Thursday, March 29, 2007

John 18:28 – 38
“The moment of truth.”

There is a point where everyone must make a decision. At that point, many of the small decisions we have made along the way bring us to the place of a personal crisis. For Pilate, the moment was forced on him. We see Jesus pulling Pilate to the moment of truth. Unfortunately, Pilate puts a “but” into his words and actions.
What is the “but” that keeps you from bending your knee to King Jesus?

I. Pilate’s personal crisis.

A. Pilate’s history

1. Pilate was the procurator, from 26 A.D to 36 A.D. (Unusually long time.) His position indicates he was from a wealthy and powerful family.

2. Pilate had unquestioned military, financial, and judiciary authority over Palestine.

3. Philo describes him has a brutal dictator who enjoyed offending the Jews and seldom changed his mind or course of action.

4. Josephus tells the story of Pilate taking temple money to build an aqueduct.

B. Many ways to interpret Pilate in this story.

1. Some have suggested he was weak and at the mercy of the Jewish leaders. (His ability to irritate the Jewish leaders throughout his involvement in the story says not.)

2. Some have suggested he was a typical Roman, incapable of separating the political from the spiritual. (His contact with Jesus challenges this core Roman philosophy.)

3. Some have suggested that he was an insane monster who was eager to find another way to goad the Jewish leaders. (His understanding in this case seems to be to advanced.)

4. Proposed: Pilate was a normal individual cornered by a religious and political issue. He was able to believe Jesus was a king but unable to act on that belief.

C. The crisis:

1. Jesus had been schemed against by religious (Pharisees and Sadducees) and political groups (Herodians). Pilate, being ultra-sensitive to any hint of insurrection would have probably known this.

2. Jesus had been betrayed by a close friend and deserted by His closest friends. The lack of any support for Jesus would have told him this.

3. Pilate takes the time to privately interview Jesus. Something he probably would not have done if he was a puppet or a tyrant.

4. [v 35] Pilate would not lower himself to seriously considering the possibility.

II. The process of personal crisis:

A. Jesus’ goal in questioning Pilate is clear.

1. Pilate must be forced to answer the question... that is the crisis.

2. Pilate must be brought to an intelligent understanding of the choice he faces.

3. Pilate must act on his choice.

B. How does this happen?

1. Pilate is “cornered.”

a. He is caught between what is and what should be...

b. The rule of the Roman empire vs the claims of Jesus.

2. Pilate is “confronted.”

a. “Truth is God’s way of thinking about things.”

b. Pliny (Roman historian and philosopher) “the only thing for certain is that there is nothing certain.”

3. Pilate is “questioned.”

a. In interviewing Jesus, Pilate finds that he is the one on trial.

b. He confesses his spiritual inabilities (lack of understanding) and possibly his pride. [v 35]

c. He is challenged to listen to Jesus. [v 37]

4. Pilate maybe convinced but not convicted. [v 38]

a. He does not see Jesus as a threat. (A habitual “criminal.”)

b. He does not see Jesus life worth risking another serious incident.

5. Symptom: at the moment of truth there is a “but.”

III. “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’...” (Quote)

A. What excuses could be come up with?

1. The church has sissified Jesus. (True, we have often only presented His “tender” or “compassionate” side and glossed over images like cleansing the temple and “King of Kings.”)

2. We tend to overstate the “now.” (True, but what else do we have? Living in the past is mental illness and worrying about the future is sin.)

3. We have contrary physical appetites. (True, sometimes are physical desire are counter spiritual.)

4. We are caught between the rock of what we see and think we know and the hard place of Jesus’ truth claims. (True, it is difficult for us to get perspective on how Jesus’ truth claims will impact us.)

5. We allow circumstances to carry us. (True, life happens and sometimes it feels like we don’t have much choice.)

6. We fear earnestness and zeal. (True, zeal scares us because it is either radical or shallow. Earnestness in world filled with false is a difficult disadvantage.)

7. We are “stirred up” against Christ with seldom specific and without substance innuendos. (True, it seems like “everyone” can speak from ignorance with authority.)

B. “But” what is the real picture?

Imagine doing a jigsaw puzzle. What is the first thing you do? (Take it out of the box.) Etc... What do you have to do to solve the puzzle? (Keep looking at the picture.) Our problem is not a missing piece. The real problem is we are looking at the wrong picture. If you do not have the right picture, you will never solve the puzzle. If you are not looking at Jesus, you will never understand. When the moment of truth happens, you will always have a ‘but’ ready. There will always be some hesitancy, some nagging suspicion, some reservation.

IV. What is your story?

(Ill.) “According to Jim” TV show. Discussion about being a hero and being courageous. Jim: “Hero’s are not courageous, they are cornered.” Reality, hero’s are those who behave courageously when cornered.

