OVER AND OVER AGAIN?
Murray Warmath, former head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers (1954-1971), once said about his team’s pathetic win-loss record in 1958 and 1959: “If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education.”
Do you feel like you too are getting nothing but a “good education”? Do you feel like you’re knocked down more times than you deserve, crossing the goal line fewer times than you should? We all go through stages of defeat — sometimes stages of extended defeat — but Warmath is right: this is where lessons are learned; it’s where we get the best education.
Bill Gates once said, “Success is a lousy teacher.” One of the world’s most successful men understands this principle: You learn more from your losses than you learn from your victories … that is, if you’re willing to take the time to evaluate your failures.
Ever had a bad day at work? When it happens, how do you respond? Do you shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh well; guess I wasn’t ‘on’ today.”? Do you ask, “I wonder what was wrong with those people today?” Or do you relive it moment by painful moment?
It’s the days of defeat that often teach us our most valuable lessons in preparation and dependence on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, I am thankful for the projects or activities that went awry. In the long run, they’ve helped me be more effective and more consistent.
This principle works in every area of life, IF you’re willing to learn from your past mistakes — jobs that didn’t work out, relationships that failed, ministry projects that fell short of expectations, and on and on. We need to get in the habit of using mistakes as a foundation for a good education. Failure is a good teacher if you’re willing to pay attention to what it says.
WHAT ABOUT PETER? Did he learn from this failure? Let’s hear the rest of the story…
READ John 21:15-19
At least ten times, Jesus appeared after His death:
1. Mary Magdalene at the grave – John 20:1-18
2. Mary (Martha’s sister) at the tomb – Matthew 28
3. He appeared to Peter (no details) Luke 24:34
4. He appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-25)
5. He appeared to the ten disciples behind closed doors (Luke24:36-39)
6. A week later, He appeared to the disciples with Thomas (John 20:26-29)
7. After that, he appeared to some disciples fishing – this is the passage we just read
8. He appeared to many at a mountain in Galilee, including the disciples – Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20)
9. Later he appeared to his brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
10. Final appearance – (to all) He promised them the Holy Spirit and that they would “be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4-8)
DID YOU CATCH HOW MANY TIMES JESUS APPEARED TO PETER OF THE TEN? SIX.
There’s no doubt that Peter loved Jesus, but Peter may have wondered what his future with the twelve disciples would be. That may explain why Peter told some of the other disciples, “I am going fishing” (John 21:3). The night’s fishing proved fruitless, until, at daybreak, a figure on the shore told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Then, when the catch was so large that they could not haul it in, John stated that it must be Jesus on the shore. In his usual fashion, Peter leapt out and went straight for Jesus.
This sets the stage for these passages and for the conversation between Jesus and Peter. The three charges to Peter from Jesus include feeding, guiding and taking care of the flock. Peter was charged to be the “rock” and provide whatever was needed to the new church.
From Peter’s experiences, we are reminded that each of us can and will fail at times. But as Peter’s life shows, Jesus is waiting to restore us.
READ Proverbs 24:16 – For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity
Experiencing failure puts you in pretty good company. There’s a long list of great people who have failed in the past.
Speaking only of financial failure (bankruptcy), do you know who this list includes? Mark Twain. Burt Reynolds. Walt Disney. Donald Trump. Milton Hershey, of Hershey Chocolate. H.J. Heinz, of Heinz Ketchup. Wayne Newton. Larry King. Mickey Rooney. Johnny Unitas. Even Johnny Unitas!
All of these experienced financial failure, but the label of failure doesn’t exactly fit them, does it? Why not? Because they got up and tried again.
The Bible says even a righteous man will fall seven times (in other words, again and again), but he gets back up.
That’s the difference. The wicked are brought down by calamity, but the righteous man gets up to try once again.
In which area of your life do you need to get up and try again?

What now?
1. Be honest – about your failures and sins. The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 103:12 that He will toss those failures away as we confess them. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
2. Seek reconciliation – sin rarely just hurts us – go and humbly ask for forgiveness – repair any damage you have caused
3. Foster reconciliation in others – listen and pray with someone seeking forgiveness and restoration

Hope Personified

Hope Personified
Small group, Mobberly Baptist Church, June 22, 2014
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE TV DAD? WHY?
Who are your favorite TV dads? Here are those TV dads that bring me fond memories (not ranked in any order):
1. Jim Anderson, “Father Knows Best” (Robert Young): Jim always had a solution for things when his wife and kids needed him. Everything got solved in 30 minutes! This show started on network radio on NBC and when television started growing, Young and his partner Gene Rodney took it to Columbia Pictures’ TV division and the show ran from 1953 to 1963, first on CBS and later NBC. Also ran in reruns in daytime on ABC.
2. Ward Cleaver, “Leave It To Beaver” (Hugh Beaumont): Ward was a great father to Wally and The Beaver but you sure didn’t want to cross him! Beaumont in real life was a Methodist minister and a movie actor in the 1940s playing the role of Detective Michael Shayne. The Beaver show started on CBS in 1957 but moved to ABC and stayed there until 1963. Has been in syndication since!
3. Cliff Huxtable, “The Cosby Show” (Bill Cosby):Nothing more needs to be said… remains one of the most successful shows in television history. Big hit when it ran on NBC and later in syndication.
4. Ben Cartwright, “Bonanza” (Lorne Greene):Ben would do anything for Hoss, Little Joe, and Adam…. all born with different mothers that were married to Ben… ostensibly the women died giving childbirth. Airing on TV since 1959.
5. Tim Taylor, “Home Improvement” (Tim Allen): In the 1990s, it was one of the most watched sitcoms in the American market, winning many awards. The series launched Tim Allen’s acting career and also was the start of the television career of Pamela Anderson, who was part of the recurring cast for the first two seasons.
6. Charles Ingalls, “Little House On The Prairie” (Michael Landon): Father to four daughters, three adopted kids, and husband to Caroline, making a living during the 1800s. Based on books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Ran on NBC from 1974-1983.
7. Andy Taylor, “The Andy Griffith Show” (Andy Griffith): This show was a spin off from “Make Room For Daddy” starring Danny Thomas. Thomas and Sheldon Leonard who were the producers created the Griffith show and as we all know this show became iconic with millions of Americans. After 50 years, the show still can be seen and in some areas of the country it is scheduled around local TV newcasts. Ran on CBS from 1961-1968.
8. Mike Brady, “The Brady Bunch” (Robert Reed):Great TV father and husband. In real life, Reed clashed with the show’s producer Sherwood Schwartz over creative issues. Reed was a Shakespearean trained actor and thought that some of the stuff on “The Brady Bunch” was hokey, but Schwartz would have nothing to do with it. Ran on ABC from 1969-1974 and still airing today.
9. Jed Clampett, “The Beverly Hillbillies” (Buddy Ebsen): Ebsen was a dancer by training and appeared in movies during the 1930s and 1940s. Television revived his career when producer Paul Henning cast him as the head of the Clampett family who strikes oil in the Ozarks and goes from rags to riches while trying to fit in Beverly Hills, California.
10. Steve Douglas, “My Three Sons” (Fred MacMurray): MacMurray was a Hollywood movie actor starting in the 1930s, usually cast as a tough guy (“Double Indemnity”) but later was cast in movies produced by Disney in softer, comedic roles. MacMurray was one of the richest actors in Hollywood in his day, known around town as a tightwad! He was a great TV father on “My Three Sons,” but on the set he would come and do his part and leave, not very personable with the kids. Show ran on CBS from 1960-1972.

Everyone’s perception of God is colored to some degree by their attitude and relationship with their father. Even those who never knew their father might see God as an absentee God or they will paint God as the type of father they wish they had. Throughout the Bible, God is referred to as our Father. Jesus used an illustration of a father to help us grasp the depth of God the Father’s love for us.
READ Luke 15:11-12
During this time, the religious leaders criticized Jesus, not because the tax collectors and sinners were coming to Him, but because he was welcoming them. Jesus told three parables to illustrate lostness and the importance God places on recovering those who are lost. The third one, His parable about the prodigal son, illustrates how a loving father welcomes any sinner who comes to Him. It increased the percentage loss from 1 out of 100 sheep to 1 out of 10 coins to 1 out of 2 sons. However, the loss of a son rather than sheep or silver ramps up the devastation. So the third parable clarified and complemented Jesus’ instruction concerning the rescue of a sinner through the gospel. Each of the three stories shows the sinner’s repentance and return to God.
The Pharisees repeatedly failed to realize what brings God contentment, satisfaction and joy. The Pharisees and scribes grumbled about Jesus’ welcoming tax collectors and sinners in the first two verses of this chapter. Dining with the crowd gave a silent affirmation and approval to them as persons, outraging the Pharisees and scribes who would never have socialized with such people.