A. When faced with Jesus. Be honest.

1. Sometimes Jesus’ truth claims are hard to understand because of where we are at the moment.

2. The moment of truth happens as the Holy Spirit impresses on us the truth.

B. When faced with Jesus. Be courageous.

1. In a world with lots of voices, many of them angry and directed at Jesus, it takes courage to take a knee in submission to Jesus.

2. Yet all the reasoning in the world will not change the position of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of lords.

C. When faced with Jesus. Do the right thing.

1. In the truth of Jesus’ claims to be King and savior, convinced but not convicted is falling short.

2. We can invent any excuse we want too... It does not excuse us of doing the right thing.

Friday, March 23, 2007

John 15:1 – 11
“I am the true vine.”

(Ill.) Visiting my grandparents in the summer. They had a fair sized grapevine. I would help with the grapevine. Every time, it seemed that the grapevine had brown stems I had to pick. One year, grandma Waite took a pair of scissors to the lush vine. When she was done she had left almost nothing left. I was shocked. She explained that the grapes the last year were not good and the vine needed pruning. So I watched what was left of the grapevine produce a massive crop of some of the best grapes I had ever eaten.

I. Fruit occurs in relationship.

A. Dry and no fruit = burned.

1. The vine needs all its energy to produce fruit... Very delicate balancing.

2. Common to have parts of the vine die, had to be removed for new growth to happen.

B. Productive = pruned so it can be more productive.

1. The vine exists for the fruit.

2. We are pruned by the Word of God.

3. The key is in abiding, not trying.

C. “The law of the vine.”

1. Our connection/relationship to God is what produces the fruit.

2. Fruit is the natural outcome of that relationship, not effort.

II. Fruit occurs because of the focus.

A. The grapevine is an illustration that unfocused growth is different than fruit.

1. “Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones. Their heart is deceitful, and now they must bear their guilt.” [Hosea 10:1 – 2a]

a. Hosea addresses faithless people.

b. Image of a spreading vine and prosperity is offset by the fact that “their heart is deceitful.” (Divided, false, fickle)

2. Energy can be spent on unproductive exertions.

a. Unproductive habits. Killer ones are things that involve the tongue. (Gossip, slander, back biting... etc.)

b. Unproductive thought processes. (Insisting without considering, unable to view from other perspectives, “single lense.”)

B. Some growth is actually fungus, not fruit.

1. Unhealthy growth in nature... cancer, fungus and other parasites, etc...

2. Unhealthy things drain energy and divert attention.

3. Unhealthy things lack focus.

C. The ultimate killer?

1. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” (Song of Solomon 2:15)

a. Foxes do not eat grapes or have interest in the vines. They dig at the roots.

b. Separate the vine from its roots (source of life and it will die)...

c. Foxes are unrelated, cute, and innocent looking. But they are the worst.

2. My grandparent’s grapevine finally died when their hunting dog discovered a family of rabbits living in the vines. He got lose and started digging. He didn’t dig much, but it was enough with the holes the rabbits had dug.

a. Unresolved issues that target the spiritual source of life look harmless and may even be pets... but they are the most dangerous thing to a vine.

b. A vine can be pruned to get rid of unproductive things. But once the vine is separated from its spiritual source of life... there is not hope for the vine. It loses it life.

c. For the Christian or the Church: focus on God is life.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. [2] Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” [Hebrews 12:1 – 3]

III. Fruit is the product of a process.

A. The process of developing character.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [24] Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. [25] Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” [Galatians 5:22 – 25]

1. Some times we want fruit without the process that produces it.

2. Notice the steps:

a. “belong to Christ Jesus.” (Some want the benefits without the belonging... kind of like wanting to own a home but not wanting to make the house payments.)

b. “crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Some want the blessing without the work that comes from discipline... kind of like trying to win a marathon without training for the run.)

c. “keep in step with the Spirit.” (Some want the fruit without the controlling connection... sort of like wanting to be a citizen but not wanting to live by the laws or in cooperation with others.)

B. The process of witness.

1. The Greek word for witness is “martyr.”

a. Usually think of “martyr” as someone who dies.

b. Technically, it is someone who gives up their lives for their cause.

2. This becomes a matter of choice.

a. It is easy to give up you life, in the case of dying, because it means your life is yours until you get to the point of death.

b. It is much more difficult to give up your life, in case of daily service, because it means your life is not yours.

C. Think about it this way:

1. “You are witnesses of these things.” [Luke 24:48]

a. This means you, not someone else, not a hired professional.

b. This means living for the cause.