WHO WAS THIS PARABLE REALLY ABOUT? The father – not the prodigal son
Jesus began the parable with, “A man had two sons”. The father symbolized God the Father. The younger son typified a repentant sinner and the older son represented the self-righteous Pharisees. The younger son demanded his share of the estate from his father to try to find a happy life in a distant country. Judaism advised against granting such a request, but it could happen. A son asking for his share of the estate showed disrespect by suggesting he could not wait for his father to die. The demand communicated that his father no longer fit into his plans. By demanding his inheritance, the son sowed seeds of discord in the family.
By the way, this (sowing discord) is one of the things God hates:
READ Proverbs 6:16-19
#1 – He had the freedom to choose
His actions harmed the father’s reputation, jeopardized his family’s financial security and fractured the family. The father, who did not refuse the son’s outrageous request, distributed the assets (to both sons).
DID THIS COST THE FATHER? WHY DID HE DO IT?
READ Luke 15:13-19
After cashing in his share of the estate to bankroll his rebellion, the younger son headed off to a distant country. Jesus reported ever so briefly that the son wasted all he had through poor choices. All the money he could have could not provide what he was really looking for. Having tried everything he could do on his own, he then chose to return to where he had all he needed to start with.
DOES THIS SOUND LIKE DOROTHY AFTER SHE WAKES UP IN THE WIZARD OF OZ?
Coming to his senses (you might too if you couldn’t even get the leftovers from pig’s food) and remembering how his father’s servants lived, he had to go back home. His actions, more important than any emotional feelings of remorse, show the appropriate changes in thinking and behavior. He accepted full responsibility for destroying the relationship with his father and sought reconciliation. BUT…
No respectable father in that time would have greeted a rebellious son if he would return. It would break all Middle Eastern protocol. The son’s outrageous and rebellious actions had brought dishonor upon his father and tarnished his family’s name. The Pharisees and scribes would have expected the father to have refused to meet him, or to have forced him to sit outside the family gate in public view so the whole town could browbeat him with shame. Furthermore, the son could expect to wait out certain period of time thoroughly humbling himself before his father. Only then, would the father tell him with a measure of indifference how long the son would have to work to restore what had been squandered. Only after the son had squared everything through the penances dictated by his father could he possibly hope to find some measure of favor again with his father.
OH, HOW IT IS WITH US – THIS IS OUR REACTION, NOT THAT OF OUR FATHER.
#2 God has the love that embraces
IT IS POSSIBLE TO GO HOME AGAIN? IS IT YOU, SOMEONE YOU LOVE, OR KNOW? God yearns for us to return to Him, even if we have not rebelled like this. How do I know this? Check out the father’s response to seeing his son:
READ Luke 15:20-21
Jesus’ story blindsided His audience. While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. At best, he could hope for a half-hearted welcome and perhaps some menial job working for his father. Oh, but consider this father! He must have waited daily; yearning to see his son return. Finally, he caught a glimpse of his dejected and emaciated boy – and it melted his heart in compassion. Throwing aside conventions of dignity, the father RAN with exuberance. He went beyond normal forgiveness and cascaded his son with incredible love!
Even before the disgraced son could butter up his father with his well-rehearsed confession, his father threw his arms around the boy’s neck and kissed him. Everything he did signaled his absolute affection and complete reconciliation.
The father’s demonstration of love and acceptance without the son paying for his transgressions shocked the scribes and the Pharisees. Even today, many people have adopted a similar view of spiritual economy – making works the means of salvation rather than God’s free gift of grace through faith.
#3 God has the grace that restores
This picture reveals God’s attitude and activity toward sinners:
READ Luke 15:7
While He longs to embrace and keep close those who rebel, just like the father in this parable, God will not force anyone to stay home. The father, like our Heavenly Father, had a love that remained constant despite the hurt caused by the son’s departure. His love did not stop at an embrace:
Read Luke 15:22-24
Despite the son’s actions, the father lavished on him the best gifts imaginable (still boggling the minds of the audience).
Bring out the best robe – either the master’s or the son’s to denote his place of love and honor in the family.
Put a ring on his finger – confirming the son’s return to a place of authority in the household
Put sandals on his feet – only the sons and the master wore shoes – full sonship
To completely restore a son who had shamed his father and blown through a third of the family’s assets (the older son was due a double portion according to the Jewish tradition) did not line up with their theology. They would have demanded at least a waiting period or reentry time with limitations on family privileges. NO – that is not the way our Heavenly Father works. He waits – even searches – for us to come home to Him.
READ Luke 19:10 – Jesus came to SEEK and save the lost
When we repent from our sinfulness and turn to Him, like the father in the parable, He absorbs the hurt and the loss and He lavishes us with the blessing of a full relationship with Him.