2. Jesus placed the eternal destiny of others in your hands.

3. Jesus placed the survival of the church (and this message) in your hands.

IV. Fruit occurs on purpose.

A. What are the tools?

1. [v 2] You are pruned by Word of God.

a. Is there something(s) that keeps you from living full throttle for Jesus Christ?

b. What dulls your desire and enthusiasm for the life changing good news of Jesus Christ?

2. [v 7] You are promised power in prayer.

a. Are you limited by what you see or by what you ask God for?

b. What dulls your desire and enthusiasm for the active power of prayer?

3. [v 8] You are proven as disciples.

a. When you face the test, God gets the attention (“the glory”).

b. What dulls your desire and enthusiasm for everyone’s attention to be on God?

4. [vv 9 – 10] Your love for God determines your obedience.

a. Love is a fancy and misunderstood word for “motivation.”

b. What motivates you is what you “love.”

5. [v 11] You are given unspeakable joy.

a. Joy is not an emotion. Happy is an emotion. Joy is a point of reference.

b. That point of reference comes from being in relationship with Jesus Christ.

B. Questions:

1. Where are you?

2. Where do you want to be?

3. Are you willing to pay the price to get to where you need to be?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

John 14:1 – 14
Sneaking Suspicions – vs – The Power to Do.”

I. Sneaking suspicions divide our hearts.

“The power of temptation is the sneaking suspicion that God is not good all the time.” [Unknown]

A. Symptoms of a troubled heart.

1. Control issues.

a. In an attempt to not get hurt, we do not trust.

b. In an attempt to not get hurt, we attempt to control other people.

1.) Threats are used.

2.) Guilt is used.

3.) Nagging is used.

2. Depression/despair breeds distraction [Paws - n - Tails]

a. [Paws - n - Tails] King Saul’s story. When the Holy Spirit left him, only David’s playing could sooth him.

b. Pilate was charged with keeping law and order. At the critical moment he was distracted by the crowd.

B. Jesus asks us to trust in God.

1. God’s full-time goodness.

2. God’s unconditional love.

3. God’s power.

II. Separation anxiety challenges hearts.

A. Jesus’ promises:

1. He is preparing a place.

a. The song “I’ve got a mansion...”

b. The song “put on my shoes and walk all over heaven.”

2. He will return.

a. This is NOT the “lone ranger syndrom” where one expects to be rescued by someone/something at the last moment.

b. Rescue is NOT the issue, neither is success or failure.

c. The issue is being with Jesus.

B. Why is this so hard to understand?

1. Thomas’ question.

a. Garfield (cartoon), “Without a goal, how would you know when you failed.”

b. Thomas’ question was rational and intellectual.

1.) It was a good one. Without a goal how do we know the direction?

2.) The problem is that it doubts...

a.) Does Thomas doubt God?

b.) Does Thomas doubt himself?

2. Without the discernable presence of God, what else is possible?

a. Jesus was going away... we will be on our own.

b. Jesus’ “I am’s” are meant to give us a picture.

III. Jesus provides three word pictures.

A. What do they mean?

1. Jesus is the way = Jesus is how you get to the Father.

a. When Jesus died the curtain in the temple was torn.

b. The Bible says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, [20] by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.” [Hebrews 10:19 – 20]

2. Jesus is the truth = Jesus is the only reliable map to get to the Father.

a. (ill) A particular on-line mapping service, got us lost... so we switched. If you are not following Jesus, you are following the wrong directions.

b. There are lots of voices that want to be heard.

B. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life...

1. It is guarded: “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” [Genesis 3:24]

2. It requires our humbling: “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” [Psalm 86:11]

3. It is uncomfortable: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Psalm 139:23 – 24]

4. It is step by step listening: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it.” [Isaiah 30:21]

5. It is hard to find: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [Matthew 7:14]

The way is our direction and course. The truth is how we find it and stay on course. The life is how we do this.

IV. The power to do comes from persistence in direction.

A. Summary of what we know:

1. The target destination is the Father.

2. We are troubled by fear and uncertainty.

3. Jesus asks us to trust Him and trust the Father’s provisions.

4. This translates into a life style.

B. The end result will be power [v 12].

1. We can have power or an empty form of godliness [see 1 Timothy 3:5]

2. Power is grounded and birthed in prayer [v 14].

3. The trouble is this: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” [Proverbs 14:12 AND Proverbs 16:25]

4. The solution is here: [Psalm 139:23 – 24]

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

a. Give God complete and honest access to you.

b. Let God examine even how and why you make your choices and decisions.

c. Take God’s test and honestly own up to anxious thoughts.

d. Allow God’s cleansing and healing power to purge the offensive ways and heal the wounds they have caused.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

John 11
Where is Jesus when you need Him?

The biggest emotional killer is the gap between expectations and experience. This gap can bring disillusionment to a husband/wife relationship or a parent child relationship. It can kill churches and create bitterness when prayers and faith expectations are not met.