By linking the three parables in this chapter – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son – Jesus gave a higher profile to the celebratory nature of the son’s return. The shepherd and the woman invited their friends to rejoice with them, but when the father did it – it was the biggest deal anyone could imagine.
Did the son earn it? No! Do WE deserve it? No! How great the love of our Father!
READ 1 John 3:1
We don’t have to hit rock bottom to decide to go home to our Father or to someone else. Instead we can make the decision now.
What now?
1. We can go home – if you have been keeping your distance from God, return to Him. Begin praying daily and reading your Bible. God will show you the way back and looking for you to return.
2. We can forgive generously – when was the last time you ran to forgive someone? Forgive even if it seems strange and shocking to everyone else around. Forgive as God as forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32). Let that someone know you’ve forgiven them. Don’t be like the older son (remember he was the picture of the Pharisees) – vs. 25-32.
3. We can invite someone home – engage in honest, but loving, conversation with a “prodigal” in your life. Patiently walk with the person as he or she finds the way to the Father.

Hope found

Let Hope in – Hope Found
Small Group, MBC, June 15, 2014
WHEN HAVE YOU LOST SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO YOU? Did you ever lose hope?
Common items to lose – keys, phone, wallet, remote. Why do we look frantically to find these? They all have value – some more than others. Our hope is that we WILL find them. WHAT DOES HOPE LOOK LIKE?
We all need hope, but yet, we are all without hope – but through Jesus, He forgives us of our past, removes our sins and gives us a new hope: a new abundant, eternal life. We are never beyond or outside of His redeeming hands.
We need to share this hope with all the broken people around us – today. Not some distant future of going to heaven when we die, we need to meet people with this hope and show them how to live today. We need to show defeated believers and nonbelievers that they can have hope in Jesus for today. Thoreau said that most people live lives of quiet desperation – filling their needs with pharmaceutical remedies, religious practices, lifestyle changes or a calendar filled with busyness (IS THIS A SIN?). It doesn’t fill the need that God created in each of us. Let’s look today at how Jesus can fill those deepest needs.
READ Matthew 8:1-4
Skin disease was a big deal in Jesus’ time. It could include more than just leprosy – anyone with dry skin or even peeling skin from sunburn could be of concern to others. In Bible times, leprosy began with specks, bumps or patches on the skin and gradually spread to cause sores and swellings. The disease debilitated the body, causing affected areas to ooze infectious fluids, become disfigured and eventually slough off. Old Testament law required anyone with this disease to live in isolation from society:
READ Leviticus 13:45-46
In an effort to keep the disease from spreading, a leper had to keep a distance of at least six feet, and with a strong wind, the distance could stretch to 150 feet. He had to warn anyone coming near to keep away by screaming out repeatedly, “Unclean, Unclean!”
HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE A LEPER? COULD SIN IN OUR LIFE MAKES US FEEL LIKE A LEPER?
When the leprous man saw Jesus, he confidently came up and knelt before Him. Prostrating himself before Jesus and calling Him “Lord” showed respect and acknowledged Him as God’s messianic agent without necessarily confessing belief that Jesus was God. The man assumed Jesus could cure his disease and declared “Lord if You are willing, You can make me clean.” This indicated both humility and faith. Likely, the man’s faith had grown from having seen or heard of Jesus’ other miracles.
No disease struck more fear in the hearts of people in the ancient world than leprosy. WHAT ABOUT TODAY – disease that causes this? The quarantine requirements imposed on lepers and the wretched nature of the disease’s effects forced them to live as untouchables trapped in hopeless misery. Yet, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him (WOULD YOU?) Jesus actions were shocking to his disciples and to those watching. CAN YOU HEAR THEM GASP?
COULD JESUS HAVE CURED THE MAN JUST BY SAYING SO? Sure
SO WHY DID HE TOUCH THE MAN?
Touching the man would have been viewed as violating the law:
READ Leviticus 5:3
Jesus was willing and did heal him – but more importantly, He met a another need – acceptance. WHAT ARE WE DOING TO MEET THAT NEED AROUND US? ARE WE WILLING? – Lesson #1 Jesus IS willing!
Did you catch the two commands Jesus gave to the man? 1) Don’t tell anyone & 2) Show yourself to the priest. WHY DID JESUS NOT WANT THE MAN TO ADVERTISE FOR HIM? Maybe He wanted to avoid the instant fame that would come with this miracle or maybe he wanted to make sure the man made it to the priest – since telling others before the priest had ratified his new status would have been pointless as well as contrary to the law (I did not come to do away with the law; but to fulfill it…)
Let’s think about that second command for a moment. Leviticus 14:1-32 goes through all of those rules he would have to do to offer the gift Moses prescribed – travel to Jerusalem, go through ritual and offering covering an eight day period, then trek back to his Galilean area home – a long process. The priest’s pronouncement would testify to everyone that the man had truly recovered and that Jesus did not violate any law – and, more importantly, that a sign of the Messiah’s arrival had come. But Jesus is not done yet…
READ Matthew 8:5-9
The next appeal for miraculous help came from one typically outcast by Jewish society (DOES THAT SOUND LIKE THE LEPER?), a Gentile, a Roman centurion. Likely, Matthew wanted to demonstrate that the disciples abandon ethnic and cultural prejudices. Having to live under Roman occupation, Matthew’s Jewish readers would have inbred hatred for Romans, especially Roman officers who were known to be especially cruel to the Jews. JESUS CAME TO SHOW THAT HE CAME FOR ALL PEOPLE. DO YOU HAVE CERTAIN PEOPLE GROUPS YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY WITH ACCEPTING OR FORGIVING? (Julie and blacks)
This centurion (commander of 100 men) had a reputation in the community…
READ Luke 7:2-5
This same guy came to Jesus, pleading with Him. Doubtless he had heard much about Jesus and possibly heard Him teach on the mountain near his post. He mostly likely heard about His healing powers. What is interesting is the bond the centurion had with his servant. One Jewish historian noted that it was not unusual for servants of Roman soldiers to train and fight with their masters. Maybe this servant was injured in a battle to protect his master recently. We don’t know the background, but we do know that this centurion was willing to disregard Jewish taboos about visiting a Gentile house. COULD JESUS HAVE HEALED HIS SERVANT FROM A DISTANCE? ARE YOU SEEING A THEME DEVELOP HERE? Lesson #2 – Jesus IS able.
Jesus at once said, “I will come and heal him”. Jesus’ response once again startled the crowd (and probably the disciples). The centurion may have been surprised as well – WHAT WAS HE EXPECTING? Maybe he knew the Jewish people well enough to understand how they felt about entering a Gentile’s home, so he simply said, “Lord, I am not worthy of You”. Maybe he felt this on a moral or spiritual level.
HAVE YOU EVER FELT UNWORTHY? Jesus still is willing to heal us and draw us close to Him.
Maybe he believed Jesus could cure from a distance – even though that was not heard of in their time. The difference is that the centurion did know something about order and authority and he did believe Jesus had the authority to heal his servant. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
READ Matthew 8:10-13 – Lesson #3 – Jesus IS looking for us to be faithful.
Jesus raised His eyebrow at this guy. Typically, we see people being astonished at what Jesus did or said. This time, it was Jesus who was amazed. This Gentile’s faith put to shame the stagnant piety that blinded so many religious leaders of Israel. Interestingly enough, Matthew chose the verb of discipleship to talk about those “following Jesus” – both the disciples and onlookers and now, those that authentically believed. The centurion represented the beginning of a stream of Gentiles who would join with faithful Israelites to enjoy eternal fellowship with God. (Something later seen with Paul)
Jesus used this as a teaching lesson – the Jews expected a place in Heaven because of their birthright.
IN THE SAME WAY, MANY PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN REGULAR CHURCH GOERS WILL NOT HAVE A PLACE AT THAT BANQUET TABLE BECAUSE THEY HAVE NEVER BELIEVED.
Jesus saw that table with great diversity. He pictured the patriarchs sitting down with the Gentiles. Jesus challenged the assumption that the table was for Jews only. WHAT IS THIS TELLING US TODAY?
Jesus told the crowd that faithless Jews would be thrown into outer darkness (something usually only said of the ungodly in Jesus day – and usually reserved for talking about the Gentiles). Matthew gives us a contrast of the brightly illuminated banquet hall with the dark, damp, filthy dungeons or prisons of their times – shut off from the light of the sun, housing prisoners without light, company or comfort spending days and nights weeping from grief and gnashing their teeth from their anger at being in this place.
Jesus then demonstrated that He COULD heal from a distance – with a pronouncement of “Let it be done for you”. When He spoke it – it happened. WHAT ARE YOU NEEDING TODAY THAT ONLY JESUS CAN DO FOR YOU? Asking for His help is often hard to do. Trusting Him is allowing Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
What now?
1. Identify your need(s). Ask for His help
2. Recognize that Jesus is worthy of our trust – more than what we put our trust in ($, people, etc.)
3. Find someone who needs hope – show Jesus’ love through your actions and point to Him