Let’s look at one very personal story where this gap drove a wedge between Jesus and some of His closest friends.

“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” [John 11:5]

I. A story of friendship is told in Luke 10:38 – 42.

A. Jesus stayed at the home of Martha (sister of Mary and Lazarus).

B. There was a conflict between Martha and Mary.

1. Martha was distracted by the preparations and complained to Jesus about Mary.

2. Jesus described Martha as “worried and upset.” By nature she was:

a. DRIVEN by duty.

b. DRIVEN to action.

3. Mary had chosen what is “better.”

a. Mary chose relationship over activity. (“one thing is needed”)

b. Activity does not mean relationship or life.

(The church at Ephesus in Revelation) “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. ... Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. [Revelation 2:2a, 4]

II. All friendships suffer a crisis at some point. [John 11:1 – 6, 14]

A. Lazarus became sick. [v 1]

1. The sisters sent for Jesus. [v 3]

2. Jesus promises that this “will not end in death.” [v 4]

a. The promise would have comforted the sisters.

b. Afer all, wasn’t Jesus THE One who knew all and could do anything?

B. Lazarus died. [v 11]

1. This does not make sense.

a. Jesus promised!

b. Jesus delayed (it wouldn’t have made a difference, Jesus could not have walked there in time to prevent Lazarus’ death).

2. Raises the question: What happens when what you think you believe collides with what you think you experience?

a. Now there is a gap between what you expect (belief) and what you experience (in this case Lazarus’ death).

b. The question then becomes: “Where is Jesus when you need Him?”

III. What are some possible answers?

A. Jesus could have healed Lazarus. [Even from a distance, like other stories.]

1. There is a story telling device used by John in a descending spiral.

a. Martha complains but exercises faith [vv 21, 22].

b. Mary complains but can only be in sorrow [vv 32 – 33].

c. The “chorus” complains and demonstrates bitterness [v 37]

2. The fact is faith has reached a crisis because experience did not live up to expectations.

B. We can take comfort in out theological systems.

1. Our belief systems can give us hope.

2. Martha expressed hope in the future. [v 24] hope deferred

3. Let’s be honest with ourselves a second:

a. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” [Proverbs 13:12]

b. There is something about the disappointment between the expectation and the experience that can leave us cold, empty, and dead.

C. Maybe venting will help.

1. Sometimes we are too hurt to anything else but want to strike back.

a. Sometimes we go after the person we think hurt us, or an innocent, or someone we can bully, or even God.

b. We call it “letting off steam.”

2. After all, if you are miserable it helps to have the people around you miserable too...

a. “Misery loves company.”

b. “Hurt people hurt people.”

IV. The real crisis is happens when Jesus challenges our perception of reality [v 40].

“Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” [John 11:40]

A. Jesus meets an emotional attack with an emotional response.

1. “Deeply moved in spirit” [v 33] means Jesus was angry.

a. Jesus is angry at the COST of sin.

b. Sin brought death into the world. And the enemy uses the emotions around death to paralyze our minds and faith.

2. “Troubled” [v 33] means Jesus is frustrated.

a. Jesus’ frustration is how CONSUMED humans are by sin.

b. We are limited to what we think we see. (Walk by sight... not faith)

3. Jesus weeps. [v 35]

a. Jesus displays empathy with us. (It is ok to weep.)

b. Jesus feels the CONSEQUENCES of sin/death = separation.

B. Jesus asks for response in the face of natural resistance.

1. Jesus asks to see the tomb. [v 34]

2. Jesus asks to have the stone rolled away. [v 39]

3. Every request for response is a chance for us to break down the resistance.

4. Every piece of resistance that is broken down closes the disappointment gap between what we think should happen and what is happening.

V. When Jesus takes control; our perception is adjusted.

A. Jesus starts with prayer. [vv 41, 42]

1. Why? Because, Jesus is our example.

2. Jesus prayed as a habit and Jesus prayed in critical situations.

B. Jesus then resurrects Lazarus. [vv 43, 44]

1. This causes multiple reactions:

a. Some people believed. [v 45]

b. Some people tattled. [v 46]

c. Some people plotted. [v47]

2. The key is to see that Jesus’ purposes are not the same as ours.

VI. What is the resolution for the gap between what we expect and what we experience?

A. A future hope is a present power.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” [Philippians 3:10 – 11]

1. Paul already knew he would be resurrected from the dead.

2. What he wanted to attain was the level of living found in the “the power of HIS resurrection.”

B. A present power sees the purposes and possibilities of God.

1. This was for God’s glory. [vv 4, 15, 40]

2. When the gap between our expectations and experience are narrowed or eliminated, we are freed from the misery our perceptions cause, people notice that God is at work, and God gets the glory.

C. How about you?